Friday, October 26, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: October 26


Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 351

Carolyn is bitten and smitten with Barnabas… but is she still Roger’s Kitten? Carolyn: Nancy Barrett. (Repeat; 30 min.)

Carolyn awakens from serving as Barnabas’ blood source and cure from Julia’s aging serum. He enlists her as an eager assistant, but her loyalties seem to be tested by his request that she persuade Vicki to seek his courtship.

The show spends most of its run promoting Barnabas as a troubled hero. That’s good, because they have a lot of mopping to do from his first year. If the perverse kidnapping of Maggie is a cleanup on aisle six, episode 351 does the same thing, worse-yet-better, in a fraction of the time. Like Gerard’s haunting, this storyline gets the most out of the victim’s complicity, making the crime all the more horrific and strangely lurid. Is Carolyn compliant because it’s part of Barnabas’ spell? Or -- far worse -- because she wants to be? A casual observer would say one thing. A fan, perhaps another. It’s telling that this brief storyline should come out as Dark Shadows fandom was really establishing itself. Maggie, a reluctant victim, was kidnapped as the show was being discovered. I wonder what would have happened if Maggie had been kidnapped after it gained a foothold in popular culture. Would she have been as unwilling? Certainly, Carolyn isn’t, and thus we have a massive and revealing shift in tone and morality.

Barnabas eventually acknowledges that he has to treat Carolyn differently because she’s a relative… and for a moment, it’s unclear if that means better or worse than Willie. Carolyn’s desire to assist Barnabas seems like more than the mere product of vampire mind mojo -- the opening dialogue of the show would be incredibly disturbing otherwise. But Barnabas is a phenomenally popular figure, and part of his popularity has to do with the peculiar and particular brand of sexulality. There is a deep focus, but an absence of real lust. It’s not effeminate nor anything else fatuously predictable. It’s something peculiar to him, but never lacking in intensity. Through that combination of interest and distance, I think he creates a sense of strange safety. It’s a compliment to be wanted, and to be wanted by someone capable of such an intense and ruthless desire. But without the predatory sexuality, it almost puts the subject of the obsession in the role of potential seducer. As these things go, it is a unique cocktail that explains the eerie attraction.

Carolyn’s brief stint as the object of his obsessions may be the most brazen and honest moment of potential sexual energy on the show. Taboo is on parade as Julia asks the awakening Carolyn a series of questions that sound unsettlingly like what I imagine an assault victim would encounter. She gives all of the wrong answers, but sounds like a love-woozy fan as she does so. This is no Josette. She doesn’t want to flee… she even says belongs there. She wants to stay to serve Barnabas’ needs. Carolyn says little with words, but chapters with her dreamy, vaguely post-coital purr. It’s a purr you can watch with your grandparents because it says nothing, technically. It just implies. Heavily. The hint of incest seems comfortingly distant until Barnabas mentions giving her some platinum-status attention based on her genetics, up to and including the eternal life package. Then it’s a plus! 

Of all of Barnabas’ assistants, Carolyn is the most realistic and, I think, reflective of how fans think they would behave if “cursed.” She’s smart, efficient, and loyal. It’s like, “finally!” The fact that she’s honest in her sense of desire for Barnabas makes the ensuing jealousy make sense, and it also makes her semi-decision to help him land Vicki all the more weirdly poignant. Now, Barnabas is a (very) distant cousin. Does that make the whole thing creepy? She’s already had her neck bitten and blood consumed, so I think we left the realm of the uncreepy when her cousin bared his fangs. This isn’t the first time that Carolyn has shown idiosyncratic tastes. The first weeks of the show are spent discussing that dreamy Uncle Roger who calls her “Kitten.” Is this a continuation of tastes we’ve seen since the series began? As a student of quotes that sound like they were said by someone who read an article on psychology once, I’ll say that no one longs for an absent father like Carolyn. What is it with “The Case of Dark Shadows and the Missing Parent”? Paul Stoddard. Laura Stockbridge. Then there’s 1970 Parallel Time Daniel sometimes is like Vicki, and has both parents gone. Oh, Vicki. Yeah, I forgot her. And where is Maggie’s mom? It’s dangerous to become a parent in Collinsport.

Stay single, Barnabas. For the sake of the kids.

This episode was broadcast Oct. 30, 1967.

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