Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Commando in Chief

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Commando in Chief

Article excerpt

Abe Lincoln and vampires. Why, it's the greatest combination since peanut butter and barium. Or Romeo and a particle accelerator.

In the brave new world of "mash-ups," anything goes. More important, anything goes with anything else.

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," based on Seth Grahame-Smith's 2010 bestseller and coming to theaters Friday, is the first example of this quirky literary sub-genre to reach the screen. But given the success of this odd publishing trend that began in 2009 with "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" (also by Grahame-Smith) and a horde of successors, it probably won't be the last.

After all, who could resist Benjamin Walker as the 16th president, great emancipator and one awesome, ax-wielding, vampire- killing dude?

"It troubles me that a great American could be mixed up with worrying about vam-

pires," says Michael Aaron Rockland, an American studies professor at Rutgers University. "But it does have a kind of appeal, because of how weird they are together. You're mixing oil and water."

Not wild about the idea of Honest Abe as Van Helsing in a stovepipe hat? No worries. There are lots of other iconic characters who are now available with blend-in items.

How about the March sisters of New England in hairy new circumstances ("Little Women and Werewolves," co-written by Porter Grand)? Or cyber-age Tolstoy ("Android Karenina," co-written by Ben H. Winters)? Or a Queen Victoria unamused by creatures from the underworld ("Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter," by A.E. Moorat)?

Ridiculous recipes

"Mash-ups" are recipes made with ingredients that were never meant to go together. Typically, they involve a preposterous forced marriage between the elevated (Lincoln, Tolstoy, Louisa May Alcott) and the trashy (vampires, zombies, sea monsters). They are the reductio ad absurdum of today's Cuisinart culture, where ideas, characters and concepts can be juggled as effortlessly as a laptop user juggling paragraphs. In a word, they are "post-modern."

Yet it's not as arbitrary as it sounds. A successful mash-up must have ingredients that - however absurdly at odds on the surface - also fit together in a weird way. Take Abraham Lincoln and vampires. On one level, it's an insult to history. On another level, Abe was undeniably a righteous, gnarly dude with a grunge look. And that ax is killer.

"They chose carefully," says Esther Clinton, visiting assistant professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. …

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