Bloodsucking, vicious, hypnotic, ruthless, vampires are frightening and have been featured as the monstrous antagonist for centuries. Nosferatu and Dracula have plagued nightmares and stories as the perfect villain to simultaneously scare the audience and champion the hero. Vampires are a prime example of a monster that the monster theory applies to. Jeffrey Cohen’s first monster theory states that monsters morph and evolve with the culture of the people that create them (1996, p.4) This is especially true with vampires considering that with every iteration of these nocturnal bloodsuckers they undergo some slight changes. Starting as hideous, bald, and plump freaks, vampires have changed to beautiful, creepy, detached freaks. These changes can be considered superficial, vampires are recognizable through deeper traits, after all, appearances are only skin deep, what makes a monster a vampire is rooted much deeper in its lore. Lestat from the movie Interview with a Vampire, directed by Neil Jordan, screenplay by Anne Rice, is an example of a new beautiful vampire, this essay will evaluate Lestat to see if he can be considered a good vampire the three criteria Lestat’s effectiveness as a monstrous vampire are that he must have a weakness that is something considered typically good, he must come across as ancient, and he must be completely detached from and apathetic towards humans and their problems.
Vampires must have a weakness that comes from good. This is a criterion because it proves the monstrosity of the vampire. If they can be bested by the good, then they must be bad. Dracula and other earlier vampires could be killed by sunlight and warded off by holy things such as crucifixes and holy water. Lestat, and all the vampires in Interview with a Vampire, can be killed only by sunlight. In the movie, sunlight is representative of the good in the world. Light in general is seen as pure and righteous by many cultures. It uncovers what lurks in the shadows. Light is seen as the provider of life in many cultures and is scientifically proven to be necessary to human and plant life on earth. Humans are heavily impacted on sunlight; early risers are typically more resilient and less prone to depression (Lee, So-Jin, et all, 2016). Lestat has no reaction to religious imagery or anything considered holy, however this is not an indicator to how effective of a vampire he is considering Victor Sensenig’s notice of religious affiliation decline from 1927 onward (2013). More and more people in today’s culture are disregarding religion, so Lestat’s aversion to Christianity is less and less of an indicator of evil. Lestat denies the existence of heaven and hell, which makes him more frightening by today’s standards. There is no afterlife to him, and after we perish we simply cease to exist according to him. In death he does not fear god or the devil, he fears not existing. Lestat from the both the book Interview with a Vampire, written by Anne Rice, and the graphic novel, Interview with a Vampire: Claudia’s Story, illustrated by Ashley Marie Witter, are similar. Lestat in the book is more concerned with his existence, and Lestat never gets that sort of revelation in the graphic novel. Overall, he fulfills this criterion
The next criterion is that he must convey how ancient he is indirectly. This is part of the criteria because their inability to relate to the current time makes them different and frightening. The more terrifying the vampire, the more ancient they are. They exude knowledge and wisdom that typical people cannot comprehend. Being even slightly aware of the sheer depth of their wisdom in relation to the average person is the equivalent of experiencing the magnitude of the Mariana Trench when previously all that had been known was the calm waters of a coral reef. When someone confronts that there is infinitely more to life than what is known, it is frightening. Another reason a vampire’s ancientness is so horrifying is simply because it is so deeply different from what is normal. Social interaction is always changing from decade to decade, the change from century to century is immensely obvious, and when someone does not interact and talk like everyone else does, it sets off sirens in a person’s head that something is different, and difference immediately equates to fear. Lestat fulfills this criterion as well. Throughout the movie, Lestat is constantly referring back to earlier years and Europe, what he calls The Old World. He laments the flavor of new blood, the inability to hunt without the crippling poverty of the past masking their kills. As in the book, his disconnection to the current times gets more and more apparent as time goes on until it is seen that he cannot adjust to the modern bright lights of vehicles and the city. In the movie it is stated that the vampire’s inability to adjust to the times will eventually be their ruin, and for Lestat that is true. His attitude and aristocratic ways make him stand out from his surroundings. Lestat also has an inhumane nature and appearance that makes him completely conspicuous. He is able to understand thoughts, thus making him unable to socialize as normal. He has translucent skin and more visible veins that make him seem less human and more like the monster he is. He is off beat and upon closer inspection has a grotesque appearance, Therefore Lestat fulfills this criterion as well.
The final criterion is that Lestat must not care about humans and human problems. Apathy is horrifying, especially when it’s apathy towards you. Vampires prove their inhumanity by not caring about humanity in general, it serves as another reminder that though vampires look human and may even act somewhat human, they are not. They are vampires and humans are their food. Terrifying vampires do not feel sympathy for their food, they drain humans and kill with reckless abandon. Monstrous vampires should see themselves as superior to humans in every way. They should be smarter, stronger, faster, deadlier and more vicious than humans and they should be well aware of it, they get extra points if they are boastful. Lestat is all of this as well. In the movie and book, he even goes as far as to say that killing and feeding off of humans is so easy that he almost feels sorry for them, meaning that he still does not feel any remorse for killing so many people. Why would he? He’s not a person. In all three versions, the movie, the book, and the graphic novel, he is ruthless. He enjoys feeding off of young children and he enjoys playing with the people he feeds on before he kills them. In the movie he goes as far as to bring a girl to hysteria before he finally kills her because she had been making too much noise. Lestat’s apathy is not only reserved for humans, it’s for other vampires as well. He constantly undermines Louis’s turmoil, he laughs at Louis for struggling with his respect for human life and need to kill and feed. Lestat treats Louis and Claudia as dolls to play house with, never considering their feelings or thoughts. Lestat is completely selfish, he goes through cycles of finding a new plaything, getting bored, discarding that plaything, and finding another one. He did this to both Louis and Claudia. Lestat is truly apathetic and this means he fulfills the third criterion to be a good monstrous vampire.
It takes more than just a pair of fangs to be a vampire and Lestat truly fills the three criteria of being a good vampire. He has a weakness associated with good, he shows his age, and he is apathetic to any suffering other than his. He is a selfish impetuous person, living for pleasure. He preys on young men and women and has no care for anyone’s perspective. He kills without remorse and laughs at the destruction he causes. He rarely deals with the repercussions of his actions and flippantly deals with those who try to confront him. He is truly an interesting vampire and monster. Like a monstrous vampire, he seems human but when one observes him with more scrutiny, one can see that he has just enough monstrous qualities to make him absolutely terrifying. Vampires like Lestat are scary because they can pass as humans, however they lack empathy and remorse. A vampire does not need to be a carbon copy of Dracula in order to be considered a good interpretation. They do not need to be garlic intolerant and they do not need to sizzle when touched with holy water. They just need to be scary in a culturally-relevant way while maintaining certain key characteristics, such as bloodsucking, immortal, ancient, and barely human. Lestat does all this and more, truly pushing what it means to be a monster. In his own book he even states that he’s good at being a monster. He can thank his gluttonous lifestyle and inhumane personality traits, as they are truly what make him monstrous.
Cohen, J. J. (1996). Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota Press
This is used in the beginning of the essay to explain why vampires have changed over time. The author is Jeffrey Cohen he is a professor of English at George Washington University.
Geffen, D., Woolley, S. (Producers), & Jordan, N. (Director). Interview with a Vampire [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros. Pictures.
This is the main primary source used for the characterization of Lestat.
Lee, S., Park, C., Kim, B., Lee, C., Cha, B., Lee, Y. J., & … Song, E. H. (2016). Association between morningness and resilience in Korean college students. Chronobiology International: The Journal Of Biological & Medical Rhythm Research, 33(10), 1391-1399. doi:10.1080/07420528.2016.1220387
This is used to prove that sunlight is beneficial to human psychology. It is a scholarly article, written by people who have degrees in psychology, reviewed by peers, and published in an academic journal.
Rice, A. (1976). Interview with a Vampire: Book 1 of the Vampire Chronicles. New York, NY: Ballantine Books
This is one of the supplementary primary sources, used to compare Lestat’s characterization
Rice, A. (Author), & Witter, A. M. (Illustrator). (2012). Interview with a Vampire: Claudia’s Story. New York, NY: Yen Press.
This is another supplementary primary source, used to compare Lestat’s characterization.
Sensenig, V. (2013). The Rise of the “Nones”: Does Education Explain the Decline in Religious Affiliation?. American Journal Of Education, 119(3), 335-340.
This was used to prove the increase in people without a religious affiliation. Sensenig has a Ph.D in Educational Theory and Policy from Penn State University and works as the Vice President for Planning and Policy and Chief of Staff for Washington College. This was published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.