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Day 11 of my Giveaway-A-Day Countdown to My Birthday Bash brings us Nancy Holzner for a super-fun guest post!
Twenty-Five Years of Vampires in Popular Culture
“Quarter of a century—makes a girl think.”
–Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kowalczyk in Some Like It Hot
Billy Wilder’s 1959 movie (itself now more than half a century old) has nothing to do with vampires. But I always liked that Marilyn Monroe line. I like the way it suggests we pay attention to milestones, that we use them as a time to look back and take stock.
So when Amanda invited me to be part of her 25th birthday countdown (Happy Almost-Birthday, Amanda!), I thought it would be fun to celebrate the Not-Really-Southern Vampire Chick’s milestone by looking back at some of the vampires who’ve influenced popular culture over the past 25 years. They’ve come a long way, baby.
Here’s my highly selective, highly subjective timeline of some of vampire highlights from 1985 to today:
1985: Anne Rice published The Vampire Lestat, the second book in her Vampire Chronicles series featuring vampires as sexy, tortured heroes. At the time, Library Journal’s review said: “Don't expect the usual stake-in-the-heart story; Rice is creating a new vampire mythos, mixing ancient Egyptian legends into her narrative, and weaving a rich and unforgettable tale of dazzling scenes and vivid personalities.”
1987: Vampires meet ’80s-style MTV—and the result is a blend of horror and comedy in the movie The Lost Boys. A gang of teenage vampires, led by Kiefer Sutherland, terrorize a California town. What’s fun about this cult film is the way it explores coming-of-age issues—teen angst, rebellion, and refusal to grow up—through a lens of horror, humor, and vampirism.
1992: The movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring Kristy Swanson and ’90s heartthrob Luke Perry, laid the groundwork for the television series that later redefined vampires in popular culture. This film, written by Joss Whedon, is a parody of horror films, much lighter in tone that the TV series. In fact, Whedon wasn’t happy with the overtly comic treatment of his script. In five years, he’d have a chance to shape the characters and their story to his original vision.
1993: Laurell K. Hamilton’s first Anita Blake novel, Guilty Pleasures, was published, featuring a vampire hunter/necromancer attracted to vampire Jean-Claude, who would become Master of St. Louis. Readers argue about Hamilton’s claim that she started the urban fantasy genre, but there’s no question that this series had a huge impact on the genre’s direction and popularity.
1994: Based on Anne Rice’s 1976 novel, the film version of Interview with the Vampire was released. Although there was some controversy about casting Tom Cruise as Lestat (Anne Rice initially objected), this moody, atmospheric depiction of elegant vampires in New Orleans was the top box-office draw when it opened.
1997: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a powerhouse show whose impact continues to influence popular culture, premiered on the WB. The series, which ran through 2003, was darker and edgier than the film that shares its title. Whedon said he developed Buffy to subvert the Hollywood stereotype of “the little blonde girl who goes into a dark alley and gets killed in every horror movie.” And did he ever. Through strong writing, imaginative storylines, and great dialogue, Buffy, Spike, Angel, Willow, and the others created a compelling, action-packed series that also explored social issues like gender roles, the ethics of violence, and the nature of the family. But most of all, it was FUN. Much of the current appetite for vampire fiction can be traced directly back to Buffy.
1998: Blade, a vampire action film starring Wesley Snipes, was the first in a trilogy loosely based on a Marvel Comics character of the same name. Half-human, half-vampire Blade, partially infected with vampirism in his mother’s womb, sets out to avenge her death and rid the world of vampires. Fast-paced and bloody, the movie has a larger-than-life comic book feel.
1999: Buffy spin-off Angel premiered, following the story of a vampire who regains his soul and sets out to atone for his evil acts. Compared to Buffy, Joss Whedon described Angel like this: “It’s a little bit more straightforward action show and a little bit more of a guys’ show.” Grittier, more urban, and darker still than Buffy, the series ran through 2004.
2001: A vampire walks into a bar . . . Ace Fantasy published Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris, introducing Sookie Stackhouse to the world. Set in small-town Louisiana, the story begins when Sookie, a psychic, realizes she can’t hear the thoughts of the vampire sitting in the bar where she works. She gets drawn deeper into the world of vampires and solves the murders terrorizing her town. Well written and as appealing to mystery readers as fantasy fans, this novel started a phenomenal series.
2004: In Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson, fantasy meets chick lit. Reluctant vampire queen Betsy wakes up dead, reclaims her designer shoe collection, and defeats an evil vampire. This series uses humor and a light tone that sets it apart from other vampire fiction.
2005: Little, Brown published Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Whether you love sparkly vampires or hate them, you can’t argue with this series’ success—Twilight has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide. Like The Lost Boys, this series uses vampires as a metaphor for adolescent issues, although the two could hardly be more different in feel and tone. Millions of teen girls (not to mention their big sisters and their moms) have sighed along with Bella Swan over Edward Cullen, the ultimate misunderstood outsider.
2008: True Blood premiered on HBO. With a great advertising campaign promoting TruBlood synthetic blood as though it were a real product (remember “Friends don’t let friends drink friends”?), this series was an instant hit, sending a whole new audience to Charlaine Harris’s books.
2008: Released in November, the film version of Twilight made Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, and Taylor Lautner stars—not to mention more than half a billion dollars in sales.
Okay, I know I’ve left lots of stuff out. What are some of your favorite vampire moments from the past 25 years? And where do you think vampires might be headed in the future?
Thank you so much Nancy! Here are a few of the places around the web you can find Nancy:
Nancy has been super generous and is giving away an awesome prize pack that I wish I could get!
~1 winner will receive:
- signed copy of Deadtown by Nancy Holzner
- The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
- bookmark Newborn Hunger by Rebecca Sinz
To enter, answer Nancy’s questions AND fill out the FORM.
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