I’d like to open this first post of 2016 with a favourite quotation by a young fan of Dark Shadows, “Perhaps the people bashing Barnabas should find a more contemporary, trashier show to follow. Then they can bash on their favourite reality actors.” I laughed so heartily toward her wisdom. It still gives me a warm glow.
The year has begun and hopefully with far more enthusiasm and productivity to come than the previous two years of confusion and belittlement. My new beloved friends and I are seeing a change: new fans to Dark Shadows. It was likely to happen and not simply due to the 2012 film. There are also renewed fans; the kids who ran home or were already home, as I was in the days of Monkees re-runs. These “kids” are in their 50’s, rather than their 60’s, now. I was able to suss out a difference in a majority of these fans while talking with my Auntie.
In our conversation she mentioned going back to college to take on her new profession. At the school she attended, their library had the entire series of Dark Shadows, which she watched. Considering how long she attended the school she could easily have used it as her escapism. I was still stunned she could do it.
“You watched the whole thing up there?” I marvelled.
“Oh, yes. Loved it.”
“Leviathans and all?”
“Leviathans and all!” she announced proudly.
Well, okay. This, of course, is the aunt of mine who was able to get through all six books of the Dune series. (God Emperor of Dune just wiped me out.) She and I share that need for the linear and continuity, or at least continuance, flubs or no flubs, in our storytelling. Then I was blown away…
“You ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows?” I practically gaped.
“Oh, sure! Couldn’t get enough of it,” she smiled, happily.
I was almost dumbfounded and pointed out, “Well, what’s the deal? You’re obviously not crazy or messed up by it.” She laughed and I pondered, then finally I asked, “Wait. How old were you when the show ended?”
“Oh, that was 1971… So I was about ten years old.”
That’s when the light-bulb went on, “Ohhh… so you hadn’t gone through puberty yet. All that sexual tension on the show went right over your head.”
Hmmmmmm… This led me to a new understanding. These “veteran” fans are often much different than the “veteran” fans who watched as teenagers. (Often, not always.) They looked at it in ways I remember watching television and films prior to pubescence. Love meant something much simpler and more wholesome, not the frightful whirlwind that it is once the tragedies of blooming time come in to confuse the crap out of us. Mix that up while viewing a soap-opera filled with romantic pairings switching right-&-left, deceit, black-mailing, kidnapping, a wild-woman out for revenge to trick her ex-lover into being her husband and then some, thwarted romances, and egad! Quentin Collins alone! Could anything be rougher on the emotional reflections of kids just trying to sort out sanitary napkins, under-arm odours, first crushes, insecurities about the boy or girl next door and all the rest? Couple this with “free-love” for the late 1960’s and perhaps we’re seeing that deluge of repercussions. And they’d be less attended to via the 21st century’s technology to seize our minds into shorter attention spans.
Anyway, let’s just say that a ton of the old-hats into Dark Shadows were running home from school. Right now the eldest among them ran home from school during their adolescence, yes? Perhaps this isn’t that big of a deal to the British turn of mind since people with a broader sense of history are usually better grounded in the turmoil of emotions and puberty. That’s my wager, anyway.
Now turn your attention to us Yankees, right? A nation much fixated on Puritanical ideas and *GASP* “scandal”! (As Betty White said in an interview, U.K. humour is very different from U.S. humour because the British don’t belabour a topic.) So a ton of these DS fans are currently living in this make-believe condition of hierarchy: If you are popular you somehow have jurisdiction over other fans. Yeh, I know: What rot! [sad snickering, and head shaking] Many U.S. fans of Dark Shadows, at least the ones on Facebook, are currently re-living that high-school (or secondary school) time period of their lives through association with running home to see Dark Shadows when it first aired. That association puts them back into the high-school frame of mind, and therefore they build pretend hierarchies in the same fashion. It stinks, but there you have it.
Me? HA! I’ve been through multiple layers of this psychological garbage. Sibling rivalry, ostracizing, fair-weather friendships while being told it would last our whole lives, and various interest groups. There are plenty sets of subculture to choose from, and I’d had my run for dressing up to be popular in the dreaded fashion of the 1980’s. I moved on. It didn’t accomplish much of deeper insight; not really my tea.
In no certain order, I went from studying Beatniks, Hippies, hitting up part of the Punk Movement, realizing I was more a Goth type than anything else, but still adoring the lighter side of literature, or the spooky elements. Part of my own abuse growing up was the enforced idleness to watch television constantly and not be creative. Breaking free from the addictive hold of television was hard enough at the time.
Currently we have things like Facebook where the five-second attention span and that peer-pressure to constantly connect to it is reigning supreme. Next one becomes idle and useless minus little blips here and there? Well, I can break free from it often enough now that I’ve seen its addictive quality, but I am still dealing with minds fragmented into that mentality. (I have enough trouble with old-fashioned addictions like alcohol. This new addiction of posting links, photos, memes, articles, and quizzes 5-to-20 times an hour is useless to me. At least with booze I slow-down and get more inspiration.) For fans of a program that spanned over 1,200 episodes coupled with a social-network that encourages five-second attention spans? This has to be a worse combination than oil & water.
Either way what I’m doing goes a ton farther and to more people (not that it doesn’t bother me) because I’m not only creating a Dark Shadows series but a series with a plethora of cameos, and other shows like The Addams Family, The Munsters, Wadsworth from Clue, The Ghost & Mrs. Muir television show, and Bewitched. I also approach those into Halloween, spooky, vampires, and several Gothic communities. Dark Shadows fans, or in this case junkies, don’t comprehend the scope of that at all. They are still set in their sense of hierarchies and feel the need to treat me like some chew-toy or kick-dog.
Hmm… I’ve entertained them, I’ve spent a ton of money on this production, I’ve been harassed, stalked, trolled, put up with pesky buffoons, and I deserve to be insulted by… a bunch of aged pensioners??? Not only that but types who delineate being a fan with high-school ideology and factionalism, perhaps a Collinsport High School in which no one ever graduates? I escaped public schooling for a ton of reasons, and this ideology was one of them. That’s why the idea of popularity to me is absurdly silly. I get to hear people saying, “Well *I* won’t listen to your podcast anymore!” or “Well, *I* won’t read your novel anymore!” It’s like, “Erm, yes, did you ever put in a bloody review or thank you or comment about what you enjoyed?” Being a participant while never showing you are except to bad-mouth your entertainer, send her distractions or further grief… Whatever, folks. Don’t let the door hit you in the tush on your way out.
Theoretically, I could get into a snit with someone about their band covering a song by The Damned or Siouxsie & The Banshees, but why? We all pay tribute in different ways to those we admire. What a lot of these fans do is attack the characters and their behaviour on Dark Shadows. Trying to understand the characters isn’t really important. No one and nothing is sacred, but they still make out like they “own” it all because they saw the show when it originally aired. They were “the first”. Yes, like many in the Punk movement have a herd-of-cattle over newer incarnations of said Punk movement. It is all so much posing, very petty, and I could not care less.
For new fans and renewed fans of Dark Shadows, I say let them have a safer haven for discussion and support to their preferences than the previous experiences provided. However, for fans of this radio drama series who have often told me they’re uncertain about it since they haven’t watched enough Dark Shadows to know who the characters are? I’ve been letting them know, “Oh, that’s okay. A vast majority of the Dark Shadows fans that I’ve seen have no idea who the characters are either.”