Vampire Expert Reviews Vampires In Movies & TV | Vanity Fair

I’m Dr Laura westengard and I’m a professor of English Gothic literature and gender and sexuality I got my PhD focusing on Gothic themes and metaphors but also how Gothic metaphors come through into contemporary culture today we’ll be looking at depictions of vampires in television and film the scene is from Nosferatu Nosferatu is kind of plagiarized they took the story of Dracula from Bram Stoker’s novel that was published in 1897 and made a film that’s very closely based on that novel with some slight changes Nosferatu introduced the concept of the vampire who gets destroyed by sunlight

Dracula can go out during the day he’s fine in the sunshine there’s a scene when the ship the Demeter arrives on the shores of Germany and rats pouring out of the hold of the ship calling to the idea that when the Foreigner comes and arrives into the country it also brings the plague or contagion there’s a long history of vampires being a metaphor for disease but also disease was used to kind of explain scientifically what vampire figures might be from maybe vampires were actually a figure that represented someone with porphyria where you can’t go outside

into sunlight or vampires might represent being infected by rabies and I would not doubt if we get some new vampires coming out of the covid pandemic to help

us understand and grapple with the trauma of global contagion this scene is from Dracula it’s good to see you back again doctor I heard you have just arrived and you miss me now you’re looking exceptionally pardon me doctor this is a wonderful scene to demonstrate how handsome how elegant how seductive Dracula is supposed to be Bella lugosi’s Dracula was a sexy anti-hero this is much more in line

with John polidori’s version of The Vampire than it was with Braum stokers who was a kind of hideous old man Bella lugosi’s Dracula is the Dracula that we think of when we think of a Vampire the way he sounds the way he behaves and that has lingered throughout the rest of the 20th and even 21st centuries the count is not reflected in the mirror this is one of the ways that Van Helsing can affirm with a scientific method that Count Dracula is in fact a vampire Braum stoker did a lot of research before he wrote

Dracula and there was what was considered valid scientific research on vampires at the time so he had access to the idea that was already rooted in other cultures about vampires not liking mirrors or not being reflected in mirrors it may be that they have no soul it may be that they hate to see their own face and the way that it represents the ravages of their life as an undead figure or even as a diseased human another idea is that mirrors used to be backed by silver and as we know vampires hate silver but the

idea that Dracula and bats are inextricably linked really comes into the popular imagination with Bella lugosi’s Dracula that is because there are some really exciting special effects in this movie and from there on out look out he’ll get in your hair Dracula and bats were considered one in the same this seen as from Dark Shadows Mausoleum mausoleum why was I in this coffin we see Barnabas waking up from his death in a coffin but he doesn’t know that he’s a vampire yet he discovers it the vampire has always been the villain before in Dark Shadows

we get a vampire who is the lead he’s the one that we sympathize with and introduces the Trope of the vampire as protagonist he’s not excited about being a vampire he’s not reveling in it he has been cursed with vampirism this is a really important shift when we go from the cautionary tale to the vampire as someone who we might identify with someone we might sympathize with it really sparked this moment in pop culture that then led to the Munsters we have The Adams Family these are really digestible vampires and they represent a kind of

topsy-turviness in the culture at the time the hippies the counter-cultural movement we have the Vietnam War the Civil Rights Movement assassinations of political figures and everything seems like it has been turned on its head and so has traditional Notions of the domestic the family if we think about Leave it to Beaver this was a family in the 1950s that was supposed to be the Pinnacle of suburban family life and then we moved to the monsters who are the Leave it to Beaver family flipped on its head the scene is from Sesame Street I will move

each block as I count it oh no no one two the count is of course referring to Count Dracula but also it’s referring to a mythological idea that vampires had to count things if you left them like out in front of your house people would put grains of rice or beans hoping to occupy an obsessed vampire who needed to count every grain of rice until they could be captured killed or burned up by the Sun we do see in Bram Stoker’s Dracula that vampires can hypnotize but this was kind of new science at that time

we used the term mesmerism because that was named after a person named Mesmer who developed this idea of hypnosis it was something that they were taking pretty seriously at the time as a scientific and medical development hypnosis is coming from those scholarly articles that Bram Stoker is researching and then it comes all the way through to this child’s scene from Sesame Street anything else well I mean you know Bert and Ernie are gay queer viewers don’t need the confirmation right and this is why lgbtq folks have always gravitated towards the gothic and vampires because these

kinds of tropes they allow for people to do subtextual reading and because queers have lacked representation they’re really good at finding the subtext and so we don’t always need it to be confirmed that bird and Ernie are gay lovers because we’ve known it since we were five this scene is from the Hunger foreign I told you was sung by two women sounds like a love song and I suppose that’s what it is the hunger is a goth subcultural classic you might think that in 1983 this is the first time that culture was ready to see

lesbian seduction that’s not really true lesbian vampires have been a staple of the vampire genre from almost the beginning before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula Sheridan lafanu wrote carmilla a vampire coming in preying on a young innocent girl and so that links up with films like the hunger where the vampire seduction it’s a non-normative sexual seduction there’s a homophobic undertone to these vampire stories where the Vampire comes to our attention because they are not straight the link between the monster and the queer or the leather lesbian is tied together what have you done to me I’ve

given you something you never did dream of what everlasting life this scene is from The Lost Boys yes first are those maggots The Lost Boys is the vampire film for the MTV generation is supposed to be a cautionary Tale But it actually does a great job of getting converts to that youth culture like I want to hang out with the vampires in their lair thank you Michael is tricked into drinking the blood from the bottle and therefore he becomes infected but he does not become a full vampire they all are half vampires when we have

a half vampire it highlights this idea that one can have conflict within oneself are they good are they bad are they something in between we see this also in blade from 1998 where he also is a half vampire but he uses those strengths to actually become a vampire hunter and so this idea that you could start to show something about yourself and then be cured by science or medicine it really can represent this idea that Society tries to police and control non-normative desires when Michael starts down the path towards being a vampire does he go

forward down the bad path or does he cure himself of desires that he has started to develop this scene is from Braum Stoker’s Dracula even not by any one do not put your faith in such trinkets of Deceit one thing that is not in the novel is the count shaving Jonathan which to me is kind of hot there is something homoerotic about the the shaving scene Count Dracula sees the crucifix around Jonathan’s neck and he reacts violently and this is something that is common to many vampires they react violently to things affiliated with the church

some Scholars think that vampires dislike crucifixes partially because they could potentially be shaped into a steak that could kill them the crucifix may be distasteful to vampires because vampires are demons take care how do you cut yourself this depiction of Dracula is more accurate to the original novel than the 1931 Dracula though in the original novel he has thick Stout hands with hairs in the center of the Palm it’s another way of representing his sexualized perversity the figure of Count Dracula is inspired by a historical figure Vlad the Impaler was known as the Impaler because

he impaled forests of people around his castle as a warning to those who were coming that he was a harsh and powerful ruler generally this may be one of the more faithful versions of Count Dracula besides Nosferatu I think Nosferatu is probably the most faithful this scene is from Interview with the Vampire and then I said farewell to someone and set out to become what I became have you set your goodbyes to the light Interview with the Vampire is very homoerotic the gift of vampirism is a metaphor for queer sexuality Lestat gives Louie the gift

of death the French term for an orgasm is petty Moore The Little Death the vampire takes someone to the brink of death a petty more and then brings them back to undeath through the reciprocal exchange of fluids so it’s highly sexualized rhetoric even if it’s not explicitly a sex scene Interview with a Vampire introduced vampire identity struggling to come to terms with an identity that was thrust upon him in the 1990s this was an era of increasing identity politics coming to political action from the space of who you are the latest series from AMC makes

some 21st century adaptations we have a more explicit treatment of race this film and the novel take place in the South during a time of racial hierarchies and it’s also not just homoerotic but they are a queer relationship that’s not unusual for vampire stories they adapt they shape-shift it does speak to the enduring nature of the story that Anne Rice originally created in the 1970s this scene is from Let the Right One In hey you must have been in me 100 degrees Let the Right One In is a heartwarming and touching version of The Vampire

tale we get a tender depiction of young love the characters face evil but it’s not necessarily from vampires it is from the bullies that they encounter in their daily life it is from indifferent and abusive parents a host of things in normative Society so it’s a really interesting take on the way that people can find Connection in their Outsider status it also plays more with the question of gender than it does around sexuality Oscar yeah all right Oscar just wants to be together and so there’s something that transcends gender and sexuality in that moment that

their human and vampire connection is the most important thing Eli does not conform to Binary gender Eli is not human the status of a vampire as non-human doesn’t make them dehumanized and therefore in need of Destruction it gives them access to a bigger range of experience there’s a shift that goes on in this movie that I find really touching this scene is from Twilight you’re impossibly fast and strong you never either drink anything you don’t go out in the sunlight I know what you are say it out loud vampire Twilight is an interesting phenomenon he’s

not cast as a seductive Outsider that we should avoid but he and his family represent what we should aspire to they have wealth they have cars perfect Beauty they have strength and maybe most importantly they have restraint because they are vegetarian vampires and this struck a chord they became such a cultural phenomenon the Twilight vampires align with a lot of the depictions that we’ve seen throughout the centuries in other ways they diverge when we get to Twilight vampires technically can go out in the sun it doesn’t weaken them but it does expose them for their

true nature their Diamond skin however plays right into that same idea that they represent the Pinnacle of status Beauty they pull Bella lugosi’s class and wealth together with the Lost Boys flashy youth culture and create this new monster that everybody wants to either be or be with they are the Pinnacle of 21st century capitalist aspirations this scene is from what we do in the shadows my name is Colin Robinson and I am what’s known as a psychic vampire or energy vampire energy vampires drain People’s Energy merely by talking to them actual versus budget year to

date no thanks you’re gonna be at that all day what we do in the shadows is a satire of the vampire genre Colin Robinson he breaks all of the vampire tropes that we’re used to seeing except that he feeds on people’s energy this is something that occurs very frequently in relation to vampires that’s one reason why tuberculosis was associated with vampires tuberculosis was called consumption because it was like you were being drained or consumed slowly over time wasting away the vampires in the household are anachronistic they’re out of step with time and this is a

knowing like tongue-in-cheek callback to the idea that vampires are primitive Count Dracula is coming from a town wherever everyone is uncivilized and superstitious the show knows that it is satirizing the racist and imperialist implications of vampires as out of step with time living forever doesn’t make you glamorous it makes you out of touch like a dad times a thousand this scene is from morbius yesterday I could barely walk today I don’t know what I’m capable of like Barnabas morbius is discovering what it means to be a vampire he didn’t become a vampire as a curse

he became a vampire through technology through treatment of a disease but we still see him learning about himself morbius may have more of a through line to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in which the protagonists encounter the unintended and sometimes terrifying consequences of Technology you’re trying to solve something and not recognizing what might happen as a result and that’s really a present cultural anxiety especially around climate change and perhaps the fantasy that it changes someone into somebody who has superhuman capabilities is a fantasy that

people need to see right now because if they’re going to be subject to these forces outside of their control they want to at least imagine that they’re going to come out the better for it vampires are an enduring concept because they express the complexity of what it means to be someone who’s different but also someone who is beautiful and Powerful in that difference even if it can’t be understood or appreciated by the dominant culture I’m Dr Laura westingard thanks for watching

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