Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Bela Lugosi as Dracula.
All over America, newsrooms are growing dark or dim, as newspapers fold or are bought out by venture capitalists, who lay off staff and suck out assets until the papers are left to struggle along in a cruel approximation of the in-depth information sources they used to be. Those newsrooms once included editors, who sat down to compose columns reflecting on the news and attempting to put it into some kind of perspective, based on their own experience and observations. Many of those editors are now gone. Others remain, but in their efforts to wring news from a skeleton staff of reporters, they have little time to reflect and explain.
As I sit here now, still trying to perform this editorial function for our community, while Flagpole hangs on in an environment increasingly hostile to newspapers, I feel the responsibility to try to get down to the heart of matters. Any editorial writer in search of something to say will note a certain dissonance—something that doesn’t add up, doesn’t make sense, which may be indicative of a deeper truth. Here’s an example (two, actually): zombies and vampires. Why can we not get enough of zombies and vampires? Why will people pay money to watch one “person” suck the blood of another? What is our fascination with “people” covered in horrible sores, staggering along in spite of being more or less dead? Yes, I understand the fun of turning these horrible symbols of death into pop stereotypes that turn dread into fun. But why the popularity of zombies and vampires, while werewolves and ghosts can hardly get a casting call?
OK: Let’s cut to the chase and deliver the punditry. We all know that moviegoers during that other Great Depression in the 1930s loved to sit in the dark and watch the swells in their tuxedos and gowns sipping highballs in swank Manhattan apartments while the rest of the country worried about paying the rent. The highlife hijinks took our minds off our troubles and gave us the illusion that some day, if we worked hard and kept our mouths shut, just maybe we could be dancing in the penthouse.
Now, we’re zombies. And what are zombies? People who are dead and don’t know it. People life has passed by, whose juices have dried up, leaving them to lurch along unknowing, undead, their jobs obsolete, their lives over, their chances nill, their tuxes splattered with blood, their gowns in tatters, incapable of dancing should they ever even stumble into the penthouse, only to be thrown out the window by those who belong there.
But we don’t identify with zombies, of course. Nobody wants to be a zombie. Everybody wants to “kill the brain, kill the ghoul.”
No. Vampires are much sexier. Vampires look good in gowns and tuxes and are right at home in penthouses, Vampires make it OK to live high off the blood of others, whose reward is to become vampires themselves and live off the blood of yet others, a sort of Ponzi scheme that keeps us all fanging for success.
So, that’s what the movies and TV are telling us. What will you be? A zombie or a vampire? This is the great disconnect in our society. We all want to be vampires, but most of us lean ever more precariously toward zombiedom—especially newspaper editors, but also anybody who holds down a job in manufacturing, farming, teaching, office work. Jobs are becoming obsolete. We all are becoming superfluous, dead.
But the 1 percent in the penthouse: There live the vampires. They suck our lifeblood, and they have figured out how to turn all our institutions against us, so that while they batten on us, we don’t even get to become born-again vampires. Zombies are the best we can do. It’s lonely at the top, but that’s OK, because we’re just lurching along in the street with all the other walking corpses, hoping to be made great again. Sure. No problem. The man who personifies all the best qualities of the vampire has assured us we will be.