A Dracula-land theme park is going up in Romania, near the medieval Transylvanian city of Sighisoara -- and a host of attitudes hover about it. There is the predictable opposition of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which feels that it's a satanic enterprise. There is also opposition from native keepers of historical accuracy, who claim that Bram Stoker's Dracula
and his Hollywood heirs are in no way related to the historical Vlad the Impaler who inspired Stoker. Vlad the Impaler was, admittedly, a figure of gruesome interest who made imaginative use of his enemies by staking them in impressive rows before advancing Turkish armies -- but he was no immortal bloodsucker. History, according to these local critics, is some kind of tenuous construct ready to be knocked down by any playful intrusion of the modern world. The fantastic, which abounds in Transylvania, is relegated to folklore and duly classified. More interesting are the bemused reactions of Americans, who raise ironic and slightly alarmed eyebrows at the idea, as if peasants are taking back the castle. Dracula, these eyebrows say, is a product we can handle, given our long experience of turning anything into kitsch and laughing about it. Native cultures, on the other hand, must be protected not just from cultural imperialism, but also from their own recently acquired tendency to lighten up the past to make some money. The idea that the campy old vampire might be reclaimed by its birthplace offends our double standard of cultural concern for other traditions, on the one hand, and the goofy satisfaction we get out of perverting those traditions in the first place. In other words, we are ironic enough to see the vacuity of such a myth while making money out of it -- while the unwitting source of the myth should keep itself pure. Personally, I have nothing against Dracula-land, if the Romanians show half the imagination that launched Dracula in the first place. If Disney can make money out of a mouse, then surely the Romanians can squeeze some moolah out of their accidental spawn. In Coppola's Dracula
, Gary Oldman speaks some really bad Romanian, and no Romanian was ever paid for it. At least the Romanian Dracula will speak excellent local dialect and the peasants will get to play extras. If Dracula-land is a success, the promoters can go on and build Commie-land, a much broader park, with historical legitimacy and very recent cache. Surely, nobody could object to that
Andrei Codrescu's new novel Casanova in Bohemia is set in an old castle.