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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Listening to Cursive's "Art is Hard" after watching vampire movies is surprising appropriate

Mostly because Cursive's The Ugly Organ gives us a view of the artist as vampire, sustaining himself on personal tragedy that "normal" people would try to bury. In fact, at one point in Shaw's Man and Superman, Tanner describes the artist as "half-vivisector, half-vampire" to would-be artist Octavius, since he'll leech off all the women he can both for artistic material and for support (financial and emotional) that will allow the artist to focus on his art alone.

An interesting thought, since vampires are traditionally presented as aesthetes (Dorian Grey also fits this trend). The sensuality of their life is seen as some sort of art in and of itself. In the romanticized, tragic formulation of the vampire, his "deep" suffering and ennui make the horror he inflicts on other people acceptable (I'm thinking of the conception of the vampire you get from modern day Goth). Compare this to the popular conception of the artist who inflicts every kind of horror on friends, family and business associates for the purpose of creating "art" (Vincent Minelli's The Bad and the Beautiful might not be the ultimate example of this, but it is one of the more persuasive). 

After all, vampires have no interest in families. At best, they have a place in their lives for their lost love, an idealized representation of their innocence. At worst, they have harems in place of love, groveling servants in place of friends. And don't get me started on the Tennessee Williams stuff that fills Brides of Dracula. A young vampire's best friend is not his mother.

The one exception I can think of right now is Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter. (SPOILER ALERT!) I would love to see Helen at CSB unpack the vampiric family it suggests (if it doesn't fulfill). Perhaps this is the kind of "parents as peers" scenario idealized, with the parents occupying (in appearance at least) a place in the child's cohort. On the other hand, the Durwards are following ancient family tradition and the scions bear an obligation to take care of their forebears. And while I am making fun of Helen's interests a little bit, I do think that Captain Kronos does present a fascinating, (somewhat) desexualized version of the vampire legend. This isn't the old Old World decadent seducing beautiful, moral young girls. This is the mother/wife looking after her family as her family tradition suggests. 

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