So the other day I was reading a book proposal for another editor. It mentioned the mononymous Barnabas. Since the proposal wasn’t from a biblical scholar I wondered if this was the same Barnabas mentioned in Acts as the sometime traveling companion to Paul of Tarsus. As I began to type this into the search box—and this was on my work computer, which, I hope, doesn’t know my reading habits—it autosuggested Barnabas Collins as the first choice. One of the frustrating things about devices these days is they know who we are and sometimes we want an objective opinion from the internet. Is Barnabas Collins as popular as I like to think he is, or is it just a case of my work computer anticipating my off-hour whims? I sincerely hope it’s the former.
The proposal, by the way, was surprisingly referencing Paul’s Barnabas. I wasn’t aware that he was much known outside biblical studies circles. Probably about as rarely as Barnabas Collins is known in such circles. There has been a resurgence of interest in Dark Shadows that has taken place in spite of, or perhaps partially because of, Tim Burton’s movie. The film made many missteps, but people from my generation who’d never heard of him before began to reference Barnabas Collins to me. I’ve never been a soap opera watcher. It does seem that many college students used to go through such a phase—again, it’s the story that draws them in—but that never really happened to me. I’d grown up watching Dark Shadows, however, and I’ve been tempted a time or two to start watching the series again. With well over a thousand episodes, some of which are lost, it would be a major time commitment. And besides, it wouldn’t recapture those grade-school afternoons watching what my mom thought was a waste of time.
The name Barnabas probably means something like “son of comfort.” I don’t know how the somewhat desperate writers, trying to gain back a slipping audience, came up with the name. Their introduction of the supernatural into the daily drama did, however, transform television. The usual demographic for the show was a bit older than me when it was being aired and I didn’t by any stretch see the entire series. I did see enough, however, to forever frame my view of vampires. There have been efforts, including one current, to reboot the series on television. It may eventually rise again from its coffin. Featuring, of course, Barnabas.