Abraham Lincoln in Film: Taking on the Role of a Vampire Hunter

When reading about Lincoln as a vampire hunter, please click on the images found within this site either after or during your exploration so that you may be discover other sites that further investigate the life and memory of Lincoln.

Movie Trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter [1]

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America, is arguably most known for his vital role as moral leader in preserving the Union during the Civil War and beginning the steps towards the Emancipation Proclamation. He is believed to be a strong supporter of the 13th amendment and was in favor of abolishing slavery. His great speeches fueled and inspired the nation and he is still viewed as a courageous and noble leader. He is even referred to by many by admirable nicknames such as good ole’ Honest Abe  [2]. These associations and characteristics Lincoln connect to the current memory of his heroism and leadership of the Union and the United States of America. His heroic role has been extended to popular modern media such as film.

Abraham Lincoln’s embodiment as a vampire hunter in the 2012 film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, continued his role as protector of the Union and solidified his current public memory. The film was an adaptation of a novel by Sethe Grahame-Smith and was directed by Timur Bekmambeton and produced by Tim Burton. The film premiered in theaters June 22, 2012 and was released on DVD October 23, 2012. The film is categorized as Horror and due to it’s inclusion of vampires, a popular cultural phenomena, is targeting an more youthful audience. The inclusion of vampires within the film is a way to re-present Lincoln as a hero and recirculate his image with a younger generation. In a sense, the film is portraying Lincoln as a supernatural hero in a partially fictional context. 

The current connections tied to Abraham Lincoln are only dramatized through the film’s plot, but in a rather modern and popularized way. To summarize the plot, Abraham Lincoln, at the young age of nine, witnessed the death of his mother by a vampire named Jack Barts. He seeks revenge and later attempts to kill Jack Barts. He is thankfully saved by Henry Sturges who becomes his mentor and teaches him how to properly hunt vampires. His weapon of choice is an axe. He moves to Springfield with axe in hand to fulfill his vendetta of killing vampires and falls in love with Mary Todd, all the while keeping his vampire hunting a secret. After killing Jack Bart, he grabs the attention of powerful vampires living in the South. Abraham, while living in Springfield, studies to be a lawyer, becomes a politician, and later the President of the United States. With this position he leads the Union during the Secession War against the vampires of the South.

Almost every element of the plot has historical significance or relevance but is presented in an exaggerated theatrical way. For example, Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died on October 5, 1818 when Abe, similarly to the plot of the movie, was nine years old. Historically, Nancy Hanks Lincoln died due to milk sickness, not a vicious murder by a powerful vampire [3]. The inclusion of a murder emphasized the passion and strength of Lincoln. To experience the loss of a mother at such a young age is extremely difficult. This event created an essence of pity for Lincoln. This pity then developed into respect with the achievements he later was able to accomplish despite his difficult childhood.

The significance of his weapon of choice to slay vampires is an equally relevant detail in the film. “The Rail Splitter,” was a nickname given to Abraham Lincoln during the election of 1860 due to his portrayal as a brawny frontiersman wielding a heavy ax to split logs for rail fences [4]. This iconic image of a hardworking man since childhood, was used to his advantage and helped drive his success in the campaign. Lincoln, did not historically use his axe to murder southern vampires, but there is historical significance to this symbol as the first image of Lincoln with an axe. The axe within the film masculinizes Lincoln and shows a physical example of how Lincoln shaped the United States by fighting to protect the Union. The axe is a weapon and physical material representation of the help Lincoln provided for the Union to win the war. Lincoln was a political force during the Civil War, and the axe within the film shows how he physically contributed to winning the war by contributing his strength and skills in battle as a weapon himself. The image and video clip below compare Lincoln’s power with an axe for a campaign and for a battle against vampires.

By clicking on this image, you are able to purchase this 1960 work by Ostendorf for $75.

Abraham Lincoln as “The Rail Splitter” [5]

Scene Displaying Lincoln’s Use of an Axe in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter [6]

After deciding to be a vampire hunter Abraham moves to Springfield, another historically significant element. Historically, Abraham Lincoln moved to Springfield where he lived for twenty-four years from 1837-1861 [7]. It is no coincidence that this location is featured and mentioned within the film. This is also the same location where Lincoln met his wife Mary Anne Todd. Historically, Lincoln met Todd in Springfield as he did within the film [8]. There is a physical similarity between actress, Elizabeth Winstead, and Mary Anne Todd. This similarity in physicality transgresses audience members into the era of Lincoln and creates a sense of historical accuracy and significance within the film.

Mary Anne Todd [9]

Elizabeth Winstead a Living Personification of Mary Anne Todd [10]

Another historically relevant detail within the film, is Abraham Lincoln’s iconic top hat and recognizable physicality. In the film it makes a point to exaggerate Lincoln’s choice to wear an extremely tall top hat and display an evolution of physicality. His physicality develops within the film as he ages, and by the end of the film he is featured as the man many picture when they imagine Abraham Lincoln. The iconic image of Lincoln can now be found on the penny, in monuments, and even through a simple google search. This iconic image of Lincoln is important in our understanding of the memory of Lincoln. This image carries affiliations with it that physically allude to Lincoln’s leadership qualities through his facial hair and exaggerated height. These characteristics physically embody his leadership skills in a very masculinized and prominent way. His height asserts a presence, and an extremely tall top hat only strengthens this presence. His beard is a very masculinized symbol that alludes to wisdom and strength. The film utilizes these physical characteristics to further masculinize his role as vampire hunter and allow audience members to recognize Lincoln in his most prominent circulated form.

Iconic Image Featured on the Penny [11]

Lincoln and his Top Hat

Lincoln and his Top Hat [12]

The Towering Height of Lincoln

The Towering Height of Lincoln [13]

Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln

Benjamin Walker as Living Personification of Abraham Lincoln [14]

As previously elaborated, there are many significant details within the film that refer to the life of Abraham Lincoln. The movie utilizes the phenomena of vampires to exaggerate the positive associations we have embedded in our communal memory of Abraham Lincoln. Vampires have had a constantly evolving perception in society since ancient times.It’s not a myth. Vampires are among us – in book stores, on movie screens, TV sets and billboards, in graphic novels and video games all across the land. All of these forms of circulation target youth who find the vampire phenomena intriguing. The vampire phenomena is molded into two distinct entities. One, depicts the vampire as a villain to be slayed, or an appealing mystery while the other depicts the vampire as dark, seductive, and sexy. By placing Lincoln in a context involving vampires, he is made popular in a youthful generation and arguably sexy for slaying the villainous vampires. This target audience and continued popularity is a way to keep circulating the image and memory of Lincoln.

lincoln11

Lincoln in Film Physically Fighting in the Secession War [15]

lincoln12

The Battle Between the Confederates and the Union [16]

Within the film, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, vampires are portrayed as villains. With the exaggerated popularized historical significance found within the film, a message unfolds revealing an opinion about the Confederacy, the Union, and the leadership qualities of Abraham Lincoln. The vampires within the film all preside in the south and when war begins, it is a war between the North (the Union) and the South (the vampires). The vampires are intended to signify the Confederacy. The heroism displayed by Lincoln in personally slaying the vampires during the war within the film, connects to bravery shown by Lincoln within the Civil War. His physical presence in the war within the film, is pointing out his important political influence in the success of the Union during the Civil War. This metaphoric connection places Lincoln and the Union into a protagonist role. This movie is a visual narrativization of Lincoln and the former conflict between the South and the North. Lincoln and the Union are masculinized and seen as protectors of what is good. While, the confederates are portrayed as antagonists; murderers sucking the life out of the Union and the United States. Lincoln being portrayed in a supernatural heroic role to solidify his current associations in a younger generation, recirculating his image in the form of a commercialized item that can be purchased for only five dollars.

For more on the significance of the site Springfield in Lincoln Memory:

https://livinglincoln.web.unc.edu/2015/03/22/abraham-lincoln-birthplace-national-historic-site/

https://livinglincoln.web.unc.edu/2015/03/27/lincoln-in-springfield-and-illinois-memory-sites/

Sources: 

[1] Streaming Clips. “ABRAHAM LINCOLN:VAMPIRE HUNTER Trailer 2012- Official.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

[2] Freidel, Frank, and Hugh Sidey. “The Presidents of the United States of America.” The White House. White House Historical Association, 2006. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

[3] Norton, R. J. “Abraham Lincoln’s Parents.” Abraham Lincoln’s Parents. Abraham Lincoln Research Site, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

[4] McNamara, Robert. “Abe Lincoln and His Ax: Reality Behind the Legend.”About Education. About Education, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

[5] Ostendorf, Lloyd. Young Abe Lincoln, the Rail-Splitter. Digital image.Abraham Lincoln Collectibles. Interactive Data Technologies, 2009. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[6] Clevver Movies. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Movie Clip ‘Waltz of Death’ Official.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 15 Jun. 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2015.

[7] “Places Where Abraham Lincoln Lived.” Places Where Abraham Lincoln Lived. Abraham Lincoln Online, 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

[8] “Abraham Lincoln Marries Mary Todd.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.

[9] Handy, Brady. Mary Todd Lincoln. Digital image. Brady-Handy Photography (Library of Congress), n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[10] Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln. Digital image. Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[11] 2005 Penny. Digital image. Coin Collecting Guide For Beginners. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[12] Top Hat. Digital image. Psycho Sisters. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[13] Towering Height of Lincoln. Digital Image. Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[14] Benjamin Walker Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Digital image. Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

[15] Lincoln Versus a Vampire. Digital image. Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 14. Apr. 2015.

[16] Union vs. Confederate. Digital image. Deviant Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

1 thought on “Abraham Lincoln in Film: Taking on the Role of a Vampire Hunter

  1. Marcus Valcarce-Aspegren

    Good work on this post. I think it is overall quite well written and accomplishes the purpose of the assignment well. I particularly like the click-able images and the analysis done in the last paragraph.
    I do, however, have some light criticisms to offer that may help you develop a better writeup:

    -“The associations surrounding Lincoln allude to his heroism and leadership of the Union and the United States of America.” I am not clear what you mean by associations. Consider rewriting this sentence to clear up the ambiguity.
    -The transition between the first and second paragraphs could be smoother.
    -Check through for punctuation errors – particularly in the third and sixth paragraphs.
    -Consider varying your word usage. Some particularly prevalent examples are “associations”, “plot”, “contribute” and “Jack Bart”.
    -The fourth paragraph seems a little redundant. Instead of re-summarizing the plot consider analyzing the implications of altering the story of Nancy Lincoln.
    -It is unclear if this movie employs the seductive/sexy vampire prototype. They seem pretty terrifying and bestial from the trailer (I haven’t seen the movie so I could be wrong.)
    -If I am wrong above consider analyzing the decision to cast “the South” as a traditionally seductive and sexy villain.
    -I am interested to know how they deal with the issue of slavery in the movie. If the south is represented by vampires, are slaves the blood coursing through America’s veins? A strange but somehow compelling metaphor…
    -Don’t forget that Professor Marr wanted us to use numerical citations ([1], [2], etc…)

    Overall I think this is a good start; with a bit of tidying up this post could transcend into excellence.

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