Our current preoccupation with zombies and vampires is easy to explain. They're two sides of the same coin, addressing our fascination with sex, death and food. They're both undead, they both feed on us, they both pass on some kind of plague and they can both be killed with specialist techniques – a stake through the heart or a disembraining. But they seem to have become polarised. Vampires are the undead of choice for girls, and zombies for boys. Vampires are cool, aloof, beautiful, brooding creatures of the night. Typical moody teenage boys, basically. Zombies are dumb, brutal, ugly and mindlessly violent. Which makes them also like typical teenage boys, I suppose.
Zombie stories are life lessons for boys who don't mind thinking about bodies, but can't cope with emotions. Vampire stories are in many ways sex for the squeamish. We don't need Raj Persaud to tell us that plunging canines into soft warm necks, or driving stakes between heaving bosoms, are very basic sexual metaphors.
There are now even whole sections of bookshops given over to the new genre of "supernatural romance". Maybe it was ever thus. Dr Polidori, who wrote the very first vampire novel, The Vampyr, based his central character very much on his chief patient, Lord Byron, and the Byronic "mad, bad and dangerous to know" archetype has been at the centre of both romantic and blood-sucking fiction ever since. Dracula, Heathcliffe, Rochester, Darcy and not to mention chief vampire Bill in Channel 4's new series True Blood are all cut from the same cloth. Meyer even claims that she based her first Twilight book on Pride and Prejudice, although Robert Pattinson, who plays the lead in the movie version, looks like James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Either way, vampire = sexy rebel.
No zombie is ever going to be a pinup on some young girl's wall. Just as Pattinson and all the Darcy-alikes will never find space on any teenage boy's bedroom walls – every inch will be plastered with revolting posters of zombies. There are no levels of Freudian undertone to zombies. Like boys, they're not subtle. There's nothing sexual about them, and nothing sexy either.