Thursday, 29 July 2010

Biting back

Is it just me, or does it seem as though vampires are taking over the world?

For a start, there's the Twilight series, which has singlehandedly turned a bunch of blue-balled Emo teenagers into the world's most bankable box office stars. Forget about the Lost Boys, who wanted to sleep all day and party all night. The Twilight set prefer to fix motorbikes and write bad poetry. Rock and roll.

At least there's a little more variety on TV. If you prefer your vamps with a side order of angst, you can sink your teeth into The Vampire Diaries, with its 'Dracula's Creek' take on small town teen drama. Alternatively, if you like your entertainment a little more 'adult', you could try True Blood, which uses vampirism as a one-stop-metaphor-shop for sexuality, drug abuse and racism.

With the genre springing back into afterlife, it's nice to see one of its most famous advocates in the public eye again. When she first published 'Interview With The Vampire' Anne Rice was singlehandedly responsible for resurrecting a long-dead archetype - the sexually ambivalent gothic antihero.

Although her prose is stodgy and cold (think 'Hammer Horror' but with a screenplay by Dame Barbara Cartland) the ongoing adventures of Lestat and co have won her millions of followers - although you'd never guess by looking at her, since she insists on dressing like a frustrated turn-of-the-century librarian.

Originally inventing the tortured Louis and his surrogate child Claudia to express her grief over the death of her own daughter, Rice's novels explored the duality of unholy monsters struggling with their own morality. Real laugh-a-minute stuff. And in much the same way that her troubled characters spend eternity searching for meaning in their existence, Anne has also had her own struggles.

Plagued with ill health, she's often turned to Catholicism to get her through, but she's battled to reconcile her liberal sensibilities with the church's hardline approach. Now, it seems that something has finaly snapped, and she's turned her back on Christianity once and for all.

Writing on Facebook today, Anne declared "Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.”

Were it not for the explicitly political motivation on display, this would be precisely the kind of declaration that one of her characters might make, shortly before chomping on a carriage full of comely courtesans. But then, Anne has always understood, better than most, the vicarious appeal of the creatures of the night. It's not just their sensuality and decadence that appeals - it's the fact that they have the ability to pick and choose which societal conventions they want to keep, and which to discard.

I'm sure the Catholic church will be unfazed by Anne's announcement - they've had more vocal critics on their back recently. Still, it wouldn't hurt for them to sleep with a crucifix in hand. You know, just in case...

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