It’s probably best that I set all my cards out on the table to begin with in regards to my feelings about vampires. My enthusiasm when it comes to the undead begins with a desire to slay them. Dead things should stay dead, in my opinion; at least until the resurrection, at which point they are assigned their eternal destiny, and God himself will sit them either on their thrones or in their eternal corners. I mention vampires at the outset, because of their prominence in contemporary culture; when I was young(er), I was far more concerned about zombies. I remember an episode from my previous life as a 5th and 6th grade teacher, when I was trying to illustrate the difference between boys and girls using non-biological examples. I asked how many in the class had ever drawn up a plan of defense should their home be attacked by zombies. Every male hand in the class shot up. There is something in the male persona that has an urge to keep dead things in their natural state of deadness, by violence or other means.
Zombies, however, have descended in popularity of late due to the increased attention vampires have garnered from the “Twilight” series and other pulp fiction that passes itself off as literature. There is a good reason for this; and by good, I don’t mean the reasoning but the explanation.
Vampires are hot. Zombies are not.
Vampires are preserved in perpetual relative youth and vigor, are known for their seductive manner, and subdue their victims through flattery and suaveness. They desire blood (the symbol of life), so as to completely consume the essence of their victims. Ever since Anne Rice (and arguably well before), the vampire has increasingly become an object of lust. It is important to state here that I am not the sort of person who romanticizes vampires, no matter how vampish they might be. Call me a traditionalist, but I’m the sort of person that still believes that vampires should be killed rather than kissed, and who is baffled when vampires shimmer in the sunlight rather than being turned to dust by it.
Zombies eat brains, and so the most popular method of killing them is to sever their brains from their bodies, by beheading or other means. Vampires drink blood, and so aiming for their heart with a wooden stake is the most effective way to shut down their source of life. In looking at the differences between zombies and vampires, we see the errors that can befall us when we look at the human person in distorted ways; some prioritize intellectualism over all else and diminish a proper understanding of the human person, as do those who overemphasize sentimentality. The brain and the heart must be kept in balance, if we are to live humanly in this world. When the head and the heart fall out of balance, we may be perfectly alive, objectively speaking, but in a philosophical sense, a part of us is dead in the way that vampires and zombies are dead. We may be walking around, but something about us is missing.
Why, might the reader ask, is there such a fascination with vampires and zombies among today’s media consumers? I would suggest that there is a macabre element of the culture of death that craves violence but fears finality. There is a current in our society that is inexplicably more comfortable with the resurrection of the body than the resurrection of an integrated body and soul. Perfect examples of this can be found in the Joss Whedon characters Angel and Spike, two vampires who are animal-like and without any semblance of remorse until they become re-ensouled; Angel through a gypsy curse and Spike through his own initiative. Once their souls return to them, they are faced with the implications of their histories of cruel activity. Herein lies the rub: the conscience resides in the soul, and perhaps that is why some who romanticize vampirism long for life (or undeadness) that is conscience free, so that they can cast their decisions as effects of their impassioned urges, rather than stooping to the menial work of reasoning through the discernment process. The greatest enemies of morality are our urges, and the attraction of a life built on whatever passion may be working on us at a particular time is difficult to fight. However, if we are, as the Church tells us, ensouled beings whose bodies and spirits are eternally integrated, we are only fooling ourselves if we try to justify our leanings toward uninhibited lusts by denying some aspect or other of our true humanity.
I have already likely driven this point home like a stake through the heart, but let me reiterate: the undead should intrigue us, not because we want to emulate them, but because we want to eliminate them. Evil is and always has been seductive, which is why we should naturally want to cut off its head and stop its blood supply. Vampires, zombies, and other mythological chimeras are perversions of the human person made in the image of God; how much more perverted are any attempts to frame Christology in ways that cast the risen Christ in language that distorts His own defeat of death? God is the God of the living, not the dead; much less the undead. We must move backward past our adolescent lust to achieve union with the undead, and reclaim our pre-pubescent desire to kill monsters, if ever we are to achieve a true sense of the battle between good and evil. Sin crouches at our door; the option is ours to either indulge it or incapacitate it.