Jon Sanders

Vampires are bloodsucking monsters that live forever but can be killed by sunlight. The impulse to compare them to out-of-control government is certainly understandable.

It's even more so if one knows from President Reagan that "governments' programs, once launched, never disappear ... a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth" and from Justice Brandeis that "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Government wants to drain us dry, and in the process it transforms more and more of its victims into thirsty beings who favor ever more bloodsucking. A new study by the Heritage Foundation made the disturbing discovery that the ranks of the Thirsty have grown by 23 percent in just the last two years.

Society's image of the vampire has changed. Back when the Soviet menace was spreading through Eastern Europe, Slavic-sounding bloodsucking fiends were a cinematic horror mainstay. Fictional treatments of vampires were many, and they mostly revolved around the dark allure of the creature to its victims and the overarching importance for society to kill it off.

The generation that came of age under Reagan and the downfall of the Soviet Union first cut their teeth on a vampire who enjoyed counting beeger and beeger numbers, vun by vun, like some deranged, befanged, undead Ebenezer, ah-ah-ah!

There was, however, that one vampire who gave us marshmallows in our cereal as "part" of a healthy breakfast. Rather than an anomaly, he was, alas, merely before his time.

After the Soviets collapsed into ash (per Reagan, "the ash-heap of history"), we reveled for a time in watching "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" obliterate the hapless hellions with a verve exhibiting everyday American individualism, irreverence and paradigm-breaking. Then the real world got scary again, and rather than continue to resist and dispatch the monster, we fell in love with it.

While a senator from the land of Lincoln promised hope and change and a new kind of government, "Twilight" hit the theaters in 2008 showing a new kind of vampire. This vampire sparkled in the sunlight, saved the heroine, listened to Debussy, and was moreover gorgeous and irresistible, if the subsequent (and nauseating) cultural phenomenon was any indication. His was the promise of the first post-plasma vampiricy.

The message of the new vampire is that he exists to cherish you, care for you, and even to save you from yourself and others. You don't fear this vampire; you dream about him, bite your lip fantasizing about him, till at last you marry him, and always, always beg him to turn you into a glittery redistributor of the blood supply. Ve are ze ninety-nine perzent, ah-ah-ah!

The final installment of this series will be in the theaters later in the year. Curiously, there is another vampire movie theatergoers are anticipating this year, one that will be both conventional and shockingly new.

What's conventional is that it restores the idea that you seek out and destroy the vampire menace before it takes over your country. What's new is the hero. He also comes from the land of Lincoln, but more than just that, he is Lincoln, titular hero of the forthcoming "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter."

What does all this mean, culturally speaking? I'm not sure exactly, but vampires are a bloody nuisance, and out-of-control government sucks.


Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.