Lions and Tofurkeys and Bores, Oh My!

November 27, 2008

It’s Thanksgiving again, and as it is every year, families join together to spend four to ten awkward hours trying to avoid eye contact while eating enough to feed the Sudanese army without remorse. And while it’s a beautiful time of year, it’s also a time to reflect on those traditions that make this the greatest of holiday seasons.

Watching Lousy Football Games: Watching football on Thanksgiving is a time-honored American tradition, partly because of football’s hold on American culture, and partly because it’s an awesome excuse to sit in a basement in front of a plasma TV drinking beer yelling about why don’t you just run the ball in fourth and goal so you’ll cover you piece of garbage go back to Oklahoma you worthless prick of a coach it looks like someone’s not getting a Wii this Christmas because daddy didn’t think the coach was going to be such a cautious pansy on fourth and frickin’ goal while the womenfolk are cleaning up and doing the dishes upstairs. Of course, most of this tradition is spoiled because someone with a remarkable ineptitude at foresight a few decades ago decreed that it would be none other than the Detroit Lions that would host a Thanksgiving Day game every year. The Detroit Lions. A team that hasn’t had a winning season since they started paying players. Even General Motors posted a profit since they’ve won. At this point, the only way they could win a playoff berth is if the football shrank significantly into something a little bit blacker and rounder, they gave everyone on the team a stick, and they renamed the franchise the “Red Wings.” Of course, there isn’t even a halfway decent matchup this year, since Detroit is up against the 10-1 Tennessee Titans, an incredibly lopsided match that absolutely no one is going to watch outside of Vegas. The only good thing to come of that game is that Vince Young is sitting in Ford Field instead of around the dinner table in Houston inexplicably crying like a woman at random intervals when asked to pass the gravy.

Stale-Dated Yams: Thanksgiving is primarily a food holiday, unlike, say, the Furth of July, where meals are more often than not equated with food poisoning and salads that are in reality desserts, or Labor Day, which is about playing tag football or some form of bocce mutated so your four-year-old nephew and play without crying than it is about hamburgers and hot sausage. Thanksgiving is all about the consumption of gross amounts of food. And, of course, the preparation and anticipation of the meal as well. So it would be no surprise that there’s always some dish sitting untouched on the table. Sometimes it’s a staple dish, such as yams or cranberry sauce, that just looks kind of suspect, like maybe it sat in the back seat of the car for an hour too long, or maybe the dog retched in it when no one was looking. Sometimes it’s a well-meaning attempt for someone to appease the lone pretentious vegetarian sitting in the group, an abortive monstrosity of a disaster, a half-finished tofurkey or poorly made watercress casserole. Then, as if it’s one big guilt trip for everyone involved, that renegade dish is parceled up and handed to each family as they go out the door, baited with dark meat and rye bread leftovers, so they can be immediately thrown in the trash in the safety of everyone’s respective homes.

Making Politically Neutral Talk With Your Unbalanced Secondary Relatives: You know who they are. Distant out-of-state cousins and uncles-in-law that you see perhaps every third Thanksgiving, or perhaps an errant viewing here and there. And of course talking about the weather and how much the Lions suck will only take you so far. Eventually someone is going to mention the government, or the church, or the lone pretentious vegetarian who gave everyone the stink eye for loving the turkey so much, or the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, or Jeff Gordon, and off they go. No one wants to say anything except this guy, who knows it all and knows that if you don’t know things the exact same way that he or she does, you are an unrepentant idiot undeserving of the last slice of blueberry pie. And while you have cogent reasons for having a reasonably logical discussion with that person, you don’t, for two reasons. One is that Aunt Jane might pop in and contribute her two cents, and she still thinks the Freemasons are poisoning the wells and the metric system is just a way for the “International Bankers” (cough, cough) to take control of the oil and finance industries. And, two, there is always a chance that this person has you in their will.

Xanax: Oh, come on, like you haven’t already ground it up and poured it in the brandy you don’t think everyone knows you have stolen away in the breast pocket of your jacket.

There Will Be Blood

November 20, 2008

In case you hadn’t heard, the film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s vampire slash young adult romance series, Twilight, hits theaters soon. If you hadn’t heard, of course, you’re most likely already dead and have become a vampire, thirsting for blood, violence, and an endorsement deal with the Burger King.

Of course, those of you who did not know that Twilight was soon to be released in theaters are probably those of you so sick of election news you have decided to pay no heed to all forms of media, since this vampire movie has been the cover story on every single newsstand publication from Entertainment Weekly to Golf Digest, and will no doubt be incorporated, as is required by the Constitution of the United States, into segments of The Today Show:

Matt Lauer: Next up, the global markets have been ravished by the mortgage crisis and the Wall Street meltdown. Many analysts are asking: How does this affect the vampire segment of the population? To answer this question, we have Kristen Stewart, the star of the upcoming movie Twilight, out in theaters on November 21st.
Kristen Stewart: Thank you, Matt. Glad to be here.
Matt Lauer: So what does the recession mean for young, attractive vampires?
Kristen Stewart: Well, Matt, in Twilight, out in theaters on November 21st, the global commodities exchange has been volatile lately, as financial markets are unsure of how to respond to the European Union’s actions on banking regulations, not unlike the wildly romantic escapades myself and Robert Pattinson get into in Twilight, out in theaters on November 21st.
Matt Lauer: Please shoot me now.

Vampire stories have always been a gold mine of drama and mystique. While folklore has long held vampires to be a real terror, it was Bram Stoker’s Dracula that catapulted the character of the vampire from bloodthirsty but otherwise bureaucratic tyrant to pop culture icon. Stoker’s Dracula, in particular, helped cement many of the things we now normally associate with vampires, and its impact on the literature of the era was sensational. Many literary critics see the novel as a dramatically rendered clash between folklore and modernity, order versus chaos, and virtue over vice; however, it was also a fairly subtle way in the Victorian era to talk about mind-blowing debauchery, loose women, and gonorrhea without actually mentioning the act of humping it wicked.

While garlic, wooden stakes, aversion to sunlight, and popped collars are the mainstay of vampiric culture—it almost sounds like the ugly conflagration of emo kids, metrosexual douchebags, and the Amish—Meyer’s vampires are nothing like that. They are perfectly good-looking, sashaying around like young, statuesque porcelain trying to pass algebra three and oh by the way suck all the blood out of your body.

Being targeted for the dreaded young adult market—those vaguely mature enough to handle eye shadow and babysitting but not quite wine coolers and missed periods—Meyer has sanitized these vampires for public consumption. Much of the gruesomeness of their existing has simply been fictionalized away, with no hearts being pierced with stakes and no skin turning into saran wrap when they forget the SPF 2000 at the track meet. She does feature some pretty wicked blood feuds, however, which I guess is OK. If I can’t have Martin Short and The Count beating punches chin to chin I guess a good old fashioned West Side Story with more fangs and mercifully less singing is OK.

The film adaptation has been pushed pretty heavily by marketers. My own personal observation of this is that it’s not quite the level of, say, the Star Wars franchise, where by the time Episode Three was released, by which I mean episode six, George Lucas was actually negotiating endorsement deals with individual McNuggets to squeeze every last penny of advertising opportunity from the planet Earth. However, it is fairly aggressive; a stop at the local chain bookstore revealed a remarkably well-rounded display of Twilight books and accessories, ranging from T-shirts with oddly non-vampiric but quite commercial themes to pewter jewelry that can be worn as a fashion accessory then used, later, to cut yourself while listening to Dashboard Confessional.

It’s quite possible that Twilight will be a big success; not only because of the embedded base of loyal readers and impressionable young teenagers, but because of the advertising push and media attention. Of course, it’s not necessarily a done deal, either. Most of the actors are hardly big names, and while a lot of the promotion focuses on the young, perfect characters, the movie is quite dark and potentially confusing to those unable to grasp the more intricate parts of the plot of Madagascar 2. Even if it’s a modest hit, though, it can latch onto a fan base and crank out sequels, much like the critically acclaimed and astoundingly lucrative serials such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Air Bud. Then again, if there is one thing that sells more tickets than vampires engaging in elaborate blood rituals and gang wars, it’s young, sexy vampires engaging in elaborate blood rituals and gang wars.