A too-brief article in the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests that, with the election of Democrat Barack Obama, we may be due for another wave of vampire fiction. Specifically, movies and TV series.
The writer, Peter Rowe, points to True Blood, Twilight and Let the Right One In as harbingers of “a new cycle of vampire films and television shows,” and finds a handful of experts to prop up a theory that a Republican administration provides a breeding ground for zombie flicks, while a Democratic White House spawns bloodsucker movies.
Or maybe they’re simply socio-political indicators: Annalee Newitz of io9.com points to the uptick in zombie movies that coincided with the election of President George W. Bush in 2000. Rowe continues along that line with a laundry list of zombie films released in the Reagan and Bush eras, and vampire movies released during the Carter and Clinton administrations.
What’s the correlation? The assembled experts theorize vampires are less-threatening monsters that signal “hopefulness,” while zombies may represent fears of “a revolt of the poor and disenfranchised.” (Those don’t sit well with the article’s pitchfork-wielding commenters, some of whom still may be smarting from last week’s election.)
While there’s obviously a connection between political climate and horror fiction, Rowe’s argument is a little unconvincing.
Sure, Jimmy Carter’s tenure in the White House saw the Frank Langella Dracula and Love at First Bite, but it also experienced Alien Dead, The Children, and a slew of Italian films. (Hey, if Rowe can cite the Swedish Let the Right One In, I can mention zombie flicks from Italy.) And while Bill Clinton’s two terms were stalked by Interview with the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, they also were pursued by Return of the Living Dead 3, a Zombie Bloodbath trilogy and Cemetery Man.
Likewise, the current administration coincided with two Blade movies and a TV series, two installments of Underworld, a 30 Days of Night adaptation, and a short-lived Moonlight show, among others.
So, perhaps Rowe is doing a bit of cherry-picking.
There’s also a problem with his opening examples. True Blood, Twilight and Let the Right One In may indeed be part of “a new cycle” of vampire TV shows and movies, but their timing probably isn’t a political predictor. In fact, they’re all adaptations of earlier books, some of which date back to the beginning of the Bush administration. (Charlaine Harris’ “Southern vampire” series, on which True Blood is based, began in 2001. John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In was published in 2004.)
So, does the hypothesis fare any better in the world of comic books? No, not really.
Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula, for instance, was born in the middle of the Nixon administration, a reaction not to partisan politics but to the defanging of the Comics Code Authority. Vampirella, too, was a product of that era. And Oscar Greenberg of Greenberg the Vampire fame came out of the Reagan years.
More recently, 30 Days of Night was released in 2002, early in President Bush’s first term — shortly before The Walking Dead debuted. So, I guess we can put the latter in the zombie-Republican column.
But what about the werewolves? I guess they’ll have to wait until an Independent gets elected. A very hairy Independent …