The Vampire as a Model of Cultural Otherness in the Television Series “What We Do in the Shadows”

Authors

  • Bojan Žikić Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade, Serbia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v17i1.1

Keywords:

otherness, cultural ontology, vampire, popular culture, Dracula (Stoker), anthropology, contemporary society

Abstract

Vampires in popular culture differ from vampires in Serbian traditional culture not only in that they feed on human blood, but also in the implications of otherness they represent. While the Serbian vampire is an example of ontological otherness – a revenant, a non-human as opposed to a human, but not of sociocultural otherness, being a member of the same community as those against whom its misdeeds are directed – the vampire in popular culture is an example of the way that sociocultural otherness derives from ontological otherness. Its non-human nature is clearly designated as the essential difference between it and man in the physical and psychological sense: besides being undead and being at the top of the food chain, its body possesses animal and protean characteristics, and uses various parapsychological powers. As such, it represents an alien in the human world generally, but also alienness with regard to the sociocultural environments in which different works of fiction and films, i.e. works of popular culture, situate it. This alienness is depicted in different ways, all of which can basically be traced to Bram Stoker's shaping of Dracula. In the US TV series What We Do in the Shadows, which is based on the eponymous New Zealand film and takes the form of the sitcom and mockumentary, we follow the lives of three bloodthirsty vampires from Europe and Asia who live together in Staten Island, New York City, in a house they share with a local energy vampire. Their appearance, behavior, habits, speech, etc. are an attribute of their alienness in the New World – and a source of constant misunderstandings with the environment into which they wish to integrate. Although their neighbors cannot know they are not human, they treat them as such, with all the courtesy of middle-class society and political correctness: the obstacle to the vampires' integration into contemporary US society is not their non-humanness, but rather their cultural incompetence. Hence it turns out that the contemporary cultural thought behind the cultural concepts of ontology and otherness is a form of Leachian perception of the manner of primary identification in the majority of traditional cultures in the world, in which "foreigners are in fact not counted among human beings".

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Published

2022-04-01

How to Cite

Žikić, Bojan. 2022. “The Vampire As a Model of Cultural Otherness in the Television Series ‘What We Do in the Shadows’”. Etnoantropološki Problemi / Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 17 (1):23–53. https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v17i1.1.

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