I’m watching “Reservation Dogs” on Hulu, about a group of Native American teens growing up in Reese’s, Oklahoma. These kids are so vulnerable, funny, and adorable that I find myself wishing I belonged to a gang of friends like these when I was growing up.
Here’s the problem with that. These kids are a gang. They are juvenile delinquents at war with a tougher gang.
In the first episode, they rob a delivery truck, which they sell to a junk shop. They’re smart enough to negotiate keeping the spicy snacks inside the truck, which they sell in hopes of raising enough money to leave this dead-end place and go to California. As if everything would magically be better.
The series is a great sympathy for life on the Native Reserve. But when I watch this or read books about life in Reese, I can’t help but romanticize it.
Everyone knows everyone and half of the town are your cousins. If you have a problem – enemies or a love sickness – there is someone who knows the old ways and can provide the medicine for that. Women are strong and fearless.
Law enforcement officers treat you with tenderness and give you a chance, knowing your family history. They know your mom. Heck, your mom is their cousin, or maybe their old friend.
At least that’s what happens in fiction. So I imagine living in Reese’s and getting along with these absolutely adorable kids.
My first attempt at sympathizing with criminals came from watching The Godfather. The mafia world has its own rules, quite a few, like “never go against the family.” If someone in your gang, i.e. “the family,” is killed, someone in their gang has to pay. And on his daughter’s wedding day, you can ask Don Corleone for a favor, but it might come with conditions attached.
My knowledge of the mafia grew when I took on the films “Good Fellas”, “The Sopranos”, “Casino” and “Boardwalk Empire”. Finally, there came a point where I no longer wanted to enter this violent world.
However, my sympathy for the violent characters in the vampire world continues.
Reading The Vampire Chronicles of Anne Rice was completely draining. The vampire world also has set rules, but Rice turns a lot of that on its head.
When I spoke to my mom about “The Vampire Lestat” years ago, I was describing how the vampire who “made” Lestat kept him prisoner while he waited until his hair was long before turning him into a vampire (it’s funny that when you’re fully brought into the mafia, You are also considered a “made” man). I excitedly told my mom that a vampire could cut his own hair, and upon awakening from his daytime sleep, the hair and everything in his body would be restored to its state at the time of the flip.
My mom’s response was, “You know, it’s just a book. It’s not real.”
But there is an intimacy — a kind of realism — when I step into these fantasy worlds.
Of course, I did not sympathize with the vampire in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”. But Rice and other writers have made these vampires more attractive. Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series helps us empathize with the fictional Cullen family of vampires, who chose to kill animals rather than humans. It’s the vampire equivalent of veganism. Her books also included a fictionalized version of a Quileute tribe in the Pacific Northwest with werewolf tendencies. I want to run with these warm-blooded wolves.
The True Blood TV series featured telepaths, werewolves, and vampires fighting for equal rights and assimilation. How can I not be on the plane?
I am currently following a vampire story that is more comical than dangerous. The TV series What We Do In the Shadows produced by Taika Waititi introduces an energy vampire: the nerd who bores you and feeds off your energy. This is scary stuff!
I remember as a child I didn’t want to finish a story in Andrew Lang’s “The Pink Fairy Book,” and when that inevitably happened, I cried. It was the first time that I felt a longing for a fantasy place.
But is there anything strange about having these fantasies in an adult woman? Armchair travel is acceptable, but this limits the cultural appropriation of the armchair.
Not that I don’t have loving friends or family. My life is good. But adventures are very attractive in these other worlds.
My sympathy for these outrageous characters is part of me. It is grouped with my conviction against the death penalty. This is why I encourage the underdog and open my heart to inclusivity.
These imaginative adventures sharpen my senses for the magic that unfolds in this everyday world we call reality.
Diana Abreu is a page designer at LNP | Lancaster’s Unscripted is a weekly entertainment column produced by a rotating team of writers.