“That is to say blood is not simply a metaphor for other bodily fluids such as semen, but it is simultaneously blood, semen and milk as is seen [through] the use of blood for food, procreation, nursing, platonic bonding and sex.”
– Sally Miller, (2003: 64)
“Then it is as I always feared,” Louis’ words are prolific in exploring the allure of Anne Rice’s vampire with a human soul. Interview with a Vampire, the first instalment in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles is centred on the life of an 18th century French noblemen Louis with the foreground of New Orleans, bathed in mysticism and taboo, as the site of his birth into darkness. Interview with a Vampire, 1970’s, is viewed as the origin of the contemporary vampire and thus underpinning its significance in the analysis of Louis, both a manipulated hybrid of ‘old’ and ‘contemporary’ vampire clichés encapsulated into a transgressive symbolic representation of desire while feminized, highly eroticized and a profoundly tortured character in vampire mythos.
Previous vampire mythos, “old” vampire clichés, incorporated very bestial aspects into the corporeal form, encapsulating perhaps more profoundly the deviant taboo of the overwhelmingly powerful yet terrifying: the very heart of vampire eroticism (playfully acknowledged through the clip of “Nosferatu” played during Louis return to New Orleans). Vampires were associated with imagery of infection and disease, the bite of which transmitted the infection resulting in transformation. Usually aristocratic in nature already an inherently removed basis on which the prior vampire mythos expanded upon deepening the imagery of isolation through locating the monstrous creatures in castles or the country side. Associated with comically amusing aversions to garlic, light, crucifix’s and holy paraphernalia the vampire’s un-human nature is underscored by the ability to shape shift into the highly stereotypical bat form. The contemporary vampire, illustrated through Interview with a Vampire primarily for the sake of contextual analysis, progresses to an almost human form free of the bestial adaptations found in earlier texts, neither man nor beast but a beautiful absence between the two: the basis of desire. Although more inclined to the dark, as it is an appealing aesthetic conveying the much needed psychological vampire angst, contemporary vampires are not constrained by the light unless they are newly born or in a weakened state. With the veil of a human appearance they are grossly exaggerated to the point in which they become beautiful, empty vessels that possess powers of the supernatural such as telepathy. The contemporary vampire bite alone is not sufficient for transformation, a formulaic process of both bite coded as a sexual encounter followed with the intimacy of sharing blood is required. The contemporary vampire has been manipulated to remove comical weaknesses mentioned and posited in the city, creating previously unexplored tensions. Introduction of acute self-awareness and shift to narrative style conveying the existence of the vampire marks the primary departure from ‘old’ vampire mythos and development of the erotic symbol. Louis becomes a contemporary hybrid of both the ‘old’ and ‘contemporary’ facilitating the transition to the near-human vampire symbol, he is both beautiful, self-aware, telepathic angst and an aristocratic and perhaps more disturbingly he is located in the bustling city of New Orleans unbeknownst to its inhabitants.
An interesting aspect of the contemporary vampire mythos is the impetus the narrative style places on the feeding habits of the vampire offering insights into the vampire angst. A recurrent theme of guilt, conscious objection and a domestication of the beast with in and a refusal to give into the blood lust emerges. Fixation on feeding and the lack thereof illustrated through Louis diet of poodles and rats and inability to bite, is coded as sexual impotence and dysfunction. The biggest risk to Anne Rice’s vampires’ is through the act of feeding, so intimate in its nature that intimacy is coded as weakness (Miller, 2003: 62). During exsanguination the inability to restrain results in consummation by death itself, allowing for very clinical almost mechanically contrived portrayals of the vampire bite. Through Louis’ attempts to fill the absence created by the loss of his wife and child, his perpetuation of self-destructive behaviour the gambling and drinking led to his encounter with the greatest expression of absence and lack, the vampire Lestat. Through the biting process the vampire Lestat, feminized the character of Louis and introduced strong homoerotic undertones translated in frustrated interactions between the characters. The vampire is emblematically a phallic expression with the ability to feminize, a very subversive concept and critique on twentieth century culture our fixation on the taboo, thus Louis fulfils the role of the archetypal female: passive, submissive and unimaginably beautiful. Facilitating the creation of the family archetype to be discussed in which Louis becomes the maternal figure. Rather fascinating is the coding of Louis sexual dysfunction, his contrived fixation on the absence of feeding expresses the salient point that the attribution of the female somehow weakens the symbolic power and eroticism inherent to the vampire. As such the so called post-feminist society is criticized in that women are viewed as unable to possess the symbolically male power and dominance while simultaneously being unable to enjoy sexual encounters unless accompanied by a male, portrayed through Lestat. Stark contrast between the emotional, soft beautiful Louis and his companion Lestat a blood thirsty aggressive vampire with an insatiable appetite for destruction are inserted to facilitate the extreme gendered roles of Anne Rice’s vampires.
Blood is not just a physical necessity it is a transfer of the psychological and emotional, the experience of the fragility and frailty of human life has profound psychological and emotional effects on Louis; so much so that his conscience, arrogantly, refuses to engage in the bite, perpetuating a frustration with the oral fixation shared with his daughter in darkness, Claudia. The conception of Claudia is interesting in itself, the formulaic process of requiring both the contribution of Lestat and Louis further entrenches the archetype family in which gendered roles are further explored. Although both contributed a greater importance is placed on the contribution made by Lestat, the primary male, hinting that somehow the nature of being male owes to the fact that his contribution is of more importance. “Your mine and Louis’ daughter now,” was a disturbingly manipulated line which conveys once again the appeal to the feminized Louis on an emotional basis and implicit maternal instincts. Quite lovely in that the subtle nuanced relationship between Lestat and Louis is strangely possessive yet never acknowledged physically post bite.
The ritualization of feeding to ease the pain or absence of existence is the ultimate symbolic representation of the vampire. Louis’ restraint and diet of animals is a further means in which he is actively feminized to the point of passivity. The self-destructive/ contrived feeding fixation is not a new concept to the progression of Louis, his prior of choice was that of vice drinking and prostitution so clearly prior to feminization he possessed no sexual dysfunction. A new concept tied into the conception of emblematic females. Claudia shares the destructive oral fixation of Louis, her maternal connection. Irony beautifully punctuates the frustration shared between Louis and Claudia. The site of the oral is synonymous with childhood, growth and development and feeding; Forever a reminder of Claudia’s ineptitude and feelings of entrapment. Trapped forever in the form of a child, an eternal prison and instigator of her pain ironically the site of the oral is used as her instrument of revenge. Yet she punishes Lestat for his contribution [scene with Lestat’s first murder through the intake of dead blood orchestrated by Claudia] while favouring Louis, implicitly acknowledging the greater importance of the male contribution to her creation, it’s fascinatingly beautiful. Claudia’s oral fixation is ritualized to quell psychological angst and oppression that she will never grow to be an erotic being capable of enjoying the sexual attention of males. Quite a transgressive desire already introduced with the creation of a child vampire that is fiercely competent at seduction and the bite/sexual encounter with all the grace of one so innocent. The interaction of the vampire with sustenance is paramount to expression of the modern day vampire mythos as a means to explore the relatively new psychological narration.
An extreme dichotomy is experienced between that of physical satisfaction, the insatiable thirst and psychological pain. Vampires are extremely powerful, beautifully intoxicating idealized forms symbolically free and immortal but simultaneously acutely self-aware and emotionally damaged. The contemporary vampire symbol has been manipulated to represent all that we secretly wish to be: unencumbered dominant, titillating while simultaneously representing our darkest fears of solitude, isolation and abandonment. Somehow providing validation to darkest fears that only through a lack of can relentless pleasure be found; punctuating the salient point that nothing can be gained without sacrifice, Louis’ immortality at the cost of sexual impotency as a minor illustration. They facilitates the externalization of innate human desires to be free from earthly whims and constraints on behaviour, heightened senses convey further exploration of infinite erotic fantasies, introduction of homoeroticism. Providing an culturally acceptable medium through which to vicariously live fantasies of sadomasochism, submission and power with freedom from judgement.
The insertion of the beautiful into the corporeal being through the use of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise presupposes Anne Rice’s vampires are created solely as erotic beings, a burden to which they are enslaved. Beauty is seen as a curse facilitating the mesmerizing appeal of the unknown and temptations to feed or the erotic. Contemporary vampires seem to be destined to be beautiful, cold, empty vessels illustrated through elaborate detail with which the vampires are associated with metallic shiny objects of decadence e.g. chandeliers, goblets, fine China, jewellery and doorknobs.
The corporeal existence of Louis is fixed, unable to change into clichéd vampire stereotype of a bat. Inability thereof is a further reminder of his entrapment, adding to the emotional angst, reminder that his beautiful form is neither dead nor living but in exists in the absence of both echoing the basis of desire. Set amongst the foreground of mysticism and ritualized taboo, culture of voodoo and slavery, inherent to the Creole culture of New Orleans the homoerotic undertones are elevated to an almost believable level. Louis’ “lingering respect for life” is criticized and fully feminized form emerges in the scene prior to the destruction of the plantation. In a one on one interaction with the slave girl who serves Louis dinner, it comes to light that Louis had not been to the slave quarters in quite some time; Further encoding the implicit assumption of sexual impotence and complete transformation into the feminized archetypal form: a passive aggressive, emotionally stunted female complete with repression of the sexual. Louis’ voyage of self-discovery to the old world is an attempt to find solace in the comfort of his kind, faced with the absence of his companion and creator, the vampire Lestat.