(A lot of vampires are very ‘lost’, aren’t they? Perhaps it’s to do with the idea that they are neither human nor inhuman, thus lost in every sense of the word. Lost identity, lost definition, lost role in society…)
Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls (1994) is the next text I’m going to write about on here. It was a text I dealt with in my MA dissertation, alongside Lost Boys and Twilight. What makes it different to many other vampiric texts is the overall tone. Brite writes in a very visceral, obvious way that leaves no room for subtlety. So much so, that her main character, Nothing, is mysteriously summed up by his lack of name. In previous conferences I’ve attended, people have discussed the text, citing Nothing as being the poster boy for Foucaultian homosexuality- he is without identity because he chooses to live outside it. The vampires in this text are just as lost as David et al in LB. They drink copiously, sleep with whatever they can, and eat whatever they want to.*
The similarities continue: the family ties run through Lost Souls, even delving into the murky depths of incest (Nothing falls in love with his father, Zillah, and sleeps with him). In New Orleans, the vampires haunt the bars, bringing a dirty, sleazy glamour to the night. What is perhaps most disturbing about the text is the treatment of women. Many vampiric texts have the same theme running through. Women are victims, a resource to be plundered. In Lost Souls, they are merely pieces of meat to rape and incubate vampire offspring. Whenever a woman gives birth to a vampire (in this text), they are ripped apart, and die painfully in the process. (NB. This is a more extreme version of how Bella gives birth in Breaking Dawn) Male power is dominant, and sexual categorisation seems to no longer apply. The vampires behave like feral packs in the text though, which subsequently seems to dehumanize them, and the humans they associate with. Brite seems to be making a satirical comment on society and sexuality in general; the vampires are just the metaphorical playthings she uses.
What is interesting is how different vampires today are. Zillah et al seem defined by the grunge era America they were written in. Today we have a much slicker, polished, and aspirational vampire. These vampires have no god, no mention of religion, and family is warped in a very disturbing way. Whereas Brite revels in the dysfunction, Schumacher’s Lost Boys tried to find a way to fix it. By the end of the film, Michael had assumed the dominant male role, taken charge of his family, and dispatched the ‘threat’ of vampirism. It was a classic tale of good vs evil, where society and it’s ‘virtues’ triumphed. But here we have innocence destroyed and families torn apart.
There is a clear change in what the vampire represents throughout the eras.
*This is often a point of contention in vampire mythology. Dracula was never shown to eat, but neither did he say that he couldn’t. Anne Rice’s vampires cannot eat, yet Meyer’s vampires are physically able to eat, but just don’t find it pleasant.