Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter – Seriously?

Posted on April 16, 2012


I went and saw Cabin in the Woods over the weekend, but let’s leave that for another time.  What really caught my attention was one of the previews:  Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

Seriously?  There is so much just wrong with this.  Lincoln was a real person, not some mythical or fictional figure to bend and twist to an author’s imagination.  The real Lincoln has been much studied and much written about, and some argue that he was our greatest president, having successfully seen this country through its worst trials.  To whimsically re-imagine his personal history – as a vampire hunter, of all things! – does his memory a disservice.

But this is only one example in a string of such offenses against historical figures.  Another preview that I saw this weekend was for The Raven , which re-imagines Edgar Allan Poe as becoming caught up in a crime-fighting adventure, as a serial killer re-enacts his gruesome stories in the flesh.

Or take Disney’s 1995 animated film, Pocahontas, which destroys almost all vestiges of fact not only in Pocahontas’ own history, but the history and actions of other real people involved in the early colonization of Virginia, as well.  I really wish Disney had stuck with sugar-coating the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Speaking of the Brothers Grimm, there was that hideous 2005 movie which re-imagined Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm as con artists performing fake exorcisms, who run up against real paranormal things.  Craziness ensues.  Never mind that the real-life brothers were serious scholars and linguists.

Once an author’s copyright has expired, I don’t take any issue with others re-imagining his fictional characters, as has been done with Sherlock Holmes, for instance (although I was a bit taken aback when I saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in a bookstore one day… by the same author as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter).   I also don’t see any problem when an author inserts himself into a story, as Edgar Rice Burroughs did when he penned A Princess of Mars on the premise that his “uncle,” John Carter, had given him a manuscript (and this was reflected in the recent movie John Carter of Mars).  I can even understand that in portraying historical dramas, some literary license is often taken which warps our view of personalities or events.  For example, The Lion in Winter and Lawrence of Arabia are based on history, but necessarily flawed; much is based on conjecture in the absence of complete data, and then there is the problem of compressing a complex story into a couple of hours on film.  But this sort of literary license is a far cry from something as outrageous as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.

 What I do take issue with is deliberately transmogrifying real people’s real histories in the quest for shallow entertainment and a quick buck.  I cannot imagine that the real Grimms would have approved of their portrayal as wandering con artists, nor can I imagine that Lincoln or those who knew him would have been much amused by the notion that Lincoln’s history and everything he stood for was the result of vampires in his life.  It’s kind of like posthumous slander, and it is unnecessary and lazy.  With such colorful real people as inspiration, a fiction writer worth his salt should be able to come up with compelling fictional characters, and leave history to the historians.


Originally published at The Color of Lila