25 November 2019
Monsters and the reasons why they exist have been a big topic in class lately as we have been discussing Monster Theory by Jeffery Jerome Cohen. Cohen is an English scholar that developed his seven monster theories of why monsters exist in our culture but also why our society needs the monsters we create in order for certain lessons to be taught. The theories all seem clear when looking at the most infamous monsters like thoughts along the lines of: we as a society secretly want to be the monster, the monster embodies the societal outcasts/concerns of the times, the monster is on the brink of the impossible or fantasy and even the thought that the monsters are always elusive and masters of escape as much as they are outcast they are also more than us as humans. The infamous monsters I choose to go into a deeper dive are Vampires but with a focus on a different take than the traditional creepy night stalker who instills horror in the minds ands souls of its victims. The version I choose to focus on a bit more closely on was the way the creature is portrayed ion the show What We Do in the Shadowscreated by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi because of its rich satire but also light heartedness. Instead of the characters being scary or menacing, although they attempt to be, they are sarcastic and honestly seem a bit more like people dressed up in cosplay heading to a Halloween party or comic con. In a era of television where it seems everything is either a cop show, superhero type show, and everybody’s favorite the reality TV shows; The show is a fresh taste of simple sarcastic comedy which last thirty minutes.
What We Do in the Shadows is a tale of three vampires, well four really but the fourth is an “energy vampire”, from Staten Island that have been roommates for hundreds of years and a more recent roommate their “familiar” or better thought of as one of the vampire’s ‘assistants’. The first three are as we traditionally think of them, one being an Ottoman empire war-monger from the twelfth century who was once known as Nandor the Relentless for being especially gruesome when it came to conquering his lands but now is more like a team mom creating party themes for when the have esteemed guest. The other two ‘traditional’ vampires are an eighteenth century partier from England named Lazlo and his partner through eternity Nadja who is a master seductress and looks pretty much like what you would imagine a seductress vampire to be and look like. There is technically a fourth vampire named Colin Robinson but he is what the call an “energy vampire” and instead of only be restricted to the dark and sucking blood, he can walk around during the day like a normal person but he lives by sucking the energy out of people by boring the energy out of them. The last main character is what they call a “familiar” or pretty much Nandor’s personal assistant named Guillermo who chooses to stay loyal to his eternal roommates on the notion that after some time they will make him into a fellow vampire.
The show does like to play on the classic vampire stereotypes with the likes of bat transformation, bursting into flames when the sun hits them, an aspiration for world domination, or even the classic one where there is a medieval vampire order and even levels or a vampire council that vampires answer too. These ideas allude or stereotypes abut how we as an audience perceive vampires are direct connection the monster theories like number two with their ability to morph into a bat and fly away so they can escape from danger. In the show they although they do use that ability in times of fleeing danger the characters mainly use it for easier transportation. The bursting into flames would relate to number one with the vampires being created from cultural bodies of ungodliness, they become these restricted beings of darkness and because light is always seen as holiness they can not be touching or be anywhere that’s holy. The aspiration for world domination comes from number three with the order bring category crisis and the vampire council itself being number seven and knowing that these secret societies that hold these dangerous or radical ideas we know exist but we try to pretend do not exist because we rather not think about the darkness them and their ideas bring. Even the characters stand for some theories number six with Guillermo giving is life to be a vampire’s slave in the return of a loose promise that he will be bitten ad turned into a vampire himself because he has always dreamed of being a vampire.
The show is a new show that only has one season under its belt but it was renewed for a season two about mid-way through its first due to its excellent writing but also fresh content. As LA Times TV critic Lorraine Ali puts it,”The 30-minute episodes are refreshingly self-contained so viewers don’t have to add more mental notes in their already-crowded Prime TV memory bank.” That’s one of the best aspects of the show that it does not have to try and compete with all these complex dramas that make viewers have to be up to date with all the episodes to follow along with the current one. What We Do in the Shadowsdoes refer to previous episodes but nothing to the point where it interrupts the current episode. With antics in the episodes like the crew wanting to taste pizza because after awhile they get tired of tasting sad blood, and with an eternity to go why does it hurt, besides immediately violently vomiting. Another reason the show sets itself apart from other vampire inspired shows is that they are not trying the modern take of vampires that look like models and have pale skin with weird family problems. They still dress like they did from when they were first transformed in 2019 Staten Island and since they only go out at night, most fellow New Yorkers just tend to ignore their out of touch nature with modern times and assume they’re just another cosplay group. That’s what makes the show all the more funny is because with all the reasons for them to be frightening and menacing, they are actually more on the awkward side and just seem like a weird group of friends.
The show really takes on the theory of wanting to be the monster because it makes looking like a vampire is actually not so easy and actually really funny rather in comparison to the vampires in the Lost Boys or even Twilight series. They are still trying to appear menacing with powers like turning into a bat or hypnotism but most of the time they just seem like outcast that just don’t like people. Although only having the one season on FX, the show was renewed for a second in which their antics will continue to grow and play on old traditional vampire stereotypes like they did all throughout the first.
Annotated Works Cited
Ali, Lorraine. “Review: FX’s ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Draws Hilarity from Vampires in Staten Island.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 27 Mar. 2019, www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-what-we-do-in-the-shadows-feature-review-20190327-story.html.
-I used this review because it’s a direct interview with the shows creators and gives you a great insight in why they created the show and how they want their viewers to perceive it.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1996. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsq4d. Accessed 26 Nov. 2019.
– This was the seven monster theories that guided the prompt for our evaluations. It helps relate to the reasons why monsters are who they are and why they were created or why they have the rules around them that they do.
D’Addario, Daniel. “TV Review: FX’s ‘What We Do in the Shadows’.” Variety, 25 Mar. 2019, variety.com/2019/tv/reviews/what-we-do-in-the-shadows-review-fx-1203156103/.
-This evalution focused more on what a “mockumentary” and how shows likeThe Office and Parks and Recmade the genre popular among pop culture. The way that What We Do in the Shadowsis made like a mockumentary with the main characters giving interviews but the show is not serious by any nature.
Karg, Barbara, et al. The Everything Vampire Book : from Vlad the Impaler to the Vampire Lestat : a History of Vampires in Literature, Film, and Legend. Adams Media, 2009.
-This book helped explain some of the history and just a general explanation on all the different types of TV and movie Vampires. Also reasons as to why some of the restrictions are put on vampires and how they were created.
Radford, Benjamin. “Vampires: Fact, Fiction and Folklore.” LiveScience, Purch, 23 Oct. 2014, www.livescience.com/24374-vampires-real-history.html.
-This was another source that helped me with some of the life science behind vampires and the folklores that started them off.