Why Are the Undead So Popular in YA Fiction?

27 Nov

Can’t get enough books and movies about the undead?  Click on the links below to explore why you might be fascinated by vampires and zombies.  Leave a comment to let me know if and why you agree or disagree with any of these arguments.

In “Bitten By a Vampire,” the editors of The Week magazine speculate about why vampires might be so popular in contemporary media.  This article is a great starting point, as it introduces the history of vampires in novels and films.

In “Vampires Suck,” Grady Hendrix argues that the male sexual restraint valorized in novels like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series conflicts with the hypersexuality websites present to curious young men.  Hendrix calls both of these views of male sexuality “misrepresentations” and argues that they could cause serious problems in relationships between inexperienced adolescents.

At, Christopher Bean and Chris Wilson dismiss any idea of a “vampire craze.”  Instead of examining our fascination with vampires, the authors ask, “When have we not been in the midst of a vampire craze?”  They study a few dry periods in the production of vampire stories and speculate about what it might mean for a culture not to be interested in the undead.

Anne Rice, the author of the Vampire Chronicles, discusses the “outsider” status of vampires and why teens love books about blood suckers.  She admits that she didn’t do much research for her Chronicles, and that instead she relied on a modern vampire mythology she’d seen in films.  This modern vampire allows for sexual overtones that just aren’t possible in stories featuring more traditional undead characters, such as the “hostages” Marcus Sedgwick writes about in My Swordhand Is Singing.  Click here to read the full interview.

In “First, Eat All the Lawyers,” Torie Bosch hits a little too close to home for this professor.  Bosch argues that the “zombie boom is really about the economic fears of white-collar workers,” who would have few survival skills in a post-apocalyptic world.

Which of these arguments do you find convincing, and why?  Do you disagree with any of them?  If so, why?

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4 responses to “Why Are the Undead So Popular in YA Fiction?

  1. Paula Reed

    November 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    I have never, ever, in my entire life, no, not ever been fascinated with vampires. Thanks to old movies on TV and a vivid imagination, my two childhood nightmares were: 1) Godzilla coming out of the ocean to trample our home and eat me and 2) Dracula creeping through my bedroom window to suck blood out of my neck (yes, I drew up my covers to completely cover my neck every night!) Therefore, for most of my life, I did not, would not have anything to do with any books, movies and whatever on vampires. When “The Lost Boys” was on cable and as soon as I realized it was about vampires, I turned the channel. “Interview with a Vampire”: Tom Cruise’s younger years and a must see for all young women like me-I watched most of it…and had nightmares.

    What did finally get me passed my vampire phobia? Hugh Jackman in “Van Helsing.” A movie I had to see because…well…Hugh Jackman. I was so nervous about seeing this vampire movie I drank two margaritas before entering the movie theater. After watching the movie, I realized how silly I had been and that now I am a grown up, I can handle vampires, sort of. I still cringe and close my eyes to the “vampire going in for the kill” scenes, and I still do not care for the whole horror and scary stuff anyway.

    The article “Bitten by a Vampire” characterizes how our fascination with vampires has evolved over time, with the beginning history of vampires as monsters (which is why I had nightmares) to current books and movies humanizing vampires, which makes them more appealing (which is why I shamefully admit to enjoying the Twilight movies). A vampire is just about as close to perfection that anyone dreams about, but at a cost. Over time, the vampire has become homogenized and romanticized because that is what sells, at least for now. Of course the vampire of today is more popular than the vampire of yesterday. The vampire of today has feelings and is totally hot-he is completely different than the Dracula of my nightmares.

    • beyondthepalebooks

      November 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      Thanks for writing, Paula. Sounds like you’ve embraced the new sexy vampire, but purely for the sexiness and romance. You didn’t fall for the vampire as a metaphor for any number of outsiders. You did say that vampires (modern, I’m assuming) are “close to perfection,” so perhaps the desire for a perfect, immortal being or self is part of the appeal for you too? I have to admit that I found Gary Oldman’s Dracula very appealing. That film made a victim out of Dracula in a way, and I always fall for underdogs (and besides, it was Gary Oldman).


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