Jonah Goldberg vs. Monster Political Allegories

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The HBO television series True Blood can be and often is read as an allegory: the persecution of vampires is analogous, supposedly, to the persecution of gays, highlighting modern injustice and, theoretically, eliciting sympathy.

Conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg is skeptical. It's not that he thinks there isn't an allegory--it's that he thinks the show, and its liberal interpreters, bungle the message.

He explains how in National Review's newsletter The Goldberg File. Armed with what seems like a frighteningly good knowledge of the show, he goes to work:

The analogy is mostly subtext, but quite often it's closer to plain old text. Evangelical Christians hate vampires and are made to look ridiculous when they rant about their inherent evil. Opponents of the Vampire Rights Amendment insist that "God Hates Fangs!" Vampire-fetishists are "fangbangers." You get it.

But here's the problem: For the most part, those kooky evangelicals have turned out to be right. With a handful of exceptions, the vampires are actually evil. Moreover, the vamps don't really like the bourgeois-assimilationist synthetic blood, and they won't drink it if they can get away with it. The vampires have contempt for humans and human morality. Even the head of the vampire-rights lobby--who was originally cast as a perfect analogue for a gay-rights advocate--secretly prefers to feast on nude and nubile young girls (and, really, who can blame her?).

Got all that? Goldberg's point is that the show is supposed to make wingnuts look crazy. But when you pit wingnuts against vampires who actually like drinking blood and "have contempt for humans and human morality," you wind up making the wingnuts look reasonable. (For those who are lost, try just to enjoy the phrase "bourgeois-assimilationist synthetic blood.")

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A similar backfiring message crops up in the zombie movie 28 Weeks Later, when the U.S. military sets up a "Green Zone" in Britain to restore order during a zombie crisis, but "things go ass over tea kettle." Movie critics quickly pointed out this was a bit like the war in Iraq and, in the words of Peter Travers of Rolling Stone, "the fear of Islam generated in the Dubya era."

But, counters Goldberg:

Analogizing the "fear of Islam" to the fear of eyeball-eating, throat-ripping, phlegm-oozing zombies does not make "fear of Islam" seem irrational or overheated. It makes it downright obligatory. ... If you take the analogy seriously, the Americans in the Iraqi Green Zone should have felt even more free to open fire, not less.

So liberals might want to retool their monster allegories. If they even get Goldberg's newsletter, that is.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.