The vampire is, like all monsters, a product of subconscious anxieties. For a long time, the vampire was merely a figure who rose from the dead to prey upon the living. But it is not until John Polidori’s The Vampyre that we see what many would consider the modern figure of the vampire.
Lord Ruthven is the atypical vampire with a ‘deadly hue’ to his face and although ‘a nobleman’ with links to the aristocracy, seeks the centres of ‘fashionable vice.’ Shortly followed by Stoker’s Dracula in 1897, the gothic animated the figure of the vampire as an aristocrat, a monster of great wealth, who feeds upon the populace.
Of course, these political overtones were picked up by Karl Marx, who defines capital as “dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks”. It is fair to say that the figure of the vampire exposes fears that exist within a class system and the metaphor of a vampire draining its populace of blood, is not at all dissimilar to how large corporations suck the life from their employees.
Most interestingly, Volitaire noted that vampires had been replaced with:
stock-jobbers, brokers, and men of business, who sucked the blood of the people in broad daylight; but they were not dead, though corrupted. These true suckers lived not in cemeteries, but in very agreeable palaces.
Enter Fargo and its puppeter, V.M. Varga.
I’ve got this theory that the V in V. M. stands for Vlad, but that’s just me.
Varga is the modern vampire Voltaire describes. The man of business who is not dead, but most definitely corrupt. While he does not live in a crypt, his haunt is certainly crypt-like. While he claims to be American, there is certainly something Eastern European about him. And then there’s those teeth.
Let’s look for a moment, closely, at those differences. Formerly the vampire was an aristocrat, removed from society, on their castle in the hill. In Varga that remove still occurs, but instead of a castle, he lives in a truck, underneath a freeway. Then there is the dress sense. Varga’s suit cost $200. His coat is unilateral. He is, in essence, hiding in plain sight.
This is, in part, because Varga is aware that there are hordes of poor people who will turn upon the rich. That the old aristocratic order will be overthrown time and time again, and so he hides himself in cheap suits and trash pits.
To think that Varga then, somehow, represents the rich or the aristocratic seems to me to be misplaced. Varga, to me, represents greed and what greed will do to feed — which is, in one way or another, what vampires have always represented. However, I believe that, although Varga is clearly rich, and although Varga is greed incarnate, the anxieties this new vampire exposes are not to do with the rich or with greed, but are instead fears surrounding meritocracy.
The problem is not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good. Because, otherwise, who would care?
Whereas as the old vampire was forged upon capitalist and aristocratic anxieties, the new vampire arises from fears surrounding meritocracy.
Unlike aristocracy which favours a small, ruling class, which, more often than not, tends to be a select number of families, factions, and businesses, meritocracy is built upon ability and talent. With the invention of the internet, the kindle, and the digital download, it is clear that now, more than ever, meritocracy is achievable. For many, this form of governance would seem preferable — after all, why shouldn’t the best be rewarded for being the best?
However, meritocracy does not accommodate luck or chance into its equations. Nor does it factor in morality. A factor V.M. Varga, the new vampire, relies upon — as per the above. What is the new Vampire then, the new Vampire is the subconscious, the murky, black excess of meritocracy.
The fear of meritocracy is that extreme social mobility is very good, but favours those with loose morals and evil hearts. If anybody can be in charge, and anybody can make the rules, there’s no reason to play fair.
Whereas in an aristocratic society, Emmitt would have perhaps been safe. In this new meritocratic world, he is reduced to a bankrupt and then shot by an outside agency. V.M. Varga himself moves from an orphan, who lived under the stairs, to the owner of the large, multi-national company, Narwhal.
However, there is no reason to fear these ideas. They do not apply to the real world.
They, quite simply, cannot.
— o —
My story, The Boy, is now available on Amazon, with a fancy cover.
It can be purchased here for less than a Big Mac and Fries.