US TV series The Strain features an epidemic of the supernatural beings that have captivated audiences since Dracula. But vampires long predate Bram Stoker, writes Roger Luckhurst.
It’s cute when non-vampire people try to get all scholarly and analyze the phenomenon of the vampire. But the author of this particular article, Birkbeck College Professor Roger Luckhurst, actually knows his stuff. He draws enough parallels to illustrate for his readers how THE STRAIN is in effect a modern-day retelling of DRACULA, complete with its very own Van Helsing in the form of the character Abraham Setrakian. (Van Helsing’s first name is also Abraham. If STRAIN creators Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro hadn’t intended this as an homage, they wouldn’t have been so obvious about it.)
The one complaint I have with the article, though, is when Professor Luckhurst states: “Stories of vampires in the 18th Century functioned largely to mock the superstitions of stupid peasants.” I can’t go along with that. Maybe this class “mocking” was a component, a subconscious one, of these stories’ mass appeal. But the main reason vampire stories were so popular back then, I assert, is the reason they remain so viable today: We secretly want those “superstitions” to be true. Human beings die. But vampires live forever. The vampire proves transcendence over death. The vampire, as much as it terrifies, gives us hope.