News & Politics  
comments_image Comments

"Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter": 8 Antebellum Vampire Zombies in Politics and Pop Culture

It's the Civil War rebooted, this time with the expendable undead

Continued from previous page


That regressive humanization continues in Game Change director Jay Roach's 2012 film companion The Campaign, in which two bumbling Southerners compete for a congressional seat in North Carolina, an indispensable Civil War ally. For those keeping score, it's the U.S. state that's home to Bank of America, a definitive zombie bank, as well as Asheville, where a horde of zombies once invaded Palin's election speech in 2008. Looking for further undead parallels? Palin was transformed, along with similarly minded demagogues like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, into a walking corpse in the controversial game " Tea Party Zombies Must Die." Talk about your locked and loaded signifiers.

2. John Carter

Shortly after Andrew Stanton's blockbuster adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' influential pulp sci-fi books finally arrived after over-saturated marketing, so too did the extensive speculation as to why it fundamentally flopped. Yet few if any have posited what might be responsible for its $250 million rocket to nowhere: Its paragon, Confederate captain John Carter, is an anachronistic Civil War soldier on the wrong side of history. Burroughs' sensational racial fantasies of reversal — a beaten Confederate captain reincarnated as a peerless galactic warlord; the hypermasculine savage Tarzan, who plastered Darkest Africa with whiteface —- were written, as their author once explained, "just as rotten" as the "rot such as I had read" in magazines of his time. When John Carter appeared a century ago in 1912, the Civil War's doomed confederacy was far more culturally glorified, light years away from our more hindsight-rich reality.

So from John Carter's first shot, Stanton and his storytellers were tasked with creating a sympathetic hook for postmodern audiences, whose current president of color would have likely been cannon fodder in its hero's less evolved historical period. They invented Carter's murdered wife and child, hoping it would support the half-baked premise that a Confederate messiah was actually capable of winning several epochal wars, albeit on an imaginary Mars wracked by bitterly divided monsters of all colors, shapes and sizes. One would have imagined that Disney would have been smart enough avoid the Civil War like a plague of zombies after the doomed, out-of-circulation  Song of the South.

3. Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Burroughs' Southern paragon John Carter likely would have been a vampire capitalist in Seth Grahame-Smith's 2010 epistolary novel Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, whose blockbuster movie treatment arrived today. America's greatest president ever, Abraham Lincoln, spent his short, inspirational life uniting his country by extracting a civil-rights parasite that he knew would eventually kill it. But in Graham-Smith's novel and undead-friendly director Timur Bekmambetov's Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter film adaptation, the slave trade itself is the food supply for Southern parasites determined to destroy the nation. Like True Blood below, there are good and bad vampires in Grahame-Smith's genre experiment, but the apocalyptic scourge of the undead is indistinguishable from the dehumanizing scourge of slavery.

This clever revision contains real-time economic and political resonance. Palin's ludicrous logic of Obama's Civil War time travel is a prime example, whose multiracial president is recast as the head vampire sucking the South dry of its whiteness. That's a crafty inversion, given that Obama is too often compared to the healing Lincoln by political marketers, rather than the capitulating Bill Clinton, a more reasonable analogue. And what is Palin's fantasy but another iteration of Ayn Rand's archetypal narcissism, which divides humanity into "producers" and "parasites?" It's a savvy fantasy, but reality is closer to Grahame-Smith's vampiric imagination, as AlterNet's Sara Robinson recently, and popularly, pointed out in an article with the apt subtitle " Blue States Are the Providers, Red States Are the Parasites."