In sixth grade my friend, Eugenia, introduced me to Dark Shadows, a soap opera that was on television from 3:00 – 3:30 in our hometown. We’d rush out of school and run to her house which was a few blocks closer to school than mine was. She’d switch on the TV and we’d be immersed in the lives of the Collins family of Collinwood in Collinsport, Maine. This wasn’t any normal soap opera. Not only was it very Gothic, it also featured vampires, ghosts, werewolves, and a slew of other preternatural creatures. Time travel was also involved.
I loved this series and thanks to it, developed an obsession for vampires. Barnabas Collins, the main vampire of the series, was such a likable character, it made vampires seem like simply misunderstood entities. I’d always had a fear of things that went bump in the night, but after getting to know Barnabas I felt that my affinity towards him would protect me from any nighttime creatures that were out to harm me.
I did, however, lose a couple of opportunities because of my Dark Shadows obsession. Girl Scouts met after school once a week and I never went after I began watching Dark Shadows. I heard that the troop was going camping and wanted to go, but was told that since I never showed up for a meeting, I was not allowed to go camping. It would have been my first camping trip. I also missed having my sixth grade teacher write something on an award my last day of class. I handed her my only award — a certificate of my involvement in the school safety patrol — and she began writing on it, but was distracted. I couldn’t wait for her to finish her note, so grabbed my award and ran home to watch Dark Shadows.
I read a couple of books and saw the two movies based on the series, and I read one or two trash novels about vampires. I bought a 45 of some music from the series. Side A was #1 at the Blue Whale. I’d forgotten what side B was, but I found it on YouTube — Quentin’s Theme. I carved a symbol I’d created on an upper limb of my climbing tree and on the dryer vent of my parent’s house. To this day, my father reminds me of that symbol and claims it is still there, etched into the metal. I’ll have to check it next time I’m in Elgin.
After a while, I graduated to more literate and cinematic references of vampires. I read Dracula in the 7th grade (my first real grown-up novel) and watched the old, classic vampire (and other creature) films on the late, late show while babysitting.
I finally grew out of my vampire craze, but — as with all strong obsessions — I never completely lost the interest. It remained there, in the back of my head (or heart) and would occasionally surface. I watched a few episodes of the ill-fated remake of Dark Shadows in the For a while the Sci-Fi Channel showed the original Dark Shadows series, which I watched when I remembered, which was not often. I read a few of the Anne Rice vampire books, and found them interesting.
Recently, however, there have been a few things that have made me recall my “vampire years”. The first was having heard about a series of young adult novels about a girl in love with a vampire in Washington State. I bought the first book, Twilight, and read a few chapters. I found it interesting and fun. Then Clare picked it up, began reading it, and declared it poorly written with a typical “Mary Sue” protagonist. It kind of put me off the book, so I never finished it, nor was interested in seeing the movie based on it.
Then I heard about True Blood. At first I thought, it couldn’t be that interesting. I never got into the Buffy the Vampire slayer camp (of course — vampires were the bad guys!) But when I learned that Alan Ball was behind the series, I had to try it. I loved Six Feet Under and American Beauty
So, I watched the pilot. I liked the idea of vampires “coming out of the coffin” and demanding civil rights. I didn’t like the graphic and sometimes violent sex scenes. Then I watched the second episode and was hooked. The sex scenes were less violent and there were fewer of them, but the story really interested me. I liked the characters of Sookie and her grandmother. I like the awkwardness of vampire Bill. I even like the character of Sookie’s bad-boy brother Jason. Sookie’s friend, Tara makes me laugh and who cannot love Layfayette?
So, it’s back to watching vampires on television. I’ve even put some Dark Shadows DVDs on my Netflix list and am counting the days until the Tim Burton Dark Shadows (starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins) project is relased in 2010. I’ve come full circle, except this time I don’t have to miss Girl Scouts to watch it.