Chapter 43

The Vampire as Hero: Tales of the Undead in a Contemporary Context
Eva M. Thury

This chapter presents an article by Eva Thury looking at vampires from a contemporary perspective. Thury considers the ways we have substituted vampires for the more traditional heroes found in mythology. She wonders whether people in the twenty-first century still believe in heroes, and what a hero means to a person nowadays. This article considers whether popular entertainment is just meaningless "bubble gum," or whether it signifies anything about the audience’s values and interests. Another issue raised in this chapter is whether Campbell's description of the hero on a quest (Chapter 15) is adequate to describe vampire heroes.

Thury suggests that the main spirit of our age, as shown in these stories, is anxiety relating to the rapacious greed expressed as a value by many in leadership roles in our society. In comparing the vampires in the Vampire Academy, and Twilight series, and in the books about Anita Blake, vampire hunter, Thury shows that each popular series reflects the concerns of readers about their place in and value to contemporary social organizations. These concerns, in turn, come into focus through considering how the main character interacts with vampires.

The article views this relationship through the psychological concepts described by Melanie Klein, who studied the forces involved in the development of humans from infancy. Although some of the novels Thury studies are for young adults and others for adults, she finds similarities in their portrayal of the world we live in and what constitutes heroism in it. She suggests that vampires are the perfect vehicle for expressing the concerns of readers living in a harsh, dark world and contending with diminished expectations as a result of natural limitations and human greed.

Before you read this chapter, you might review what you already know about psychologists who discuss heroes in mythology, notably the ideas of Otto Rank (in the introduction to Part 3 and in Chapter 42) and those of C. G. Jung (in Chapter 33). As you read this chapter, consider how its conclusions are related to the ways we identify with and learn from heroes in other forms of popular entertainment, like films and television. You may also want to note what you learn about the values expressed in the book series it describes. These values can be compared to those represented by the hero as described by Campbell, in Chapter 15. Finally, consider which of the insights provided by myth, as described in Chapter 1, are discussed in this article: anthropological, metaphysical, cosmological, aetiological, sociological, psychological, and historical.

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