Saturday, December 22, 2012

Monarchy, Christianity, and Vampires

I hope I got your attention with that subject title.  This is probably one of the more bizarre articles I've found on the web as a result of all the Google searches I do to see what is being said about this blog's favorite topic.  It's probably necessary to be at least somewhat familiar with both True Blood (which I am) and Mad Men (which I am not) to understand all the references.  I certainly don't share this writer's values and assumptions at all.  But it's interesting because coming from a perspective that is clearly hostile to monarchy and traditional pre-egalitarian society (whether Western or Eastern) in general, Sellar sees what so many non-monarchist Christians cannot or will not see: that Christianity, like Asia's traditional Confucian beliefs, is inherently monarchist, and its language remains so today even among Americans who pride themselves on their rejection of Monarchy.

That issue is also addressed, and also from a hostile perspective, here
Everett's agenda for Christianity, set forth in 1989, still around today though not usually articulated so bluntly, must be fought on all fronts. But he gets credit for seeing the tension between republicanism and Christian tradition clearly; he's just on the other side. On Tuesday, celebrate the birth of the King of Kings (as in Handel's Hallelujah Chorus), not the President of Presidents.


carmeljamaica said...

You certainly captured my attention with the title, and the whole post.

I am familiar with both True Blood, and Mad Men, but I don't watch the former, only the latter.

While a fan of vampires, True Blood, along with the Twilight series, has probably killed what vampires are all about. I'm more into the Dracula/Nosferatu vampire films. I got into the first and second seasons of Mad Men, mostly because I love those years where men still wore ties, and busty/curvy women were still valued. And also because Mr. Charles Coulombe wrote so favourably about the series.

I nod my head in agreement with you on the strong relationship, if not parallelism between Catholicism and monarchy. Nothing could be more reasonably and beautifully paired. As Catholicism has Christ the King, and the Papacy, so does monarchism, with its Kings and royal families. They are perfectly matched.

While I understand that there are people who doubt about monarchy being the system that works than democracy, what I don't understand is how some negatively criticize the whole idea. Christianity itself was obviously filled with a lot of ancient history that included Kings and Popes, so it should never even surprise people that they go together.

Anyway, good post, Theodore!

gordsellar said...


Hi, I'm Gord Sellar, the author of the post you linked. Didn't get a chance to reply till now, as I've been crazily busy.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I disagree with carmeljamaica on a few points, but I think his (?) comments about Mad Men are the most revealing: anyone who thinks Mad Men exemplifies a time when women of any shape or size were "valued" is missing a big part of the point of the show: from the very first episode, it's put front and center that women generally are not valued... except perhaps as semen receptacles.

(Which is why, over here in South Korea where women find themselves in a comparable situation today, a number of my students didn't get that this was supposed to be shocking or offensive. I had to explain to them that this was supposed to be archaic and so on... even if, as female writers on the Mad Men script team claim, a lot of that stuff is based on much more recent, though one would hope, more isolated--less unapologetic and less common--experiences.)

I would agree that True Blood isn't the best vampire narrative, but to put it in a class with Twilight seems a little unfair. They are both vampire romance, but then romance has always been part of the (literary) vampire narrative. Stoker's Dracula has all kinds of romantic narrative. At least the vampires in True Blood resemble vampires: they're somewhat monstrous, they really do feast on human blood, they can't go out in the sun... they're just not all pure monsters. Nick Mamatas has written interestingly about the politics of True Blood's treatment of working class characters--something of a rarity on TV. That may not appeal to a monarchist, I'm not sure, but anyway... I'd say Twilight is much more bad for vampires than True Blood.

As for being critical of monarchy, I think it's impossible not to be once you actually sit down and ask serious questions about why this or that bloodline ought to have access to all that power, wealth, and privilege while others should not... with impunity regardless of how well or poorly they carry out their jobs. It requires a certain sort of nostalgia to overlook all the examples of bloodthirsty, mentally ill, or otherwise extremely unfit monarchs throughout human history, doesn't it?

(Not that I'm not just as concerned with the stupid decisions that mass numbers of people make collectively in democracies. But that at least involves more checks and balances; ultimately, in a monarchic system, you have fewer of those, don't you?)

As for negatively criticizing the whole idea of monarchic/Christian thought: well, yes, obviously Christianity includes under its pre-history all of Jewish recorded history. That includes enslavement of the Jews by Egyptian pharaohs, the slaughter of innocents by Herod, and plenty of other atrocities carried out by monarchs and their agents. Solomon and David are kind of rare examples of "good" kings in the Bible, next to many bloodthirsty ones... so how is it not an insult to call the Christian god "King"?

And as for the complementary nature of Catholicism and the Papacy to monarchy, I'd agree: but that's complimentary to neither, and anyone who sees "beauty" or "reason" in that pairing isn't looking closely enough. I'd start with the Renaissance church and work your way backward. (Or perhaps the Albigensian Crusade, a great example of the Church and a monarch working together to conslidate power at the "insignificant" cost of wholesale massacre.)