Vampires and the Cleveland Horrors . . .

10 May

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight.  I had to say their names.  Their names are their identities.  These incredibly brave young women never left their names nor their identities behind, despite a decade of horrors in a torture chamber after they were kidnapped in Cleveland and forced to live out the fantasy of a madman in their community, who seems to believe he had taken three common law wives.

I have to use their names.  I can’t just say “the victims of the Cleveland kidnapping horror.”

This is not going to be another post that blames pop culture for crimes that are committed in the same timeframe.  But I do want to look at some places where we have been and wonder aloud where we are going.

There are some things that we just don’t do, because they are insensitive.  They are not wrong, maybe, in some eras, but in others they stand out like a sore thumb.  My fellow conservatives don’t always get this, but it is true.

One example is that I doubt we will ever see a high school production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” again.  I haven’t seen one advertised in over a decade, so the show has obviously already fallen out of favor, but after this last week, I think it is gone forever.  

Remember the premise?  Seven good-looking, strong, athletic young men in the Wild West, all brothers, find there is a woman shortage when it is time for them to marry.  So . . .  they find a town with seven beautiful, marriageable young women and they kidnap them to be their wives.  

The women subsequently fall in love with their husbands, so the play markets the idea that “all is well that ends well” but . . . you can’t escape the fact that those marriages were begun with a crime, whether it was labeled that way in the Wild West or not!

An influence from my early lifetime that I am, ironically, exploring right now (as long as I can bear it), because I want to write on the influence of vampires on our culture, starting with the mild, never-shown-onscreen vampire antics of the 1960’s and prior to that, is the soap opera “Dark Shadows” which was all the rage with preteen and teen girls in 1966 and 1967.  

I am watching Season Two of “Dark Shadows” on Netflix right now.  It is total irony that the episode I saw last night involved Barnabas Collins, the gentle Englishman vampire, being impeccably polite to the father and boyfriend of Maggie Evans, whom he has kidnapped and is imprisoning in the old Collins mansion, not more than a hundred yards from the new Collins mansion where everyone is frantically searching for Maggie.  

Get it?  Man wants wife (in this case, he wants to take Maggie’s name and identity, too, and turn her into a reincarnation of his wife Josette from the 18th century).  Man kidnaps woman to be wife.  Man holds commonlaw wife nearby in the same neighborhood where she grew up.  Man is so impeccably polite that he gets away with this long term.

Newsflash which most of us already realize:  (not to make us suspicious of all politeness, because there truly are a lot of charming people on this planet who are just naturally nice) abusers don’t generally run around looking odd and saying malevolent things.  They fit in .  That is how they get away with it.  Often they are the most charming person in the room.

In my day, we would run home after school (in 3rd grade) and sneak down to my friend Agnes’s basement where her mother did not carefully monitor what was on television.  Agnes and I would watch “Dark Shadows” five nights a week after school.  We were raised on the idea of a vampire who was ever so nice, at least whenever he was not controlling Maggie Evans (and all the horrific stuff took place offscreen and was only implied).  In fact, many teen girls, a bit older than us, were in love with Jonathan Frid, the actor who played Barnabas.  He had a huge fan club.   

See what that can do to an impressionable young mind?  Create the idea that a person can be 80% wonderful and can be forgiven for the 20% stuff that happens in private.  Even when that 20% is horrific.  Even when it is a crime like kidnapping.  And a moral outrage like erasing someone’s name and identity and forcing her to take a name and identity chosen for her by another.  

Teaching young girls that extreme control tactics are a synonym for love. 

Where have we heard this before?  We have a culture saturated in it now.  We only have to turn to about 25% of our young ladies to find girls willing to believe that someone who scrutinizes their every move and tries to force them to change into his ideal woman is someone who truly loves them! 

This is a very prevalent and dangerous belief.  However, I think when we get beyond the extremes of controlling behavior, we find it is something we all share in common as a human race. 

I believe that control issues are the basis of almost every other sin we commit on this planet.  

God is sovereign, we are not, we try to be sovereign in the lives of fellow humans.  We try to control them.  

It is a very great sin and one we all commit at some point in our lives.

It is one I hope to explore a lot more in upcoming months.

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