When I was kid, many TV shows and films at the cinema were Westerns, and to this day I cannot think of family entertainment without thinking of horses and cattle. Sometimes I moo just to get into a G-rated frame of mind.
These were fine shows featuring good, clean violence in between shots of cows and sagebrush. They were based on the premise that Americans looked back fondly on an era when shooting people was a popular pastime and did not involve the ACLU afterward.
Eventually, the old TV shows like "Gunsmoke" and "The Lone Ranger," as well as the great Western films, had to mosey off into the sunset to make way for changing popular tastes. It was sad really, especially at the retirement stables where old horses chewed their hay and made snide snorts about that show-off Silver.
Today, it is vampires that have sunk their fangs thoroughly into the culture. I reckon they are just a pain in the neck. Why, it is not safe to ride off into the sunset anymore, because that is the hour when vampires go to work.
It is a horrible to realize that the economy is tanking but vampires are the one growth industry. Everywhere you look — TV, movies, books — the vampires are slurping away when anyone sticks his neck out. Once more the old rule is proved: Distressed times bring the bloodsuckers out.
On HBO, a series called "True Blood" has vampires integrated into the community thanks to a Japanese scientist’s invention of synthetic blood — and, by the way, thanks, what’s next, a makeover for Godzilla? It is rumored that the Obama administration will appoint one of these vampires to head the IRS, but that may be just the usual right-wing chatter.
The new movie "Twilight," which opens Friday, is expected to be a monster hit. Based on books popular with young women who dream of going beyond hickeys in their embrace of new-age necking, it stars Robert Pattinson as a super handsome vampire.
As the premature onset of winter has turned everybody’s blood cold, it is as good a time as any to ponder this fascination with vampires.
What concerns me is that the public knows so little about vampires. This is where I can help, by sifting through all the material to answer the questions that Concerned Readers have sent me, or would have if they were concerned enough.
— Do vampires sleep all day? Of course not. It’s not as if they work for the government. They do get busy after sunset, but that’s only because most of them live in New York City or Las Vegas, places where the party never stops.
— But isn’t the sun fatal to them? Not if they use a sun block with a SPF rating of 45 or above.
— Do they go to the dentist? How do I know that I won’t be sitting next to one in the waiting room? With their long fangs, vampires do need sympathetic dentists to help keep their teeth filed to the proper level of sharpness. If you are sitting in the waiting area and instead of seeing an old copy of "Better Homes and Gardens," see the manuscript edition of "Better Castles and Moats," get the heck out of there.
— Are vampires unionized? In earlier times, vampires belonged to medieval guilds, the precursors of trade unions, but with the coming of the modern corporate world they soon realized the bloodsucking is better suited to management.
— What are the political leanings of vampires? On one hand they are heartless beings with undead thoughts, which would make them natural conservatives. On the other, they are bloodsuckers who are apt to get carried away and confuse a wallet with a neck in the dark of night and therefore more liberal in their tendencies. The truth is they are independents.
— Is it true that they can only be killed by driving a stake through their hearts? No, a stake-ectomy is not required. If the vampire is tied securely to a chair, he will expire as well if made to listen to a public television fund drive or Pat Robertson on "The 700 Club."
— How come women find vampires so darn attractive? Beats me. You’d think a good beer gut on a man would be just as alluring in the moonlight.
I hope this helps you understand vampires better. For my part, I just wish Chester were still around so he could summon Mr. Dillon and the marshal could shoot a hole in all this vampire enthusiasm.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com.)