Fangs for the memories– How the concept of the vampire has shifted in the media

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After the sad passing of Christopher Lee I wanted to think of a way to commemorate his life and what better way than talking about a role he played for almost 20 years; Dracula. Its late posting after the sad news was due to wanting to make the article as informative and structured as possible to give Lee the respect he deserves.

So I would like to dedicate this article to Christopher Lee; the man whose performance of the bloodsucker remains as a cultural icon of the vampire to this day.

It is no coincidence that vampires are called the living dead; the legend of the bloodsuckers never seems to die down.  However, where the legend begins is not easy to pinpoint; most cultures appear to have had their own versions of vampiric entities long before Polidori’s The Vampyre in 1819 or Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. Vampires have permeated out of myth and into popular culture making them real in some sense but with each portrayal of the vampire, what they are used to represent becomes something completely different.

Perhaps thought to be the key text when discussing vampires, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was used to revive the Gothic genre. Count Dracula was the epitome of everything the Victorian Britain wasn’t. The vampire was used to take advantage of contemporary issues of the day, one such issue was the fear surrounding the foreign Other, the vampire myth itself added to this fear as Britain was unaware of the Eastern European legends until then. By doing so, xenophobia was interlinked with the fear of the unknown.  However, it is sexuality that sums up Broker’s vampires fully by depicting and interpreting human instinct that the sexually repressed British male ignored. Vampires were used as the physical portrayal of a sexual liberation thought to be highly dangerous at that time. However, the female vampire; Lucy is not viewed as threatening as Dracula. She remains passive in her hunt for blood by feeding on children without killing them, something that the 1960’s and 1970’s soon changed. The Hammer House of Horror Studios added to Stoker’s portrayal of the vampire by making female bloodsuckers an even bigger sexual threat than Dracula was. They were regularly presented as being busty female seductresses who would ultimately ensnare men with their bodies and looks. With a predominately male audience, it was a means to reinforce the heterosexual ideology of the time by sexualising women but also to suggest that sexually active women were dangerous.

During the 1980’s, a new form of vampire manifested itself through Anne Rice’s  Interview with a Vampire, heterosexuality was replaced with homosexuality, with male vampires feeding on men instead of the traditional female in distress. Additionally, discussing homosexuality in correlation with death ran parallel with the AIDs epidemic making vampirism the epitomising example of the HIV carrier in the 1980’s. Moreover, Rice writes Louis de Pointe du Lac as a sympathetic character rather than the monstrosities that were portrayed before it allowing readers to empathise with the man who had been ‘infected’ with this curse. In doing so, HIV carriers were perhaps viewed a little more sympathetically. On the other hand, they may have been viewed as something less than human. In the 1990’s Joss Whedon attempted to also change how a certain minority was viewed; women. Buffy the Vampire Slayer challenged gender norms with a female lead that fought off the bloodsucking undead while fighting every day high school issues at the same time. Not only did this mean that everything vampire was now not completely focussed towards a male audience but it also started to mean people began to discuss gender stereotypes rather than reinforcing them within the horror genre. Nonetheless, it can be argued that despite Buffy challenging gender norms unlike other vampire platforms did before, women were still viewed as threatening (something that Whedon challenged later on within Buffy with her boyfriend Riley who felt emasculated by her ability to protect herself).

In 2005 Stephanie Meyer brought to the world another form of the vampire, similar to Rice’s portrayal, the main vampire presented was one that audiences could feel sorry for. Edward Cullen was a pessimistic vampire who was troubled by the fact that he has fallen in love with a human but does not want to condemn her to a life of vampirism to be with her. This is the same form of vampire that Harris used in her True Blood series with Bill Compton. These vampires represent a form of forbidden love that ultimately is a form of sexual fantasy where although humans shouldn’t be with vampires, can’t help but do so. Although, the vampire still follows the theme of sexuality, this form seems to struggle with the sexual liberation of Stoker’s and removes vampires as being a sexual threat all together.  In fact, True Blood reverses the roles of man and monster by portraying vampires as those sought out by humans for sex instead. Additionally, it ironically twists which are the sexual threat when people are found killed by other humans for fornicating with vampires.

Most recently, the vampire has once more transformed itself, however unlike the others it seems to be paying homage to one of its original roots, Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Characters such as Adventure Time’s Marceline the Vampire Queen as well as the Canadian web series’ Carmilla (based on the Le Fanu’s original text) both present female vampires in a lesbian manner as Le Fanu did. However, both programmes have altered its reasoning to do so, unlike the 1871 Gothic novella, both contemporary series attempt to normalise lesbianism although the latter does so more explicitly than the former. This ultimately shows the changing societal opinions as lesbianism has come to be seen as an accepted sexual orientation whereas before it was seen as a monstrous act.

Perhaps most interestingly, vampires have also become used in order to define some people’s identity. With the option to be vampires in videogames such as The Sims series and Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series, players can ultimately live the life of a bloodsucker.  Additionally it was only a little less than a decade ago that everyone had a Facebook app that allowed you to ‘convert’ your friends into your own vampire coven online. However, some have taken vampirism as an identity outside of the virtual world and into reality itself. Fan clubs as well as communities for “real vampires” have been set up for those that relate to the creatures of the night.

It is evident to believe then that, throughout history, vampires have been appropriated for multiple reasons other than its original purpose; to explain the unknown. It is perhaps due to vampires being uncanny in the full sense of the word; a mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar that is experienced as being peculiar. Since people can ultimately relate to the vampire as something similarly human, they are perfect characters to imprint with; allowing subtle critiquing or reinforcement of societal norms of the time such as sexuality or gender. However, no matter when or where vampires are portrayed, one thing remains certain – through becoming part of not only Britain but the world’s cultural capital, the vampire myth, similar to the notorious monster itself, shall live on.

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The Beauty in Goodbyes – When TV Shows Just Won’t Let Go

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We have all been in that situation where you make a dramatic farewell to someone only for them to carry on walking the same way as you are for a few more kilometres. The walk changes from a pleasant catch up to the most awkward time as you attempt to start conversation again. Television series are no different to that; they can turn from a series you avidly watch when they air to one you reluctantly watch because it hasn’t ended yet and you’re adamant to finish it.

Unsure what sort of series I mean? Think programmes like Heroes which gained phenomenal views in its 1st season only to have the figures slowly dissipate as the seasons went on. Television directors and broadcasting companies know a good thing when they see it and ratings is the epitome of “good things”. So when a successful television programme takes off it is only a matter of time before the broadcaster pays the show creators to produce another season until, like vultures on a carcass, it is picked clean of any individuality or flare that made the show such a success. Viewers begin to lose interest in the series and find other shows to watch, when this happens the television companies will do the same; dropping the show with no conclusion and preying on another show to take its place, creating as many seasons as possible before interest is lost. In this sense, broadcasters are constantly chasing after the viewers; scavenging any interest in a show they may have had.

However, is it fair for the broadcasters to do this? How many series have been ruined by constant seasons being made? Heroes, Lost, Smallville & Primeval have all been victims to the scavenging media vultures. These shows all started with great plots and all had something unique until popularity forced them into creating more stories than their premises could hold. Like the majority of the media, their narratives became weaker and in doing so their uniqueness was lost. Surely it would have been greater if these shows knew their limits. “Save the cheerleader, save the world” would not have become a redundant saying in Heroes, Smallville would remain set in the small farm town rather than Metropolis and dinosaurs would have remained as the creatures coming through the anomalies rather than mythical beasts in Primeval.

Due to being completely hollowed out by major television corporations these shows will never get their chance to become big cult television classics that those that were ended, perhaps before there time, have. Shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the original Star Trek and Farscape all have a cult following because the shows were either cancelled or ended on their own accord and perhaps ironically have permeated into other successful media platforms such as graphic novels. In doing so, these shows still made money after their end without completely destroying the reasons behind what made them a success in the first place. Perhaps contemporary television broadcasters should take a note and finally leave our favourite television programmes to take their course and end naturally.

First submitted to Brighton Elephant

Why Watch… ‘iZombie’

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Olivia ‘Liv’ Moore was living the dream; she had the perfect job, the perfect fiancé and the greatest friends. She worked as an upcoming medical resident with a promising career in becoming a great cardiac surgeon until one fateful boat party changed her life forever. The boat was attacked by brain-eating zombies and the entire incident was thought to have happened due to the influence of drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, Liv did not escape unscathed; getting scratched by the drug dealer turned zombie Blaine. Having distanced herself from her friends and family to avoid ‘infecting’ them, she is thought to be suffering from post-traumatic stress. With the hunger for brains (and the need to cover anything she eats in hot sauce just to taste it), Liv Moore (the irony would kill her if she could die) now earns an ‘unliving’ as a coroner’s assistant where she can eat the cerebral tissue of the already deceased. However, every time she eats a brain the victim’s personality and memories permeate into her own for better or for worse.

Life as a secret zombie couldn’t get any worse; that is until her boss Dr Ravi Chakrabarti discovers her ‘mid-dinner’ and wants to study her ‘disease’. Moreover, she is thought to be psychic by detective Clive Babineaux because of the information she can accumulate from the victim’s memories. Nonetheless, zombie life does have its perks, as she helps detective Babineux solve murders, Liv comes to realise that although her living life has ended, that does not mean she has to stop living altogether. Now with her boss actively looking for a cure Liv comes to realise that being a zombie may not be permanent.

Although only vaguely based on DC’s Vertigo comic book series, iZombie does pay homage to its original medium through the use of pop art-like chapter sequences and comic strip opening credits. It also follows a typical comic book strategy in that it has a stream of consciousness narrative by Liv Moore. The series mainly focuses on how the murder victim’s personality helps solve murders all the while affecting Liv in her already lacking social life; making her as cold-hearted as her hit-man victim to as nurturing as her pregnant victim. However, the programme also attempts to show how being untrue to the ones she loves can have terrible consequences with her confused ex-fiancé slowly losing his grip on reality by uncovering Blaine’s underground brain harvesting business without any idea what they are or why they are doing it.

If you like Warm Bodies, Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies then you will love iZombie. With its black humour, character development and dramatic subplots, iZombie is a must-see television programme that you would have to be dead not to give it a go.

‘For Bettel or for Worse’: What the Same-Sex Marriage means for Luxembourg and the EU

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What better way is there to celebrate Luxembourg’s decision to legalise gay marriage in January than their Prime Minister Xavier Bettel marrying his partner Gauthier Destenay? Not only does the marriage hold true meaning to the couple but also to Luxembourg itself; officially authenticating same-sex marriage into the country’s political history for all time.

Their marriage also signifies a defining moment in the EU’s history as he has become the first serving leader in the European Union to marry a same-sex partner but he is not the first government leader to marry a same-sex partner (that commendation goes to Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir.  Although Luxembourg is not the first EU country to legalise gay marriage, it is approximately tenth to do so, (the legalisation can become complicated with some countries accepting same-sex marriage abroad and others needing further legislation to be passed) this is a giant step for equal rights nonetheless, as Bettel claims ‘Luxembourg can set an example”.

The wedding also signifies a huge change in public attitude towards homosexuality as, although it was a private ceremony, they were greeted with acceptance by the public afterwards. However, it is not surprising that the public would be accepting as a poll in 2013 found that 83% of Luxembourgers supported gay marriage. Additionally, it suggests that the prejudice towards homosexuality is not as prevalent as it would have been a few decades ago where an openly gay man would never have been voted into leading a country let alone marry his partner.

Xavier Bettel has been open about his sexual orientation in the past , he believes that  “what happens at home remains private”  thereby normalising homosexuality as something that does not need to be constantly pointed out. Perhaps Bettel’s marriage will lead to a revolutionary change in homosexuality in politics and urge other countries to follow the lead and ultimately accept gay marriage as a legal practice after all Estonia’s Taavi Roivas was present. With a poll conducted in September 2012 finding only 34% of Estonians supported same-sex marriage and 46% supported registered partnerships, is it time for Estonia to finalise the bills to legalise gay marriage?  To conclude, Bettel’s latest tweet about his marriage sums up the reason for gay marriage perfectly; ‘We just have one life, live it’.

5 Beautiful yet Deadly Game Locations

Skyrim (Elder Scrolls Series)

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If you’d take snow over a beach and plenty of sun then Skyrim is the place for you. Skyrim is set in the northern most province of Tamriel and holds natural beauties that can’t be seen anywhere else; the Northern Lights, the Dwarven built Markarth and a mammoth frozen in ice are all sights that no pilgrim would want to miss. But be warned that Skyrim also holds many dangers lurking between its snowy peaked mountains. Most people live in squalor, scraping out a living mining in caves or hunting game both of which can lead to death. The caves are infested with giant man-eating spiders and hunters can find themselves hunted by big bears and trolls. However, the biggest hazard is the dragons which have, with very little warning, woken up from their slumber. Revel in the knowledge that, unlike the locals, you can fully enjoy the sights of Skyrim without living in squalor.

Archylte Steppe (Final Fantasy XIII)

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Underneath the artificial world of Cocoon lies a large expanse of untamed wilderness on Gran Pulse that hasn’t been destroyed by overpopulation. Yet, since humanity hasn’t made much of an effect over the land, the Archylte Steppe has kept its harsh evolutionary nature; survival of the fittest. Large beasts such as the Behemoth King fiercely roam the area as do other beasts such as flans and giant wolf-like creatures named Megistotherian. However, the largest creature that roams the Archylte Steppe is the titan that lunches on the herding Adamantoises; gigantic creatures that’s size give them little reason to fear the more ferocious creatures on the plains. Despite the threat of wild, aggressive animals, the large expanse of land remains a beautiful untouched area where Cocoon can be seen in the sky. This otherworldly image adds to the splendour of just one area of the remarkable Gran Pulse.

Banoi Island (Dead Island)

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An island paradise off the coast of Papua New Guinea, the island is barely touched by civilization. Consisting of plenty of beaches, a delightful top of the range hotel, an untamed forest and a small local town to explore, Banoi has everything you could ask for in a holiday. However, if Banoi still sounds a bit too relaxing for you, never fear! There is still the taste of adventure in the shape of flesh eating zombies that would rather a taste of you. The living undead come in various shapes and sizes so why not pick up a paddle or create your own weapon and help replace the beautiful sun-soaked island with its own blood-soaked beaches. You might end up tore in two from a horde of walkers but at least the cocktails are free right?

Albion (Fable Series)

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Albion is a country filled with mystery and lore, where morality plays a huge part in its culture. Magic is evidently in its air and the smart are rewarded chests from huge talking stone faces called Demon Doors. Although Albion appears a nice place with scenic lakes, monuments and waterfalls, most places are extremely dangerous for the casual visitor. Paths are guarded by bandits to hijack passer-byes, the Silver Pines is overcrowded with balverines at night and hobbes have set camps in almost every cave. If that isn’t enough, Albion has found itself in the midst of revolution on several occasions and ultimately ruled by a mystically appointed Hero who has the power to massacre entire cities if they chose to. If one thing is clear, Albion is not a safe place for the common folk who have been unlucky enough not to have been chosen to be a hero by the blind seeress.

Unnamed Kingdom (Trine Series)

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This kingdom once stood as home to a great king who kept peace over the land. However, after his death, the residents all abandoned the area. It now lays untouched from human intervention. The flora has once again begun to creep its way back into the kingdom, entwining itself around the ruins of the once proud towers that stood watch over the kingdom. With locations such as the Astral Academy enveloped by the moon’s glow, the colourful crystal caverns and the mystical dragon Graveyard to discover, this unnamed Kingdom is positively gorgeous to look at. However, there is a reason the kingdom has been abandoned; a skeletal army has made it their home and they refuse to share it. Additionally, nature itself has also been affected by the dark presence of the undead; bats and spiders have begun to prey on the unaware and, perhaps most disturbing, plants have evolved to shoot fire. This ruin of a once great civilization remains beautiful to admire from a distance but enter into it and you will soon realise that its awe is just as dangerous as what lurks inside.

Why Watch… ‘Farscape’

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Farscape follows a group of escaped prisoners that band together to outrun their captors; the Peacekeepers (a militant and policing species of alien that to some extent share a similar genetic code to humans). With the addition of a human John Crichton (Ben Browder) having being sucked through a ‘wormhole’ into the middle of the prisoner’s escape and ultimately befriending the aliens on board the escaping living prison ship; Moya, he finds himself as much a fugitive as they are in a galaxy he knows nothing about. The different species of alien on board Moya adds to the character development between them all and the characteristics of their races are cleverly thought out. With a Luxan which are famous for their anger and a Delvian which are known for their meditative and religious beliefs, each species attributes are in direct opposition of another’s. Nonetheless, with such a small crew they all rely on one another for their survival and become some form of surrogate family. This family concept makes the audience care for each character despite how selfish or headstrong the characters may be.

Crichton’s constant references to television, jingles and songs throughout each season reminds the viewer just how far from home he is as well as adds to the ways Crichton attempts to keep the thought of Earth with him at all times. With every other character lost as to what he is talking about and some thinking him insane these moments add a comic factor that many other sci-fi space programmes lack. Additionally, Farscape uses Jim Henson’s puppetry studio to portray many of the alien species including two members of Moya’s crew; Rygel and Pilot, the puppets are nowhere near similar to Henson’s other projects such as the Muppets. Although not completely realistic, the puppetry adds another dimension to the series which makes the series a unique mix between special effects, puppetry and make-up.

All lost in uncharted space looking for a way back home; the series creates a fantastical universe filled with a plethora of alien threats such as the Scarrans, Nebari and the Sheyangs which keeps the viewer wondering just how big the universe really is. A cult television show which ended in its prime due to production costs; Farscape is a cult television series which continues to captivate the audience several years after the final episode aired and entered into graphic novel territory. If you like Firefly but wished it contained more alien species and were not so keen on the mix between sci-fi and westerns then Farscape is the show for you.

Why Watch… ‘Arrow’

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Set as playboy millionaire Oliver Queen is rescued from an island he had been shipwrecked on for 5 years, the series centres around his return to Starling City. Oliver is intent on fulfilling a promise he made to his father before his death when he gets home and, using the survival skills he gained while on the island, dresses as a hooded archer who targets those that have corrupted his city. Due to his unlawful exploits he becomes known as the Vigilante and must lie to all those around him including his mother, sister, best friend and love interest causing a rift between them all for being dishonest with them. Nonetheless, Queen does gain help from his bodyguard John Diggle and an IT expert Felicity Smoak who both see the importance of what he does and not only helps with Queen’s mission to right the wrongs of his father but also help Oliver escape the isolation he became accustomed to on the island.

The series constantly moves between the past and present with the events that occurred during those 5 years on the island and Oliver’s vigilante activities in Starling City. During the scenes set on the island it becomes evident that Oliver’s account as to what happened there is not as true as he wants people to believe and as the series progresses more of the truth is revealed to the audience. Additionally, the programme also introduces other characters from the DC universe such as Deathstroke, Deadshot and Black Canary. Not to mention introduces Barry Allen in season two, creating the new The Flash series thus sharing the same television universe.

A city owned by the wealthy and a devious plan that connects the Queen family right in the centre of it. Packed with lies and family secrets, Arrow constantly refreshes its narrative by adding more to Oliver Queen’s past. This is cleverly made possible through the use of his decision to keep his past a secret; perhaps due to a sense of trauma he suffered there. However, with his past refusing to remain just that, Arrow will leave you wanting to know more.