First, a little disclaimer: this is really not about the grotesque. Just some vaguely related thoughts I've been having that needed to go somewhere.
There are currently three top rating vampire franchises in action: the Twilight series, True Blood and The Vampire Diaries. Each chronicles intense sexual desire and emotional connections between humans and non-humans. Each is also developed from a series of romance novels aimed at women.
The plots all have a similar premise: lady falls in love with gorgeous guy, only to discover that he is a vampire. Instead of running screaming to the cops, she decides to stick with her hot man-like creature and is introduced to a whole world of supernatural characters. Characters who have been living, as humans, in plain sight.
Most interesting to me is that the non-humans in each of these stories resemble humans to the point that the questionable nature of the human/ non-human boundary becomes a key plot device (a characteristic shared by other science-fiction shows such as Battlestar Galactica and the recent remake of V). When it comes to this distinction, it is the human woman's job to determine what constitutes true humanity and inhumanity. She duly falls in love across the human/non-human boundary, placing the essence of true 'humanity' in the heart or 'spirit' rather than the body of her non-human paramour.
I can't help thinking that this Beauty and the Beast scenario would be more meaningful if the vampires concerned looked more like the original Dracula ("gorged with blood... like a filthy leech"), and less like Calvin Klein models. (There is a new Beauty and the Beast adaptation coming out this year, starring a strangely good looking and very human 'beast.')
I also find it interesting that the human/non-human relationship is arranged along a female/male divide.
While female vampires have relationships with male humans in sub-plots, the main relationship(s) are always gendered the opposite way. The 'your love for me will keep me safe from you' vibe that then structures this representation of female/male relations is intriguing. The lethal male non-human, tamed by his love of the lady, violently protects her fragile human body from the many evils of the world. But then, (most of the time) she ends up wanting to be dead just like him.
This longing for death is... interesting. I use that word too often. But it is. And what does this say about whiteness? (Excluding the glorious Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned, most non-white vampires are short lived or secondary characters. The only black vampire in The Vampire Diaries got staked and nobody cared at all. He was a good guy and everything... but no, not a peep.) It all reminds me of Richard Dyer's discussion of the link between whiteness and death.
Oh, always so cheerful, Gwyneth! Anyway, here is some vampire inspired music to get you ready for the weekend.