The late Michael Jackson, seen here starting with the man in the mirror.
The relationship between humans and mirrors is a complicated and often uncomfortable one, mired by superstition and misunderstanding. Sure, man and mirrorkind are willing to live in peace with each other, but it is an uneasy peace at best.
People need mirrors because they offer a simple but invaluable service: they reflect light and images clearly and accurately. There are other materials in this world with reflective qualities, but none of them has the effortless talent of mirrors. Water distorts whatever image it reflects. Bronze and other metals are too dim and cloudy to be of any use. Seeing our reflection in spoons and on toasters might make us laugh, but it’s no way to prepare for a big date. Mirrors, quite simply, are the best at what they do. They are like an entire race of Albert Einsteins in a world of Pauly Shores.
So when mirrors offered to provide the human race with clear reflections, no strings attached, it seemed too good to be true. But the humans learned soon enough that any offer made by a mirror is a double-edged sword. The very thing that makes mirrors a necessity in life is what makes them the bane of our existence. Mirrors show what they show. No more, no less. No matter how closely a mirror has worked with a human, no matter how long they’ve spent in his or her employment, no matter what personal feelings they might feel for them, a mirror never sugar coats the images it sees. It gives the truth to us straight: baggy eyes, pasty complexion, love handles, cellulite, crooked teeth, lazy eyes. Everything.
As much as we’ve grown dependent on the reflective properties of the mirror race, it’s become the very thing we despise about them.
Elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror. And that's cute somehow.
I know I’m not making mirrors sound very good. Allow me to clarify. In no way do I mean to imply malevolence or spite on the part of mirrors. I can assure you they mean us no harm. Lying simply isn’t in their nature.[i] They don’t always understand us humans, and admittedly all-too-often they feel a smug condescension toward our pride and egos. In fact, they even take delight in bursting our bubbles with the image staring back at us in the bathroom each morning, but only because of how dedicated they are to truth. In their culture, such blunt feedback is viewed as a sign of great respect and loyalty. We need to understand that mirrors are just as frustrated with people for not understanding their acts of kindness as we are with them for showing us how imperfect we are.
I want to make something else clear as well. Mirrors perform another function that is in many ways far more important than knocking our egos down a few pegs; a function that regularly saves human lives. I might even go as far to say it could play a role in the survival of the human race. I speak of course of the role of mirrors as vampire detectors.
I hope for your sake, my dear reader, that you are versed in the essentials of vampire safety. If not, I’m afraid this is neither the time nor the place to catch you up. For now, suffice it to say that because vampires are undead and have no souls, they cast no reflections in mirrors. Not only is this terribly interesting in a symbolic literary sort of way, it’s also a big advantage we have against these undead predators. Since vampires can only enter a home if invited, it’s an absolute necessity for you to keep a mirror in your foyer so you can give it a quick glance to see if the person at your door is friend or fiend. If you don’t see a reflection, you’ve got a vampire on your hands.[ii]
It is an established factoid that every year in the United States alone, five thousand people unwittingly invite vampires into their homes. Of those five thousand, 90% end up dead. The other 10% have a far worse fate in store for them. Just think how many lives could be saved if people observed proper vampire safety. It only takes a few mirrors strategically placed in vulnerable points of entry in your home to protect yourself and the ones you love.
Mirrors knew what kind of deal they were making with the human race when they agreed to show us our reflections. They knew people would blame them for auto accidents even though they had the decency to warn us that ‘the objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.’ They knew we’d fear and revile them if they broke, believing seven years of bad luck would come upon our heads. They knew we’d even blame them for our own physical shortcomings. But most importantly, mirrors knew — eons ago they knew — the threat that vampires posed to the Living. And yet they stood by mankind through it all. They bore with our scorn, our contempt, our fearmongering. Vampires pose no threat whatsoever to mirrors; they have no blood to give the undead. But even though this wasn’t their fight, the mirrors joined themselves to mankind as our silent protectors against the dark race that walks the night. Night after night, year after year, century after century, they have kept their vigil on our walls, ever waiting, ever watching lest a vampire enter a human home.
The good news is this T-rex isn't a vampire.
If we understood — really understood — all that mirrors have done for us as a race, we’d thank them. We’d never stop thanking them. In showing us ourselves, warts and all, mirrors haven’t just been giving us a lesson in humility. They’ve been sending us a much more important message. As long as we have a reflection to look at, and as long as we have imperfections to fret over, we’re still human. And as long as we’re still human there’s hope. It’s when our reflection disappears that we need to start worrying.
The only vampire I'll ever invite into my house. Well, except for Bunnicula.
[i] There are glaring exceptions: fun house mirrors and one-way mirrors being chief among them. Sadly, in the case of the former, many were forced into their position by ruthless and unscrupulous men. In the case of the latter, they are reluctantly willing to deceive in order to promote justice in places such as police interrogation rooms.
[ii] Whatever happens, don’t panic. Just make sure you’ve got a wooden stake handy, an ultraviolet light switch, and a cannister of garlic spray on your keychain.