Dark Shadows: Vampire Capitalists and the Witch Revolution

Framework: Semiotic/Marxist

The film “Dark Shadows” shows the awakening in the 20th century of Barnabas Collins, one of the patriarchs of the Collins family, who had been turned into a vampire a couple of centuries prior. He finds that his descendants have run the family business aground and that his ex-lover, a witch named Angelique Bouchard, has taken over as the town’s business patron.

Capitalism and occultism

Being a vampire appears to be an advantageous state of existence. Vampires get power from preying upon relatively powerless people (Wicke 468). They continue to exist through deceit and contrivance, pretending to live as humans among humans while preying upon the vulnerable or fringe members of society. In this manner they are protected from the pursuit of justice, eliminating only the true expendables of society.

For instance, the hippie victims of Barnabas are presumably from out of town; thus, hardly anyone in town would care enough to seek justice for their deaths. The same goes for the initial construction worker victims, as there seems to be little uproar over their massacre aside from a mention as a somewhat curious human interest case in the community news. Their deaths are, however, useful in defamation against Barnabas Collins, as the deaths are used to further fan outrage and horror over his vampirism. We see that even in death these people are nameless and faceless tools to fuel the grudge of the witch and the thirst of the vampire. This reflects the expendable labor force that is preferred and encouraged by capitalism (Skillman 207).

Hippies.

Furthermore, both Angelique and Barnabas are cognizant that both of them have no souls, i.e, not human. Barnabas makes this clear several times verbally throughout the film, whereas the body of Angelique is portrayed, near the end, as merely being an empty breakable shell with a heart of what appears to be glass. Nevertheless, they are regarded as having the same rights and powers as a human might, i.e., managing companies and holding economic power, being in a legal position to do thus and so forth, much like corporations are entities in their own right without actually being individual human beings (1 USC § 1).

Note the cracks on Angelique’s body’s exterior and on the heart she holds.

Capitalism as evil

Throughout the movie, Barnabas’s befuddlement at the trappings of modern life is a running gag. For instance at his awakening he processes the sight of the ubiquitous McDonald’s golden arches as the sign of the devil Mephistopheles. All this “devilry”, however, is merely due to the developments of modern capitalism.

Barnabas at the sight of the Golden Arches, after having drained quite a few construction workers of their lifeblood.

Class struggles and manipulation

In the power struggle between the landed gentry and the entrepreneurial capitalist in the town of Collinsport, people from the lower classes are manipulated into positions convenient to the bigger players. For example, the manor caretaker, Willie, and the head of the fisherman’s union, Silas, are both hypnotised into following the commands of Barnabas with a flick (of sorts) of his fingers.

Silas being hypnotised by Barnabas

On the other hand, Angelique manipulates the public into reviling the Collins family and getting them arrested when she herself is not what her public image presents to be. Her company’s name, “Angelbay,” elicits a feeling of trustworthiness and lightness. The vans her company uses are white, the exterior belying the acts of sabotage they are actually used for.

Angelbay van preparing to transport a coffin-bound Barnabas

These manipulations illustrate the deceitful nature of the capitalist hegemony and the control employed by way of force and seduction to make the labor force believe that they are acting of their own volition according to the natural order of things.

Upward mobility takes several lifetimes

Angelique was a former servant of the Collins family and was born into this class, as seen in the flashback to the port scene set in England. She was forbidden by her mother to even look at the scion of the Collins family because of their class difference.

Angelique being forbidden from looking at Barnabas as they board the ship to America.

Angie takes down the Collins monopoly, as she illustrates in an Angelbay board meeting, over five “generations” of her “ancestors.” This arduous process, assisted by the judicious application of witchcraft, Angelique’s convenient immortality, and her continued rage against Barnabas and his family, has resulted in the overturning of the Collins as holders of the mode of production over two centuries. This illustrates the difficulty of overturning capitalist modes of production and sustaining revolution.

Angelique enumerating the “generations” of Bouchard women who built Angelbay.

Works Cited:

1 U.S. Code § 1 – Words Denoting Number, Gender, and so Forth | LII / Legal Information Institute’. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Skillman, Gilbert L. ‘Value Theory Vs. Historical Analysis in Marx’s Account of Capitalist Exploitation’. Science & Society 71.2 (2007): 203–226. JSTOR. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

Wicke, Jennifer. ‘Vampiric Typewriting: Dracula and Its Media’. ELH 59.2 (1992): 467–493. JSTOR. Web. 17 Sept. 2014.

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