Now, here’s a theory. Nearly all of us have seen a vampire flick, be it “Dracula,” “I Am Legend,” “Underworld,” or “Blacula” (if you’re in need of a couple of laughs). But vampires, like the fiction and tales that spawned them, are as multifaceted as African-American culture. There’s a vampire myth for everyone and nearly every culture has one, even African culture.
The Asanbosam is a vampire legend that originated in West Africa and belongs to the folklore of the Ashkanti of southern Ghana. With its iron teeth and hooked toes, the creature is said to live in trees and to aim at the victim’s thumb.
And that’s the power of story.
It spreads like a virus.
As humans we crave stories; the delivery system and the medium may vary from platform to platform, but whether it’s your local evening news, a sampling of “TMZ” or the latest office gossip, we all crave a good story. A particularly engaging one is passed around, consumed, recycled and renewed. Like vampire stories. As old as they are, they still somehow find a way to pass themselves off as new.
This latest resurgence and renewed interest in those beloved “creatures of the night” can in part be attributed to a shaky economy and a crumbling auto industry. As with 911, people converged upon the multiplex for superheroes and escapism. It was only a matter of time before the horror genre made its way back to the forefront. We have confronted the evils of a post 911 world. With nearly eight years behind us, people have been drained of vital life fluid — from the mortgage crisis and the rise in unemployment to the H1N1 virus (swine flu); “the horror,” Col. Kurtz uttered in “Apocalypse Now.” We’re living it.
As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, it’s clear to me that we are all seeking new forms of entertainment.
What does the vampire say about our current state of mind?
I believe people are hungry for fantasy. They need it. And so comes the surge in horror films, and by extension, vampires.
Not surprisingly, the vampire is evolving. We’re moving past the old conventions of the “Dracula” story and into work that is both allegorical and deeper in meaning than just the vampire bites a victim or falls in love with a mortal story line.
If blood isn’t your thing, there’s the gentler, undulating beauty of the “Twilight” series.
If you prefer your vampire entertainment a little bloody, a little funny and a lot sexy (and uncut), then HBO’s “True Blood” is a nice start.
Vampire detectives on the road to redemption? How about “Angel,” “Forever Knight” or “Moonlight”?
Vampires without remorse? See “30 Days of Night.”
Maybe you’re one of those who won’t set foot in the path of anything that seems to be baring fangs, and that’s okay too. But try as you might, you won’t be able to avoid them.
They are part of our culture, the American experience,
the African-American experience, our religious experience (as cautionary tales). True, some of the themes are subtle, others less so, but it’s in there if you take a closer look.
However distorted or warped, scary times call for even scarier depictions to project those fears on. Vampires are familiar to us and despite the spotlight, they stumble out to face it.
So chose your favorite vamp: sexy, monstrous, quiet, cool, brooding, dangerous, silly…it’s all part of the same machine.
They walk amongst us and will continue to do so as long as there is an imagination to contain and celebrate them.
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