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Have vampires been a socialization tool for the last two generations?

The last two decades have brought about a welcoming of vampires in society. Long gone are the days of children cowering in the dark from fear of the vampire. The 1970’s opened the door to change that not only affected the image of the vampire but how we accepted them into our lives. From enticing young children to learn new academic and social skills and assisting teens to solve everyday issues and explore who they are, the vampire has been the constant through each stage of social development. In the past, vampires were portrayed as the rat like Nosferatu or the strange foreign speaking Bela Lugosi style vampire. However, today they are portrayed as the cute Count von Count on Sesame Street or the sexy Edward of the teen series Twilight. This familiarization with the vampire has resulted in the instant recognition and acceptance of the once monstrous creature. They have been accepted into our daily society and no longer have to be explained or labeled; we simply know by sight that the creature on the television or in the description of a character in a book that it is a vampire. Simply put everyone knows what a vampire is through simple phrases or placement of symbols. Children and teens are not immune to this knowledge through various forms of pop culture and are readily acceptable of this icon that has inundated their world. In 1971, General Mills introduced a new cereal that was to “bring monsters into your breakfast everyday”. The first of six monster themed cereals were Count Chocula, a Nosferatu looking vampire that was painted as rather comical looking. The Count would yell “I vant to eat your cereal.” As a result the adults fled in fear but the children invited him and his friends, Franken Berry, Boo Berry, and Yummy Mummy in to enjoy breakfast, the most important meal of the day. The vampire was no longer scary to children and would become the first part of every child’s day, or so hoped General Mills. Count Chocula cereal is still available today in limited areas but makes a special appearance at Halloween along with his other monster friends. After children were finished eating their cereal, the next step in their morning would be to turn on the television to an educational program such as Sesame Street. Here children would learn their colors, alphabet and shapes. In 1972 a new character was introduced that would help children learn to count, a Bela Lugosi looking vampire named Count von Count. He was obsessed with counting and would count anything that came his way. He would even count himself if there was nothing to count. Children would laugh at his spooky castle and coffin while learning these skills. The writers of the show based their character’s obsession with counting on the myth of how to escape a vampire. The folktale says that in order to escape a vampire, one must drop seeds as they ran because the vampire is obsessed with counting and would have to stop and count before continuing the chase. This was the premise to the Count. He was silly, obsessive yet smart. He lived in a castle with his pet bats and was friends with the other characters on Sesame Street. Children learned their numbers while imitating his loud crackly laugh that resulted in lightning strikes and thunder claps. The Count was not scary but a very good educational resource that children still enjoy today. As children grew older they began to read and in 1979 Bunnicula was introduced to them. Bunnicula, a beginning reader book was written by husband and wife team, Deborah and James Howe and told the story of a cute bunny that is also a vampire. Bunnicula is adopted into a new home where the other pets, a cat and dog, are fearful and not accepting of him. Through different adventures the cat and dog finally accept the “different” and “new” member of the family. This was a perfect story of teaching children to learn to accept differences in other children as well as address the rising issue of divorce and mixed families in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The cute bunny was successful in its popularity with children and is still in print with new releases today. Children continue to learn diversity and friendship skills in the 1980’s and 1990’s with televisions shows like The Munsters, The Addams Family and movies such as The Littlest Vampire. While cartoons such as Count Duckula, The Groovie Ghoulies, and Batman paved the way for Vampires, Pirates, and Aliens. (Vampires, pirates, and aliens) The newest ABC Family show teaches children about friendship, sharing, and diversity all with the help of the no longer scary vampire. The popularity of the television as a babysitter allowed the vampire to enter the home more often and as a result become a cute friend. The institutions of family and education rely on the media to socialize children and as a result of supply and demand, children turn to the vampire as a means of learning and growing. The vampire is now a friend and no longer a monster to be feared. Today’s thirty somethings are the ones who were experienced the vampire from the beginning. We are the ones who found these monsters to be cute and no longer scary. Would it be possible that this may be a reason for the rise in vampire in literature? We crave the vampire romance novels and shows and brought our children up on Anne Rice and Dark Shadows… could this be why our children, the next generation have now become fans of Twilight, Blue Bloods, and Vampire Kisses? Do you think that one can credit the vampires listed above for socializing the youth of today?

Fanged Films

USA, 2006
Karl Bites
France, 1928

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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