32. Speed

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/32-speed

Nikki and Sher do speed! I mean Speed! We talk speedometers, elaborate villains, that pesky bus jump, and decide if Speed really is Die Hard on a bus.

Also, we’re in Georgia, so there’s a little background noise from the air conditioner. It’s hot, y’all. Enjoy!

Articles/sites referenced in the show:






Favorite quote: “Shoot the hostage.” – Jack Traven

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The Mummy

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/30-the-mummy

The Mummy (PG-13)
57% rotten tomatoes

So this is actually a remake of a 1932 movie called… The Mummy, which starred Boris Karloff and damn he looks awesome. I’m a sucker for old movies regardless, but this one looks really good. And you can’t go wrong with Karloff; he’s a master.

But back to 1999. DID YOU KNOW – Brendan Fraser almost actually died for real in that scene where his character is hung? Something went wrong with the rope, and he died for many seconds and had to be resuscitated. WE ALMOST LOST BRENDAN FRASER. 

It was a close call.

So, to the meat of the thing. We (meaning white people) have been obsessed with Egypt for a long time. Popular opinion is that this started in the 1920’s when King Tut’s tomb was found, but in fact the obsession goes all the way back to the Greco-Roman era. The obsession was heightened when Howard Carter opened Tutankhamun’s tomb, but it was nothing new. Plus, in the 20’s we had movies and popular pulp fiction books and whatnot, so it was more accessible to everybody. You didn’t have to go to a fancy pants museum to see artifacts and relics.

ADDITIONALLY – King Tut’s tomb sparked a sensational news cycle for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this tomb was a goldmine. Most Pharaoh’s tombs had been looted and stripped of anything valuable way before Carter arrived. But Tut’s tomb was intact and untouched. This was a huge win for Carter, who by the way, had arrived in Egypt in 1891 and worked in several different burial sites for different backers and people. In 1907 he entered into a business relationship with Lord Carnarvon, an Egypt enthusiast (see <the obsession was always there>), to excavate Egyptian nobles’ tombs. Eventually in 1914, he assigned Carter the job of putting a team together and digging where King Tut’s tomb was expected to be. But… hey guess what else happens in 1914? That’s right, Sandbox Scuffle I! If you haven’t listened to our episode on The Neverending Story that won’t make any sense to you. So I’m not going to explain – go listen to the episode. It’s funny.

Fast forward a few years and they can get back to work. They spend a few years coming up empty, and Lord Carnival or whoever is thinking about pulling the plug. But then a little boy, digging in the sand with a stick, found something none of the archaeologists had been able to – A STONE STEP. So, they dig. A few weeks later, and they’re able to get into the tomb, and several months after that, they finally reach the innermost chamber, which holds King Tut’s sarcophagus. All told, it took ten years until the excavation was completed, so there was undoubtedly frequent news reports and updates to people back in the west, and it would stay in the public consciousness for that span of time at least.

Amid the excitement of the excavation, was the even more salacious excitement of the PHARAOH’S CURSE *insert creepy music* So I don’t know how this curse story got started, but it makes sense when you think of human nature – we try to attribute meaning to just about anything. And so I’m thinking that some people figured that since this tomb had escaped the looting of the previous century, there must be some Very Good Reason. Like maybe if you open the tomb you’ll die a slow and horrible death? Sounds right if you don’t think too hard about it.


Regardless, once the dogma has been established, the confirmation bias will swoop in to make sure those ideas stay firmly fixed in our heads. Here are nine (non-Egyptian) folks who supposedly fell victim to the curse (they’re all archaeologists unless otherwise noted):

  • Lord Carnival (or whatever his name was)
    • Dude cut himself shaving and died of blood poisoning. This isn’t that unimaginable considering that we were still about ten years away from antibiotics, and they weren’t living in the most hygienic conditions. NEXT.
  • Sir Bruce Ingham
    • Howard Carter gave him a mummified hand as a paperweight (… I have follow up questions…), and dude’s house burned down. Then he tried to rebuild and it flooded. That is either some very bad luck, or homeboy’s got enemies.
  • George Jay Gould
    • He visited the tomb once, then got really sick, stayed sick for a long time, and died of pneumonia. I would like to point out that Gould was an American, and many visitors to countries not their own encounter diseases they don’t have any immunity against and die. Especially before antibiotics. NEXT.
  • Aubrey Herbert
    • He never visited the tomb or had anything to do with it, but he was Lord Carnival’s half brother. He was kind of a hot mess. He was born with a degenerative eye disease that eventually left him blind, but he also had really disgusting rotten teeth, and his dumb ass doctor thought maybe if we pull your teeth out your eyes will get better. I kind of think maybe his doctor made it up because he didn’t want to look at his teeth anymore? Anyway, he got sepsis from the tooth extraction surgery and died. This was half a year after Lord Carnival bit it, also from blood poisoning. Again, no antibiotics, no sterile scalpels, questionable medical degree…
  • Hugh Evelyn-White
    • So, this one is weird. I think he might have been a highly suggestible type. He freaked when “two dozen fellow excavators” died, so he hung himself and left a cryptic note about succumbing to a curse. This one, if it’s true as told here, could be due to a mental break, or some sort of delirium caused by illness maybe? Dunno. NEXT.
  • Aaron Ember
    • This was a totally preventable death. He was an Egyptologist present when the tomb was opened. His family’s house burned down, and he didn’t escape because he was saving a manuscript he’d been working on called “The Egyptian Book of the Dead.” I would callously say he did it to himself, but his wife went to get their son and I don’t think any of them made it. Sad next.
  • Richard Bethell
    • He was Lord Carnival’s secretary who was smothered in his room at a gentleman’s club, but apparently he’d previously had some house fires? I don’t know about curses, but I’m thinking it was some kinky stuff gone wrong. The old timey gentleman’s clubs were places dudes could go and do weird stuff in private. Also, I wonder if fire insurance was a thing in the early 20th century?
  • Sir Archibald Douglas Reid
    • He was a radiologist (with a title of nobility???) who x-rayed Tut before he went into the museum. He became very ill and died three days later. MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BREATHE MUMMY DUST – I DON’T KNOW?? People weren’t great at washing their hands in the 30’s???
  • James Henry Breasted
    • He was an Egyptologist there when the tomb was opened. Here’s where the story line gets meander-y. When he got back home he found that his pet cobra had eaten his pet canary, and was still in the canary cage, chilling over the bones of his vanquished prey. So you know canaries are thought of as harbingers, canary in the coal mine and all that. The cobra was used as a motif in the garments of Egyptian royalty, so – I guess you can make something out of that. But he didn’t die. Until over ten years later, after he went on another trip to Egypt. I don’t even know why he’s included.

Howard Carter, who was chiefly responsible for organizing the search, died without any connection to the curse – he had lymphoma. Maybe from breathing all that mummy dust. But popular belief is that the pharaohs spared him from the curse, as well as native Egyptians, of course. All those laborers died of normal causes, like negligence and poor working conditions.

You know what I like though? Science. Math and science. When they get married, they have a baby named Statistics. The British Medical Journal did a study in 2002, I’ll spare you the details, but the gist of it is that the survival rates for those Westerners in the excavation crew present when the tomb was opened or examined did not differ significantly from those who were not present. Regarding Carnarvon’s death (remember he cut himself shaving), some theorize that there could have been dangerous mold and bacteria growing down there, but experts say no, he was chronically sickly (as evidenced by his grisly half-brother). Also, if there were these dangerous miocrobe-yinhabitants in the tomb, the deaths would have been much quicker. Who knows.

So, speaking of native Egyptians… it’s us, so you know we have to say “white people ruin everything” at least once a podcast. It hasn’t not been true yet. But the ancient Egyptians had a strong belief in the importance of these tombs, and everything that was done in preparation for  a deceased ruler being sealed inside was intentional and meaningful. So in come some foreign white dudes and they’re like ‘hey we wanna dig up your ancestors and put them on display in a different continent – how bout a little help?’ It’s probably safe to assume that not every Egyptian in the 19th and 20th centuries was overly concerned with the ancient rituals, but on some level you’d think it would be hard to see your native story dug up, interpreted, and displayed by strangers. I don’t know any of the politics surrounding this, and frankly I’m so sick of politics that I didn’t even want to look it up, for fear of discovering some fresh hell, but whether legal or not, it’s shady as hell.

National Geographic has an article covering the general idea around when it’s cool to dig up human remains. It’s a sticky subject. We can learn a lot from these efforts, but at the same time, these were human beings who never consented to having their bones dug up and put on display for some bored grade-schoolers to gawk at. In many cultures, it has historically been criminal to mess with remains. In more recent-ish history, this has been partly to prevent grave robbing, a) because that’s a shitty thing to do, and b) because doctors in training had to sneak around to get bodies to study because autopsy was considered immoral, sacrilegious, and/or illegal.

Some of the arguments are that in many cases we don’t know what an individual’s religious beliefs were; even in an area that’s predominantly one thing or another, you can’t be sure. Is it okay as long as you rebury the remains when you’re done studying them? Scientists get into some raging nerd fights over this issue of sending remains back to the country of origin for reburial. (I say nerd fights with love, btw). One bioarchaeologist called the loss of future academic opportunity re-burial would present the same as “book burning.” The First Nations community has won federal legislation demanding the return of these remains, but it’s not enforced, apparently. Of course. Another bioarchaeologist states that the concerns of a group of people for their dead have to be considered more important than scientific exploration.


The same article lists some benefits that have come from studying human remains: we know more about the types of labor people performed, injuries suffered, foods people ate (and by extension, we learn about the plants and animals in the area at the time). DNA can connect remains to other remains, and help us learn migration patterns of groups of people. We can learn more about historical events, like the Black Death, which had a huge impact on the world (20% of Europe’s population died). Studying these historical diseases can help us understand modern diseases and maybe offer solutions.

Also, continuing research means that you don’t just dig up a body, test it, study it, and then you’re done with it forever. New researchers come up with new studies or technologies, and need to re-examine the remains for something that hadn’t been looked at before.

Now for some bad things about digging up bodies. SHOCKING – there’s a history of racism. Just one example: in the 1800’s, First Nations bodies were dug up so white people could prove that they were superior, presumably to make themselves feel better about stealing the land and being huge dickholes.

Also, like I mentioned before, grave robbing was a big concern. Not just because valuables were taken, but because family members didn’t want their loved ones being dug up and then cut up in some medical student’s dark lab. If you factor in religious concerns about the body into their anxiety, you can see why people took pains to prevent this from happening.

Currently, there are ethical considerations that scientists have to abide by, and they vary by culture. Each country seems to have their own way of regulating excavations. I get the sense that the majority of the argument is about what has already been done in the past. DeWitte, quoted in the article, stresses that for populations that have been historically “marginalized and exploited,” they need to be given more consideration as far as handling their ancestors’ remains, for obvious reasons.

So, coming back to how modern Egyptians may have felt about the white dudes taking their dead away – does it really matter if they okayed it? The ancient Egyptians had strong reverence for the dead – we know this without a doubt. So this is one situation in which we don’t have to guess at the beliefs of the people we exhumed. And I feel pretty confident that they would not be cool with it. Just because a lot of tombs were looted by assholes – does that give us the right say “damage is done” and continue disturbing their dead? It’s not like Howard Carter found King Tut and we were all like “cool, we’re done with Egypt now!” Scientists are still over in Egypt digging stuff up, so we know the Egyptian government is okay with it as long as they’re following the rules, but I think we know that the ancients wouldn’t have wanted that, and that’s what makes me feel weird about it.

Along those lines, I found some stuff stated somewhere but didn’t save the links, but the sentiment was that the difference between digging up bodies being cool or not cool is whether the civilization as a whole is dead. So the First Nations or Native American remains are protected because they are very much still alive and kicking it. But the ancient Mayans and Egyptians – even though Egypt and Peru are still populated, are considered dead – just like we don’t think of modern day Italy and ancient Rome as being the same culture. It’s a thinker, for sure, and luckily it’s not my problem to solve – there’s no right answer here, and there’s no way everyone will be happy.

Moving on!

This movie kinda starts and ends with Imhotep, who was a real dude, many thousands of years ago (he was alive in the 27th century, bce, which would make him like… 4500 years old or something). So, he did everything – he was an architect, astrologer, minister, magician, medicine guy, etc. He was considered a genius – Leonardo DaVinci comes to mind for me when I read about him – and was held in high esteem. He was second in command under the king Djoser. He is thought to be the architect of the step pyramid at the necropolis in Memphis (Egypt). It’s currently the oldest example of “hewn stone” and thought to be the first pyramid.

At only 100 years after his death, he was considered a demi-god of medicine (which was pretty fast, and also remarkable considering he was born a commoner – LIKE DAVINCI). Then in the 1st century bce, he was elevated to a full deity. He’s still revered by physicians because apparently he was less of a quack than other old-timey doctors, like Pliny. He rejected magic, and his writings contain the first known descriptions of anatomical details and medical procedures, such as trepanation (relieving pressure on the brain but cutting into the skull). He may also be the first to develop plant-based medicine. In fact, since he was so awesome, people didn’t think he was a real person until the late 1800’s when proof of his existence was found. And since we’re talking about tombs – Imhotep’s burial place has never been found.

Okay, so. I kept reading about him but I couldn’t find any reason that he would be converted into what we see in The Mummy,  in either 1932 or 1999. There’s no mention of his love life anywhere, or any reference to the dark arts. I’m assuming the ancient Egyptians would have considered resurrection rituals dark magic, on account of how they treated their dead, but I don’t know for sure.

Well, turns out Hollywood just used dude’s name. The fictional Imhotep was around in 1290 bce, and was high priest under Seti I, who was a real dude (son of Ramses I, father of Ramses II). And speaking of remains, you can view his online, if you so wish. So, Seti built a memorial temple and dedicated it to Osiris, so I think that’s why Imhotep is called a high priest of Osiris in the movie. Seti was considered the greatest king in Egypt’s history, and is speculated to have been incredibly handsome. I looked at his wife (Tuya) to see if I could find any kernels of drama  with Imhotep, but there’s nothing there.


Now, if you recall your ancient history, Nefertari was the wife of Seti’s son, Ramses II, and that is who Evelyn is a reincarnation of in The Mummy, which would be Imhotep’s boss’s daughter-in-law, it seems.

Now for Anck su namun. There was a real woman whose name is pronounced the same, though spelled a little differently (Ankhesenamun). She was born to Nefertiti and Akhenaten, and was married to her half-brother Tutankhamun. Fun fact – she’s thought to have also been married to Tut’s successor after his death, who was HER GRANDFATHER. And then maybe after her mother’s death she was married to HER FATHER before she married Tut. Now – these may have been symbolic marriages and not sexual ones, since it was common for kings and pharaohs to have more than one wife. But maybe not. Gross. Anyway – she would have been alive at the same time as Seti I, so it fits, though Seti I would have been king after Tut. It should be noted that records of her disappear after marriage to her grandfather.

These folks were alive in a time of religious upheaval in Egypt, which maybe inspired some of the magical plot points in The Mummy? Regardless, the 1932 movie, on which the 1999 movie was based, was inspired by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, so it makes sense that they would craft a story based around him (kind of). And to be fair, since the tomb was just discovered, there may have been a lot of information they didn’t know then that we know now.

Supposedly, the original script was loosely based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story “The Ring of Thoth,” but was later changed so that instead of running around murdering women that look like his long lost love, he’s trying to bring her back from the dead. With the Scroll of Thoth. Much more romantic.


So the Scroll of Thoth is made up for the story, but Thoth was a real person, who is believed to have authored The Book of the Dead, and who is supposed to have brought Osiris back from the dead when Isis asked nicely. So now the Osiris reference is making more sense.



He’s so beautiful. So he’s Israeli, but he lives in the US now. Probably somewhere in Southern California.


I looked on his Wikipedia page, and his father is listed as a geophysicist and a marketing executive, which sounds pretty random but very cool.


Anyway, we just need to clone him and make a bazillion of him.


Enough to go around.


So long as the clones are willing, of course.


Okay, everybody leave now.

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


Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/28-predator

Predator (R )
80% rotten tomatoes

Now, Predator does not take place during a war, but I always think of Vietnam when I see it. Maybe because it’s jungle-y, but it just LOOKS like the footage from Vietnam. We’re here in South America, and NOT in Vietnam, but still. In my defense, the Vietnam War was twenty fricking years long, so it’s safe to say that it stayed with the public consciousness for a while. “Hey, where can we drop these soldiers off in a place that makes sense? The jungle you say? That sounds right.” We just can’t stay away from war, can we?

Before we jump in, let’s give some background: Predator and Alien (and unfortunately Prometheus (and Blade Runner!!)) all exist in the same universe. Predator hunts Alien – Alien hunts Predator. The grand culmination – one of the first of many mainstream franchise crossovers – was Alien vs. Predator in 2004. Freddy vs. Jason beat it out by one year.


BUT BEFORE ALIEN VS. PREDATOR – we have Dutch and Sarge running around on a mysterious covert mission in South America and their team being picked off one by one as an alien monster with unfair advantages (such as laser cannon, thermal vision, and knowing about it’s existence) hunts them. Do the lesser humans triumph? You bet your sweet ass they do. Except… there’s kind of an unnerving appropriated (yes) laughter that happens at the end that is not expected of something that’s just been defeated. What does he know that we don’t??? So much. So much…

Fun fact: Jean Claude Van Damme (JCVD) was originally supposed to play the Predator, which would have essentially turned him into an alien ninja. I am glad this did not happen. A couple of things ensured this most fortunate failure – they couldn’t get the makeup and prosthetics to work in the jungle, and also they were afraid Predator would seem puny next to all the enormous bodybuilders. That’s a legitimate concern. Ultimately Predator was voiced by Peter Cullen, who did the voice for King Kong and also OPTIMUS PRIME, and played by mime and actor Kevin Peter Hall.


look how sweet and normal he is!!

Remember back when I said JCVD wasn’t big enough to realistically intimidate the likes of Carl Weathers and Arnold schwarz? Kevin Peter Hall was 7’2”. He wasn’t bulky like the other cast members – if you look at pictures of him he seems very long and lean – he’s built like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who is also 7’2”. But that’s still a YUGE human. Unsurprisingly, he played basketball in college and also professionally for awhile. Since he was so tall, he often played monsters. He was Harry in Harry and the Hendersons, and did some horror movie stuff, and he was ALMOST cast as Geordi La Forge.

Ready for some heartbreak? Hall died at the age of 35. He had complications from AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion. In an interview, you can watch some footage of the behind the scenes of Predator, which include some of the hilarious earlier versions of the monster suit.

Hall says that he tried hard to give all of his costume characters the same motivation and mental nuance and attention that he did to his regular human characters – he didn’t just think of it as a physical role. AND – in contrast to JCVD having hissy fits about the motion capture outfit from the first attempt – the make up effect artist said that Hall was very professional and nice, and everyone had great things to say about him so obviously this man did not deserve to die such a horrible death and the universe should be ashamed of itself. One warning – if you watch this interview you will see Carl Weathers without his mustache and it’s not pretty. That means needs a mustache at all times so he doesn’t look like a middle-aged baby.

Let’s put that sadness behind us and talk about something cool: Predator’s abilities and gadgets.

The invisibility effect in this movie is probably still my favorite invisibility effect because it seems like how it would actually look. There’s just a little bit of blurry movement, but if you blink you’ll miss it. I’m going to link an article that goes into details, because I don’t understand it enough to rephrase it. But basically Hall would wear all red, to contrast with the green/blue color scheme of the jungle and do a thing, then the camera would do an identical take, so i assume they were using some kind of rig that they could ensure would repeat exactly what they’d just done. Then they filmed the same shot again, but with a wider lens. They then used magic to put all three shots together, which made it look like light was bending around Hall figure. It’s beautiful nerdy stuff.

Fun fact – science is getting pretty good at making invisibility cloaks. There are more and more items that come up where scientists have figured out some way to scatter light and reflect another point onto the thing with lenses. It’s only a matter of time until I can say “I’m in your kitchen eating your food” and it will actually be true.

So earlier I mentioned his laser cannon, but the proper term is plasmacaster. It sits atop his shoulder, and sights a target using three beams of light (called a laser rangefinder) from the helmet that create a triangle of death. Because the laser rangefinder comes from the helmet, the plasmacaster will sight as Predator moves his head. Then it shoots plasma at variable blast powers to stun or explode you, or anything in between. Can also be unmounted and carried in the hand.

What else. Thermal vision? Yes please. I’ve always wanted this. I think it’s because I have glasses and am always looking for an ocular upgrade. This seems to be packaged as part of a “detect life forms” module, because we hear heartbeats when we see the hot bodies (huh huh huh huh). How do you cover your hammering heart with cold mud, Arnold? Oh, you work out so much your resting heartrate is 5? Okay then, sorry I asked.

Well it IS a module and it’s called the bio-mask. These masks allow Predator to see in thermal (infrared), health stats mode, or xenomorph mode. In a subsequent movie, we see a predator put a sample of a substance into his bracelet, ‘scuse me, Wrist Gauntlet, and have it update his bio-mask to highlight that substance, so the possibilities are kind of endless here. It’s kinda like the Sheikah sensor in BOTW.

And of course, how could we forget the ultimate universal translator. You would think a civilization that has such amazing technology would have better things to do. Or maybe that’s the point – they’ve achieved such a level of competence and efficiency that this is what they do to feel challenged and engaged.

There are a bunch more weapons and tools Predator has, and you can check them out on Xenopedia. I find that fandom websites are extremely useful for this sort of detail-oriented nit-pickiness.

Okay let’s talk about these dudes. They’re huge dudes. How do you get that many huge dudes to fit in one choppa? Well, they didn’t actually have to worry about how many would fit in the helicopter, turns out (huh huh huh huh). The reason they all look like action figures is because the characters’ looks are based on Sgt Rock comics. All you have to do is look at the covers and you’re like “yeah I get it.” It’s all machine guns and tank tops and punching. They’re DC comics, so I assume they’ll bring you down and leave you depressed. I did not read any as part of this episode’s research.


Supposedly the director, McTiernan was trying to be subversive. I don’t think a lot of it comes across, likely because of meddling on the part of others. He said that firing all those bullets into the jungle was supposed to be set up so that nothing was back there; hitting nothing was supposed to point out how “impotent” guns are (I don’t think that’s the argument we need), but a producer ended up changing it so there are bodies in there. I don’t know know it would have played differently – there are so many other extremely macho elements that this subtle dig probably would have gone unnoticed, but who knows. McTierney also directed Die Hard- and I still think of these movies – these two specific movies – as possibly the most stereotypically macho action movies ever made. If there’s any sneaky progressiveness or depth in here, I don’t see it. I love these movies – don’t get me wrong, but when I want to think deeply, they’re not my go to.

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

17. Blade

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

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:




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

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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!