For centuries, vampires struck fear in the hearts of anyone who believed in them or enjoyed films or books about them. They were pure evil, luring humans to them before sinking their fangs into their necks to devour their blood. Vampires were the enemy of God and on the devil’s side. There was no way to pity something so villainous.
But these days, many people are looking at vampires with new eyes. You might have noticed in popular culture these days, vampires are seen in a good light. They are tortured souls, unhappy with their existence and remorseful over killing humans for their blood. They also are able to have empathy for humans and are capable of having romantic relationships with them. This depiction of vampires is completely different from how they were traditionally viewed.
What has happened? Why the change in viewing an evil creature?
It could be that people today are more apt to think villains aren’t the way they are by accident. There’s always a reason why someone does or behaves in a certain way. You could thank psychology on that, which has made modern humans more likely to analyze theirs and other people’s behavior. Unless you are a psychopath, there’s always a reason why some people become lousy members of society.
But should vampires be sympathized at all? Should a human pity a monster?
For me, it depends on how they became vampires in the first place. Some are forced, while some choose to be without really knowing what they are getting themselves into, much like Louis in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire – the book many credit with bringing about the sympathetic vampire into popular culture. In those cases, there can be sympathy. I’m sure we can all agree anyone who willingly chooses an existence of killing people almost night after night is not worthy of any pity.
But is it possible for a vampire to hold on to his or her humanity once they are transformed? A newborn vampire, I believe, can. Too bad they’ll be wrestling with their new nature that makes the scent and taste of blood too intoxicating for them. Also, I would think having supernatural abilities and senses would make a new vampire feel not exactly human anymore. At this point, a new vampire is a hybrid of a human being and a supernatural creature that could cause much damage in the world.
Now you may argue that a vampire could easily drink from animals – PETA wouldn’t like that – or drink enough from a person so that the prey would survive. That can happen, and I may be a bit more easy around a vampire like that should I ever meet one (or rather, if any actually exist).
But let’s say a vampire is not a newborn, and is 100, 500 or even 1,000 years old? Will that vampire still have any humanity left in them? Did they have any to begin with? After all, in some parts of the world, people are more compassionate to each other than ever before. But a century, or centuries ago, there wasn’t much empathy going around. It was OK to have disdain for, mistreat and even kill someone who was different from you in any way. With that in mind, I would think someone who became a vampire during then would be quick to see humans as anything but sources of nourishment. The Middle Ages, for example, were a brutal time, so a newborn vampire in that time period would be used to such cruelty and wouldn’t have been taught to be empathetic as much as we are today.
At the same time, I think a very old vampire would eventually lose his or her humanity because they had spent so many years living separately from humans. They usually only come out at night and hide their identities, because they can’t let the world know that they are bloodsuckers or else they’ll get a stake through the heart. This would cause vampires to live detached from humans and have their own way of life, and therefore, their own mindset. How could a vampire in that situation maintain their empathy for humans like that? I could see a newborn vampire doing that, but not an old one. By then, their memories of being human are miniscule compared to their centuries of being vampires. Their humanity becomes a faded memory, almost like a legend in their minds.
But in that case, can a vampire regain their humanity? Could a 1,000 – more or less – year old vampire learn to be compassionate and empathetic to humans? Could they ever realize that they are killing their victims, and not just getting their fill? Could they ever melt their hearts from such hardness? Can a vampire ever have a heart, no matter their age?
All this is worthy of debate because of the way vampires are portrayed these days in books, movies and TV shows. Some may complain that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga has ruined the vampire lore by making hers very different from the traditional vampire. But when you really think about, all myths and legends evolve as humans progress. Those stories reflect the society that either creates or enjoys them, so having the compassionate vampire who is worthy of pity reflect how people today are more analytical then ever, and are less likely to see the world in black and white as they did in the past.