Anyways, this is a story about a beautiful couple – two centuries-old lovers. He is a musician. She loves reading books in all languages of the world. He currently lives in Detroit. She spends time in Tangier. Both of them are quite exquisite. And rich. They have loads of money that let them travel first class around the world (night flights), regularly buy fresh blood, collect precious artifacts (e.g., musical instruments) and not to care much about their possessions if they have to move from place to place.
Not only are they rich, but they are also upper-class. You can tell it by their manners, their education and connections (acquired over the course of centuries).
I am a media literacy person. Which means that I like asking (myself and others) different questions about films, books and such, in order to reflect on why they were created this way, and what they tell us about the culture they are a part of. One of the questions that can be posed about media texts is, what is omitted in them and why this something is omitted. I found that in this particular story class is conspicuously absent. The main characters are portrayed as special, through their manners and their richness, but the nature of this difference is never discussed. Well, they are different because they are vampires - but why do vampires have to be upper-class and rich?
This, actually, is not too surprising, since class remains a taboo topic in U.S. society. People are poor or rich because of their individual qualities, and not because of the system they are a part of. If they have dough, it means they worked hard, they achieved the American Dream. Kudos! If they have holes in their pockets, well, boo on them. Their problems are all their fault. In other words, some still believe that there are no classes in the U.S., there are just people who worked hard and succeeded, and some lazy parasites (welfare mothers and such).
Jarmusch’s elegant vampires are rich. We have no idea where they get their money. They don’t work. Although the musician is portrayed as a genius, he shuns fame and makes music because he loves it, not to earn a living. As for his eternal lover, she reads a lot, but is not shown writing anything.
“Who cares where they get the money!” – one might rightfully say. “It’s just a movie.” It certainly is. But movies tell us important things about the culture that created them. This particular film offers a great opportunity to discuss the invisibility of class in the U.S. culture. And really, the notion of class should not be left in the darkness. It is not a vampire, it will not burst into flames.