Monday, June 25, 2012

Radical Socialism: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter & the Question Of American History

Much to my great disappointment, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is a thoroughly socialist film, even more so than the book was. Harnessing any anti-capitalist resentment, the film seeks to make the audience identify with slaves and identify our employers with vampires. What the film does and does not do are very important in this election year, so let's carefully examine the basis of the socialist vocabulary and how they are re-writing American history to make their point. First, how do we know this is a socialist/anti-capitalist film?
This post builds on an earlier post reviewing the book upon which the film is based, What Is 'Freedom?': Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and I see the film as being even more socialist than the book. I am so deeply disappointed, there was so much hope that this could have been a great film that my heart is really broken. If I lapse into angry observations, please forgive me, but this is a particularly emotional review for me to have to do and I hope I never have to do a similar one. As stated in the book review, I am completely willing to suspend my disbelief about vampires--they are an important artistic tool and I have given great attention to them on this blog, beginning with an interpretation of Bram Stoker's novel, For the Dead Travel Fast: Dracula and how very important they have been to expressing social ills.
To begin with, the very first vampire we see (and we know he is because it's decades before the Civil War and this man wears dark sunglasses so they are out of place for the time period) is beating a young black slave Will (Anthony Mackie) who will become Abraham Lincoln's (Benjamin Walker) main assistant in bringing down vampires and we are to see President Obama in Will Johnson's person. The first vampire is a slave holder and it's this relationship of  "oppression" and "freedom" which the entire film depends and basis its interpretation of history upon.
Lincoln at the tombstone of his mother, Nancy Hanks who died in 1818; her marker reads, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" and this is an attempt to make Christians believe that capitalists cannot be Christians because Judas selling Christ for 30 pieces of silver was a capitalist transaction.... Socialists, however, can only see things in material terms, not spiritual ones, so I could write an entire post just on this one point, but it's a way of confusing people about who will give them freedom of religion, the capitalists who let you worship freely, or the socialists who will "free" you from religion. While Lincoln's mother did die in 1818, did anything else happen then? Karl Marx, the "father" of socialism was born and Lincoln being "born" into vampire hunting and the "culture" of vampires is deliberately meant to tie the two of them together. The opening quote from Genesis 17:5 is God calling Abraham the Patriarch to be the father of a multitude, and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter is saying that Abraham Lincoln is the father of socialism in America and we are his descendants just like in the George Clooney film, The Descendants. Barts is owed money by Abraham's father and when he refuses to pay Barts what he owes him, Barts says, "There are other ways to collect a debt." The linking of a debt to vampires and capitalism is interesting since it's Obama who has run up the debt so much in America and this suggests that Obama should, like Abraham's father, default on the debt because it's a purely capitalistic, hence, corrupt institution. Mrs. Lincoln dies because Barts drains her of her blood and the film suggests that its paying the debt that is killing America, not the money spent that is killing the economy.
Secondly, there is no one who is poor that is also a vampire, the poor are always the victims of the vampires, especially the slaves, whom the film makers want the audience to identify with (if some of the poor were also vampires, we could take "vampirism" to be a social malaise, or corrupt politicians, or any thing else, but because it's only the rich and powerful who are vampires, it specifically targets the "rich and powerful" in America which Obama himself does).
I believe this is the banker vampire that Henry (Dominic Cooper) has Abraham kill. Please note the mouth; it seems ridiculous to ask you to notice the mouth of a vampire, because we generally know a vampire by two things, their eyes (blackened or red, something "unnatural" showing that the soul has been thoroughly corrupted) and then their mouths, which have the extended teeth for puncturing the skin of victims and opening the veins to get to the blood. In this context, however, the mouth symbolizes the appetites for luxury goods and wealth; this is juxtaposed to the glamorous world of Mary Todd  (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) that Lincoln is too poor to enter into and the wealth of the vampire slaveholders (more on her and her standing on the that below).
Thirdly, Lincoln, after he has killed many vampires, writes in his journal, "Pharmacists, innkeepers, parsons and blacksmiths, it's more than one man can bear," referring to the occupations in which the vampires were employed when Lincoln killed them. Anyone, including Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) who employs even one person, is a vampire, not just the "1%" that Occupy Wall Street movements claimed they were targeting, the billionaires. That's how the film is even more radical than anything we have seen heretofore, because that's more like the Bolshevik October Revolution that transformed Russia into the Soviet Union, rather than the French Revolution which did away with the upper class. 
Lincoln and Henry in a bar. Why can't a vampire kill another vampire? The film makes it out to be God's joke, that only the living can kill the dead, meaning that only those who believe in socialism are alive and can kill capitalists, because capitalists stick together, like we saw in Madagascar 3 when Vitaly the tiger calls abandoning Alex the lion "Bolshevik," because two capitalists trying to destroy each other would burn through their money to do it, hence, not being capitalists anymore but the poor.... I didn't make the movie.
But the smallest business people are being targeted as vampires, people who might not even think of themselves as "being in business," but in another field, such as a pharmacist, who would probably consider himself in the medical field; because of Obamacare, however, the pharmacist is not a pharmacist, the pharmacist is a vampire capitalist feeding off of people instead of helping to make them better. Similarly, the parson, a church leader, because of the infamous phrase of "religion being the opium of the masses," is "selling" opium to the people and making a vampiric living off his congregation because socialism is the only "truth" and there is no God in socialism, only the state.
This shot depicts the moment when Adam kills Henry's wife and then turns Henry into a vampire. Please note the road behind him and the carriage on the side of the road as these are the important symbols to understanding the "socialist interpretation" of American history. This is an important scene because Adam tells Henry what it means to be a vampire and specifically thet silver destroys a vampire because Judas received 30 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus to the Jews. Christians have a very definite theology in understanding that "transaction," specifically going back to the Old Testament and Joseph being sold by his brothers for 20 pieces of silver. But more importantly--and validating the referece to Adam as Adam Smith--is the reference to another economic theory being "fed" to the audience in this scene: The Judas Economy: The Triumph Of Capital & the Betrayal of Work by William Wolman and Anne Colamosca. Wolman is the chief economist for Business Week.
The fourth and last reason I am going to discuss about identifying the film as anti-capitalist and pro-socialist is Adam (Rufus Sewell), the vampire from whom all the others were made. No, he doesn't refer to that Adam of the Garden of Eden, although the film attempts to lay a Christian foundation we will discuss more below, rather, Adam the vampire is really, . . .  Adam Smith author of The Wealth Of Nations, the classic economics textbook which lays out the foundations of successful free markets and capitalism and makes the case that these two elements are more beneficial for societies and individuals. "Adam, from whom all others come," as Henry says, is Adam Smith who created all other capitalists, specifically in America.
Adam with the blood of both Henry and his wife upon his face. The pale skin, the bursting veins and bloodshot, glassy eyes (not particularly evident in this shot, but they are in the film) are all traits of capitalism. Pale skin because it resembles a corpse because capitalism is a "dead" economic theory that has to be kept alive artificially (the blood of others). The veins are bursting because it's being swollen with the new blood and that is also an artificial state of being, our natural veins never pop like that. The eyes being glassy and bloodshot is symbolic of how capitalists see things: everything is dead to capitalists (like slaves who "aren't real people but slaves") but the blood that keeps vampires going is what they "look for" (see with the eye of opportunity).
Adam is an imperative character in the film because he's the figure, more so than Abraham Lincoln, that begs for an interpretation and understanding. When Henry describes how he himself was turned into a vampire, he was on the road with his wife and their carriage stops and she says that just because the carriage has stopped doesn't mean that they need to, but Henry wants to kiss her so they stop just as Henry sees a group riding up on the road towards them (he probably doesn't realize they are vampires at this time) and Henry tells his wife to take a gun and the carriage and get out of there, he is going to stay to fight off the potential attackers. As Henry becomes overwhelmed by the vampires, however, his wife has turned back to help Henry and Adam drains her of blood after turning Henry into a vampire. What does it all mean?
This is the abandoned Atlanta plantation in which Adam and his sister Vadoma. First, they are at the bottom of the staircase, and a staircase always symbolizes an ability to "rise to a higher level" and that is meant in terms of spiritual contemplation and self-reflection. That Adam and Vadoma sit at the bottom of the stairs shows they are intent at remaining "at the bottom," that is, the region of the appetites, not the region of greater thought and virtue. What Vadoma symbolizes will be discussed below, but what her name means is very interesting and a real slap to capitalists. Vadoma refers to a tribe in Zimbabwe in Africa, and they have a particular defect in their gene pool resulting in "claw feet" because of deformity of the toes. Interestingly, this makes it easier for those with the clawed feet to climb trees; how does this fit in? The climbing of the social ladder that capitalism symbolizes and makes desirable.
The road Henry and his wife were on is the road of destiny, the "path of life." Henry symbolizes early Americans and his wife symbolizes early America (just as immigrants came to America to a new life, a woman's body gives "new life" because she can give birth). The carriage "stopping" is the engine of the economy and the vehicle of what makes the country "run" (as in work and produce). She says that just because the carriage has stopped doesn't mean that we have to, and that is a reference to us today, that the economy has stopped but she wants to continue on with capitalism (please remember a similar instance in the socialist film The Descendants when Elizabeth is in a coma because she "stopped" so the country has to switch from a capitalist system to a socialist one, because capitalism doesn't work anymore; the film reasons, although it's not reason to me). The vampires coming are capitalists, and turning Henry into a capitalist (i.e., a vampire) is turning the population of America into capitalists.
This is just after the "ball" Adam throws to get Lincoln to come and save Will, being held by bounty hunters in the background, Adam wants to see how good Abraham is at vampire hunting to turn Abraham against Henry and have Abraham kill Henry instead of Adam. What saves Abraham and Will in this scene is Joshua driving a carriage through the window so they can escape, symbolically, the window is "reflection" and the carriage is the economy so the economic crash of today (2008) is the reflection that we the viewers need of save the father of socialism in America from the capitalists.
After draining Henry's wife, Adam tells him that she was pure, but Henry isn't. America was a pure land, in other words, a land that didn't have an economic system all ready in place, but Henry's impurity, his own capitalist tendencies (wanting to stop with his wife and kiss her is being linked to "taking advantage" of the abundance of America for Henry's own gain and greed) is what makes Henry a blood-sucking vampire regardless of whether Adam turned him into one or not. The irony is, Henry tells Abraham that he is not the only one who has "lost everything to vampires"; the emphasis is on what Americans have lost, not on what we have gained from being capitalists.
Vadoma using her cape as a weapon because she's going to try and "blind" Abraham with luxury and wealthy living as she will later kill Abraham's son with the bite of living in the White House.
Let's take a minute to examine Vadoma. As the beautiful sister of Adam, she symbolizes glamor because she is a dead woman that cannot give life (like Henry's wife or Mary Todd). In the scene pictured just above, she is using a cloak or cape with which to "blind" Abraham so he can't see her and she can defeat him; according to socialists, and I agree with this to a degree, the glamor of material wealth is deadly, it can kill people and that's why Vadoma is the one who kills Abraham's son, little Willie: Willie, even at his tender young age, according to the film, has been "bitten" by the luxury of life in the White House and so he's all ready dead. In the scene taking place above, Vadoma uses her skills to try and blind Abraham but he won't be blinded by wealth and fancy living. Vadoma wears purple, the color traditionally associated with a harlot or whore because purple was the most expensive dye for clothing to produce and only the very, very rich could afford it, suggesting that they had prostituted themselves to worldly living to have luxury goods.
Vadoma has won the fight and has pinned Abraham to the floor, giving him the choice of killing Henry or Adam will turn Abraham into a vampire and spoon feed the blood of Will to him for his first meal. What does this mean? Voters today are being "pinned" by the Republicans to kill the rich-socialists (like producer Tim Burton, writer Seth Grahame-Smith and director Timur, Obama backers Oprah Winfrey and other rich contributors) because if they don't the capitalists will destroy Obama (Will Johnson) and feed his blood to the voters... okay. It is a scenario for voters to overthrow the president and his "group" and willingly enter into "capitalist slavery" and, like the vampires, live off the blood of others.
What about Mary Todd? The film makes it clear that she is from the upper-class by the way she dresses and her family's means; when we see her in the White House, however, she is wearing a far, simpler, less ornate dress than when she was younger; why? Other critics have complained about a scene that doesn't make sense to them, but it makes perfect sense to me, in as far as socialist logic can be logic. Mary wants to kiss Abraham but he's too tall so she removes his top hat and stands upon it, lifting her up to kiss him. The hat symbolizes his thoughts (because it's apart of the head, the governing part of the body) and Mary uses his ideals to "lift herself up" to be worthy of him, meaning, she abandons her class and social standing to be a socialist.
The moment of the Gettysburg address is really turned upside-down to become a socialist platform. As I stated in the beginning, the film wants the viewers to identify with the slaves because anyone who works for an employer is "enslaved" to them just as the blacks were enslaved to the Southern plantation owners. Again, anyone employing even one person is a vampire, whether that be a babysitter, the person who mows the lawn or a 100 people to run your own company, you are a vampire living off their blood which symbolizes their labor. In the film, the Gettysburg address isn't about those who died on the battlefield, but about Americans today who have left the work to do in over throwing the economy and turning America into a socialist society instead of a capitalist one.
There are two balls held, one by Mary and the other Adam. Abraham complains about going in a rented shop keeper's suit to Mary's ball, and talks about the two of them bettering themselves, her by a marriage to a successful husband, and Abraham by studying the law (it's clear in the Todd ball that Abraham is uncomfortable there) then Abraham goes to Adam's ball where there are slaves dancing with vampires who then suddenly transform and feed on the slaves. The balls are intentionally meant to mirror each other that everyone at the Todd ball is feeding off the less affluent like Abraham; his "rented suit" symbolizes that he doesn't believe in the identity of capitalism (being a shopkeeper) but he has to. This brings us to the shopkeeper, Joshua Speed.
Why do Abraham and Will escape death by the hands of a vampire, but Joshua does not? He's a shopkeeper and hence, like Henry, isn't pure. When Will returns north and comes to see Abraham at the shop, Abraham is leaving to help Will get papers he needs since he is an escaped slave and Joshua makes the comment that the store won't run itself; this is the reason why Joshua gets bitten by Adam, because Joshua is "all ready bitten" by running a business and turning a profit. The great irony is, Adam Smith's other work was The Theory of Moral Sentiments, tells us that we have to be interested in the welfare of others or our self-interests won't prosper. In other words, if Joshua was really a good capitalist, instead of a lazy, mediocre one, he would be interested in Will's predicament and that would actually benefit Joshua just as letting Abraham room with him is to Joshua's benefit. If we were better capitalists, in still other words, then socialists, like vampires, wouldn't be able to show their face in the light of day because there would be no one to listen to their complaints; it's because we have been such bad capitalists that we are now at risk for becoming socialists and the answer to our problems, ironically, is to more fully embrace capitalism the way it was meant to be practiced (as is evidenced by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in The Avengers
The bridge burning scene where Henry uses his body to save Abraham and Will, in other words, the burning bridge between capitalism and socialism will have to be paved with the bodies of the rich and vampires in order for the poor and virtuous to make it to safety.
There are important questions being asked of voters this November: what is "freedom," "oppression," and the very history of the United States? The film states, on the one hand, that it was vampires who came to the New World and through conquest and disease, destroyed the natives who lived here; then, when Lincoln talks, he brings up issues "upon which this country was founded" which includes the very principles that he is trying to eradicate (capitalism). Either the country was founded to be a socialist state, or it was founded to be a capitalist one, and there is simply no evidence, either in history or provided by the film, that America was intended to be a socialist country, but it still wants you to believe that. Never has America been so ignorant of its past and never has it matter so much.
We have to ask ourselves this question: did our ancestors come to this country to establish a socialist state? They could have. They easily could have, by determining local laws and their customs, they could have made us a socialist state superior to any other model. So why didn't they? Because they never had any intentions of doing so! You hear about the Whiskey Rebellion, but you don't hear about entitlement rebellions, do you? Where are those early socialists the Left wants you to believe existed? The Left, once again, just like in The Hunger Games, is taking cheap shots at capitalism but it can't show audiences a viable, pleasing socialist state because it doesn't exist; they have to take capitalist and Republican heroes like Abraham Lincoln and turn him into one of theirs because who else are they going to show to Americans as a socialist hero, Fidel Castro? Mao? Lenin? Hitler? Mussolini? Stalin? Kim Jong-II? Pol Pot?
The film encapsulates all the problems of socialism itself and primarily by mis-using words and re-writing American history in a way that it simply didn't happen. The political debates are getting nowhere, mainly because Republicans haven't understood the crazy use of Democrat language: what a Democrat means by freedom isn't what a Republican means by freedom, but understanding films such as this one helps us to see illustrated the agenda and the purpose of the socialists so we can better our aim in those debates and expose the rhetoric for what it really is: a October styled revolution. The "vampire hunt" the socialists are on today for capitalists is a total reversal of the "witch hunt" of the McCarthy era looking for socialists; have we learned anything from history? Eat Your Art Out, The Fine Art Diner