Pop culture is never just about entertainment. Behind its apparently superficial nature, there’s a sort of symbolism which reveals a great deal about civilization and society.
Take the popular archetypes of the vampire and the zombie, for example. These are some of the most common pop culture tropes in contemporary times. They’re found everywhere—movies, TV shows, video games, books and even Halloween costumes.
Throughout the course of this article, we’ll be analyzing how the vampire is nostalgia for pre-modernity, while the zombie is a criticism of postmodernity.
The Vampire: A Lost Aristocrat
Pretty much everyone probably knows what a vampire is by now. It is a fictional evil creature that is characterized by its propensity to feed off the blood (or vital life force) of its victims.
All cultures have some sort of parallel to the vampire, but it’s in pre-modern Europe and its folk beliefs that the image of the vampire was cemented. And I believe this is not without reason, as the vampire actually says something about modernity itself.
While there were novels and poems that preceded it, our idea of the vampire derives mostly from the Count Dracula found in Bram Stoker’s gothic fiction classic, Dracula (1897).
Count Dracula is someone not completely foreign to Islam. His character was based on Vlad the Impaler, the 15th-century Romanian prince who wrestled with the Ottoman Empire. He was named as such for his habit of impaling his enemies and, as the folklore goes, dipping his bread in their souls.
Vlad’s father had Dracul or dragon in his name because he belonged to the Order of the Dragon, an occult organization—some would call it a secret society—emulating the earlier Crusades and aiming to end the Ottoman Empire.
Anyway, we’ll be focusing more on the fictional character of Count Dracula and what he says about modernity. Being a count, he is of course an aristocrat, which means he’s anachronistic. Indeed, during the 19th century, when Stoke released his novel, the pre-modern Europe of the aristocrats had already been replaced by the post-1789 French revolution and its Europe of the bourgeois.
Thus Dracula lives during the night, since he’s a figure that modernist Europe wants to expel. He is the aristocrat, someone who is not “productive” according to the capitalist definition (unlike the bourgeois who work during the day), a mere parasite who feeds off the masses (just like the vampire sucks the blood from mainly poor peasants).
But it is precisely due to Dracula being pre-modern and an aristocrat that makes him attractive in the eyes of the people. Portrayed by the likes of actor Christopher Lee (1922-2015), Dracula is always a tall and imposing individual with appreciable mannerisms and ornate language that presents him as being superior.
It’s as though modernist and bourgeois Europe was nostalgic of pre-modern and aristocratic Europe through the figure of Dracula. They absolutely have to demonize it, otherwise, they’d essentially be traitors to modernity (especially its liberal equalitarianism and capitalist productivism). Yet they still acknowledge some form of superiority there since Dracula still possesses traditional qualities.
This is probably why, in our era of postmodernity, the vampire has actually morphed into a positive figure. It began with Roman Polanski’s movie, The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), wherein vampires are basically humanized as cultured members of the high society. And in more recent years, you have the Twilight novel series (later adapted into movies), which is basically fantasy romance for teenagers.
You could find countless such examples. But the point is that even when Dracula was demonized, during peak modernity, he remained a sort of fascination. And now, with postmodernity, the vampire has even become something glamourous… at the expense of the zombie.
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The Zombie: A Brainless Consumerist
While the vampire has been almost humanized, the zombie has become the most popular horror trope—from George Romero’s movie, Night of the Living Dead (1968), onwards, some of the most popular films, TV shows and even video games are based on zombies.
Based on our analysis, it is no coincidence that the zombie figure arose mainly in the second half of the last century, which social critics such as Guy Debord, Jean Baudrillard and others viewed as a transition from a society of production to a society of consumption. Whereas the vampire was criticized for being unproductive in the age of production, the zombie, on the other hand, is criticized for representing the age of mass consumerism.
Like the zombie, the consumerist in late-stage capitalism or postmodernity is brainless and moved only by his appetite for what he himself lacks—the body in general; and the brain in particular.
In the same way, the consumerist follows this dynamic:
Even if he has a certain product, he wants the newest version of the same product just because someone else has it. And that product is usually just a slight improvement on the previous one (think of all the iPhones that are released, one after the other, in quick succession).
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Postmodernity is characterized by globalization. It must also be noted that the zombie figure goes back to Haiti’s folklore, which is itself based on Benin’s voodoo spiritual system. There is thus also a form of early globalization because such a religious transfer could only have been possible due to the transatlantic slave trade (otherwise there would be no Black population in Haiti).
In a sense, the zombie was born out of slavery and he’s a slave too. He lacks the agency to act of his own volition, and we’d argue that it’s the same with the consumerist, who acts not on the basis of his own personal rationale but, rather, based on desires pushed onto him by marketing agencies and advertisements.
Also, while the vampire is often portrayed as a lone individual, zombies always come in hordes. This is because consumerism is done on a mass level. It is a mass ritual in our democratic age where everything else appeals to the masses as well. Zombies don’t have in-group solidarity like what can be seen within a tribal society. It is the sheep crowd mentality of the democratic age that has been detailed in Gustave Le Bon’s classic of sociology and psychology, The Crowd (1895).
The more the world drowns in postmodernity, the more relevant the zombie would be, as everyone is essentially becoming a zombie, a nihilist with no aim or purpose in their existence, perpetually living life through the medium of consumerism alone.
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Fun fact which you forgot to mention the real Count Dracula Vlad the impaler of Wallachia(southern Romania) was best friends with the great Ottoman Sultan and conquer of Istanbul Sultan Muhammad Al Fatih or Mehmed II rh. Vld turned on him and fought against him and he was caught by Ottoman soldiers and executed and Mehmed Al Fetih rh had his head on a steak on the walls of Istanbul to give a warning to the enemies of Islam not to mess with the Muslims.
There is no evidence he was a good friend of Mehmed II.
That was his brother Radu Bey who converted to Islam.
For a while, Vlad was an ally of the Ottomans but because his principality was a vassal state of the Ottomans.
Otherwise, he, alongside his father, opposed the Turks and made several attempts to regain control over Wallachia as vassals to the Turks.
I meant when they were kids in 1420 Sultan Murtad II the father of Mehmed II was forced to become the vassal of the ottomans and gave his sons Vlad and radu as hostages to the sultan and they became friends with Mehmed II. When he grew up he would then oppose Mehmed II.
It was supposed to be Murad II thx for correcting me I meant to put that but I put Murtad by accident.
I’m genuinely confused as to where Bheria gets these ideas but hey I’m here for it
Asalaamu ‘alaykum brother Bheria,
I think you are reading too much trash. I think you should spend more time reading the Qur’an and Hadith.
An honest advice,