The obvious explanations offered by the media for the rise of popularity in this genre is that it stages the dilemmas and tensions of erotic possibility in enticing and dramatic scenarios, adding a new twist to an old story of love’s dangers and frustrations.
But another theory suggests itself – beyond even the campy crypto-gay themes that these shows often indulge in – and that is the notion that vampirism is the perfect trope for the reified status of intimacy in late capitalism. Vampirism in this sense may be read as a model for the predatory relationship between management and labor, or lover and beloved. As the lover preys on his or her beloved, so capital sucks the life from labor. But instead of producing horror and revulsion, this spectacle has become romantically gratifying on a whole new level of frissons: it has become the norm for relationships, embodying at once their impossibility and the parasitic quality that fuels them.
The vampire, as a figure of transgression, a romantic rebel, has accordingly become the tamest and most wildly popular of heroic types. The “rebellion” – of living outside the daylight world and the laws of time and decay, etc. – has become merely another tired repetition of capital’s exhaustion of the human subject.
Beyond that, the vampire, finally, is another variation on the haunting of postmodernity. A figure of the ruins of culture, the vampire is more ghost than Undead: a revenant who, in the wake of 9/11, takes on a particularly potent symbolic aura. Vampires are tropes for a blasphemous secular resurrection. Their popularity attests to our pervasive anxiety and trauma over terrorist attacks and is likely to continue through this current geopolitical crisis.