Thursday, February 4, 2010
BLOOD: IT'S IN YOU TO GIVE
It’s been a while. In the remote possibility that I have any regular readers, I apologize. Today I donated blood, and a few weeks ago I saw Daybreakers. I meant to post a review of the film sooner, but since this blog is just a hobby I had other priorities that kept me otherwise engaged. I know this review’s a little late for the theatrical release of the movie, but I prefer to think of it as being early for the DVD release.
First though, I will speak about donating blood. I've been donating blood since I was seventeen, so I know how those factory farmed Humans from the movie felt. I believe in blood donation so I keep going back, but I do often find it an undignified experience. First of all, the nurses often have difficulty finding a vein, and sometimes the needle must be stuck into me multiple times before they can find one. Sometimes they can't find one at all and I can't donate that day. Sometimes there are malfunctions with the equipment, which appears relatively simple, and I can't donate then either. Perhaps none of this can be helped, but it causes me to lose confidence in the staff. Sometimes the nurses have French nails, which baffles me. If you have a job that requires you to regularly poke people in the arm, then why the frak do you have French nails? The nurses don't seem to have much regard for patient's rights, perhaps because I'm there voluntarily. They often do what they think is best without consulting me. They once wrapped my arm up in a bandage, telling me they were going to do it instead of asking me, and despite my mild protests. One would think that a better bedside manner would encourage people to donate again. Sometimes the staff at the blood clinic can get a little pushy. They've come right up to me and try to talk me into donating other things, including my marrow, which would have to suck right out of my bones. I'm not doing that. I also happen to be AB+, the second rarest blood type after AB-. They sometimes tell me that I'm special, which quite frankly is kind of creepy.
If I'm putting anybody off the idea of donating blood, you should know that I share a similar opinion of all medical professionals. In my opinion, most doctors who have treated me have provided poor service and shown a lack of respect. Fortunately I'm Canadian, so it's free, and I guess you get what you pay for. Obviously the Americans have been trying to overhaul their entire healthcare system for the past year, and I hope they end up with better medical service than what I've had. I keep donating blood not because it's a pleasant experience, but because the blood will go to help people. Canadian blood services use to make the claim that one unit of blood saves three lives, but I'm not sure how accurate that is. I do feel I need to be charitable, and at this point in my life I can spare blood more than I can spare money. I also have an organ donor card in the event that I die in the near future, which I of course hope won't happen. I hope to live at least another fifty years, and that by then medical technology will have rendered organ transplants obsolete. I would also like emphasize that my organs are not to be harvested until I am dead, and vegetative state does not count as dead, Peter Singer!
The blood clinic takes roughly one pint or half a litre of blood each time, and I've never felt any ill effects afterwards. My sister however has only had a few viles of blood removed for medical tests, and she claims to feel lightheaded from just loosing this much blood. If you decide to give blood for the first time, be aware of this possibility. In spite of my low opinion of the actual act itself, there are a lot of people who badly need blood, so I encourage you to donate. You can check out Canadian Blood Services at http://www.blood.ca/.
As for the movie, I generally liked it. In some ways, I think it may be the most accurate adaptation of Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND. As far as I know, there have been three official film adaptations of I AM LEGEND. I've seen the most recent one starring Will Smith, and The Omega Man staring Charleston Heston. The book ultimately ends with the Vampires triumphing, establishing their own society, and killing Robert Neville. The Vampires are normal people now, and Neville is the abomination. He is the Boogieman who comes while they are sleeping and murders them. He is the monster, he is the myth, he is the Legend, hence the name. Since this isn't how the Will Smith version ended they should have at least changed the name like the Omega Man did, wherein Heston discovers a cure and dies protecting it, just like Will Smith, but unlike the literary Robert Neville.
In Daybreakers, we actually get to see what the Vampire society looks like. Unlike Stephanie's Meyers vampires, who 'sparkle' in sunlight, these vampires are destroyed by sunlight, which I think is good. Vampires who aren't averse to sunlight make absolutely no sense. I've never seen True Blood, but I'm given to understand that it's about Humans and Vampires co-existing, and uses Human/Vampire marriage as a metaphor for gay marriage. That's a horrible metaphor! We're they're food. Our two species can't co-exist as equals! To quote Elvis, "Being a Human in a world full of Vampires is about as safe as barebacking a five dollar whore,". Daybreaker's is a much more realistic portrayal of a Vampire society in this regard.
As cool as a society full of Vampire's may be, it poses obvious logistical problems, which is the focus of the movie. This can also be viewed as a metaphor for conserving our resources, and thankfully that message is much more subtle than the message of another recent movie about Gainist hippie-liberal smufs. But I'm not going to rant about that. If we assume that the average Vampire must kill one Human being a night, and they allowed their crop to grow to be thirty years old before harvesting, there would have to 10950 Humans for every one Vampire. Being so massively outnumbered by sapient Humans would prevent Vampires from dominating them, so they would have to remain secretive creatures. But in Daybreakers, some Vampire had the bright idea to keep Humans unconscious and milk them for blood. The average adult male Human has five to six liters of blood in his body, and can lose thirty to forty percent of that before dying. However, lets assume that Vampires care as much about their Human's health and well being as we do our livestock, and pump them full of hormones, drugs, steroids and other crap to increase blood production. Let's just say that the average factory farmed Human can yield eight litres of blood a day. Blood has about six hundred calories a litre, so if the Vampires metabolism was the same as ours, than the average adult male Vampire would need about four litres or so a day. However, we see in one scene that a Vampire's body is only room temperature, suggesting that they are cold blooded. This would decrease their blood requirements to only four hundred millilitres a day, meaning the average man would keep them full for a couple of weeks, give or take a day or two. This figure appears to match how long they can go without feeding before they first show signs of becoming a Subsider, so I'll accept it as accurate. It's also unclear if blood is their only source of sustenance. They mix blood into coffee, but that may just be for flavouring. Since they are Vampires, I'll assume that blood is their only real nourishment and anything else is just junkfood. So if the average person yields 8 litres of blood a day, and the average Vampire needs four hundred millilitres a day, then there would only have to be 1 Human for every twenty Vampires, which fits with the five percent of the Human population which is said to remain in the movie. This makes factory farming Humans 15 600 times more effective than every vampire having to kill a person every fortnight. This scenario would require 780 Humans per Vampire, assuming people were harvested at age thirty. Unfortunately, it seems that the Human population was mostly either converted to Vampires or killed before they started farming them. At one point the Vampires seemed to have had enough Humans, but due to the intensive factory farming methods the Humans started dying off, and they could not be replaced, so the blood supply started running dry.
I would like to say at this point that I bear no animosity towards the Vampires for either killing or farming Humans. They're Vampires, Vampires need Human blood. It's as simple as that. Without it they would die, and they have billions of mouths to feed, just as we do. Vampires are Sapient beings, and both races have the same right to exist. Unfortunately, due to the nature of Vampires we can't exist as equals. Humans have every right to protect themselves from Vampires, and Vampires have every right to get their blood. Both are simply doing what they have to in order to survive. According to Darwinian Evolution it's every species for itself. The most ancient species on the Earth are sharks and crocidilians, ruthless predators, hardly changed over hundreds of millions of years since they're already so superbly adapted to their niches. They have not survived for so long by concerning themselves with the fate of other species. Humans should therefore be principally concerned with Human survival and prosperity, as Vampires should be with theirs. To quote another story about Vampires, The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice, page 442.
"Pick one tree; describe it, if you will, in terms of what it destroys, what it defies, and what it does not accomplish, and you have a monster of greedy roots and irresistible momentum that eats the light of other plants, their nutrients, their air. But that is not the truth of tree. That is not the whole truth when the thing is seen as part of nature,". Humans, in spite of everything we must take, everything we must destroy to survive, are truly the paragon of animals. The Vampires, like us, should not be judged by what they ravage or fail to achieve, but by their accomplishments, their hopes, their dreams and their loves. As Sapient beings, the Vampires are a magnificent race too. But like us, and the tree, they must kill to survive. I would of course defend myself and my fellow Humans from Vampires in anyway that I could, but I can not bring myself to resent the Children of Darkness.
The movie doesn't really address why the Vampires can't live on animal blood. Granted, since Vampires are Human offshoots it makes a certain amount of sense that Human blood would be the most compatible with them. Frankie does make a comment about Edward living off 'that pig shit'. Even if pig blood is shit to them, one would think in their desperation they would settle for it. However, we also learn that there are many vampiric animals as well, and that vampiric animals getting caught in the sunlight is the major cause of forest fires. Perhaps non-vampiric animals are just as rare as Humans.
One area that the Movie is a little confused about is whether the Vampires are natural or supernatural. For example, their Vampirism is caused by a virus, which is spread by the sharing of bodily fluids i.e. when they feed. Apparently any Human who is fed on but left enough blood to survive turns unto a Vampire, which would explain how it spread so quickly. Though Immortal, the Vampires don't seem to be especially resilient to physical injury or quick to heal. Frankie has his arm in a slug at one point. If a Vampire is cured, the antibodies protect him from further infection, and if he is fed upon that Vampire will be cured as well. However, the cure involves exposing themselves to sunlight, causing them to burst into flame. These flames must be doused after all the viruses have been destroyed but before the person is killed. Though neither Humans or Vampires have enhanced healing abilities, the person is left miraculously unharmed. The Vampire’s hearts do not beat, which doesn’t make any sense if they’re merely biological life forms. The Vampires also do not have reflections, which makes no scientific sense, and they spontaneously combust when a stake is driven through their heart. In I AM LEGEND, The vampires do have reflections, but have an intense psychological aversion to mirrors due their self loathing. That’s also why vampires who were Christians hate crosses. It's mentioned that Jewish vampires can be repelled by a Star of David.
Now unlike Ricean Vampires, my preferred Children of the Night, Daybreakers’ Vampires can be conscious during daylight hours. In both The Vampire Chronicles and I AM LEGEND, vampires are in a protective coma from sunrise to sunset. In Daybreakers, some Vampires foolishly drive around during the day in cars with blacked out windows and video cameras, and they can even venture outside with the right protective gear, or even if they just keep to the shade. They have public service announcements warning them how long they have until dawn. Ricean Vampires instinctively know how long they have until sunup. Lestat calls it Hells Bells, calling the Children of Darkness home to roost. I think that’s much cooler. However, in The Vampire Lestat, Marius does mention that the Vampires helpless state during the day is a major factor preventing them from ruling over Humans. A vampiric society would thus require some Vampires to work a reverse graveyard shift.
So long as they’re well fed, the Vampires of Daybreakers are modern vampires. Their suave, intelligent, beautiful and aristocratic. Ethan Hawke reminded of Brad Pitt when he played Louise in Interview with the Vampire. They’re both self loathing vampires, but they’re also both A-list Hollywood actors, meaning they’re beautiful, meaning they look a like. As Marius (or was it Khayman?) asks in the Queen of the Damned, “Wasn’t anyone ugly ever made into a vampire?”. Of course, ugly vampires are always brutes. When starved of blood, the Vampires of Daybreakers quickly degrade into old school vampires called Subsiders. These are mindless blood suckers, essentially zombies. Their veneer of civilization literally falls away. It would appear that in addition to being nourishment, Human blood is a treatment for Vampirism, preventing the worst symptoms. This is likely a factor in why animal blood is insufficient for their needs. At one point their testing a blood substitute on a volunteer, and he explodes. Vampirism appears to be an odd mix of natural and supernatural abilities, and I would have preferred a more consistent explanation, without especially caring which way they went.
So, I give this movie a B+. I’d have preferred it if the Vampires were explained a little more consistently, but overall I enjoyed the concept of a vampiric society. I encourage you to watch the DVD when it comes out, but I more strongly encourage you to donate blood, because there are real people who need it as much as our beloved Children of Darkness.