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Britain: Putting the bite on the States

Mark Mardell | 17:54 UK time, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The British ambassador to the United States is suggesting on his blog that one thing we bring to the special relationship is a bloody good bite. He is pointing out the history of British actors portraying vampires, most recently in the latest film in the Twilight saga.

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Long before I arrived here, I was tickled by the way we are portrayed in popular American media. If a Brit is involved it's a good old British pound to a cent that if not a thinly disguised Mrs Thatcher, he or she is a toff, a con artist, a degenerate, or just someone with horrific teeth. Preferably all three, which could be why we score so highly in portraying vampires.

The vampire genre has rather taken off in a tweeny direction with Twilight. Close readers of this blog will know I am at home this week taking care of the children and so I can report that junior sources reveal that Robert Pattinson is exceedingly toothsome.

Vampires, are of course, sexy. In the original Dracula, Jonathan Harker's execution of the vampiric Lucy is either disturbingly Freudian or just plain funny, depending on your taste.

But if we play the undead sharply, Americans can tell the tales.

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To me, the American vampire tradition reached its high with Anne Rice's sometimes magnificent Vampire Chronicles. Lestat, played by Tom Cruise in one film, is based in New Orleans, a city I long to visit and which seems to provide just the right gothic background.

Vampires are, to my mind, highly intelligent, masters of recondite knowledge, meticulous dressers, favouring a rather formal, old-fashioned style. They tend to have an aristocratic bearing and rather cynical detachment.

While sometimes tortured by what they do, they are basically amoral servants of a higher power. Where better to hide than in plain sight, in the upper echelons of the British foreign office ? Get out the garlic, Sir Nigel.

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