Columns / Discourse / January 15, 2009

Baracula

Admittedly, I have not read the Twilight series. For many, it should come as no surprise that the film’s popularity flabbergasted me. Put aside the fact that the books were penned by a chubby Mormon with cats, that I feel somewhat threatened by the sharpness of star Robert Pattinson’s cheekbones, and that high school romance boggles me, I was still unable to fathom why a glittering teenage vampire and his clinically depressed girlfriend conjured mobs at malls across the country and millions at the box office. Desperate for justification and receiving none from mainstream media, I devised a theory.

I propose that the popularity of vampire entertainment loosely correlates to our political climate. For about the last eight years, there has been a sharp decrease in mainstream horror movie monsters. Sure, zombies are monsters and ghosts are monsters, but in some way, shape, or form they are born of mankind. Zombies are people, ghosts were people, both are typically man-made resulting from a science experiment gone wrong or the immoral actions of the living. The 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes is perhaps the best example of synthetic big bad; the monsters, grotesquely misshapen country folk made so via their inhabitance on nuclear testing grounds, point out the folly of man by terrorizing a van of lost vacationers. But even in the late 1990’s, shadowy, spooky, inexplicable monsters were pushed to the wayside by slasher flicks and a sort of post-modern mainstream horror market.

Vampires are monsters, but they are somehow divergent. Unlike zombies, Frankensteins, or Blair Witches, vampires are people; they’re just a tiny bit different, like diabetics maybe or vegans. They have special needs. Because they are differently abled, vampires feel sad and isolated. Everyone can relate to that. Everyone knows what it is like to be ignored. Traditionally, no one wants to listen to vampires, we do not want to hear their excuses. We just wanna stake ‘em.

It makes sense, then, that those members of society feeling persecuted by the governing body might commiserate with such nightwalking bloodsuckers. We might look back to the classic 1931 Dracula starring icon Bella Lugosi. In 1931, President Hoover had failed to hoist the country from the great depression and FDR’s presidency brimmed on the horizon (he was elected in 1932). There’s even a tiny peak in vampire-themed entertainment at the end of the Vietnam War.

But it’s also no secret that the entertainment industry is largely controlled by Democrats. While the 1970’s and 1980’s were not completely devoid of vampire media, the genre boomed in the mid-90’s after George H.W. Bush left office. After years and years under Republican rule, the liberal public sought characters with the same stifled past as they… or at least something similar. Hence, the vampire renaissance. The hungry masses were first introduced to Buffy Summers in 1992, the election year that placed Democrat Bill Clinton in the White House. Two months after Clinton’s second inaugural address in 1997, the hit teen drama Buffy the Vampire Slayer debuted and quickly gained an enormous fan base. Earlier, in 1994, the film adaptation of Interview with a Vampire originally authored by Anne Rice (who, incidentally, wrote nine novels during Clinton’s presidency) was released. I think it is safe to assume too that Rice’s rather risqué style, nay the eroticism present in just about every form of vampire media, appeals to a liberal audience rather than a conservative one. Vampires are sexy and so is Bill Clinton–at least Monica Lewinsky thought so. The 90’s also brought us Angel (a Buffy spinoff), two Bunnicula novels, Blade (though adapted from a comic which originated in the 70’s, Wesley Snipes sired its widespread popularity), and two film adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (if you count Leslie Nielsen’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It).

After 9-11, vampire entertainment tanked. Blade the Series quickly miscarried and Elton John’s 2006 presentation, Lestat: The Musical based on Anne Rice’s famous vampire swinger failed miserably on Broadway. Even horror god Wes Craven’s Dracula 2000 languished at the box office and with the critics. Could vampires ever regain their legitimacy?

“Yes we can,” shout the vampires. In 2008, hope resurrected the undead genre. Although Democrat Barack Obama did not win the race for the White House until November, he was the projected victor for much of the year. With him came Twilight, HBO’s True Blood, and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight comic series.

Now, I know that there are some holes in my logic and I am not saying that liberals are bloodsuckers or anything like that; I am merely saying that there are times we feel safe enough with our government, times we feel we have the luxury to fear the unlikely; that it is change that allows vampires to creep from their coffins and into our hearts.

Sarah Colangelo


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