I know I just posted a blog yesterday, and I don’t plan on posting this often, but I just ran across something about this again, so I had to say something.
In Bram Stoker's 'Dracula,' Gary Oldman, as Dracula, walked in the sun. He did. He walked down a London street and met Mina full in the sun. He didn’t cower from it, he didn’t try to stay in the shadows. He had the sun on his face and in his eyes, and he was fine. He got to wear those cute little sunglasses and he didn’t even get a sunburn. The very idea that vampires cannot walk in the sun was invented by Hollywood. If you look back in all the old legends, going back as far as you can, about any creature that visits you in the night and sucks your blood, you will never see anything about the creature dying in the sun. They visited in the night because that was when you were vulnerable, sleeping, easy prey. They left before dawn because everyone else would be waking up and they would be in danger.
I’ve read about this a few times, but usually the reason given for Hollywood’s decision is that they wanted to make vampires vulnerable to something, to give audiences the idea that mere humans actually could take on and defeat such a powerful creature. It became synonymous with the vampire, accepted as fact. Apart from Gary Oldman’s Dracula, not many television series or movies will allow vampires to walk in the sun, but it does happen. I’m guilty of this myself—in 'Kiss of the Dhampir' the vampires cannot go into the sun, but in 'The Lockwood Chronicles,' they can. They’re different stories, different worlds, and the decision fit each story that I wanted to tell.
Now, the vampire’s reaction to the sun can vary, from something as innocuous as simply melting, to violently exploding. The very first vampire book I ever read, 'The Initiation,' used the same device, but the vampires in the story died in very different ways: the “bad” vampires fell into stinking, gross chunks, while the “good” vampire dissolved into a fine white mist and floated away. I actually saw something like this recently, in '30 Days of Night,' where Josh Hartnett just dissolved into ash in the rising sun. I guess if you’re a good-guy vampire, you get to be pretty when you die. (Kind of makes you wonder what would happen if Angel walked into the sun, right?)
Over the years, I’ve seen vampires be dashing and sexy, terrifying, gentle, brutal, beautiful, disgusting…. it all depends on the story the writer wants to tell. Ann Rice’s vampires have bodies that are hard like marble, cold and sexless, the antithesis of what vampires were supposed to be down through the decades. No one blinked. Joss Whedon’s vampires morph into a monster when the hunger is on them (their “game face”), and they have no souls. No one made a comment. Some of the vampires in the first Blade movie actually went into the sun wearing a ton of sunblock and I couldn’t help but wonder about their eyes and mouths. And I never heard anything about that.
I’ve seen vampires turn into wolf-like creatures, have rows of teeth like sharks, fly, transform into animals, eat real human food, drink things other than blood, turn back into humans and even give birth, and no one raised a fuss. Nothing. No controversy. No angry letters or debates. It seems like a vampire can do anything the writer wants them to do—as long as they don’t sparkle!
Ever since 'Twilight,' I’ve heard it over and over again: “Vampires are supposed to explode in the sun! not sparkle!” People actually get hostile over this—it’s amazing. I don’t know whether to laugh or what. Are people going to get angry because the Lockwoods go walking around in the sun? (On the other hand, controversy breeds interest, so maybe that would be a good thing.)
Speaking as a writer, I think it’s an interesting angle, and the author used it to her advantage in the second book. It’s just another facet (no pun intended) to the vampire legend, which is continually being built and grown as more and more writers contribute their voices. It’s a great and wonderful thing to see what the imagination can come up with that is new and fresh. I can’t wait to see the next great thing that everybody loves to hate!