We have fully reversed the symbolism of Stokerâ€™s vampire, who represented a demonic assault on a virtuous community. Todayâ€™s vampire is the hip Other, and the community around him is either bungling, intolerant, or simply a source of comedic relief (as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Lost Boys, and Fright Night, for example). The modern vampire is in touch with his sexuality, but the community suppresses it. The modern vampire is coming to take away your girlfriend, and she kind of likes it. The modern vampire is the guy you wish you had been in high school, or the guy you wish youâ€™d dated in high school, and Meyer has turned that into gold.
The trouble with this evolution is that fictional monsters serve a valuable cultural purpose. They remind us that we live in communities, and that our communities must be defended from those who would rend them asunder. Though he is no conservative ideologue, Stephen King always seemed to fathom this intuitively. His stories and books featuring vampires made them evil through and through. The difference between his Salemâ€™s Lot and Stokerâ€™s Dracula is that King is also a bit of a dystopian, so while the community in Stokerâ€™s novel worked together in the end to stop the menace, King lets the community fall. Still, heâ€™s wise enough to know that creatures lacking in fundamental attributes of humanity donâ€™t make for good neighbors.
By inverting the traditional vampire tale, so that the community is predatory and the monster an object of empathy if not admiration, we have found one more avenue along which to push the tired idea that community is, rather than a source of life and happiness, a locus of oppression. The Twilight series simply carries our modern love affair with the undead to its natural conclusion; the lovelorn vampire and the object of his infatuation get married and make a baby.
Update: Caitlin Flanagan begs to differ.