“I used to be a rational man, but things have been happening here that do not have a rational explanation.”
So here’s a puzzling question: Why is Angelique white?
I mean, you can follow the chain of associations that led Dark Shadows writer Sam Hall to the French Caribbean. In Hall’s second episode on the show, it’s revealed that Barnabas visited Barbados, where an Indian taught him the secret magic number of the universe, giving him the power to “unlock all the rules that bind you mortals to your daily, dull lives.”
Then, a few weeks later, when the writers decided to explore the story of how Barnabas became a vampire, it’s easy to chart the course to Martinique. The vampire curse is the result of a magic spell, and Hall’s already been thinking about the association between spells and the Caribbean. But Barbados was colonized by the English, and Josette Du Prés is French, so the backstory moves to Martinique, a French colony.
But Angelique doesn’t mess around with European magic — all that “eye of newt, toe of frog” stuff. She doesn’t fly on a broomstick, or live in a gingerbread house. Her magic has a strong Bayou flavor — she uses voodoo dolls, love potions and zombies, which are all associated with Haitian magic. So, following that thought to its logical conclusion, Angelique should be Haitian, or Island Carib, or pretty much anything besides blonde and blue-eyed.
But if she’s supposed to marry Barnabas, then that’s problematic, because it’s January 1968, and America be crazy.
The first interracial romance on daytime TV was on One Life to Live, starting in October 1968 — a relationship between an Italian woman, Carla Benari, and an African-American intern, Dr. Price Trainor. ABC received some angry letters about this, and the show was boycotted by some affiliates in the Southern states. About six months in, it was revealed that “Carla” was actually Clara Gray, an African-American woman who’d been passing for white.
Other things that people made a big deal about in 1968: a Petula Clark variety special where Clark touched Harry Belafonte on the arm, and a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura were forced to kiss by telekenesis.
So a major storyline about Barnabas Collins marrying a Haitian voodoo priestess is seriously not going to happen. Instead, Dark Shadows has the hapless mortal marry a pretty blonde, who’s secretly a practicing witch. I wonder where they got that idea from?
Continue reading Episode 401: Bewitched