Vampires don’t really live forever—it just feels like they do. Lately, you can’t turn on the TV, go to a bookstore, see a movie, or go to a high school without being besieged by vampires and their enchanted human enablers.
On March 25, Variety‘s Michael Schneider reported that Ian Somerhalder, who played the overly-tweased stipple-bearded Boone on Lost, had been tapped to co-star in an ABC pilot called The Vampire Diaries. According to Variety, the show “centers on a woman who falls for two vampire brothers—one good and one evil.”
Add this to the list that includes the just purchased script by Marc Haimes for Elevator Men, which The Hollywood Reporter‘s Jay A. Fernandez described as “a less romanticized look at the human-vampire interactions”; last week’s U.K. release of the delicately named Lesbian Vampire Killers; and the soon-to-be released adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ The Informers.
But wait, there’s more. A lot more. How about Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s planned adaptation of Dark Shadows, which ran on TV from 1966 to 1971; the second season of HBO’s True Blood (itself based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris); and of course, New Moon, the highly anticipated (by your 15-year-old cousin) sequel to Twilight, which grossed $191,397,304 at the box office last year.
Since those films are drawn from kids’ books (if you’re really prepared to argue that these books aren’t just for kids, you might want to take a cold, hard look at yourself in the mirror at Forever 21 or Abercrombie & Fitch and admit you’re taking this Rejuvenile, Up With Grups extended adolescence thing a little too far—being a grownup is scary, but not so much that it’s acceptable to read and act and dress and text and twitter like a teenager), we can expect several more movies in this cycle with Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, Midmorning, Noon, Just After Noon, Tea Time, A Little Before Supper, 10:23 p.m. and Geez, It’s Almost Midnight on the horizon.
As we speak, some enterprising hack is probably pitching a vampire sitcom called My Wife Suck, about an uptight regular guy who marries a hot—but bloodthirsty—lady vampire. (“It’s Dharma & Greg meets The Munsters!”)
Enough. Time to drive a stake in the heart of this trend. From now on, there can be no more vampires in pop culture. If we’re honest, there hasn’t been anything truly scary about vampires since 1987 when Bill Paxton ate the scenery (and several of his costars) in Near Dark, and the outré psychosexual subtext of drinking blood (you know, “blood lust” and all) has been overextended since before Anne Rice interviewed her first vampire in 1977.
It’s time to develop a replacement for this surfeit of bloodsuckers who have lately come to seem so sallow, so drained of their precious life force. (Have you seen Twilight‘s Robert Pattinson on the cover of GQ this month? He looks as burned out as Jeff Spicoli hitting his own head with a shoe in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.)
Vampires are selling so high right now that we’re at serious risk of the bubble bursting: Who can forget the great Faeries boom and bust of the late ’90s? It’s bloody well time for a new quasi-supernatural being to come to the forefront of the culture.
And no, that being is not a zombie, no matter how many books Mel Brooks’ son puts out, how cleverly someone appropriates a Jane Austen classic, or how many big budget Will Smith movies the culture industry foists on us. (Not to mention all those “zombie banks” in the news.)
Honestly, does anyone really like zombies? Is there anyone out there who doesn’t want to punch a zombie in its rotten mouth? Zombies are so stupid, so devoid of any identifiable traits, so boring in their monomaniacal pursuit of braaaaaiiiins! (fine, you want brains—shut up, already), that the thought of reading about those idiots or watching them drag their gimpy legs across a movie screen (much less tuning in to a sitcom featuring an uptight regular guy who marries a hot—but necrotic—lady zombie) makes me want to put a bullet in my own head.
Here are some suggestions to replace vampires (and those goddamn zombies) in the pop consciousness of young people and older people who should really stop considering themselves part of the pop consciousness of young people. (Seriously: Pull up your pants.)
Sure, HBO failed to make Carnivàle into a hit on the level of The Sopranos (or even K Street), and Comedy Central’s Freak Show failed to have as many seasons as Drawn Together, but there’s a lot to be mined in the old midway. What better way to dramatize the awkwardness of adolescence (our bodies going all screwy, hair sprouting all over, those damn lobster-claws and tails) than through the distorted funhouse mirror of the carnival freak?
Start with Katherine Dunn’s 1989 novel Geek Love, which Warner Brothers has the rights to and which has drawn interest from Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and others. Since Hollywood is remake crazy, how about a new version of Tod Browning’s Freaks? That thing is still creepy 77 years after its release. (“One of us, one of us!“)
Of course, you’d have to remove the whiff of Victoriana and the tacit judgment or condemnation of the deformed or differently abled (“freak” is a pretty harsh term), but maybe freaks can be recast as X-Men and writers and filmmakers can play up the triumphant exceptionalism implied in the title of Daniel P. Mannix’s book We Who Are Not As Others. Freaks shouldn’t be seen as objects of our derision: They should be objects of our awe. As Olympia Binewski, the narrator of Ms. Dunn’s book, declares, “A true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.” (You hear that, stupid zombie-bite victims who turn into even stupider zombies?)
Here’s a chance for culture creators to really get in on the ground floor of the next-next. What better way to make sense of the just-ended era of rapacity and literal plunder than by dramatizing these bands of berserker brothers? Think of it as a chance for American Psychoesque satires (Scandinavian Psycho?) and big budget Braveheart type epics. If only Orson Welles were alive to do the voice-over. (Really, who remembers Erik, The Viking? Tim Robbins probably hopes you don’t.)
This month’s L’it Boy Wells Tower kicks it off with a story about Vikings in his new collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. According to Slate’s Juliet Lapidos, the story centers around “marauding Vikings who attack a neighboring island without provocation. Although Harald, the narrator, feels he has outgrown the whole rape-and-pillage game.”
Mr. Towers’ publisher has even commissioned an animated short by Chris Roth based on the story to entice readers. (Mr. Tower also has a story that involves a carnival.)
Then there are the rumblings about Kenneth Branagh’s adaption of the comic book Thor, which may star True Blood‘s towheaded vampire prince Alexander Skarsgård. (What, Thor wasn’t a Viking, you say? Are you proud of yourself for knowing that?) One downside of Viking-related projects is a lack of diversity in casting, but, hey, what about a hilarious Moor-Viking buddy film?
Sasquatches have been percolating up through the culture since Tenacious D sang an ode to the big fella in 1999, McSweeney’s published a journal by the name of Yeti Researcher in 2005, and a year later The New Yorker ran Tony Earley’s short story “The Cryptozoologist”.
As 30 Rock‘s recent Harry and the Henderson‘s riff showed, everyone has an inner bigfoot. And what are bigfeet if not cousins of the wild things from Where the Wild Things Are? (C’mon, work with me here!) With the right positioning, these guys could be big … ger.
Consider this just a partial list. The world is full of amazing, improbable creatures (Krampuses! Golems! Log Cabin Republicans!) just waiting for their turn to replace vampires at bookstores, multiplexes, and on TV.
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