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"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
 
 
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Photo Credit: billoberstjr

 
 
 
 

Zombies, vampires, monsters. Whether they're feeding on blood, brains or the body politic, throughout recorded history they have functioned as resilient parasites hell-bent on exhausting and annihilating their hosts. Sound familiar

It should, because humanity, now numbered at 7 billion and counting worldwide, is running out of room and resources. It shouldn't surprise anyone that ocean acidification is predictably but horrifically escalating in lockstep, or that its nearest death marches were 300 million years and four mass extinctions ago — still way too close for existential comfort. But the enemy of existential comfort is existential horror, and today that means zombies, vampires and further monstrous parasites in pop and politics. They are the stand-ins for the expendable among us, wish-fantasies of graphic extermination and hopeful reconstruction.

Speaking of Reconstruction, lately these parasitic entities that must be exterminated at all costs have freakishly emerged from the still-unsettled mental and regional wreckage of the American Civil War. Which itself would be a perfect metaphor for a ravenous species eating itself from within, were it not for the fact that it cost nearly a million American lives in real time, and resulted in political and cultural enmities that remain irreconcilable. Especially in a singular election year charged with apocalyptic rhetoric and amplified prejudices, which has only intensified the meaning of the Civil War reenactments — this time with bloodsuckers and brain eaters.

Take the popcorn blockbuster John Carter, about Edgar Rice Burroughs' paragon of reconstructed Southern masculinity, which transforms its slave-state Confederate captain into a freedom-fighting warlord far, far away from his earthly moral transgressions. Or the just-released  Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, which reimagines Southern slave traders as bloodsucking cannon fodder for America's greatest president—who ended the Civil War, emancipated its slaves and took a bullet to the head, courtesy of John Wilkes Booth in a calculated payback of emasculated rage. 

From well-known electives like The Walking Dead, True Blood, and World War Z to indie experiments like Exit Humanity, pop culture is currently reanimating the American Civil War to reflect our real-time environmental and economic horrors. You know, the ones in which you are either a zombie, vampire or another targeted corpse without human, or subhuman, rights. Or you're one of the few survivalists left searching for your humanity in a priced-in, die-off centuries in the making.

These gruesome Civil War reboots have gone viral in politics as well. Americans are mired in an interminable election-year masquerade, starring an African-American president at the height of his power and a seething Southern body politic determined to suck the bones of his (New) New Deal utterly dry. Co-stars include zombie banks, vampire squids and even armed John Wilkes Booth bobblehead dolls showing up for sale at, of all places, the Gettysburg National Military Park.

So without further ado, here is a list of the pop and political wish-fantasies that have infiltrated and resuscitated American history's most murderous conflict. Starting with, conveniently enough, with a marketing zombie whose manufactured death mask simply will not, and probably could not, ever go away.

1. Sarah Palin, Confederate Heroin(e)

A bottomless boon to sensationalists everywhere, Palin recently accused president-of-color Barack Obama of wanting to return to the "mistake that took place before the Civil War ... when we were in different classes based on income, based on color of skin." Her bizarro logic, in which an increasingly multicultural American citizenry now regards last century's supreme whites as expendable subhumans, is a caricature ironically colored by the 2012 release of Game Change, in which the talented Julianne Moore humanizes the mythic Palin.