By Sarah Nafisa Shahid
There are nearly 1,000 species of bats but only three of these feed on blood (i.e. vampire bats) and yet this particular type has managed to make its way to the pages of mythology. However, not many know that the vampire bat is only a recent association with the whole myth after they were discovered by Spanish conquistadors at around 16th Century. In fact, vampire bats were named after the blood sucking demon known as vampyre in France and vampir in Germany.
Vampires were originally a wholly Europe thing and started becoming mainstream only from the 18th Century. This could explain why most vampires in movies have a European accent or are played by British actors. Weirdly enough, vampire bats are only found in Central and South America.
Throughout time, the entire myth of vampires and the rise in the popularity of vampire literature is thought to be a reflection of the collective anxieties of the generation. The 19th century saw the birth of the vampire fiction genre itself with the likes of John Polidori's Vampyre and Bram Stoker's renowned Dracula which mirrored the repressions of Victorian patriarchy. And with passing time, the role of vampires in pop culture evolved too and they started being represented as political allegories and teenage angst. In Das Kapital, Karl Marx frequently refers to capitalism as a vampire because of its tendency to suck labour out of workers but then again Marx was harsh to anything even slightly unsympathetic towards workers.
But more alarming than that is how a majority of adolescents, mostly females, are seemingly obsessed about the vampire culture which leaves us with an impression that women these days are growing fond of rather dark and brooding fantasies. However, in a survey conducted by author Joseph De Marco, where 574 college and high school participants were asked about what they find most appealing about vampires, the most frequent answer was 'physical features'. And I'm sure the big producers in Hollywood have had their take on this survey because when yours truly asked around about why people like vampire fiction, she was bombarded with recurring answers such as 'The Salvatore Brothers' or 'Rob Pattinson'. It also gives script writers a sort of freedom in writing the fiction because there is no right or wrong in the myth. One day, you have a cruel emperor portrayed as Count Dracula and the next day, you have beautiful monsters that always fall in love with an ordinary high school girl. They are all correct if they drink blood even if it's chicken blood.
On a more serious note, fans of the brooding type of vampires tend to like it because it helps them cope with the disappointment of their own mortality. The vampire world in its entirety is an escape and allows disheartened adolescents to live in a surreal, parallel society. This phenomenon has expanded into reality for so many, that there are actually 'covens' of blood consuming humans all around the world who think that they are vampires and claim that they need blood for a deficiency in their self nourishment. The United States of America even has a failed-presidential-candidate/wrestler who is a self-proclaimed vampire. From the look of the turnover from vampire movies (Twilight with bad acting grossed $300million in 2012) he has a fair shot at winning if he runs this year.
Not only in literature and movies but even the music scene has had a recent taste for all things vampire with bands like Vampire Weekend and songs such as Arcade Fire's 'Vampire Forest Fire' and H.I.M's 'Vampire Heart', etc. And in comics too, like the vampire bitten version of Batman. So, that's like a double reference to bats right there.
But you know, what's a better vampire than undead blood sucking humans who sleep in coffins? A jet-propelled car called The Vampire which holds the record of achieving the fastest land speed in the U.K. Or if you're into facts and figures, a Vampire Number! These are composite natural numbers with apparent 'fangs'. Any math nerd can go Google this because yours truly is not going to sink any deeper into the matter. Geddit? Sink? Like Vampires sinking their teeth into flesh?