Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 8



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 300

At the Old House, Barnabas awakens and asks for Willie. Barnabas orders Willie to spy on Vicki and Burke as closely as possible. Is Barnabas afraid of losing her to Burke. Later, Julia reports to Barnabas that his cure is coming along. She accuses him of being in Vicki’s room. Barnabas admits to temptation, but nothing happened. Julia emphasizes that there must be no next time. He chafes at taking orders. Neither Julia nor he can afford the questions. He agrees to stay away from Vicki. Later in the garden, Burke reveals that he’s buying Seaview for Vicki, and then asks her to marry him. She loves him but is torn. She’d have to leave the Collins family. She needs time to think. Meanwhile, Willie sees all. He and Barnabas meet at the Old House, and he reports the proposal. Barnabas vows there will be no marriage. Devlin must die!

When we think of social issues on fantasy TV of the sixties, the conversation begins (excluding a few months of 1959) with TWILIGHT ZONE and ends with STAR TREK. DARK SHADOWS addresses political circumstances, too, but in the case of episode 300, it is with fear and the shackles of baffling tradition. In STAR TREK, differences are celebrated. In DARK SHADOWS, they are often (initially) seen as challenges to be hidden and overcome. If you examine DARK SHADOWS politically, it has moments that are shockingly conservative for genre television. However, DARK SHADOWS was not really genre television. I mean it. It was a soap opera aired in the late afternoon for housewives, designed to sell canned hams and pantyhose. That makes the subversive moments enjoyed by the show even craftier. Number 300 is not subversive, but it is sadly revealing of the era. There is a lot we take for granted now. Even I am bewildered by the 60’s attitude regarding Vicki and Burke. Really? Vicki’s marriage would necessitate her leaving her job at Collinwood? The assumption is that she’s immediately supposed to become a baby factory for Burke. For a show filled with strong women, is it all smoke and mirrors under this core ethos? Because it’s taken for granted. I’m sure women from the time would affirm that it’s an accurate portrait, and that makes the decision by several of the show’s actresses to remain child-free even more remarkable.

Just as significant is the conversation that Barnabas and Julia have about what life will be like when he’s a “normal” man with no secrets… someone who can “love like a normal man.” Okay. New York. The Sixties. The theatrical arts. Haven for confirmed bachelors. Wallace and I have written about homosexuality in and around DARK SHADOWS before in separate essays. Secret identities. Living in various closets. The family can never know. Tortured yet compulsed. If you see their real self, you’re horrified. Vampirism is a razor-pointed metaphor for the pitfalls and power of closeted gay life in the 1960’s. Metaphorically, the secret of the Collinses isn’t that some of them are monsters….

On this day in 1967, the Association of South East Asian Nations was formed.

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