Not the Change I Had in Mind

         In my Gothic Literature class we just finished up reading Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, a wonderful, difficult novel about the ghosts haunting not just the South, but America as a nation. Specifically, in the great American myth we like to repeat ad nauseam every November, high-principled pilgrims came to a vast and empty land and forged a great nation through hard work and perseverance. None of this is entirely true and Faulkner points out that no nation-forging would have happened without slavery, a fact which is conveniently edited out of all those Thanksgiving plays we put on in third grade. Therefore, slavery is the ghost, the madwoman in the attic, which haunts our American narrative.

            In our discussion of Absalom, Absalom!  the election of our first African-American president keeps coming up and one of the girls in class posited that if American history was a Gothic novel, than the election of Barack Obama could be likened to the ending of The House of Seven Gables, one of the very few “happy” works of Gothic fiction. In a nutshell, the sweet young heroine and the principled hero of  . . . Seven Gables atone for the sins of their forefathers and break the cycle of unhappiness and gloom pervading the ancestral home. Likewise, my classmate said, the willingness of the majority of voters to elect a black man to our highest office is a way that we, as Americans, are able to give our American story a happy ending. Whether I agree with her is, in the context of this blog, moot, primarily because my convictions about my country are very sincere and heartfelt and therefore wholly unfunny.   

            What was funny was another student’s comment that, when the first student compared American history and Obama’s election to a Gothic novel, he had envisioned Obama as a vampire or some other monster, emerging sinisterly from a haunted mansion. So we started speculating about pet werewolves and Michelle Obama being a zombie and I came up with the title, Barackula. Genius, right? Which led me to wonder: do people generally write fanfiction about presidents? I mean, I know that there are vast amounts of fanfiction about TV and movie characters, but do we now have a president-elect who is equal parts political figure and pop culture icon? Is fanfiction limited to popular culture figures? I’m just baffled. Baffled and amused.       

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