Issue July 22, 2009

Innocent when you dream

A few days ago, I had an intensely vivid, violent nightmare.

Two slobbering, bloodthirsty lunatics were attacking me. The bigger one was shirtless, muscular and unstoppable. He was growling and laughing as he swatted at me with his razor-sharp claws. The other one was merely egging him on, laughing and convulsing and contorting with glee. His eyes were bugging out, and he was sticking his tongue out, biting it and drooling. I fought back with the only weapon I had: a straight razor. I aimed for this monster’s jugular, hacking and slashing at his chest and throat as he came closer, but the numerous deep cuts didn’t slow him down, and the pair simply laughed harder, more throatily, demonically.

When I woke up, I felt nauseated. These images would have stunned the most seasoned and adventurous horror movie audiences. I was shocked that such violence could bubble up from my unconscious, peacefully sleeping mind. Maybe this is how Stephen King (for example) feels sometimes. Perhaps I should find a way to monetize these dreams? I understand vampires are popular these days. I think I could say that my attackers were vampires or zombies. Bill collectors. Zombie vampire bill collectors.

I really don’t understand the appeal of vampires as entertainment. After seeing movies like “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” and “Taxi Driver,” I find romanticized accounts of bloodletting like “Twilight” and “True Blood” to be less than quaint. I can’t make myself watch them. What new appreciation for the experience of life on Earth might I derive? I am already sufficiently bewildered by human interaction; the additional complication of bloodlust is unnecessary. I feel sorry for the poor vampires, being immortal and all; they can’t even look forward to eternal rest. Mortality makes everything seem more special, don’t you think?

Yeah, I know it’s a metaphor: Vampirism represents a particular quality of human interaction, the feeling that certain personality types interact in such a way as to drain our energy and/or spirit. It’s like Daniel Johnston sang (in the song “Devil Town”): I was living in a Devil Town/and all my friends were vampires/didn’t know they were vampires/turns out I was a vampire myself in the Devil Town. And I suppose that the romantic aspect of these relationships involves the desire to be needed, wanted. But it comes down to the desirability of the vampire, doesn’t it?

“Saturday Night Live” did a bit about sexual harassment recently. It was styled as a public service announcement with contrasting presentations regarding the right and wrong way to ask for a date in the workplace. First, they showed an ordinary (unattractive?) fellow, quite pleasantly asking a female co-worker what she was doing that weekend. Her response was to blast an air horn and get him referred to sensitivity training. The second sequence showed an extremely attractive fellow walking around the office in his underwear, making rude comments about how the women should service him, and they responded with starry eyes. The message was: Don’t be unattractive. That’s simple and funny; I don’t need to see women fawning over well-cut vampires to learn the same lesson.

No, I find that the storylines in character dramas such as “Breaking Bad” and “Hung” offer more insight upon our cultural circumstances. This last one is a new HBO drama/sitcom about a dopey-headed high school phys. ed. teacher who can’t manage his life after divorce. In the first episode, his house burns down, and it turns out he doesn’t have insurance. Wracking his brain for ways to make money, he decides to become a prostitute, taking advantage of his extraordinary sexual endowment. A friendly former sexual conquest offers to act as his pimp.

Like “Breaking Bad,” this bad idea goes horribly wrong almost immediately, but our hero seems to have an additional gift for navigating all of the various crises that come his way, in spite of his tendency to panic and over-react, which only adds to the comedy.

The similarities with “Breaking Bad” are numerous. Both involve high school teachers facing overwhelming financial challenges. Both situations derive from the failure of insurance to redress extraordinary circumstances, and both storylines follow sympathetic, resourceful individuals engaging in illegal activity in order to solve their financial difficulties.

I can’t help but wonder how the legal system would handle potential defendants such as these. Would the extraordinarily difficult circumstances of the individuals mitigate their crimes? I doubt it.

 

For further study: Read a newspaper (before it’s too late)!