Tuesday, January 7, 2014

THE EVOLUTION OF VAMPIRES; SELECTIVE LISTENING


Level of difficulty: intermediate, end of the first term.
Original text: Essie, http://essiespeaks.blogspot.com
We owe Essie thanks for allowing a follower of this blog to transform her text into a listening activity.
Vampires have always been an important part of various works of art. They can be seen mostly in books and films. They have appeared in various forms and in various cultures throughout the world; stories of blood-sucking demons can be found in very early folk myths in Asia and the Middle East. Today, I would like to have a chronological look at the vampire phenomenon in the history of cinema.
Vampires “reached” Europe in the early 18th century. Stories of vampires came to Europe from the Balkans. Stories spread mostly from the Balkans because Balkans had a tradition of vampire legends. The stories even lead to a wide-spread public hysteria. Luckily, in the beginning of the 19th century, vampire legends came to a stop and the public started not to be affected from these vampire legends. The first reason why vampires lost their fear factor is that 19th century is the age of reason. In addition to the fact that it was the age of reason, modern science also proved that vampires did not exist. So, it was the modern science which disproved the existence of vampires. Vampires did, nevertheless, continue to be seen in many works of art. In written literature, the most famous one is no doubt Braham Stoker’s 1867 novel, Dracula. With the 20th century and the advent of cinema, vampires made an appearance in the cinema, too.  And one of the earliest works of cinema is Murnau’s Nosferatu, dated 1907.
The world is full of legends and heroes. However, vampires have a special place among these legends and heroes. The most basic characteristic of a vampire is the fact that it is a monster. This monster is frightening. The fact that vampires are frightening monsters is well known by almost everybody. That is why film-makers who are new to this business use these frightening monsters as their best actors. The pioneer filmmakers had to use certain “types”, types that everyone knew, that didn’t need much introduction. The vampires need no introduction because of many reasons.
The second reason why film-makers used vampires as their best actor is that they could easily reach the dramatic mood they wanted to achieve.  For film makers the hardest part is to reach the dramatic mood and they can do this by using this frightening monster.
Thirdly, the audience didn’t really expect to see vampires in the early 20th century. One must remember that the cinema was principally a spectacle for many years; especially in its early years, the cinema was viewed as entertainment and it was not thought of as a work of art. And besides, the audience was very unused to this new form of entertainment; the cinema did not become a common form of entertainment until the middle of the 20th century, so no one had seen that many films. To make people see more films, filmmakers had to use strong characters. Vampires, as you can imagine, are very strong characters and thus the filmmakers used vampires as strong characters. Nowadays, you can imagine that Bruce Willis or Dwayne Johnson does not need an introduction to the audience. They are both heroes that almost everybody accepts.
 You can all imagine that cliché characters needed no real introduction, everyone knew them well anyway; in an adventure film the hero is always handsome and brave.  In a comedy, he is dumb and clumsy. Then there is a beautiful maiden, naturally, young and stunning. The hero must do something to make the maiden love him. Then of course the villain, the bad person in the movie, who must be overcome by the hero. In a horror movie, all we really need to know about a monster – be it a vampire or something else – is that it is out to get you and must be stopped. The hero’s job is to stop the monster which is out to get you. The rest is largely left to the viewer’s imagination.
When we look at the history of vampires in the cinema, the first character we observe is Braham Stoker’s Dracula. As mentioned earlier, we need a monster and a hero. Our monster is the vampire, Count Orlok. Count Orlok lives in a scary castle in Romania. Our hero is a lawyer from a small village in Germany. The Count wants to buy a castle in a small village in Germany, so he recruits the lawyer, our hero. In the earlier versions of Dracula, the count is depicted as ugly and scary; however, in later versions, the vampire gained one quality – they were, for the most part, good looking, or at least charismatic. Of course, the story never changed: our hero needs to kill the monster, however good looking and charismatic he may look, in contrast to the ugly and scary monsters of the past.
The 1990’s brought with it a new decade and a society with even more needs. Vampires have successfully made their way into mainstream comedy. Two icons – still popular to this very day – were born in this era. One is a more romantic image of vampires, targeting a slightly older audience – Interview with A Vampire, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. The second is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and her partner Angel. Buffy and Angel aimed at a slightly younger audience with overtones of a supernatural adventure story. As we all know, young people would love to watch supernatural adventure and that is why Buffy and Angel were mostly watched by the younger audience.
As we said, Angel is a more complex vampire than his predecessors. Unlike them, he has a conscience, and a soul. Now this, we may recall, came about because Angel is cursed. He angered a gypsy who cursed him by giving him back his soul. Of course now he is no longer a soulless monster; Angel is tormented beyond belief by the memory of all the horrible things he has done in his vampire life. But that is not all, if he ever finds true happiness; he will lose his soul again, becoming a destructive monster. So therein lies the dilemma, Angel has regained “human” status in a sense by having his soul, but he must struggle through his endless life, not indulging in any true happiness. Remember, if he finds happiness, he will lose his soul and become a monster again.
Now, let us begin by analyzing some aspects of the popular television series True Blood. We must confess that there are inherent difficulties in analyzing a series because there are many layers and different messages that are given in various episodes but there are some basic messages that “stick out” in certain seasons. And the main “problem” True Blood has with the world seems to be political. In the first series, the underlying message is all about the fact that vampires “hunt humans”. One cannot help but ask oneself, what would happen if, one day when we woke up, we found out that there were such things as vampires? Even if these were people we had known for a while like the doorman in our apartment or the dentist we go to, we would be horrified by the fact that they could potentially kill and eat us. How would we feel about such a thing happening? There may be many interpretations of True Blood out there but the one interpretation is striking. In this interpretation, the world with the vampires is America after the 9 /11 incident. Remember the American citizen Muslims working as pilots causing the deaths of many while hitting the twin towers? In a world like this, then, the vampires represent the Muslims. Naturally, people knew that Muslims actually existed, but the “war on terror” changed the way they were viewed forever as far as some people were concerned. As True Blood is a complex series, there are good vampires and bad vampires, just as there are good and bad members in any section of society. So, a popular television series like the True Blood can view the world as political and makes social criticism on that.
Similar criticism can be found underlying many of the most innocent looking vampire films. Another good example is the Twilight saga that has taken the planet by storm. Twilight is, very basically, a teenage romance. It speaks of Edward Cullen the vampire and Bella Swan the human who fall in love, and all the obstacles they must overcome until they are able to get married – when Edward will turn Bella into a vampire too and their love will become eternal. The first noticeable strength about Twilight is the lengths to which its creators have gone to make absolutely sure we find the vampires approachable. The Cullen family, in the tradition of all truly “good” vampires, does not feed on human blood. They call themselves “vegetarian” and only animal blood will do. Secondly, they do not have any problem with going out in the day time, the reason they avoid the sun is that it makes their skin glow in a rather conspicuous manner – thus making them that little bit more approachable / like us.
 “Adapt or die”, if we cannot go as far as calling this a mantra for the entire planet, it is definitely a very sound principal to base one on. And vampires seem to have done just that; adapted and thrived. Gone are the mere monsters of yesteryear, gone are the vampires without souls hell-bent on destruction alone, they have shown us a different side to their character. The reason for this is no doubt, the changes in modern audiences. Apparently, modern audiences call for these changes to get away from the boredom of daily life.
This is the end of this interesting lecture. Thank you for listening.
THE EVOLUTION OF VAMPIRES
SELECTIVE LISTENING
1.            Why did stories of vampires spread from the Balkans?
_________________________________________________________________________________
2.            Why did people stop being afraid of vampires in the 19th century? (write one).
_________________________________________________________________________________
3.            What is the basic feature of a vampire?
____________________________________________________________________________
4.            What did the filmmakers who preferred to use vampires as their best actors try to achieve?
_____________________________________________________________________________________________
5.            To enable more people to see their films, filmmakers needed to use _______________________________    such as vampires.
            
6.            What is the hero expected to do in horror films?
_______________________________________________________________________________
7.            In today’s films and TV series, vampires are ____________ and _____________; however, in the past, they were all shown as ____________ and ____________.
8.            What aspect of the Buffy and Angel series made young people love watching them?
___________________________________________________________________________
9.            What must Angel avoid throughout his long life?
_____________________________________________________________________________
10.          The TV series `True Blood` sees the world as _______________________.
11.          The strength of the `Twilight Saga` is that the characters are _____________________ and they are like us.
12.          What is the reason for the change vampire characters have undergone throughout the years?
____________________________________________________________________________

THE EVOLUTION OF VAMPIRES
SELECTIVE LISTENING - KEY
1.            Why did stories of vampires spread from the Balkans?
                The Balkans had a tradition of vampire legends.
2.            Why did people stop being afraid of vampires in the 19th century? (write one).
                It was the age of reason / modern science proved that vampires did not exist.
3.            What is the basic feature of a vampire?
                It is a monster.
4.            What did the filmmakers who preferred to use vampires as their best actors try to achieve?
                The dramatic mood
5.            To enable more people to see their films, filmmakers needed to use strong characters such as vampires.
6.            What is the hero expected to do in horror films?
                Stop the monster (which is out to get you)
7.            In today’s films and TV series, vampires are good looking and charismatic; however, in the past, they were    all shown as ugly and scary.
8.            What aspect of the Buffy and Angel series made young people love watching them?
                It is a supernatural adventure story.
9.            What must Angel avoid throughout his long life?
                Finding true happiness
10.          The TV series `True Blood` sees the world as political.
11.          The strength of the ‘Twilight Saga` is that the characters are approachable  and they are like us.
12.          What is the reason for the change vampire characters have under gone throughout the years?
                The changes in modern audiences





No comments:

Post a Comment