Vampires Represent Minorities and Other Hidden Meanings of Fads
Fads, in their very nature, are temporal, but they also are a snapshot of how the culture is feeling at the time.
When we look back at the trends at the beginning of the last twenty years, they seem to be darker.
Zombies and vampires were the main reoccurring theme, and they have been pushed aside in the last 5 years for rainbows and magic, unicorns and llamas.
On the surface, it looks like we are focusing on brighter things, so we must be more optimistic right?
Interestingly, some researchers believe that the zombie fascination was actually a time of optimism for the future.
Manifestations of horror are a testament to people’s desire to not only survive, but even possibly improve the world in the face of a seemingly impossible situation.
While shows like The Walking Dead are admittedly full of gore and awful situations, the heart of the show is when the characters band together to find a way to survive even in the darkest times. They forge a community out of necessity, with most previous arguments pushed aside as they focus on their common goal- survival.
We, as a culture, worried about what the world would be like in the future, but enjoyed watching it, and wondering if we would survive, and if we could rebuild society from the ground up if we had to.
Vampires, in their turn, were a symbol of the people who were different than us, the minorities living among us.
Once historically only something to be feared, in their rise with the Sookie Stackhouse novels in 2001 and the Twilight series coming out in 2005 the vampires were no longer written as villains, but as individuals that should be judged by their personal actions, whether good or evil. Twilight, in particular, would continue to dominate culture through first its books and then the movies, continuing its popularity until 2012 when the last movie came out. This time also saw other vampire books and TV shows being made until 2014, when at least one news source called the fad dead.
Interestingly, this push to accept vampires, with all their flaws and terrifying differences, coincided with some huge progress for minorities being made in the real world. We had our first black president elected in 2009, and in 2004 there was the first legal same sex marriage in Massachusetts. In the years of vampires continued popularity, there continued to be more progress in rights for this group, culminating in same sex marriage being legal across the United States.
Vampires can’t take all the credit for these huge sweeps of progress, but I think that they might have truly helped ease the transition from feared to accepted for some minority groups too.
On the flip side, unicorns came during darker political times.
Unicorns and rainbows. Are there any two things more synonymous with light and happiness?
Apparently though, the recent surge of popularity of these things was to protect ourselves and somewhat delude ourselves from the news that we didn’t enjoy hearing.
Whatever party you support, you would probably agree that the road leading to the 2016 election was rocky, to say the least. No one that I talked to, with friends on both sides of the fence, was happy with the stories coming out about their nominated person.
On both sides we heard lies, corruption, and scandal.
Many people that I know, myself included, had to take a step back from the news of the day, just to not get frustrated, all the time, over the stories we heard.
In the time since Trump was elected, it hasn’t gotten better. There continues to be stories of the latest drama in the White House. We still read about who he fired recently, who he tweeted about, the stories about the Ukraine and problems with Iran on a daily basis. Plus, shootings plague our nation, and after each has a time of mourning, everything returns to the status quo as we wait for the next tragedy to become breaking news.
So, how did we cope as a nation? We turned to 90’s nostalgia and rainbows and unicorns. We wanted to focus on something positive. We didn’t have the optimism of zombie time or the accepting minorities progress of vampire time. Everything we read seemed to be the opposite of the world we hoped for, so we ran away to cover up the windows of the outside world with something magical, and mythical.
We’re craving brightness and happiness during a dark time, so the bright, bubbly, social media-created unicorn frenzy helps offset how we’re all feeling as a culture right now-Jess Weiner
2019 and beyond- what will be the next trends?
Llamas were officially starting to edge out the unicorns last year, and that to me is a hopeful sign that we also, as a nation, are returning to a time of hope as the next election comes and we will get a chance as a nation to make new decisions for our future.
Lllama are still cute, but at least they are real and less colorful.
We aren’t ready to swing to dark fiction characters yet, clinging to fuzzy furry animals like sloths and llamas like security blankets, but we seem to be slowly walking away from our need for the magical and fictional unicorns and mermaids.
I don’t have the data nor the physic abilities to predict the next big trend, but I do think that the results of the 2020 election will have an impact on the next fads to come.
If the news continues to be full of drama and the real world is filled with more stories about war, and creating political enemies, then we should brace ourselves for another bright mythical creature fad, like fairies.
But if we can stabilize our country, and cut down the drama in the news, I think we will continue to see more real cute furry animals take the stage, and eventually get to a level of real world comfort to see a resurgence in dark spooky trends.
At least, that’s my hope for the next decade.