Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine

Got a big decision to make? What the vampire allegory tells us about change

Published: 05th March, 2022 at 04:00
Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

None of us can peer into the future to see how life-changing decisions will pan out, but we can find joy in our new lives once we make the leap.

There are times in a person’s life when they stand on the edge of a precipice. Or maybe at a fork in the road. Perhaps they’re sitting on a fence. Whatever metaphor about decision-making you prefer, the big decisions are the most unpredictable because there’s no way of knowing who we will be on the other side. Take, for example, deciding to become a vampire.

Advertisement

In the magnificent TV series What We Do In the Shadows, Guillermo is the only human living with four vampire housemates. He is a ‘familiar’, a servant-slash-slave who turns out the lights during the day and disposes of the bodies when his undead housemates have finished with them. He does this because his master, Nandor the Relentless, has promised to make him a vampire. God, he wants it so much.

But Nandor’s evasive. He doesn’t see it like Guillermo does. Nor does he see it like he did 759 years ago, when he became a vampire. Sure, he can do cool things like fly and explode objects into flames. But the rest of it? To Nandor, he misses his old life. He wants to be human again. Being a vampire is a curse.

According to philosopher Laurie Ann Paul, the vampire story is a psychological fairy tale about making big transformative decisions. In 2014, she wrote a book explaining that there is no way to predict how you will respond to a decision until you’ve made it because you will be so transformed that you won’t know yourself. It’s equally impossible for someone on the other side to explain what it’s like to be there.

Now, becoming a vampire isn’t all that common. If it were, a living person who was considering that path would be able to browse bookshelves crammed with What To Expect… guides, and hire consultants to help before, during and after. But even those wouldn’t prepare a person for their undead eternity, explains Paul. Choosing to become a vampire is forever. Like joining a religion, or transforming your physical appearance, or your mental state. Or becoming a parent. There’s no going back.

Illustration of a vampire
© Scott Balmer

I have a friend who has got a two-year-old. It’s not been an easy couple of years. She’s starting to see the joy now, which is joyful for everyone around her who’s already been through their version of those never-ending 24 months.

Her sister is about to give birth for the first time. “I warned her,” said my friend, only half joking. Yes, I laughed. And I warned you. My friend didn’t remember my warning, just as I didn’t listen to another friend’s warning, who eventually held my hand as I came to terms with how fundamentally life had changed. I don’t know if vampires do this too, but we humans have a remarkable ability to hear things through our feelings.

The fourth series of What We Do In The Shadows is landing soon, so we don’t know yet whether Guillermo will become a vampire. But whether he does or not, I predict he’ll somehow be instrumental in helping Nandor find joy in his undead life. It’s how these stories usually go. Because there is no going back. It just takes time to remember again who you are.

Read more from Aleks Krotoski:

Advertisement

Authors

Social psychologist, broadcaster and journalist. She writes and broadcasts about technology and interactivity, and she presents Digital Human on BBC Radio 4. She is the author of Untangling the Web: What the Internet is Doing to You.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content