Dear Reader (and those of you who obsessively sculpted this column in your mashed potatoes at the dinner table),
I have a confession to make. Indiana wants me, and, Lord, I can’t go back there. But that’s not important right now.
My other confession: I like vampires. I like vampire movies and TV shows. Now, because I am not a 16-year-old girl, nor a 50-year-old housewife, nor a 26-year-old computer-programming Goth, nor a veteran of Eric Massa’s tickle fights, I don’t read much “vamp lit.” But I did see Twilight — on a plane — and I’ve come to like the True Blood series on Showtime, both vamp-lit spin-offs.
I’ve seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. I liked John Carpenter’s Vampires (the first one, not the sequel), although I hated John Carpenter’s Dracula 2000. I thought every scene with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview with a Vampire was gayer than the volleyball scene in Top Gun (and we all know how gay that was) (careful: profanity warning). I’ve watched more episodes of Vampire Diaries than I care to admit, and I’m still a little ticked off that Kindred: The Embraced was cancelled.
I’ve even started listening to the band Vampire Weekend.
I can understand why John Miller wants the culture to move on to werewolves, Frankenstein, mummies, or whatnot, but I don’t think that’s likely. Vampires are better literary devices for, I think, obvious reasons. Werewolves are nice people who turn into mean animals. Mummies are zombies wrapped up in Ace bandages. Frankenstein is a DIY zombie with a slightly better operating system. (Note: Lord knows I’m not dissing Zombies. But two points need to be made on that score. Individual zombies are not particularly scary or interesting. For zombies to work cinematically, pretty much the whole word has to go zombie. Second, even then it’s not like there are a huge number of plot innovations for zombie-themed movies.) Meanwhile, vampires are smart and wise (thanks to their age) and they can have sex and so on. Oh, and they’re subversive: They live among us.
There’s just a lot more there to work with. You couldn’t make really good vampire movies (Near Dark, Let the Right One In, etc.) with mummies or werewolves.
But I do have a problem with the vampire mania sweeping pop culture. There’s something gross about it.
In Twilight, the romantic lead is Edward Cullen, who’s about 120 years old and falls in love with a 17-year-old girl.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel was born in the 1700s, and he’s in love with Buffy, who’s 16 or so when the relationship starts.
In The Vampire Diaries, Stefan Salvatore is about 160 years old. His girlfriend seems to be about 17.
In True Blood, Bill Compton is roughly a century-and-a-half old, and he seduces a woman in her early twenties.
Anyone see a trend here?
Put True Blood aside, since it’s intended for adults. Imagine if the 17-year-old girls in Twilight, Buffy, or Vampire Diaries were being seduced by 65-year-old guys. That would be gross. But when the teenage girl is seduced by a guy two, three, four times as old, it’s like totally OMG super romantic. Why?
The explanation, according to the girls, seems to boil down to: because he’s good looking. Because he’s mature. Because he’s mysterious (“I’ve never met anyone like him!”). And because he’s at war with his urges.
The problem is that if you take away the good-looking part, you’re describing a run-of-the-mill dirty old man. If you keep the good-looking part, you’re describing a slightly younger but really, really sleazy dude who cruises high schools looking for jailbait.
Either way, I’m not sure it says anything good about the men and women who get too carried away with the “romance” of the vampire genre. Just try to imagine an old white guy in these roles: Phil Gramm going to the prom. Harry Byrd necking in the woods with a 17-year-old. Walter Cronkite sweeping a young damsel off her feet. All of these guys are a lot younger than the buff old men cruising the girls in these movies and TV shows. And if you think it’s different just because the super-old men look good, what does that say about you, or the culture? (“Don’t ask us, you’re the creepy nerd watching all these shows!” — The Couch.)
And that’s putting aside the question of whether vampires can even be good people. Even if you allow for personal growth, they’re all still murderers. Imagine your teenage daughter dating a forty-year-old with a serious criminal past. Now imagine she tries to defend him:
“He’s so sweet!”
“He’s so gentle!”
“He’s grown so much; he’s, like, super mature now. He’s not like he was when he killed all those nuns!”
And what does it say about a dude if he thinks, “Man if only I could get my brain inside the body of a buff teenager, I’d totally hit the high schools”?
The New Left Loves America!
Over the weekend, I posted a long response to David Brooks’ deeply flawed column comparing the Tea Parties to the New Left. I don’t have too much to add to what I said (though I think you should read Lee Harris’s essay up at The American — where I’m moonlighting these days).
But I thought some of the responses from lefties were interesting. A bunch of left-wing e-mailers insisted that the New Left was not anti-American. “How could it be anti-American if it worked so hard to make America better?” asked a couple readers.
I’ve always found this formulation fascinating. You hear it all the time, in hard and soft versions. Progressives aren’t anti-American; they’re pro-American, which is why they’re always trying to make it better, to realize the American dream. And so on.
Now, let me say I think this is undoubtedly sometimes — nay, often — true for a great many liberals and leftists. But it is not always true, now, is it? This argument has been used as a get-out-of-jail-free card for every leftist in American history. And that’s just idiotic.
Some of the leftists spying for the Soviet Union surely told themselves they were serving a higher patriotism, but that doesn’t mean they all loved America; it means that most were either lying or stupid.
In the case of the New Left, it really depends which New Left you’re talking about. Lee Harris is right when he notes that Brooks is wrong to conflate hippies and the New Left. Some New Lefties looked like hippies and some hippies were probably also New Leftists. But they’re hardly synonymous terms. Bill Ayers, who wishes he used more bombs, was a member of the New Left. I don’t think he loved America. Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam and allowed herself to be photographed with an enemy anti-aircraft gun while openly wishing she had American planes in her sights. She might tell herself she did such things out of misplaced love, but serious people need not credit such arguments. Serial killers often claim they love their victims, too.
I’m thinking of writing a column on this, so I want to keep some of my powder dry, but it seems to me that the desire to wholly transform America is not really an act of love. It is an act of self-love.