Monday, August 1, 2011

Hey, Brian McGreevy: Vampire Pam beats Don Draper any day

How much gender fail and homophobia can one pack into a brief online essay? Screenwriter Brian McGreevy takes a break from doing keg stands at the frat house to show us. In a guest blog for Vulture, McGreevy, who is currently adapting Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Warner Bros., complains that modern vampire books, film and TV shows have “taken the Romantic vampire and cut off his balls, leaving a pallid emo pansy with the gaseous pretentiousness of a perfume commercial.”

*side eye*

The problem, according to McGreevy, is “the female gaze.” It has given us vampire stories that are mere “pornography for tweens.”
Just as the Frito-Lay Company has created virtually nutrient-free vehicles of corn syrup and salt that make our youth fat, slow, and indiscriminate, the Castrati vampire is a confection that has the same impact on the psycho-dramatic imagination of today’s youth. Think of the message here: What is the consequence of falling in with a Romantic vampire? Death, either yours or his. What is the consequence of falling in with the Castrati vampire? Long and torturous (at least to everyone around you) conversations about feelings. This is not what really happens when you fall in with attractive monsters.
McGreevy isn’t feeling Stephanie Meyer’s sparkling undead abstaining teens. But he has equal disdain for the sexed up vamps on True Blood, which, in his words, is “like Tennessee Williams fucked The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” See, blood suckers should be real men “ideal men” like Mad Men’s Don Draper.


Yes, McGreevy reckons Don Draper is a far better vampire than any of Twilight’s or True Blood’s.
Of course I refer to Don Draper on the AMC series Mad Men, the purist’s vampire of choice for our time. This one has teeth. And adding an extra layer to the mystique is his position as an advertising executive. A more elegant embodiment of the metaphor could hardly be asked for: He is an engine of want, creating the illusion of fulfillment while sucking you dry. No is not in his vocabulary. Neither is yes — yes is implicit. He knows this, he is past needing to hear you say it. He knows the private and unmentionable place that cries "yes" when the bottom drops out of an amusement park ride and suddenly you are in free fall, and, like the ideal man, he is listening.
When Mad Men first premiered, much of its appeal was attributed to novelty factor: What a different time it was, when the American male was an unrecognizable breed of scandalous, id-driven malefactor; heedless, rapacious, just waiting to slide off his doe-eyed secretary’s pencil skirt and show off his executive account.

Men are predators at heart. Any refutation of this is also a refutation of evolution, or the common sense conclusion of observing a typical 3-year-old boy at unstructured play, his wake of destruction the envy of a Visigoth. It is a killer’s heart that is the motive force of masculinity and predation its spirit. This is not to suggest nature is immutable, or that one ought to act in blind obeisance to it, but that “ought” is not in the vocabulary of want, and choosing is meant to have consequences.
Vampires should be real ideal men. Ideal men are amoral. Ideal men kill and destroy things. Ideal men don’t think; they do. Ideal men don’t take “no” for an answer, especially from women. Ideal men are always rampaging heterosexuals, by the way. We can’t argue with this. McGreevy says it’s evolution.

Of course, if Mad Men is any indication, sometimes, under the weight of all those expectations to be sufficiently rapacious and manly, ideal men become sad, functional alcoholics, living in dim and depressing walk-up apartments, alienated from their children, following the dissolution of their soul-destroying marriages to beautiful “house cats.” Or maybe, like Roger Sterling, who McGreevy quotes to close his piece, ideal men become aging party boys, useless but for a last name that once held some power, and trapped in wedlock with the doe-eyed secretary, who, it turns out, wasn’t such a good idea after all.

There is so much wrong with McGreevy’s diatribe that it is hard to know where to start. Let me identify a few problems:

A person who is working on an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula really ought to have a better understanding of vampirology. McGreevy’s pet version of the vampire is but one of many incarnations. The idea of the vampire can be found all over the world and there is little agreement on what these mythical creatures are like. For instance, Nosferatu, the mother of all vampire films, released in the 1920s, reveals a ratlike creature more monster than man. The idea that Bram Stoker’s is the definitive vampire and that Twilight and True Blood are some affront to the canon is silly--even sillier for someone who is adapting the Stoker story for Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m not sure about the casting for this project, but DiCaprio better not be playing the Count. He’s not fit to carry Gary Oldman’s bat makeup:

McGreevy also conveniently forgets Anne Rice’s vampires. Lestat was in love with Louis, could wear the hell out of some breeches and was also dangerous as fuck. If, as McGreevy states, vampires are stand ins for the ideal man, it’s good to remember that some real men don’t wear tailored suits or chase skirt.

It’s a ridiculous notion, anyway--this “ideal man” business. It’s a good thing that we as a society, save McGreevy, Scott Adams and possibly some members of the men’s rights movement, are letting go of it. Women have undoubtedly been oppressed by the culture of manly manness, but the thing is, so have men--a lot of good men who don’t fit McGreevy’s paradigm. And I would venture to say that most men don’t. And thank goodness for that.

And since when are all vampires MEN? One doesn’t need a penis to be a deadly creature of the night. Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger? Deadly little Claudia in the Rice series? Stoker’s Brides of Dracula and Lucy Westenra? And True Blood’s Pam? Pam would eat Don Draper for lunch. Literally.

To use Lafayette’s vernacular, here’s what I’m putting down: McGreevy’s thoughts on vampires, manliness and gender roles? Hot buttered horsepucky. All of it. If the writer is bringing this sort of regressive ridiculousness to his screenplay, then his version of Stoker’s Dracula is one I can surely miss.

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