From Demon to Daimon: A Mythic and Depth Psychological Analysis of the American Hero Vampire

  • Author(s): Sara A. Pierce
  • When: 2011-12
  • Where: Source
  • The vampire enjoys enormous popularity in the contemporary American culture and features prominently as a character in all forms of narrative media, including literature, film, television, and graphic novels. In particular for the present era, the vampire is most popular as a heroic character. Why make a vampire, a creature traditionally associated with darkness and evil, a hero? This dissertation examines the image of the vampire as a superhero to suggest that this popular preference points to something mythically at work in the American psyche.
    Referencing works in mythology, psychology, religion, history, philosophy, literature, film, television, and current scholarly criticism, the dissertation examines the hero vampire in order to reflect on its cultural implications. It focuses on the in-depth examination of four television superhero vampires: Nick Knight {Forever Knight), Angel {Angel), Spike {Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Mick St. John {Moonlight). Linking the hero's journey to the process of individuation, a study of these vampires reveals that as "dark" heroes, the task of each of these vampires becomes one of facing the shadow. As fictional characters, each vampire's confrontation with his or her own personal shadow reveals elements of the cultural shadow at work. A deeper reading through the lenses of mythology and depth psychology further reveals that the shadow each vampire faces is that of heroism itself.
    The vampires examined demonstrate four primary patterns inherent in the cultural imagination concerning superheroes: the pursuit of perfection, the need to be cosmically chosen, romance as suffering, and heroism's role as granting meaning to one's existence. Each of these patterns carries a cultural shadow, and as each vampire faces the shadow of his or her own primary pattern, a close reading reveals clues about how cultural ideas of what it means to be a hero might be evolving. The thesis developed is that old ideas about heroism prevalent in American culture are falling away. These stories reveal that the hero's journey of individuation is about moving from self-loathing to wholeness, from isolation to relatedness, and from merely wielding a sword to applying the imagination to uncover new ways of being.

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