by Mauro Corso
Mauro Corso is a journalist, writer, and actor who lives between Rome and Berlin. As a special contributor to MartinLastrapes.com, Corso has written a series of Guest Posts about vampires in popular culture. This is PART 2 of 4…
When an author quotes something belonging to pop culture, we should always carefully consider what’s behind it. A lesser author chooses to name something popular as a way to build an easy bond with a reader; when you name something a reader can readily connect to, you, as a writer, are making your job a lot easier. After all, writing is all about seduction. This is a double-edged sword, though. If a reader can sense there is nothing behind the given reference, disappointment will kick in, and, for that reason, everything an author did will be in vain. On the other hand, a superior author will use a reference to pop culture, not as literary shorthand, but as a means of expressing some larger theme or idea.
In “Adam & Olivia,” Martin Lastrapes' vampire short, he makes a reference to Joss Whedon's iconic television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The show is about Buffy Summers, a high school student by day and vampire slayer by night. Whedon cleverly positions Buffy and her battles against evil as metaphors for the hardships that come with being a teenager. In "Adam & Olivia," Lastrapes doesn't simply reference the show itself, he makes a very specific reference to a particular episode.
In "Adam & Olivia," we learn that Olivia is a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer; she is particularly fond of Episode 7/Season 6: “Once More, With Feeling.” While Lastrapes doesn't go into great detail about the episode itself, the fact that he mentions it at all leads me to believe we should take it as a hint of what is to come—or, at the very least, how the character of Olivia is going to shape her destiny throughout the story.
“Once More, With Feeling” is a musical episode in which Whedon wrote all the songs in different styles to fit the various moods and themes of the episode and its featured characters. Similar to "Adam & Olivia"—which is both a short story, as well as a chapter in Lastrapes' forthcoming novel—"Once More, With Feeling" works very well as a stand alone episode and, at the same time, it’s a pivotal episode of Season 6.
(BEWARE: SPOILERS BELOW)
In the opening episode of Season 6, Buffy, having died at the conclusion of the previous season, is raised from the dead by her friends. She told her friends they rescued her from Hell, as she didn't want to them to feel bad about what they'd done. But, in "Once More, With Feeling," we learn that Buffy was in Heaven, finally at peace from all the struggles that come with being a slayer. Her resurrection is a traumatic experience that changes her, setting her apart from other human beings.
In 1906, Russian novelist Leonid Andreyev wrote “Lazarus,” a short story about the aftermath of Lazarus' resurrection. Even if Lazarus has come back to life and is cherished by his family and friends, there is something unnamed he brought with him from the afterlife, an invisible touch of death, a hint at the mortality of every human being. While Buffy, in Season 6, shares some similarities with Lazarus, her situation also has some distinct differences.
As a slayer, Buffy is already alone, but as a resurrected slayer, she is set further apart from humanity. As Season 6 progresses, she becomes more and more detached, resulting in an unsettling loneliness which becomes the main theme of "Once More, With Feeling." While Buffy feels completely alone, the episode demonstrates how every other character in the show also feels alone, each of them harboring some secret that he or she cannot bring themselves to face or share with anybody else.
By the end of the episode, Buffy finds a way to feel alive—or, to be more precise, she finds a way to “feel” once again, an allusion to the title of the episode. The solution to her conundrum is a paradox: In order to feel alive, she allows herself to fall in in love with a vampire, the undead.
I don't yet know what direction Lastrapes' forthcoming novel, The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl, will go in, but I can already see, based on his two vampire shorts, that loneliness is going to be a major theme. In "Adam & Olivia," Adam stalks and, ultimately, attacks Olivia out of loneliness. Olivia, for her part, is also lonely, stuck in a job that has nothing to do with her true calling, which is writing. Jesus, the featured character in "Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter," is also a loner; hunting vampires, as Buffy Summers so aptly demonstrated, is a lonely trade. One thing I am certain of:
At some point Adam, Olivia, and Jesus will have to find a way to work out their feelings of loneliness—and I can't wait to find out what happens as they do.