Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dracula revisited: Some observations on an old classic

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of those books that, like The Lord of the Rings, I find myself returning to time and time again. There’s a lot going on in this book and a lot to like, both on a literary and a visceral horror/pure entertainment entertainment level. I’ve just finished re-reading it and there’s no doubt that it’s worthy of its classic status. There’s so much to comment upon in this novel, far more than I could ever cover in a single blog post, so I’ll direct my focus on two notable elements:

1. Dracula is a really bad guy (and not all that sexy)

Stoker’s depiction of the vampire contrasts sharply with the way they’re portrayed in popular media these days. Buff sex-symbols and/or world-weary, misunderstood, angst-ridden emo-types seem to have replaced the bloodsucking, undead monsters of yore. I blame Anne Rice’s novels for popularizing this trend, which has reached its full bloom with the Twilight movie.

Now, it’s true that Count Dracula is somewhat of an alpha-male and a sex symbol. Lucy transforms into quite the slut after she’s sampled his wares, and her suitors (and even old Van Helsing) pour their fluids—ahem, blood—into her, one after the other, to sate her ravenous needs. There’s reams of essays describing the scandalous sexuality of Dracula, particularly when viewed against the stiff, priggish Victorian era in which it was written.

But Dracula’s sexual element is mainly subtext. Count Dracula is hardly a suave, debonair Tom Cruise lookalike, seducing women with charm and good looks: He hypnotizes his female victims and drains their blood against their will. In Stoker’s world, sex is a corruptive influence: It’s a monster to be shunned and feared, not a buried urge to liberate and embrace.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site .


Kent said...

There is something beautiful about the horror in Salem's lot.

Your point about sexiness in vampires is very interesting. The suggestiveness in a vampire's assault would not seem to allow him to be presented as grotesque on screen. The vampire is an intelligent undead. Sexual, intelligent and grotesque is a heady mix. Sexual, stupid and grotesque has probably been done in horror films but that's just a monster.

Brian Murphy said...

Hi Kent, Salem's Lot (the movie) does deserve its own review on here some day. Despite its flaws and made for TV budget, I definitely have a soft spot for that film.

I agree that Stoker offers a very interesting and complex portrayal of sexuality in Dracula: Violence and corruption, but also desire and lust, all mixed together.

Hamlet said...

You know, it might be a wierd sort of coincidence, but I've been going through this old book over the last few weeks myself.

It's been interesting to me, at least, how simultaneously pertinent and out of date the book can be, and how drastically it's transformed over the decades.

Eric D. Lehman said...

Right - the thing I'm not too keen on in 'modern' vampire fiction is how SAFE it all is. The sexuality and violence in Dracula is so darn creepy. Isn't that one point of horror fiction?

Brian Murphy said...

I agree Eric, at some point vampire stories morphed from horror into gothic romance (and now some strange hybrid that includes Beverly Hills 90210).

Mr Baron said...

Great blog post. I liked Salem's Lot up until they end when the vampires were defeated. That scene was just terrible, which was a shame, as the rest of the movie was very good.