I used to love the Disney Channel original movies. They were fun, funny, entertaining, and also managed to weave life lessons into their fairly simplistic plots. I decided to rewatch some of my favorites from when I was a kid and see if they held up to the memories I had of them back when I was young. So I began with one I remember enjoying thoroughly: Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire.
I’ll be honest; I wasn’t expecting much. Having not seen any of these movies since I was a child, I assumed that Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire would be filled with exactly what the title seems to indicate: wacky, nonsensical situations with the occasional horror element that ultimately ended up with the young characters learning a lesson of sorts. I wasn’t wrong. However, I wasn’t 100% correct.
My assumption of the movie’s simplicity as a result of the channel it was produced for was exactly that: assumptious. There were plenty of wacky situations and there definitely was a horror element–a blatant Dracula quote was thrown in for good measure–but the movie ended up being about something utterly, completely different than what I was expecting. Would you have guessed that Mom’s Got a Date With a Vampire is about the struggle to identify as a mother as well as an individual in a post-divorce environment? Because that’s what it’s about. Let me explain.
The movie begins with typical Disney Channel Original Movie antics. Adam (age 13) and his brother Taylor (age 8) are watching a vampire movie. Through this and subsequent scenes, we learn that Adam is downright obsessed with vampires. He even goes so far as to read out loud an essay he wrote for class on a vampire hunter named Malachi Van Helsing (sigh), but somehow manages to maintain the charm of a kid who isn’t manically, desperately obsessed with vampires. Adam wants to go to a concert on the upcoming Friday, but he’s grounded for his Van Helsing stunt. His sister Chelsea makes the mistake of mocking him and is also grounded. Lynette, their mother, doesn’t play games when it comes to the fairness of punishing her children.
We learn that Lynette has recently divorced, and although her kids appear to be taking it well, Lynette herself is wary and uncertain of her decision. Her kids, having been grounded, immediately seize upon the opportunity to emotionally extort their mother’s feelings of guilt in order to have her leave the house for a night so they can circumvent their groundings and live their own selfish lives like the rotten, entitled human beings they are. They do this by combing through a sleazy tabloid magazine (the same magazine that Adam used for his research on Malachi Van Helsing) to find a man with whom they can send their mom on a date. They find a gentleman whose email is–and I’m not kidding–Wolfsbane@netherlink.ro. He detests–and again, I’m not kidding–Italian food and turtlenecks. The kids do not find this to be suspicious.
Times passes, things go well, and the date has been set. The children, of course, do not realize that they’ve set their mom up with a vampire, but that’s hardly the point of the film from about here until the end. Yes, of course, the plot is entirely about the kids discovering the man is a vampire and trying to stop him, but while they’re doing this, a real, meaningful narrative is unfolding. When Dimitri, the vampire, arrives for their date, Lynette is seen holed up in her room. Her good for nothing kids share a moment of compassion for the woman who birthed them and ask what’s wrong, to which Lynette responds:
“There’s a time when you do stuff like this, and then there’s a time when it’s just too late… You make choices. You get married, you work a job, you raise kids, you get divorced, and you become the kind of person who doesn’t date. It’s who I am.”
With this quote, the film brings into context a struggle that many parents face after a divorce. They’re suddenly separated from a once-critical aspect of their life and are left vulnerable to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. A large part of Lynette’s identity–her significant other–has been taken away, and as a result, she feels like she is too old to start over or try again. She is ready to sacrifice the potential of finding another man in order to be what she considers a fully committed mother. Over the course of the date with Dimitri the vampire, she slowly but surely comes to a realization.
Dimitri’s plans are, of course, to transform Lynette into his vampire queen: a subservient, immortal mate. Through this plot device, the filmmakers explore the idea of post-divorce life being less about finding another person to marry and more about finding oneself as an individual.
“I’m talking about forever, Lynette!” Dimitri says, and of course, the audience understands that he is referencing immortality. Lynette, on the other hand, interprets this as a proposal of commitment.
“Whoa, slow down there, cowboy.” She says. “Look, tonight has been terrific. I mean, I really felt like I met someone, an old friend I never thought I’d see again.”
“Well that’s the depth of our connection!”
“No, I don’t mean you. I mean me.”
Lynette comes to realize that perhaps finding another person to love and marry isn’t as important as appreciating herself and the relationship she has with her kids. She refuses to once again lose her individuality within the confines of a partnership and instead decides to focus on being a mother to her children.
And then, of course, the movie swerves off that cliff of modern, empowering logic and decides instead to pair Lynette up with Malachi Van Helsing at the end. But hey, at least they tried.