The earliest vampires in literature establish a whole set of rules that a lot of modern adaptations attempt to follow. Vampires don’t like garlic, can’t see their reflection, can’t handle a stake through the heart, and can’t go out in sunlight. Of course, a lot of modern takes on a vampire story have adapted those with the changing times. Reflections can be seen in the modern day simply because reflective surfaces are no longer made with mercury, the element that wouldn’t allow vampire reflections.
There is one rule that nearly all modern vampire adaptations, from Twilight to The Vampire Diariesto the upcoming Day Shift all seem to want to break though. Sunlight is supposed to be fatal to vampires. In most early adaptations, if a vampire walks in the sun, they burst into flames or crumble to ash. Modern stories nearly all find a way around that, but why?
Part of the drama in modern vampire stories comes from some vampires being able to exist in the sun while others can’t. It creates a divide between the characters that allows the writers to draw neat lines between different types of vampires.
take the blade movie adaptations from the 1990s. There, Blade is the only known “daywalker” initially, and it paints a target on his back from a young age. For Blade, it only reaffirms that his purpose is to get rid of those vampires who walk at night and perpetuate a cycle of violence.
In The Vampire Diaries, “daylight rings” allow some vampires to walk in the daylight. That ring quickly establishes just which vampires are able to blend into the human world and coexist. The vampires most often wearing one of the rings are the vampires who want a sense of normalcy, the ones who retain their humanity and want to protect the people they care about. That’s not always the case, but it is an early indicator in the show of which vampires main character Elena can trust.
Vampires being able to walk in the daylight bring a new twist to an old story. There comes a point in nearly every modern vampire story in which the audience gets the rundown of the “rules” and just how to kill a vampire from either the main character or some sort of vampire hunter. At least one of the rules that comes from classic literature is going to be broken – likely more.
That’s largely the result of writers recognizing that the rules are arbitrary and that they can create their own takes on what audiences now consider classic myth. In the case of Twilight, that means that vampires can go out in the sunlight, but there are still going to be consequences of some kind. Instead of them bursting into flames, they sparkle as though their skin is hardened diamonds. It makes for a unique reason to keep vampires hidden away, but not one that allows them to be killed by other characters so easily.
Despite knowing the rules can be broken, the audience isn’t necessarily going into a vampire movie expecting for one of the fanged creatures to be able to walk under the sun either, so despite the “daywalker” vampire becoming a modern trope, it still works as a surprising element for the audience.
In the early days of movie making, most movies were filmed on studio sound stages instead of outside. Today, movies and TV shows are more likely to be filmed on location than they are on sound stages. Even movies in which the studio wants to keep most of the plot points under wraps, like anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, end up filming a lot outdoors and in real locations instead of manufactured stages. The reality then, is that it’s often easier to film in daylight.
It’s easier for production teams to get permits to film during what would be considered normal business hours instead of at 2:00 AM. It’s easier for lighting teams to work out issues when they can see what they’re doing on and off camera. It’s also easier for actors to keep a steady schedule when they’re not spending half of their time on night shoots and half of their time on day shoots.
There’s also the fact that in recent years, audiences tend to complain, loudly, on social media when scenes are too dark. Shows like the CW’s arrow and Agents Of SHIELD were notorious amongst their audiences for having scenes in dark alleys where the audience couldn’t entirely see the fight scene that was happening. When that frustrated fans, they made sure to be vocal about it. Those shows might not have featured vampires, but the sentiment is the same when the audience can’t actually tell what’s happening when the vampire is on-screen.
Ultimately, breaking this old vampire rule serves the new stories being told. If an author wants a bunch of vampires to attend school and train to protect their community, it makes sense to allow them a few sunny days, like in Vampire Academy. Some modern takes utilize a more scientific approach to the vampire story as well, like morbiusgiving different reasons for sensitivity to light, but not outright danger from it.
Not everything in a vampire’s after-life needs to be doom and gloom just because they’re a creature of the night. As Hollywood and modern writers continue to utilize classic horror creatures in their stories, the audience is sure to see even more of those old rules broken to serve a modern take.
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