The first best thing about I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle is that it really truly is titled I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle, that’s not a typo. The second best thing about I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle is that it really truly is about a vampire motorcycle, one that sucks blood out of people’s necks and doesn’t like crosses or garlic. But the third best thing about I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle is the priest who shows up about midway into the film. Perhaps you might recognize him?
Okay, so his name might not come to you right away as he’s missing all of his distinctive gold plating, but if you close your eyes and listen to the voice, you can just about hear him advising you on the astronomically impossible odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field. That’s right, kids, it’s C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels. Now you know what he was up to in between trilogies.
Truthfully, with a title like I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle, the movie is a lot more enjoyable than it has any right to be, managing to tread the fine line between humor and horror pretty well. And as a bonus for us Catholics, the priest character turns out to be a decent guy who performs his duties happily, has no crisis of faith, and even makes it to the end of the picture alive (minus a few fingers, but still, he makes it, so I’m not complaining). Weird, huh? The only explanation I can think of is that the movie wasn’t made in Hollywood, so the filmmakers didn’t realize they were supposed to depict priests as creepy and despicable as possible.
“We can’t underestimate the power of media like television and movies to shape our impressions of clergy.” explains priest and psychologist Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti, author of the book Why Priests Are Happy. “Once, there were movies like Bing Crosby in Going My Way and the Bells of St. Mary’s, which were angelic portrayals of priests. But I don’t think those really were helpful, either. Now, we’ve gone from those kinds of depictions of priests to downright negative portrayals—if not mocking. You almost never see a healthy, happy Catholic priest in the media these days. Does that affect the priesthood? Well, it doesn’t help. And, I don’t think that we should return to the Bing Crosby image. That places the priest on an angelic pedestal that’s unrealistic. Then, if a crisis hits like the one that rocked us in recent years, then people are shocked and crushed. But this popular image, today, of dysfunctional, lonely depressed priests—well, that’s not accurate overall.”
Besides the news that our priests aren’t all maladjusted deviants, another nice thing about Rossetti’s study is that while it concentrates on the priesthood, it contains conclusions that can be useful to all the rest of us. For instance, Rossetti’s research suggests that as a priest’s time in private prayer increases up to and over an hour per day, they become less emotionally exhausted, less depressed, less likely to be lonely, less likely to be obese, and they deal with stress in less dysfunctional ways. And it goes without saying that they experience a stronger relationship to God. So if an hour of prayer a day can work such wonders for priests, it seems reasonable to think it could do the same for us as well, doesn’t it? Just tossing ideas out there.