Luckily, though, Leo hasn't completely skipped planets, as he can be found at Big Hollywood. Leo never made the connection between his work at TC with his work at BH, and for good reason: Big Hollywood is a site for conservative movie lovers. Given how powerfully divisive politics can be in America - as circumstantially portrayed at TC itself, where John J. Miller, a writer and Howard fan who just happened to be a proud conservative, had his books "one-star bombed" at Amazon.com for the simple reason that his politics are not the same as another group's politics - this was unquestionably a choice for the better. I would've hated for TC to be the recipient of such childish, petty antics, regardless of what I think of an author's political stance.
But this blog isn't TC, and I since I'm not an American, my opinions on the American political spectrum hopefully won't attract too much attention. Not that I'm going to comment on them, of course: this blog is a politics-free zone. There are enough things to disagree about within the realms of fiction without hauling deeply-set fundamental beliefs into it.
Anyway, reading up on Big Hollywood has allowed me a way of keeping up with Leo, and reminding me that he hasn't stalked off into the wilderness to hunt and forage. So I come to my latest linkage and thinkage, as Leo discusses something that had been bothering me for a while: the treatment of vampires and other supernatural horrors linked with Christianity in cinema and television in recent years.
The jist of Leo's article is that Hollywood is essentially trying to have their cake and eat it in regards to the relationship of evil spirits with Christianity: namely, that Christianity either never appears, or is fundamentally powerless in the face of darkness:
As demonic horrors wreaked havoc on the protagonists, no countervailing otherworldly power of Good manifested itself. Unlike 1973’s The Exorcist (which, given Hollywood’s current state, may as well have been made a thousand years ago), faith in God was rendered impotent at best and utterly delusional at worst. At the end of The Last Exorcism, as the last scintilla of hope is drowned in scenes of gruesome murder and bleak nihilism (painfully, almost plagiaristically, reminiscent of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project), the audience I was with let out a collective groan, and I heard multiple variations of “Oh, come on!”, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”, and (my favorite) “Awwwww, man. . . we shoulda seen Takers!”
Mind you, these reactions came not from a church group or an audience of young Republicans, but from the very kind of young, diverse, urban, opening-night audience that Hollywood claims is its key demographic. Even they appeared to sense, and be artistically disappointed by, the essential cheat at work: modern Hollywood wants us to believe that supernatural forces of Darkness are frighteningly real, even while they dismiss all supernatural forces of Light as laughable superstition.
This encapsulates one of my own pet peeves, which Leo doesn't bring up, but is nonetheless relevant: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In Buffy, crucifixes burn vampires. So does holy water. Stakes through the heart work, almost instantaneously - much quicker than the likes of Stoker's Dracula, who needed a lot more than a jab in the ribs with a pointy stick after some martial arts fight scenes that every vampire seems to spontaneously develop in the hours between burial and vampiric birth. And yet, throughout nearly the entirety of the series... there's nary a whisper of a priest helping the Scoobies out. You'd think having a guy on hand who could make tap water into vampire napalm with a few gestures, and who is practically a one-man army against the pitifully fragile vampires to begin with, would've been handy.
The one priest that does appear is, quite tellingly, one of the most evil characters in the series. Sure, he's supposed to be a "fallen priest," but given Joss Whedon's open atheism, the noticeable lack of Christian involvement in a series where Christian tokens are the most powerful weapons against the forces of evil, and the mere fact that one of the only sights of a dog-collar in Buffy is around the neck of a monster, it isn't hard to see the subtext.
Now, Buffy lore has tried to explain it away, that the power of "belief" is what imbues these tokens with their anti-vampire capabilities. Which is a complete cop-out, in my opinion, and begs the question of why they don't apply this Faith in Action business with something more useful. Like a gun. Heck, why aren't the Scoobies inscribing crucifixes on bullets or bowie knives? Why don't they have crucifixes strung all around their body? (Alright, this is turning into a Buffy rant, I'll desist. I quite like Buffy, but some things just bother me about the show's mythology.)
Now, that's not to say I think vampires are inherently Christian: far from it. Vampire-like beings have been around long before Christianity, after all. Therefore, for a vampire that predates Christianity (and, arguably, one could say they might not be vampires as they are currently understood at all) to fear the cross is not necessary, unless one is also attempting to prove that Christian might conquers all, even against those demons that do not fear the cross. However, the current iteration of vampire is largely a being tied to Christianity. Most of the elements that are considered "traditional vampire lore" are very recent: sunlight being detrimental, stakes through the heart, all that jazz. Unless you're going to go for a very specific pre-Christian creature, chances are your vampire will die in sunlight, or through a stake through the heart - and those are modern "Christian" Vampire elements.
Separating the vampire of popular culture from Christianity while still addressing its tenets has been done successfully in the past: I Am Legend is the best example I can think of, and that's because it essentially de-mythologized the vampire. Since the vampires are no longer supernatural, there's no need to confirm or deny the presence of God therein. There are other films which explain vampires in a scientific sense. However, those films that suck - pardon the pun - are the ones that attempt to do both, to use the Christian elements against the vampire, but without the evidence of God to back them up. Hence how you have nonsensical situations like a crucifix causing a vampire to recoil, or even burning the skin, even though the film or television series is trying to divorce itself from the Christianity itself.
Essentially, it's the appropriation of Christian anti-vampire measures without taking the context that bothers me - since without the context, the measures shouldn't work. I just think that in works that rely on a certain theology, that work should be consistent with the theology, and where it isn't, the explanation should be reasonable.
In any case, I invite everyone to go and check out Leo's posts. You may agree or disagree with his politics, or his religious views, or his general thoughts, but I'm not discussing them. I don't really want this to become a forum about Christianity or the Church or how Obama's ruining/saving the world. I just want to talk about fiction, mythology and history, and not discuss things that are too heavy for The Blog That Time Forgot.
Am I making sense? I hope so. Of course, this doesn't discuss Howard's treatment of vampires, which I'll do in another post. In the meantime, I'm off to bed. With my usual wreath of garlic.