Where have all the monsters gone? When Bram Stoker introduced Dracula into the literary world in 1897, there was no doubt that the count was malevolent. Ugly, almost reptilian, Dracula was repulsive and terrifying. With hairy knuckles and killer bite, he was a soulless hunter of the vulnerable. Dracula was created to scare the hell out of readers—literally! The only protection against this embodiment of evil was the cross of Christ. Stoker’s message was that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice was the only defense against the powers of evil.
Over a hundred years have passed and vampires have evolved. Dracula made way for Nosferatu, who succumbed to the charm of Lestat, who in turn was eclipsed by Edward (eclipsed…did you get it?). And as every generation has retold the story of these mythical creatures, they have been changed to suit our preferences. Some things stay the same, light poses a problem, they are unaffected by age, etc. but so much is different.
By the time we get to the Twilight series, vampires have evolved into attractive, compelling beings. They remain dangerous, but we are taught to pity them rather than hate them. Their condition has cursed them with an insatiable appetite, but they are victims, conflicted souls. The Cullum’s are not monsters, these are characters we can care about, they are even deserving of love.
What is this to us? Vampires are mythical; their fate should not matter to us. But our taming of this fictional being reveals a lot about our concept of evil. There was a time when evil was substantial and prevalent. Evil was close by, and it posed a threat to every living being. No longer. We have defanged evil and recast it as an antisocial impulse. People do wrong, not because there is wickedness in them, but because they are misguided. We left evil in Transylvania.
This means that we need to confront wrongdoing in a new way, with something more sophisticated than angry villagers. But our evolved sensibilities have a significant problem. Evil is still present. Worse still, it is present in us. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19–20).
The monsters of Stoker’s imagination live within us. We are the creatures of darkness that hate the light. Our problems are deeper than the worries that pester us—in our soul there is an evil that is doing harm and causing hurt. Fortunately, God has a solution for those who turn to him. Like those peasants in Stoker’s novel, we who cling to the cross will be delivered from evil.
What impact do you think this pacification of evil has had on our society?