Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Vampires, Vixens and Death from Above

Well, it's getting to be that time again, when heavenly shades of night begin to fall and teenaged girls count every second sweeping across the clock's face. Yes, on June 30, the new Twilight film hits the screen, unleashing a host of clandestine memes on an unsuspecting world. 

Memes so deeply hidden, I'd bet the farm that Stephenie Meyer- the cheerful Mormon housewife who is channeling all of this weirdness- is completely unaware of just how deep and strange that weirdness is. Or would I?

Ka-Hathor-Ein Heigl in Roswell

Some people have made note of the similarities between Twilight and the Roswell series. Some have pointed out that the scene in the first Twilight film in which Edward saves Bella from sudden death in the school parking lot matches a scene in the Roswell pilot concerning a gunman in a diner and a alien healing. However the scene in Roswell is a flatout ripoff of an X-Files episode, "Talitha Cumi."

A scene from the vampire-themed X-Files episode "3"

That episode in turn was which was continued in the fourth season premiere "Herrenvolk," which took its name from the German, meaning "master race." And that's exactly what the Cullens and their vampire chums all are- they are a hidden race of godmen and godwomen- superheroes, in a word. The only problem is that they need to drink blood to survive. The Cullens are "vegetarians," in that they only "feed" on the blood of livestock. The naughty vampires are the ones who "feed" on humans.*


When you start talking Roswell and The X-Files in relation to vampires, you can't help but think about the origin of the whole vampire mythos in general. In fact we see a lot of old folktales about beasties that feed on cows and sheep. From Monstropedia:

Evidence that a vampire was at work in the neighbourhood included death of cattle, sheep, relatives, neighbours, exhumed bodies being in a lifelike state with new growth of the fingernails or hair, or if the body was swelled up like a drum, or there was blood on the mouth and if the corpse had a ruddy complexion.
And strangely enough we have our own modern variants on the vampire, in the very real epidemic of cattle and livestock mutilation. The cause of this phenomena is controversial, but what is certain is that for the past forty years ranchers and farmers have been finding their livestock dismembered (using tools of unknown origin) and drained of blood. 

But what is truly shocking is that the BBC- arguably the most prestigious news organization in the world- is taking the topic seriously, even dropping the a-word in a recent story:
A Walsall man has told BBC WM that aliens and UFOs are responsible for a string of animal attacks in the UK.
Mike Freebury, a member of the Animal Pathology Field Unit, has investigated the mystery of 'cattle mutilations' for a number of years. The phenomenon, first reported in America in the 1970s, involves the unexplained deaths of rural animals. The bodies are often discovered with missing limbs and organs, removed with surgical precision. 
Mike says that the illegal attacks are also happening in Britain - and UFOs are responsible. "(UFOs are) often seen around the areas where mutilations are taking place. I think that the animal mutilations are possibly some sort of sampling programme being carried out by the entities that are propelling these crafts."

Others have theorized that aliens consume the blood and tissue or use for some restorative purpose. The first modern case of the phenomenon dates to 1967 and took place in Alamosa, Colorado:
Agnes King and her son Harry noted that Snippy..a three-year-old horse had not returned to the ranch...Harry found Snippy on September 9. Her head and neck had been skinned and defleshed, the bones were white and clean. To King, the cuts on Snippy seemed to have been very precise. There was no blood at the scene, according to Harry, and there was a strong medicinal odor in the air.
Another detail from the case brings us back to the X-Files mythology:
The next day, Harry and Agnes returned to the scene with Mr. and Mrs. Berle Lewis...(t)hey found a lump of skin and horse flesh; when Mrs. Lewis touched it, the flesh oozed a greenish fluid which burned her hand. They also reported the discovery of fifteen tapering, circular exhaust marks punched into the ground over some 5000 square yards.
I should probably mention that all of this drama took place right off of a Route 17 (surprise, surprise). Around the same time, similar events were being reported on the other side of the continent:
(In) The Mothman Prophecies, John Keel claims to have examined a number of slain dogs, cows and horses in the Point Pleasant, West Virginia area in 1966 and 1967. These animals, Keel writes, bore surgical-like incisions in their throats ... often the carcasses seemed drained of blood.

But the link between aliens and vampires is nothing new for geeks. We recently looked at the legacy of the late Frank Frazetta and an important of that legacy was the power his cover art lent to the great alien/vampire/superhero of the 70s, Vampirella, who came to Earth from the planet Drakulon.
  Vampirella might seem a little obscure to the mainstream, but was a geek favorite in her heyday (the less said about her 90s revival the better). Vampirella was published by Warren, who also published Creepy and Eerie

Their comics were soaked to the gills in the occult as well as sex and violence, so much so that I had to go across town to buy their comics (my local newsstand refused to stock them) and then be sure to hide them from my mother once I smuggled them home. But take one look at the Conjuress there, the alien goddess to whom Count Dracula prayed...

...whoever designed the costumes for The Queen of the Damned obviously had read an issue or two of Vampirella. That of course is Aaliyah, who died during the making of the film, joining Heath Ledger and Brandon Lee in the ranks of comic book movie stars who died before the films were released (QOTD was adapted for a comic before the movie), unleashing a host of conspiracy theories in her wake (this was the old USENET days, before celebrity conspiracy peddling became America's most lucrative hobby). One blogger even tied Jay-Z to the 'plot'.

  Queen of the Damned brings us back to the once and future Holy Land of Egypt, which again brings us back to Vampirella, who did the Egyptian vampire thing first.

Vampirella's origin was apparently rewritten at one point in which she was sent back in time and incarnated as Cleopatra. After doing battle with an evil sorcerer, no less than Amun-Ra appears and grants her eternal youth. The only catch that she's now a vampire. Or something.

We saw Egypt show up briefly in the first Twilight film (itself also filled with Route 17s) when Bella was researching the vampire phenomenon and wouldn't you just know it...

...Vampirella #17 rocked the Egyptian vampire meme and the werewolf meme (in "Death of a God" a classic Wally Wood story in which Anubis is a werewolf). 

What was the title of the cover story for #17?

I'll give you a hint. Let's not forget that we previously looked at the Egyptian vampire meme in light of The Hunger, which starred the man who fell to earth and sold the world himself, David "Bowman" Bowie...

I don't know how I could have forgotten one of the all-time greatest Hathors of the silver screen, the legendary Catherine Deneuve. It's hard to imagine a role more semiotically charged than her masterful portrayal of Miriam ("Beloved of Amun") Blaylock, the seductive, pansexual vampiress in The Hunger. 
You've got a story written by alien contactee Whitley Strieber about an ancient Egyptian queen whose backstory sounds very much like one of the Nephilim ("Miriam Blaylock is in Thailand, looking to find a mate at the Asian conclave of Keepers. She is a Keeper, and Keepers are vampires, ancient extraterrestrials who cultivated humans for sustenance"). You've also got occult initiate David Bowie, goth gods Bauhaus and one of the greatest love scenes in the history of cinema.
With the Mormon Church's most famous daughter taking vampires to the bank, we should remind ourselves that Egyptian and extraterrestrial memes are all over Mormonism itself, with alien planets like Kolob playing a major part in Joseph Smith's theology. Gods of Eden author William Bramley argues that Smith was in fact contacted by aliens not angels. 

Of course, Bramley argues that with all of the other religious figures as well. But does Meyer see her vampires as aliens? I don't know if Twilight fans have opinions on the issue. But it's worth noting that Meyer has a non-Twilight bestseller in her catalog- 2008's The Host, which is a chicklit spin on the alien possession conceit of the Heinlein classic, The Puppet Masters (see Silverberg's "Passengers" for a more prurient spin on the concept):

Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

When Melanie, one of the few remaining "wild" humans is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

Meyer is reportedly developing this theme into a series. I can't wait to see the first movie. 

  * My life's ambition to one day watch a vampire movie that doesn't have anyone saying "I thirst" or "I must feed." For that will be the day that I do not cringe.