Following the ‘vampire facelift’, there is now the ‘vampire breast lift’. These procedures have been linked to immortal blood-drinkers because they both involve injecting the patients blood back into their skin in order to rejuvenate it. The idea of connecting plastic surgery and supernatural longevity makes me think of Meryl Streep’s transformation scene in Death Becomes Her (1992) – especially the arrival of the newly buoyant breasts. Rather than relying on plastic surgeons, vampires take their blood blood, willingly or unwillingly from their victims and this allows them to retain their youthful appearance and lengthened life span. Though blood, vampires and undeath have a long history, the mythology surrounding Elizabeth Bathory is what springs to my mind when I think about blood and eternal youthfulness. Bathory is reputed to have bathed in the blood of young women (or virgins) in order to keep her looking young. The veracity of these claims is contentious, however, the power of this myth is intriguing. It suggests that on a very primitive level blood, crimson, pumping, life-giving blood is believed to be the key to keeping young and beautiful. The phrase ‘hot-blooded’ meaning ‘full of life’, vibrant and virile cements this relationship within the English language.
Meanwhile, more recently, science has also confirmed the power of young blood. Tests have concluded that injecting older mice with blood from younger mice improves their organ function; this testing will be extended to human patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Though the intentions of this treatment are entirely honourable and humane, it may prove difficult for the scientists to entirely overcome the Gothic fear and, in some cases revulsion, at the idea of using blood from a young person to heal an older person. Vampire stories such as the ‘Good Lady Ducayne’ (1896) by Elizabeth Braddon rely on the trope of youth being stolen through the ingestion of blood whilst science itself has become Gothic fodder in many a late Victorian tale. Separating this vampiric connection and Gothic connection from this current work with blood will be important in helping people understand the mechanics behind them.
The ‘vampire facelift’ was made famous by Kim Kardashian. Her celebrity status (oft refuted) highlights the link between plastic surgery, celebrity and vampirism. Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned (1988) made this abundantly clear as in the novel her hero, Lestat, decides to become a rock star. Hoping to hide his vampirism behind a performance of vampirism, literally hiding in plain sight, Lestat’s celebrity status leads him to be threatened by other vampires as they feel he should remain in the shadows. Back to Death Becomes Her, before taking the elixir of eternal youth Meryl Streep is warned that her celebrity life cannot continue unabated. At some point she must remove herself from the spotlight so as not to attract attention. By the end of the movie she has become monstrous and isolated. In some ways this is reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard (1950). However here the fading star, Norma Desmond, becomes alienated from the world as neither she nor Hollywood can accept the inevitability of ageing. To become old in the world of celebrity is to become irrelevant or invisible (especially if you are a woman). Yet should you achieve immortality then once again you must become invisible because you are a supernatural impossibility.
Either way, it appears that the ‘vampire facelift’ and ‘vampire breast lift’ are less laughable rather, given Sam’s work with the Books of Blood project, eerily prescient.