Jeffrey Jerome Cohen's "Monster Culture (Seven Theses)" has provided a framework with which we can interpret both ancient and modern vampire stories. The theses describe how monsters are reflections of our society's fears and desires. For example, Thesis 1 states that "the monster's body is a cultural body," (page 4) and the vampire, for example, came out of the natural human fear of death and what happens afterward. The Seven Theses emphasize again and again that monsters represent difference or "others" and that a fear of them is often a fear of what we do not understand
Jeffrey Cohen present seven theses pertaining to the depictions of monsters and their relation to the culture they were created in. Each of these Thesis can be used to examine our modern depictions of vampires and how they reflect the cultural perceptions/events of today.
Thesis 1: The Monster's Body is a Cultural Body
In this Thesis, Cohen specifically mentions vampires. He states that vampires are born at a "metaphoric crossroads" between life and death "as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment- of a time, a feeling, and a place" (pg. 4). Vampires, with their close association with death and apparent "otherness" are often used as an embodiment of the unknown, which can include cultural movements and changes that may scare people since they deviate from what they are familiar with. The earlier work of Bram Stoker and his novel Dracula, from which much of our modern idea of vampires come from, focuses heavily on the foreignness of Dracula, exhibiting not only a fear of cultural change but a fear of cultural differences that challenge the norm of the protagonist(this also falls under the category of thesis 4).
Thesis 2: The Monster Always Escapes
The problem that the vampires present never seems to completely go away. Even in the well-known Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where many individual vampires are defeated, the monsters keep coming back. The problem the vampires pose can only be addressed as they come up, but are never completely eliminated.
Thesis 3: The Monster is a Harbinger of Category Crisis
Vampires are often seen as existing in a place between categories; not being entirely human, but not entirely inhuman either; not dead but not really alive. Some vampires, especially in modern stories, even struggle between identifying themselves as still somewhat human or embracing themselves as a vampire. In the Canadian television show My Babysitter's a Vampire , the character of Sarah appears to embody this crisis. She is a vampire who often struggles reconciling her existence as a vampire, even though it is a mostly nonviolent one, and her desire to fit in among humans. This series follows a recent trend of vampires not being depicted as purely evil, but still being ostracized for their inability to fit in neatly with humans despite sharing many traits with them and often having been human themselves once.
Thesis 4: The Monster Dwells at the Gate of Difference
In Dracula, Jonathan Harker travels to a far away land to meet with Count Dracula, who is a foreigner and someone who is not like him. The monster represents society's fear of people who are not like us, who are from another country and have different languages and customs. Dracula is so different from Harker, and difference was thought to be a bad thing. And when Dracula comes to London, the fear of him is even greater because he is infecting their society with his difference and causing them to become like him.
Thesis 5: The Monster Polices the Border of the Possible
Thesis 6: Fear of the Monster is Really a Kind of Desire
Vampire stories have become a part of popular culture, with countless adaptations of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and more recently with the Twilight series. Thesis 6 says "Fear of the monster is really a kind of desire" (page 16) and this can be seen in most vampire tales. The vampires are generally seen as attractive, wealthy, and sophisticated. Dracula clearly is wealthy, he has a large castle and many possessions that he's acquired over the centuries he's been alive. In Twilight, the vampires are like an exclusive clique that creates mystery and intrigue. Once Bella figures out that Edward and his family are vampires, she is afraid of them, but not completely. If she were truly afraid and disgusted by them, she would never have a relationship with Edward and later become a vampire herself. Through this journey, she goes from someone who is fearful of the monsters to someone who is a monster herself.
Thesis 7: The Monster Stands at the Threshold of Becoming