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Why We Love Vampires: The Psychology Behind the Obsession

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Charming, elegant, and downright sexy, vampires have been the monster-of-choice for... well, ever. In looking at the psychology of vampires, these are the top ten reasons they are so fascinating:

1. Vampires are loners, but not lonely. Often people feel alienated, feel special, different, misunderstood at some point in their lives. This is a feeling a child as well as an adolescent can experience: Will you be accepted or rejected by the group or team? Who wants to be your friend? Or it can happen in adulthood: Who likes you in the office? Do you keep to yourself because your sense of humor seems different? Yes, vampires are loners (until the more recent popular media), but they are perfectly comfortable with their solitary existence. We wish we could be as self-reliant and autonomous. We envy that ability not to want either a sidekick (like Batman's Robin, Don Quixote's Sancho, or Oscar's Felix) or group of friends.

2. Vampires are minimalists. They don't rely on gadgets. They don't need James Bond cars that drive on land and swim in water. They don't need shot guns, Glocks or bombs. They are never encumbered by gear, paraphernalia, futuristic outfits or first-aid kits. Vampires never run out of gas or bullets or bungee chord. One would imagine that once the dramatic bullfighter flair of the cape surrounds the vampire, inside it must be much like a "snuggie" and feel like a safe cocoon.

3. Vampires are slick and cool looking. All of us have at some point tried on or pretended to wear a cape. Whether it was a pillowcase you tucked in your t-shirt as a kid, a huge, shiny black cape you had for Halloween or the hooded army surplus rain slicker that felt like Platoon meets Lestat. Capes make you feel cool. Vampires don't worry about style, they are classic. They wear basic colors that never go out of fashion. In fact, you never see them dressed up or down. Never in summer wear or winter gear. They are never overdressed for an event or underdressed for the soiree.

4. Vampires have fangs. It was Freud who explained our oral tendencies to us. People who fixate in the oral stage may turn to alcoholism or overeating. And then there are people who are aggressive in how they talk -- they have sharp tongues, they make biting comments. In projective drawing techniques (psychological personality assessment tests) sharp teeth connote someone who is angry or makes hurtful comments. Biting someone in a fight is considered the most primitive type of aggression: Think of Tyson biting Holyfield's ear. Mouths and teeth can obviously also be sensual: Think of love bites, necking or hickies. Fangs for us are fascinating -- we think of the teeth of sharks, of lions... of animals that kill and eat flesh. On a vampire, fangs are particularly interesting because they aren't visible, even when he is talking. But once you see the fangs they invoke awe and serve as a distinct contrast to his fastidious exterior.

5. Vampires are smart. They possess the combined abilities of telepathy and telekinesis, communicating, reading thoughts and moving objects with the mind. According to Anne Rice's description of vampires, "A vampire of sufficient power or age may also unwillingly 'hear' the thoughts of all the humans within range of this power, leading to an old vampire saying: 'If you do not learn to silence the voices, they will drive you mad.'" This blurring of psychological boundaries is intriguing. Psychological literature is full of descriptions and research about "merging" with another, and obviously the vampire's attention to other's voices seems similar to psychotic auditory hallucinations.

6. Vampires are powerful. They are powerful in an understated way, without the bulging muscles of a superhero or a WWE wrestler. They might be mistaken or underestimated given their lean musculature, whereas in physical strength they are anything but. Vampires can heal quickly, move faster than the human eye can see, have very keen senses. Vampires are the perfect triathlon extreme athletes.

7. Vampires are fearless. They do not experience the top human fears: death, heights, blood. Whether you believe vampires were created as a humanoid mutation in order to cull the herd, or that they are an offshoot of human evolution, they have a high tolerance 
for the elements. They are survivalists, enduring all kinds of natural disasters and persecutions.

8. Vampires only care about themselves. This ability to be purely and unabashedly selfish has a peculiar fascination.

9. Vampires are sensitive. Rice's vampires are all excessively emotional, sensitive and sensual -- easy prey to intense suffering and aesthetic passions. Twilight's vampires, too.

10. Vampires are the archetype of bad, bad boys. If you had to choose a monster "type," you'd have to choose between the untamed brutish King Kong type -- misunderstood, muscular, who probably spends way too much time at the gym and not enough time expanding his vocabulary -- and Frankenstein, who would be that mate we tried to build ourselves, our vision of a combination of the best traits of a few lovers. Though alien monsters might whisk us away as we fantasize, they are mostly sterile or austere or are downright scary -- Star Trek's repulsive, too tanned Ferengis come to mind, their sexual pleasure derived from the stroking of their large ears, their froggy voices and oral hygiene-challenged mouths are more than off-putting to your average human. Zombies and mummies were never sexy -- eroding bodies or unfurling bandages are absolutely the opposite of "hot" (even though zombie movies often had some sexy female actresses). And while Hugh Jackman has given the werewolf-like character of X-Men a breath of life and chance at the title, Wolverine, the sexy monster of all time continues to be the vampire -- the quintessential bad boy who reeks of danger, and is very, very naughty.

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