Jewish World Review Sept. 7, 2001 / 18 Elul, 5761

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

Boy Loses Girl, Boy Bites Girl, Boy Gets Girl -- AS common household pests I believe vampires pose less of a problem than, say, spiders. I might be more sanguine in my attitude, I admit, if faced with a vampire infestation After all, to de-bug a flat, you only need one bug sprayer. To remove the undead you need a fleet of exterminators-- exorcists, eccentric professors, stake-makers, stalwart young men with pure hearts, Buffy... Try to find a stalwart pure-heart in the Yellow Pages. One who makes housecalls? Forget about it.

So why are vampires so popular? America's had more movies about Vlad the Impaler's unholy progeny than Rumania itself, movies that seem to appeal to both men and women. For a woman, I guess, the idea that royalty (The Count) would want to sup from her democratic American veins is thrilling and flattering.

Then there's the exciting option of joining the vampire team. Think of that! Normal American janes hanging out with old money decadents in large gloomy castles at languid all-night Eurotrash parties!

Vampires never diet, never job hunt. They don't need roommates, day care, or healthy relationships. They just swoop down on the object of their desire, suck it dry, and move on. Throw in some hollow-eyed disciples to address them reverently as "Mistress of the Night," and you can see why so many American women say, "Wow! There's a unique career move!"

And men? We're problem-solvers. We identify with the stalwart heroes, bulging with vampire-destroying instruments: stakes, garlic, crosses, mirrors, holy water, etc. Guys always covet a fine set of tools. And don't forget, vampire slaying is a day job. It's not like destroying an alien in the dark bowels of a smelly spaceship. You don't have to shell out big bucks for silver bullets, and stay up late on full moon nights, as you must to bag a werewolf. Your sleep isn't disturbed, the way it is when you grapple with Freddy Kruger. You just stroll into the crypt, noon-ish, pop open that coffin, give a whack or two with the mallet, and knock off for lunch.

But if Dracula movies are an interface between boy and girl movies, what are boy and girl movies themselves? As a rule of thumb, women get pleasure out of seeing people eat on screen. Put the diners in fabulous outfits from another era, and you've got yourself a Masterpiece Theatre miniseries. (Come to think of it, even Dracula could be seen as a drama about food preparation.) Men, on the other hand, enjoy movies about unshaven undercover cops exchanging semi-automatic weapons fire with psychopaths in mob-owned bowling alleys.

Break it down this way. An elegantly dressed Edwardian couple having a picnic in a meadow is a girl movie. Two rumpled cops eating tacos as they track a space alien in an abandoned subway is a boy movie. Motes of dust playing in a stream of sunlight? Women. Beefy men in overcoats striding through swirls of smog? Men.

Sample dialogue includes, "I love you," "I love him," "I love her," and "I don't know what love is any more," for gals, and "I'm taking you off the street," "You're a dead man," "Ow,"and "I'm bleeding heavily!" for the fellas.

Locations? A warehouse, parking ramp, desert highway, casino, jungle, and post-apocalyptic wasteland are generic boy movie locales. For women, a kitchen, babbling brook, meadow, fabulous country estate, and fin de siecle Vienna are among the locations of choice.

Women can tolerate a horror movie about battling an ancient evil, if the ancient evil has really nice clothing. Guys, however, prefer an ancient evil that is scaly and drips green fluid. Again, Dracula moves from fop to slavering beast at the snap of a finger. Hence, more cross-gender appeal.

The ultimate boy movie? Reservoir Dogs, about a gang of horrible men dying in a warehouse. The ultimate girl movie? Enchanted April, about a gang of women lying around an Italian seaside villa. If the reservoir dogs had opened their hearts instead of opening fire, they might have had more inter-gender appeal. And if that villa had contained a scaly predator, more men might have made reservations.

But the real questions remain: If Dracula can't see himself in a mirror, how does he dress so well? If people don't like garlic on a pizza, are they undead? If vampires only come out at night, do they ever go bowling?

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Ian Shoales