Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/38-robin-hood-men-in-tights

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (PG-1)
1993
48% rotten tomatoes

Is it safe to assume we all know who Mel Brooks is? After the recent traumatic passing of Stan Lee, I’m almost afraid to invoke his name, lest his body remember it’s 92 years old. Just in case any of you are 14 (if you are, please know that this content is not curated for you and is very inappropriate; nevertheless, we love a rebel so hello), Mel Brooks is a titan of film comedy. He is responsible for such classics as Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Life Stinks, History of the World: Part I, and of course, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. As a side note, I, as a lover of people who use grammar and syntax to their full potential, enjoy how many of his titles have colons in them, and how much additional information he’s able to give with just a three word clause. But wordplay is one of his signature motifs, and I am here for it. I dare you to find a five minute stretch of Mel Brooks that doesn’t include a double entendre.

the man, the mensch, the legend

So what perfect alchemy of nature brings forth a comedy savant like Mel Brooks? He was born Melvin Kaminksy in 1926, in Brooklyn NY. And as we all know, the 20’s transitioned right into the 30’s without any kind of hiccup, right? Wait, what? You mean… oh… Oh noooo. We’ll come back to that, yikes.

Back to finding out how to reproduce the conditions that created Mel Brooks (which kind of could be the premise for a Mel Brooks movie). Well, I can’t find any specific details about Brooks’ childhood, but from what I can gather, he grew up poor, but in a very loving home. He was the youngest of four boys, and his father died when he was two. His mother got a job working ten hour days out of the house, and then continued working at home. When his brothers were old enough (12!!) they went to work as well, in addition to going to school. These mid-WW folks are some serious badasses. I’m so soft I complain about my forty hour a week job that pays well and comes with a chair.

look at those lil baby Depression ties!!!

Brooks talks about his experiences as a kid with a lot of brevity and humor. He jokes about running across a particular bridge scared, because if you fell in, none of the other Jews would be able to save you (the implication is that Gentiles wouldn’t WANT to save you), because Jews in his neighborhood couldn’t swim. The only place to swim was in a non-Jewish part of town, and they would be chased away if they tried. Additionally, he recounts a suicide in the neighborhood and being terrified that it was his mother. She had, unbeknownst to him, worked late that night and since there were no telephones in poor areas, much less cell phones, he just had to sit and wait, wondering if she would come home. He wasn’t impervious to the constant near-tragedy of his life, but even from an early age he seemed to develop a “why cry when you can laugh” attitude as a coping mechanism. So maybe that’s it – you get a kid who has the funny gene already, put him or her in some shitty living conditions, but make they have the support of the family. And since we’re heading for a new great depression, let’s take a moment to review, shall we?? We need to be prepared.

Okay, so you know how a meth binge makes you feel like you can do anything and anything you do is the greatest thing ever, but then when it’s done you spend the same amount of time feeling like pure shit? I mean… so I’ve heard. That was pretty much the stock market from the 20’s through the 30’s. The 20’s were just one great big meth party (I assume that’s why it’s called the Roaring Twenties), and then when the economy couldn’t take any more rich old white men taking advantage of it, she crashed. Hard. You know, let me rephrase that – we’re not victim blaming the economy here. Let the record show the guilty party was … yeah rich old white men. Okay fine, they weren’t all old. Here’s how it went down:

All throughout the 20’s, there was a ton of speculating being done. What is speculation? Well if it’s done honestly, it’s just being really good at guessing. You look at a bunch of cheap stocks and think *deeply* about which ones might become valuable stocks one way or another. I really don’t know how people come to these conclusions, and I personally find investing so boring that I couldn’t bring myself to find out. Anyway, I don’t understand everything that happens next (see above: my unwillingness to find out) but I gather that people were speculating on the stock market itself at some point. Like instead of betting on a card game, you bet on the casino winning that night (can’t lose, right?). But when everyone starts betting on the casino and stops betting on the card games, the casino doesn’t make any money. And then instead of trying to regroup by betting moderately on more card games, the bettors pawned their chips off on someone else as fast as they could and ran. Those were the lucky assholes. The unlucky ones were unable to find anyone to buy their chips, so they had to just stand there with their arms full of useless chips while the casino burned to the ground from the chaos and looting that was started by the first wave of panicked rich white guys ditching their chips.

OH BUT IT GETS WORSE. Right before the shit hit the fan, the rich assholes who owned the banks saw that some of the peasants were getting interested in speculation on card games, too. So what do banks do to poor, uneducated people? That’s right – they prey on them. They make it super easy for those peasants to borrow a lot of money. Lord forgive them, they knew not what they signed. Society was telling people everywhere they looked that they could get rich this way. It’s kind of like when everyone was investing in commercial real estate in the 90’s. Or am I the only one who remembers that being a thing. Anyways, banks were offering chips “on margin” which meant that the peasants could put a little bit of their own money towards the card games and borrow the rest. You know. Like how you buy a house. Ahem. So when they saw this demand, the players already at the tables of course increased their bids way higher and also dragged in a shit ton more tables. Inflation. Greed. Good christian values in our good christian country.

And to be fair, things had been really good in the village for the peasants for a long time. They all had jobs and food, and places to live. We’d been post-WWI for about a decade now. The only thing missing was a shitload of cash from winning at the casino. They were soft and coddled. They weren’t afraid of things going badly because things had gone so well for so long… except for farmers, who had been struggling for a while, actually. So anyway, some say that the tipping point was when casino management upped the rates for playing the game (the federal reserve raise the interest rate by 1%). So… the one thing articles skip over is WHAT DOES IT MEAN when the stock market crashes – not contributing factors, not financial climates – what are the events that happen – how do you know the stock market just crashed? Do you know where I actually got the answer I was looking for? WIKIPEDIA.

So here’s the deal. Direct quote: “Stock market crashes are social phenomena where external economic events combine with crowd behavior and psychology in a positive feedback loop where selling by some market participants drives more market participants to sell.”

It’s basically like someone yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. One bettor in the casino was like “Whoa, management just upped these rates, and I’m not even sure what this shit is worth anymore – these companies are making massive amounts of terrible shit. I’m out” and then the player next to him is like “oh man, I’ve heard some things about the drought affecting crops, and the interest rate just went up – I bet that guy knows something I don’t. I’M SELLING OUT, BITCHES” and so on. Then the fucking media sensationalizes the whole thing and it’s turned into a runaway train by this point. A perfect storm of events. So basically, it’s the exactly the same as what caused the surge, but in reverse. It’s Newton’s third law, applied to societal constructs.

♪ It seems no one can help me now / I’m in too deep / There’s no way out ♫

Back to real life. Recap: Everyone’s like “WOOOOOO EASY MONEY!!!!” and then banks were like “HEY PEASANTS, GET IN ON THIS HERE’S SOME MONEY***” and then some cocaine crazed proto-yuppies started screaming “BET IT ALLLLLL” and smashing guitars against the wall and then people were like “uh oh there’s too many people here and it’s not cool anymore” and then no one wanted to play and everyone lost their keys in the club. Onward!

Everyone was in a panic to sell all their stock but no one was buying it, so the value plummeted. I think we have a naive trust in the system – not trust meaning that we think any big system has our best interest at heart, but a kind of trust that it just is what it is. Corn is yellow, the ocean is salty, stocks are based on demonstrable value. NOPE. It’s all made up. The value of stocks are based on demand, or how much people want it. It’s why I do not understand stocks at all. I had always labored under the delusion that valuable stocks were from successful companies, but that’s only half the story since there are people out there gambling on whether a particular business, or industry at large, is going to be successful. I still don’t know how someone plays stock on an entire industry, like solar power. I mean… which companies??? More than half of them are going to suck, right??? Do you just invest in all of them?? ARGH I’M ALREADY SO BORED.

Okay, let’s flash forward just a little bit. The market has entered refraction (hee hee hee). People have lost their fortunes and their jobs. Companies have lost their investors and shut down, or shut down because all these newly broke people didn’t have money to buy their unnecessary shit anymore. People who worked there have lost their jobs and couldn’t pay back the banks for the stock game money they borrowed. If you had money to get in the bank, banks couldn’t give it to you, cause guess what. They invested it in the stock market. And they couldn’t make their money back on loans, cause… oh right. Unemployment. Just a big circle jerk of misery.

Oh wait – there’s more. In 1931 or thereabouts, we get the Dust Bowl. Did you think to yourself “well why don’t I just pack up and move to the Midwest, where I’ll become a farmer? At least we’ll have plenty to eat!” EEEEHHHHHHH. So sorry, the American Midwest has decided to stop raining. Here’s some dust wind, though! Now, there were dumbasses who didn’t know how to farm trying to farm long before the market crashed. The government used to hand out grants to people to settle the huge tracts of land they stole, so of course immigrants and fourth sons and what not took advantage. I mean, why would you not? You figure it’s one of those things you’ll just pick up as you go along.

My point is, the Dust Bowl was bad enough on its own, but the Midwest had been only settled by these folks for the past 70 years or so, and they weren’t the most experienced at it. If you stay in a historically continually populated place like France, and there’s a drought or something like that, the collective knowledge about how to weather the season and get as much as you can out of your fields is going to be greater than what we had going on in the Midwest and southern plains. We had people, plenty of whom may not have come from farming families (at least originally), and who didn’t have a lengthy knowledge of the land. Keep in mind, we’d already driven out the First Nations populations, and I feel they’d likely have been disinclined to help us anyway.

So there’s a money shortage, and now there’s also a food shortage.

By 1933, the unemployment rate was 25%. The Great Depression officially lasted from 1929-1939, but for many families, this would shape an entire generation. Heading back east, we have had the great industrialization of the 19th and earlier 20th centuries exploding populations in cities and the surrounding areas, and then suddenly it all comes to a halt. There are now tons of people in crisis, all in a generally small vicinity.

This seems like a good time to briefly recap early 20th century history:

  • 1914-1918 we have Sandbox Scuffle I – 15-19 million people killed
  • 1920’s are pretty decent tbh, even though Prohibition is enacted in 1920; constraints can be freeing and folks get creative
  • 1922 – Stan Lee is born in Manhattan
  • 1926 – Mel Brooks is born in Brooklyn
  • 1929 – Stock market crash
  • 1931 – Dust Bowl
  • 1933 – Record Unemployment, but bonus! No more Prohibition!
  • 1939 – Great Depression unofficially ends, butttttttt… Sandbox Scuffle II kicks off, resulting in 50-80 million deaths by the time it ends in 1945.

You know, for being called the silent generation, these folks ^ sure made some loud history.

Can you imagine growing up in this kind of environment? Can you imagine being a WOMAN in this environment? The ban on birth control (Comstock Act) wasn’t lifted until 1938, and the birth control pill wasn’t approved by the FDA until 1960 AND STILL WASN’T LEGAL FOR UNMARRIED WOMEN UNTIL 1972!!!!!! PS – this was only shortly before the Vietnam war ended. I image that for a very long time, women felt like they were bringing children into the world just to starve or die in war. I can’t fathom trying to raise four boys on my own – mother of shout outs to the titanic fortitude of Mel Brook’s mother. And they were Jewish, to boot, so also racism in the mix!

this shit is too depressing, so here’s a happy dog with happy flowers

Okay, so onto more fun stuff. Mel was a soldier in Sandbox Scuffle II (at 17 years old, mind). He did some camp shows during this time and really got to flex his showman muscles, and after his time in the war was done, he bounced around until he found

In an interview done by Playboy in 1975, Brooks responded to allegations that his comedy is undisciplined and “anarchic,” which he waves away with a joke. This is definitely what I appreciate about him the most. He does things you’re not supposed to do. The fourth wall breaks, the actors break character, the jokes are often in poor taste, but in the charmingest way. Brooks’ movies are nothing if not full of mirth and whimsy, and self deprecation, and exploiting ridiculous things. It’s fun in the way that kids have fun – it doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to reduce him to just a product of his environment, but I can’t see what about real life would make sense to a boy that grew up in the 30’s. So why not turn everything into a parody – especially things that people have decided to take very, very seriously. Like space operas. And Shakespeare. And gothic horror. And Robin Hood.

In an article in the Atlantic, the author points out that he has an “endless fascination with such primal experiences as fear and cruelty, accident and death.” It’s not an uncommon fascination to be sure, but how Brooks manifests it is so unique and somehow light-hearted. Rob Reiner once asked him how he differentiates between tragedy and comedy – Brooks said, “If I’ll cut my finger, that’s tragedy. … Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die,” and then denied bastardizing the David Hume quote. Classic Mel.

So – on to Robin Hood. What do we know about him? He probably wasn’t a real dude. He might have been the Tooth Fairy, but for grownups. That belief we have that someone else is going to come and solve our problems; make the bad guys go away. (spoiler alert: that shit is the pipiest of dreams. Vote, mutherfuckers).

The legend seem to originate at the tail end of the medieval period, in the 13th century. You might say he was the original anarchist, but he probably wasn’t. We love a good political rebel, though. William Wallace, Pancho Villa, pirates, Spartacus, Boudica, the American colonies, dudes who wear socks with sandals. The latter excepted, we like people who break stupid rules. Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men robbed and murdered rich assholes, and redistributed the wealth to poor people. Was it wrong? Legally, yes, but they were rebelling against a legal system that was never going to be beneficial for the poor. Was it wrong morally? If you take out the murder, then I don’t see the big deal. Yes they were stealing, but if you take the “laws” out of the equation, the money taken from peasants did not represent a fair return on investment. And guess what happened in 1381?? A Peasant’s Revolt! See, the peasants felt they were being unfairly taxed, among other things. Why is every organized government since the dawn of time convinced that overtaxing the poorest population is a solution? I mean, I understand the greed, but I just don’t see how they think, “oh, but this time it’ll work!” Ugh. Anyway.

Later stories liked to portray Hood as being a nobleman himself, but I prefer the idea that he was a commoner who tried to take the reins of destiny. Power to the people and all that. It feels more honest to me if it’s a man of the people. When it’s a lord who’s lost his home to the same dirty leaders that have been abusing the peasants for years, and it’s only then that he looks around and goes “huh – this is fucked up” it feels too selfish. Don’t tell me you’re doing it for justice, Robin. You’re doing it for your old feather bed and 2,000 acres. So in this way, Mel Brooks has given us the standard post-medieval version of the Robin Hood story – good little nobleman breaks bad.

via GIPHY

But put yourself in some medieval shoes. The forest would have been the most valuable resource after water. You gots wood to make your houses and tools, li’l animals to eat, weird plants to munch on and use as medicine, shelter for outlaws on the lam. You know, the necessities. But usually these kinds of laws were meant to keep huge areas of undeveloped land EMPTY so the king or regional leader and his cronies could go hunt without any peasants getting in the way or reducing the game population (cause they like everything to be easy; more deer = less effort). It’s the theme of greed and powers – the convenience of the few is more important than the survival of the many.

You can see why a figure like Robin Hood would be appealing. Hell, it’s appealing now. It’s kind of like how we’re all hoping Anonymous is going to swoop in and save the day. So when there are historical records of outlaws in Northern England using a surname from the Robin Hood legends it’s tempting to jump to conclusions. But this doesn’t mean that they’re likely the real Robin Hood or his descendants, but it’s more likely a wishful Dread Pirate Roberts situation. These men were desperate, and taking his surname was a way they could convey that their actions were not done in malice, but in service to the ideology of Robin Hood. This is not to say there wasn’t an actual Robin Hood, but it makes it even more complicated to try and figure out what’s what. Like that one part in The Dark Knight Rises where all those hockey dads kept dressing up like Batman.

There is one possibility, apparently. There was a Robert Hod held as prisoner in 1225. He had lived in York, which is indeed in the North of England. The timeline, proposed by John Major in 1521, states that this Robert Hod was Robin Hooding in the 1190’s, had become a proper outlaw by 1225, and died in 1247 (there’s a grave that supposed to Robin Hood’s in the place where the legend says he died). Also helpful is that the legends usually mention King Richard and Prince John. That would be King Richard the Lionheart (ruled 1189-1199). He was a great warrior, but an absent king. He was off templaring with the knights on crusades more than he was at home being king. Prince John ended up being King John (ruled 1199-1216) and he sucked in the opposite direction, and was also much less handsome. John did try to steal the throne before he “earned” it, which is often a big part of his character’s political machinations in the stories. He was a real asshole as a king, more so than a normal king. He like… invented red tape and bureaucracy for medieval England. There was great record keeping, but come the fuck on. He also micromanaged everything. They kind of go together. As does a fee schedule for getting out of military service, or for getting expedited legal services and shit. Oh, and he cared more about creating revenue for military adventures than he did about his people being able to eat. Not like – we’re at war, but like, I really want this territory. But it’s cool. He got excommunicated, he never took those territories he wanted, his court rebelled against him (his northern courtiers, I should mention), and he died of dysentery. This seems like the perfect set up for Mel Brooks. A scheming schmuck, an unlikely hero, and a disgruntled populace. Just throw in some love triangles and some visual puns (as well as verbal puns) and you’ve got a comedy.

So. There are a lot of movies out there about him. I looked it up on Wikipedia and counted 79. That’s just movies and dedicated TV shows – that’s not including Robin Hood themed episodes of stuff. And there are at least half a dozen projects currently in development. What is it that makes this story so enduring, and if it’s relatability, how are we no better off than we were 800 years ago? The details are a little different, but the resources are still being horded by a small but powerful percent of the population. We rebelled and made our own country to get England to quit it, and we’re getting right back to where we started. The majority of our country isn’t represented in our government, so maybe we all need to tap into the Robin Hood that lives in our hearts.

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

40. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

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Nikki and Sher bitch about old lady knees, compare their Christmas experiences to this movie, and eat pistachios. Enjoy!

Favorite quote: “Merry Christmas! Shitter was full!” – Eddie

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38. Men in Tights

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Nikki and Sher bring joy to your lives by talking about the Great Depression, anti-Semitism, and the myth of Robin Hood. We’re soooo heppy you’re joining us!

Favorite quote: “I lost. I lost? Wait a minute, I’m not supposed to lose. Let me see the script.” – Robin Hood

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17. Blade

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Nikki and Sher discuss the many different kinds of vampires represented in media, make fun of 90’s CGI, discuss the overwhelming whiteness of vampire movies, and bring everybody down with Vietnam talk.

Articles/sites referenced in the show:

https://www.wired.com/2014/10/vampire-evolution/

http://www.hammerfilms.com/about-hammer/

 

Favorite Quote: “There are worse things out tonight than vampires.” – Eric “Blade” Brooks

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23. Outlander 1.7 – The Wedding

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/23-outlander-17-the-wedding

Episode 1.7 “The Wedding” – original air date September 20, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with the beginning, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher tell you about their horriblenogoodverybad week, Nikki spills the beans on the personal tragedy she’s been hedging around for a year, and they debate the grossness or not of certain marital acts. Also – listen to Nikki yell at her cat, just for being happy to be in a Sher-Nikki bed sandwich.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “I said I was a virgin, not a monk.” – Jamie Fraser

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

18. Stranger Things – The Weirdo on Maple Street

(The Stranger Things series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/18-stranger-things-12-the-weirdo-on-maple-street

Episode 1.2 “The Weirdo on Maple Street” – original air date July 15, 2016
Netflix

Nikki and Sher launch another sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Stranger Things, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher start a drinking game! Rules will be up soon on our website (notyourmomshow.com) but feel free to play to along!

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “You shouldn’t like things because people tell you you’re supposed to.” – Jonathan Byers

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Blade

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/17-blade

BLAAAAAAAADE (R) – 1998
54% Rotten Tomatoes

I don’t know HOW this movie only has 54% on rotten tomatoes. It’s inconceivable, but I suppose there’s no accounting for taste.

It’s safe to say that Blade was responsible for my sexual awakening. This was my first introduction to vampires. I knew of them, of course, but I had never read any vampire literature or seen any other vampires on TV, unless you count The Count from Sesame Street. One: ah, ah, ah. If I’m remembering my Nikki history correctly, yours was Lestat?

Let’s look at some of the different types of vampires out there. I’m going to summarize from an article in Wired.com called “The Wild Evolution of Vampires, from Bram Stoker to Dracula Untold” which deals mainly in film and television vampires, and I’m going to add a few of my own observations from modern literature. I ain’t touching video games with a ten foot pole – let’s just leave it at boobs and guns. I may have played around with some of the category names, but I’m essentially summing up Devon Maloney’s points:

The Original: Count Dracula (1897)

It’s not actually the original, but it’s definitely the most popular, and is the origination for how we think of vampires. The cold-blooded, paper-skinned creep Dracula first appeared in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Dracula has been tied to a few different origins, but who cares at this point. Vlad Tepes has his own grisly mythology, even without vampirism in the picture. What Stoker’s original work gives is the core elements of vampire: creepiness, alluringness, eccentricness, sex stuff, and a vaguely threatening pall cast over the whole thing. Well, sometimes overtly threatening. The more I think about mid to late 19th century literature, the more parallels I see with our current times. Everyone was afraid of everything – outsiders, a changing moral code, advancements in science and technology, epidemic diseases, the crumbling class structure. GEE sounds familiar. Maybe that’s why vampires made such a resurgence in the last fifteen years.

The Lesbian Vampire: Carmilla

The actual original! Never heard of this one, but apparently in 1871, this was a “safe” way to explore homosexuality, since vampires aren’t real, and Stoker had already established them as immoral and wicked. The Wired article calls the tenor of the time “moral terror”, and if you’ve spent any time at all reading Victorian literature, you recognize this. Picture our current obsession with celebrity reality TV, now replace it with an obsession over evil, powerful creatures bent on influencing the innocent into a life of sin. I suspect this kind of anxiety had to do with the weakening power of institutionalized religion, but in the late 19th century, no one was even burning witches anymore! Science and medicine were burgeoning into respected and trusted fields, and were just starting to be seen as a source of truth about the world; a position previously held only by philosophy and religion. What’s surprising about Carmilla (apparently) is that it’s not a denunciation of homosexuality – Carmilla is bad, but the text doesn’t condemn the lesbian relationships.

The Classic Film Vampire: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula (1931)

This is notable for being the first horror movie and also for Bela Lugosi’s precedent setting portrayal of a vampire. This movie really freaked people out, and a few years later the movie industry started enforcing the Hays Code (basically the morality police for movies), and so the horror movie genre was watered down almost as soon as it was created. Luckily for us, by the 60’s the Hays Code had become unenforceable and was abandoned. Take that, people who force others to live by their own particular set of religious hang ups. Naturally, chaos ensued, and in the 70’s the rating system we’re familiar with was created, so that people could choose their level of explicit and debaucherous content. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Production_Code)

The Fancy Vampire: Christopher Lee’s Dracula (movies from 1958-1976)

“Hammer movies” was a term I heard often but never understood. If you are like me and had no idea what movie buffs were talking about but didn’t want to seem ignorant so kept your mouth shut, I am here to help you. http://www.hammerfilms.com/about-hammer/ Hammer Films is a movie studio founded in 1934 that chugged along, making all kinds of movies. WWII pretty much shut down operations, but post-war England (and America) saw an increase in prosperity and for the first time in a long while, people had pocket money and could indulge in entertainment. The movie industry blew up and Hammer thrived. In 1955 they released a movie called The Quartermass Xperiment, a horror movie about alien viruses or something. People lost their shit; they loved it, and so Hammer decided to really go for it in the horror genre. They spared no expense on gore, which pissed of the censors, but titillated audiences. Cornering the market on horror, they produced movie after movie featuring big theatrical baddies and full of gratuitous everything, and also sequels to their features, which all became their stamp on the genre. The golden age of Hammer was over by the 70’s when television became commonplace fixtures in homes. Moping around for a decade, Hammer finally figured out that television was also a thing they could do, and so they were back, baby, but as a TV house now, instead of a movie house. That changed again in 2010 with Let Me In, and they have resumed making horror films once more. We should consult a horror nut to see if they’re as good now as they were then. Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula represents this era of campy and overdone yet marvelously enjoyable horror.

The Teen Dreamboat Vampire: Dark Shadows (1966-1971; 2012)

Dark Shadows was a supernatural soap opera marketed to young people, and from what I can gather the first time vampires were shoved into the pants of pre-teen and teenage girls. As Wired points out, this is the Vietnam era, and a time of relentless political unrest, so this seems like a safe way to work out some anxieties about young people’s experiences with horrifying situations, made light. Armies are made up of young men (true at the time), and those young men knew other young people that stayed behind. Reading letters from soldiers and trying to understand what was happening to them was likely a difficult and emotionally taxing process, so you can see how it would be appealing to a young woman whose lover was suffering an affliction she couldn’t help him out of (being subjected to the horrors of war). She could easily relate to a governess stuck helping a family with a lot of big, unmanageable problems.

The Blaxploitation Vampire: Blacula (1972)

Oh, the 70’s! If you haven’t watched any Blaxploitation, you’re missing out. May I suggest Coffee, starring Pam Grier. I watched it in college in a film class, and I loved it. Speaking of Pam Grier, she was in the sequel to Blacula. Wired suggests that Blacula may be somewhat responsible for inspiring Blade, so we owe him a huge debt of gratitude. But seriously – Blacula, and Blaxploitation films in general, served to point out just how very white movies were. There were no other black vampires in the movies at the time. The vampire genre is still overwhelmingly white, but Blade did establish a solid cultural reference to a vampire of color.

The Genteel, Self-Loathing Vampire: Lestat (1976 (Interview with the Vampire: 1994))

As mentioned earlier, it seems that every time the world experiences a scary change, we also get a rise in supernatural or sci-fi media? I will assume these genres have a built-in helplessness against a big bad enemy of undue proportions. The big baddies in the 70’s was war, civil rights, and feminism. War is never bad for the establishment, but upsetting the balance of power by granting access to women and people of color is absolutely terrifying. Anne Rice, being a woman, contributed some new vampire attributes. They were more powerful, more charming, more able to fit in with society. Lestat and company were not relegated to a creepy cave mansion where they lured innocent victims to seduce/prey on them – they mingled with high society. They could fly, heal, and make do on animal blood when necessary. They didn’t have any of the ridiculous and arbitrary vampire weaknesses like garlic and crosses. In short, they were well-suited to survive and thrive. There were vampires coming out of the shadows and into your face, and maybe they weren’t sooooo terrible. Just like women and black people! Wired points out that Anne Rice’s vampire archetype is more heavily borrowed from in subsequent depictions than Stoker. This marks the beginning of the era of more glamorous vampires. It was only a matter of time before glitter was added. Side note – I think the Vampire Diaries fits into this category as well.

The Angsty Teen Vampire: The Lost Boys (1987)

The 1980’s was undoubtedly the era of John Hughes – teens were very much at the center of the film world. We were all obsessing about the plights of the almost-adults. The Lost Boys preyed on the fears of parents – what if we lose our children? To drugs, to gangs, to predators, to theatre school. Also, this gives the popular kids the malevolent nature that all misfits feel exuding from them. It also speaks to misfits because you have a group of teens living outside of polite society, as well as never having to reach adulthood and deal with grown up life (the title is a Peter Pan reference). It’s a movie for everyone, and helped bring the genre even closer to teens.

The Feminist Vampire Love Interest: Buffy (movie: 1992; show: 2007-2003)

WE GET A LADY HERO?? WHAT?? Oh wait, she falls in love with the bad guys. Siiiiiigh. Way to be a stereotype, Buffy. But it’s not all bad. Buffy is a competent, intelligent young woman who we can take seriously as a heroine. Rather than being an overconfident buffoon who gets in too deep and has to be rescued from her own stupidity, this woman has the skill and ability to carry out her duties. Even though she’s blonde and pretty! GASP! And Joss Whedon is great, so the writing and production were good enough to be taken seriously as well. Much like Blacula, Buffy gives us a female entry in the genre. While she’s not a vampire, she is a presence.

The Human Protector Vampire: Blade (1998-2004)

Blade is half-vampire, called dhampir. He is a Marvel character, and frankly should get more attention all the time. I think he’d work perfectly in the Defenders. Get that bratty privileged Iron First out of there and give us Blade.

So, the comparisons to Blacula are obvious – they’re both black. But Blade is a little more serious. Okay, a lot more serious. I don’t think he smiles throughout the entire movie. He has an incredibly well-constructed back story (I guess vampirism is a virus that crosses the placenta?), the full emotional gamut for his motivations and world view, and he has sophisticated weapons and chemical warfare gadgets.

Even though he’s a halfling, his vampire nature seems to define him more than his humanity, though it’s a struggle he’s been locked in his entire life. He deeply resents his vampire thirst, and has an unmitigated hatred other vampires, which granted, are uniformly evil. He’s cleansing the earth of evil in a subconscious attempt to save his mother. The self-hate coming off of Blade in waves is masterfully portrayed by Snipes – he’s not mopey or pitiful like some Cullens I know. He’s pissed, and channeling all that rage into a productive purpose. And wearing a badass trench while he does it.

The Sexy Progressive Vampire: True Blood (books and movies: 2001-2014)

This universe that Charlaine Harris has created, is pretty much an alternate universe where vampires/werewolves/witches/fairies/etc are a stand in for non-straight, non-WASP societies. The main threat of vampires, eating humans, has been removed by a synthetic blood substitute – essentially tofu for vamps, so now they can re-enter society and confront the prudes with all kinds of not subtle societal issues: vamp/human relationships stand in for bi-racial relationships. Using vampire blood as a way to get high stands in for the opioid addiction epidemic. The politics, my god the politics, stand in for the party politics we all have become so passionately in hate with. All this is set in the deep south, noted for it’s progressive and accepting attitude of a changing moral compass and upsetting of the status quo. So instead of just being a show about shredded vampires, it’s really a story about people treat other people, just with fangs and lots of white makeup.

Also, RIP Nelson Ellis, you magnificent man. You gave us Lafeyette beyond when the books killed him off because you made that character AHMAZING.

The Innocent, Self-Loathing Vampire: Twilight (2005-2012)

So, we’ve seen a lot of rebellion against social norms and mores in vampire culture, but Twilight turns that around. These are super beautiful vampire people, but our heroic Cullens are basically a sweater set and and Volvo in humanoid form. Ultra conservative, Edward refuses to have sex with Bella before they’re married, despite Bella’s insistent and repeated attempts to change his mind. Also, the family is very much patriarchal. Dr. Cullen created this family against their will, and then demands that they live according to his strict moral code, which is horrendously difficult as it goes against their nature. Nothing like being set up to constantly disappoint your parents.

BUT – Twilight did serve to introduce vampire lust to an even younger generation of girls. With PG content, it’s not exactly inappropriate, though it is problematic. Edward is essentially a possessive, controlling stalker. Bella is entirely too eager to give up everything about her life and let Edward completely consume her (both literally and figuratively). It’s quite a step down from Buffy, but being an adult woman with an already mature brain when I first read it, I still liked it. But as an adult, I understand the purpose that the fantasy of books serves. I can only hope that young girls know the difference between fiction and reality as far as relationship goals.

The Philosophical Vampire: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013-2014)

This one I have never seen, but from what Wired told me, we are to be sympathetic to the vampires in this. The story is told from the point of view of a vampire couple, always on the run from the humans out to get them and also removing themselves from the temptation of eating them. It’s an interesting idea, and speaks to how long the vampire genre has been around that we’re now feeling bad for the poor, misunderstood monsters.

The Warrior Vampire: Dracula Untold (2013-2014)

This is supposed to be the origin story for Dracula, and by extension vampires in general. And again, we were supposed to be sympathetic to the vampire, and to empathize with him. This movie sucked, and not even Wired has that much to say about it.

Those are the categories of vampires that Devon from Wired identified. Ima add some here:

The Ancient Religion-Affiliated Vampire: Dark Hunters

This is a series of books written by the prolific Sherrilyn Kenyon. They feature an army of immortal revenge-seekers, turned so by the goddess Artemis to fight Daimons, a race of demon-type guys who eat the souls of humans so they don’t expire and die. While dark hunters don’t need to drink blood to survive, they can if they want to, though they would be outcast if they did so. They share most other vampire traits – the sun is deadly to them, though it’s because of Artemis’s feud with the sun god Apollo; they’re pale, and they have super strength and sexiness, gifts bestowed on them by Artemis so they can get the job done.

Most vampires are turned by a bite or some other fluid exchange. The selection process is a little different for dark hunters. If you suffer a terrible betrayal and then die because of it, Artemis will come to you at the moment of your death and ask you if you want to stick it to those that did you wrong. If you agree, her price is your soul and your freedom; you’ll be in her service until such time as you die (for real this time), or you negotiate for your soul back after a few hundred or thousand years of service, which is a difficult and risky prospect not offered to many. If you say yes, you have 24 hours to maim some mother fuckers before you officially report for Dark Hunter duty.

The I’ve Accepted My Fate and Am Cool With It Vampire: The Mortal Instruments

Cassandra Clare has a couple of loosely-connected series set in her delightful universe. She’s got quite a cast of characters; there are nephilim, demons (of ALL shapes, sizes, and substances), warlocks, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, selkies, faries, and on and on. What I like most about her series was the emphasis on individuality. Each type of being has their own community and culture, but they’re as individual as any human. Being a vampire doesn’t make you bad, just as being a nephilim doesn’t make you good. There is a lot of bigotry; those on both sides that would rather an entire species (or all but their own) be wiped from existence than have to continue tolerating them. The vampires in the story have a complicated hierarchy of leadership, but otherwise are no different from humans except for the fangs and the blood and the sun avoidance. It’s aimed at young adults, but Clare’s writing is incredibly thoughtful. Even within the different groups there are characters struggling with LGBT issues, childhood abuse, drug addiction. She doesn’t shy away from anything, and treats all of her subject matter with respect while still being funny and an excellent story teller.

The Detective Vampire: Samantha Moon

Written by J.R. Rain, the Samantha Moon novels are about a former federal agent who was attacked and turned into a vampire. Her marriage crumbles, she nearly loses her children, she struggles to figure out how to manage to still be a parent while coping with the lifestyle changes now necessary. She lives in terror that she’ll someday harm her children. No longer being able to go out during the day, she becomes a private detective so that she can set her own hours. Her psychic abilities and strength definitely come in handy while she’s solving cases.

Rain’s story is different because this woman is a mother, and instead of going off and starting a new life full of drama and adventure, she is firmly tethered to domestic life. This creates a lot of opportunities to reflect on what life would be like if you WERE turned into a vampire since it’s somewhat more realistic.

Vampire literature provides a lot of variations on the theme, but the most common traits that show up in an individual afflicted are: a very strong thirst for blood and harm (of some sort) from the sun. Other traits which vary by author: garlic allergy, no access without RSVP, harm from crosses, holy water, sacred ground, fangs, shape-shifting, super strength, mind control, psychic abilities, healing abilities, coffins?, grave dirt from their homeland… am I missing any?

The blood thing I totally get – these are dark magic creatures, technically dead, and so you can make the logical leap that blood sustains their life force. And by logical leap, I mean within the confines of the supernatural horror genre. But the sun – I don’t get it. I get why Superman has a strong reaction to our yellow sun (which actually isn’t yellow, btw); he’s an alien and his genetic makeup is different. I guess with vampires, it’s to emphasize the “creature of the dark” aspect of vampires and give a physical framework to the social and emotional alienation they experience. And it gives them an excuse to be super creepy. Also, sexy stuff happens in the dark, so I think for writers, everyone wins.

Consent, or Why Being Turned Into a Vampire is Often Rapey

Occasionally we will see people who beg to be turned into vampires. Based on some of the later depictions, it actually sounds like a pretty sweet deal if you don’t mind avoiding the sun and slurping pig blood. There are times I have thought those are perfectly reasonable sacrifices to make in order to gain strength, beauty and healing. Plus all vampires seem witty, if they’re not mopey. But the vast majority of vampire shows and books and movies are people who are desperate NOT to be turned into a blood-thirsty ghoul. Similarly, most depictions of vampires turning a human are of women. Now, we know that men are turned vampire, because… well because there are male vampires. But we choose to depict stories of women being forced to submit to the big strong man with the teeth. Or we see a woman desperate for Mr. Teeth to turn them into a vampire. The act of biting is often a metaphor for sex – seemingly the forbidden kind. “Oh nooooo, society doesn’t want us to be together, this is so hot!” or “That girl left her house after dark, of course she was abducted and bitten.”

Ah, life.

Favorite Quote: “There are worse things out tonight than vampires.” – Eric “Blade” Brooks

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

16. Stranger Things 1.1 – The Vanishing of Will Byers

(The Stranger Things series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/stranger-things-11-the-vanishing-of-will-byers

Episode 1.1 “The Vanishing of Will Byers” – original air date July 15, 2016
Netflix

Nikki and Sher launch another sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Stranger Things, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher talk 80’s nostalgia, the lovely heft of old technology, and .

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.” – Chief Hopper

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14. Outlander 1.4 – The Gathering

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/14-outlander-14-the-gathering

Episode 1.4 “The Gathering” – original air date August 30, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher look up Angus’s kilt, talk about camping, wax nostalgic about their horsey days, invoke Chris Hardwick’s hypothesis of age divination, discuss advanced modern feminism (and its paradoxes, re: bloody men) and accidentally thought-stalk an unwitting man.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “The highlands are no place for a woman to be alone.” – Geillis Duncan

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13. Outlander 1.3 – The Way Out

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/13-outlander-13-the-way-out

Episode 1.3 “The Way Out” – original air date August 23, 2014
Starz network

Nikki and Sher launch a sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, beginning with seasons one and two, which have already aired, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

Nikki and Sher bring you commentary on “The Way Out.” We talk about the absurdity (or not) of Claire’s immense borrowed wardrobe, the intricacies of horse grooming, and Geillis’s weird clothes, among many diversions and much laughter.

*Warning – this episode, and all others in the series, will contain SPOILERS, both for the television series and for the books. You’ve been warned!

Favorite Quote: “Why are you two drunkards still takin’ up space in my kitchen? If you’re not workin’ here, be gone wi’ ye!” – Mrs. Fitzgibbons

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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