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The paper was recently presented at the 2012 conference of the Popular/American Culture Association in the South. It was presented in the context of vampiric variations which included looking at vampires in both The X-Files and Tanz der Vampire, a German musical based on The Fearless Vampire Killers. 

 

As J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla comes to an end, Laura the heroine of the piece leaves us with the knowledge that the vampire Carmilla still haunts her “memory with ambiguous alternations—sometimes the playful languid, beautiful girl; sometimes the writhing fiend [Laura] saw in the ruined church”. The audience leaves the tale with little doubt that Carmilla has permenantly affected Laura both physically and mentally. Likewise, Le Fanu’s introduction of Carmilla into the Victorian cultural milieu establishes a foundational lesbian vampire archetype that transcends the novella and continues to inform figures in pop culture even 140 years after its inception. While this character is not always named Carmilla, the repeated insertions of this figure into later novels, movies, television programs, etc. illuminate the cultural significance of Le Fanu’s Countess. Nevertheless, as these Carmilla—esque figures are born into newer eras, the revisions to the original archetype exemplifies the effects modern audiences and their sensibilities have on the evolution of such a figure and how it is integrated into popular culture as a whole.

In Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries and their television adaptation HBO’s True Blood, the readership and viewership of the 21st century are presented with two contemporary examples of this revised Carmilla figure in both representations of the lesbian vampire Pam. Throughout Pam’s intermittent appearances within the novels and the first four seasons of the series, she is shown to be a hyper-feminine lesbian vampire, echoing the Carmilla model, yet this base characterization may be the only tangible commonality between them and their literary ancestor. This is mainly due to the revisionary choices Harris and True Blood perform to update their respective versions of the archetypal figure. As Carmilla finds herself translated and revised into Harris’s Pam, True Blood reconfigures and reworks Harris’s romance / mystery character for an adult television audience that expects sex, blood, and violence. Through an examination of the revisions that take place from Carmilla to Harris’s Pam and then True Blood’s characterwith the audience for each particular iteration in mind, the significance of the revisions demonstrates how this lesbian vampire figure remains culturally relevant and continues to haunt our collective imagination.

Within the novella, Le Fanu characterizes Carmilla and informs the archetype through her liminal positions as a lesbian in the Victorian era and as a vampire who willingly subverts herself into a position of hyper-femininity. Throughout the tale, Carmilla exists as a lesbian bewitching and feeding on young women to sate her physical need for blood but additionally to experience orgasmic, sexually charged moments wherein she dominates and penetrates her female companions. Although her lesbianism is problematic because Victorians did not conceive of a sexual act beyond penile penetration, her non-heteronormal “other” status permeates the text like Nina Auerbach contends in Our Vampires Ourselves as a “romantic friendship. . . a physical, psychic union [between women that] the experts of the next century would label ‘homosexual’”. Furthermore, Carmilla hides her lesbian tendencies and vampirism behind an image of super femininity to appear innocuous but additionally to have easy access to her food supply. Most of the time, she appears to be the fainting ingénue; however, she is ultimately revealed to be a monster of female sexuality, authority, and power that must have “a sharp stake driven through [her] heart” and “her head struck off” to destroy her non-ideal version of femininity, which keeps her from infecting young women (and potentially men) with her vampirism and dangerous sexuality.

Building on this base structure of the lesbian, ultra fem vampire, Charlaine Harris revises the Carmilla figure into her own authoritative and agentive character Pam Ravenscroft. Harris does this by positioning Pam within liminal spaces similar to those of Le Fanu’s character. However, the specific details of the Carmilla archetype are reworked for Harris’s 21st century readers of romance and mystery. By doing this, Pam functions as a palatable update to the archetype while become a fully realized contemporary character as well.

Similar to Carmilla manipulating others with her appearance, Pam’s ultra-fem image cloaks her threat level as a powerful vampire. When Pam is not working at the vampire bar Fangtasia where she wears a mandated black costume, she “dress[es], as always, in sort of a middle-class anonymous clothes. . .[like] a pair of winter white knit pants and a blue sweater. . .[with] Her blond hair. . .shining, straight and loose, down her back”. This subdued, innocuous image becomes further enhanced because Pam is only nineteen years old when she is turned and “look[s] like Alice in Wonderland with fangs”. Further still, Sookie and the others in the novel continually reference the pastels she wears and allow that Pam “look[s] like a vampire cast in an episode of Leave it to Beaver,” thus highlighting the suburban housewife look she espouses. By playing up her conservative ultra-fem appearance, Pam occupies a space within the novels that allows her to be underestimated by those around her, thereby giving her an edge against mortals and immortals alike when she does assert herself in an argumentative or physical way.

Though Carmilla uses her appearance to feed on women, this is not necessary for Pam due to the advent of synthetic blood; therefore, her conscious choice of embracing this conservative ultra-fem style exposes Pam’s agency in light of many modern vampiric iterations. Directly opposing the modern Goth vampire wearing blacks and reds or showing cleavage in diaphanous gowns, Pam’s middle-class modern style and vintage chic clothing, all in pastels, emphasize her femininity and make her appear “ethereally lovely, with a kind of edge”. By wearing vintage clothing and conservative attire, Pam deliberately distinguishes herself from many other vampires and exemplifies her individuality. Even when fighting a war against a group of werewolf witches, Pam upholds her feminine ethos by entering battle wearing a “pale pink sweater and darker pink slacks,” which shows that she will not compromise her sense of self in the worst of situations. Although this ultra-fem appearance might seem binding or debilitating to some modern feminists like Auerbach who contends that vampires “promised protection against a destiny of girdles, spike heels, and approval” for her, Pam uses her wardrobe and feminine demeanor as a symbol of power to fight witches, kill vampires, and perform other feats of strength. And thus, she becomes a symbol of female empowerment that Carmilla can never be.

Though Pam blends in with humanity relatively well, the disdain this empowered female vampire exhibits for humans reflects the scorn that Carmilla has for those individuals of the lower classes. Early on in the novels, Pam’s dislike of those she feels beneath her is obvious as she punishes a “lovelorn young man. . .[who] crawl[s] across the floor and kiss[es her] boot” by pointedly kicking him away from her. Her treatment for the inferior humans continues throughout the first few novels until she strikes a friendly relationship with Sookie, the protagonist of the Mysteries, and her brother Jason. Despite this amiability, however, Pam quickly shows that “If it came to a choice between upholding vamp interests and being [Sookie’s] buddy” she is definitely going to take sides against her human acquaintances. Furthermore, her willingness to kill them to protect her maker proves that she values vampires over humans. Here, much like Auerbach says of Carmilla, Pam shows that she truly “loves only those she understands,” and other vampires are what she knows. Pam respects and upholds her vampiric relations because she is connected to vampires in a way that she cannot be with her human friends, which echoes a similar tone to Carmilla’s not “troubl[ing her] head about peasants”. Pam’s relationship with humanity appears quite comparable to Carmilla’s, yet instead of class elitism, Pam endorses a superiority of species that places vampires above the humans, which serves to distance her from Carmilla.

Although Pam values vampires over humans, the strong bond she forms with Sookie becomes an important factor that differentiates her from Carmilla because Pam’s relationship with Sookie moves beyond one of predator and prey. Late in the series, Pam develops a friendship with Sookie, one with give and take from both parties without fearing the other’s intentions. Pam illustrates her friendliness by opening herself up to Sookie and showing her that she has a “sense of humor, not something vampires were noted for”. Moreover, Pam eventually feels comfortable enough with Sookie that she shares the details of her turning and tells Sookie that she “actually like[s] it, being a vampire”. As a result of their intermittent camaraderie, Pam comes to accept Sookie as her “favorite breather” and accepts her as an equal rather than a useless human. By establishing this friendship with Sookie, Pam moves beyond Carmilla’s predatory nature and exposes that she can be more than a blight on humanity. As Laurence A. Rickels contends in a lecture on Carmilla, “Carmilla’s secrecy is what angers Laura” because Laura only knows Carmilla’s name and a vague idea of where she is from; ultimately, this secrecy is what gets Carmilla killed. Thereby, Pam’s abilities to make friends and reveal herself to them help her become the ultimate survivor of sorts, but perhaps more importantly, this facet of Pam’s characterization revises this Other into a more personable and normative figure, the housewife next door instead of a monster feeding on its purported friends.

The final way in which Pam echoes Carmilla involves her lesbianism, but her lesbian status is complicated within the context of the modern world. Early on, Pam gives hints of her sexuality when she informs Sookie of what happened to her after the maenad’s attack: “‘Your shirt was so ragged we had to tear it off,’ Pam said smiling openly. ‘We took turns holding you on our laps. You were much admired. Bill was furious’”. While Pam makes light of saving Sookie’s life, she additionally reveals part of her lesbian nature by smiling at the thought of undressing Sookie. Moreover, even though this small detail could be potentially ambiguous, her “briefly dat[ing] Amelia Broadway” (Sookie’s temporary roommate), “tak[ing] a human female [Miriam] as a lover,” and flirting with other females throughout the series move her away from this uncertainty and concretely situate her within the lesbian sphere. Pam becomes the lesbian figure that Carmilla is not allowed to be. Pam can fall in love with anyone she pleases and chooses women, unlike Carmilla who can be “in love with no one, and never shall…unless it should be” her current female obession. Therefore, Pam represents a liberated, non-monstrous form of lesbianism within the modern world where female-female attraction is recognized as existent and no longer considered taboo by many.

Consequently, Pam’s form of lesbianism is presented as more acceptable than Carmilla’s due to the monogamous nature of her relationships. In “Reading the Other,” Miriam Jones contends that “Le Fanu’s text through its use of unnatural sexuality as a marker of degeneration” intimidates the British Imperial order, and thereby, Carmilla poses a serious threat that could contaminate the good men and women of Victorian society. However, Pam does not fit this pattern of infectious or degenerative sexuality. Each time she has a significant relationship, she stays faithful to her partners until they are parted in some natural / organic way and thus shows that she is a one woman vampire. Further still, Pam’s desire “to make another vampire” of Miriam exemplifies her monogamy even more clearly, even to the point that she “plans to turn Miriam in secret” regardless of the punishment it might entail. While she is unable to sire her lover, Pam’s willingness to do so serves as a powerful indicator of her dedication to Miriam because this act would create an eternal commitment between them which could only be undone by the death of one or the other. Thus, Pam becomes a culturally acceptable lesbian / homosexual other because she is not the monstrous, philandering Carmilla trying to turn other women into a legion of vampiric lesbians; rather, Pam is with one women at a time and threatens no one in the process.

Though Harris’s Pam revises the Carmilla archetype into a more positive figure, HBO’s True Blood reconfigures the novels’ liminal figure to the small screen for an adult viewing audience that desires blood, sex, violence, and other taboos that the books’ fan base might find unsavory. Throughout the first four seasons, True Blood demonstrates that it values wit, domineering sexuality, and a vampiric family-first demeanor as the main features of their Pam over the more nuanced elements of Harris’s character. The transformation from Pam Ravenscroft to Pamela Swynford de Beaufort illuminates archetypal shifts, but ultimately, these shifts exhibit certain differences from Harris’s character that place TBP into Carmilla’s original liminal existence as much as they let her “out of the coffin”.

Perhaps, the most obvious deviation from Harris’s character involves TBP’s age and more mature physical appearance as embodied by Kristin Bauer van Straten. Upon first seeing her in the show, Bauer van Straten seems to be a good candidate for TBP because she is blond-haired and blue-eyed and delivers her lines with a sharp, dry wit. Nevertheless, in regards to Pam appearing nineteen years old, Bauer van Straten does not fit the bill, as she is forty-two when the series begins. Being personified by this older figure, TBP does not elicit the veneer of innocence found in Harris’s character; rather, Bauer van Straten gives the character a harder edge and makes her more intimidating. As the bouncer of Fangtasia and her maker’s enforcer, TBP exudes power and strength as much as she inspires fear and longing. She lets the human characters of the show know that she can and “will personally eat, fuck, and kill” them if they do not heed her demands. Through Bauer van Straten’s casting, TBP’s older age and harder appearance cause her to be more forceful and frightening than the nineteen year old could be without vamping out entirely.

Tangentially, the hyper-feminine appearance of Harris’s Pam is also compromised within the context of the show as TBP’s sexy work attire becomes valued over her casual, vintage look. During the first two seasons, the way that she is costumed attempts to emulate the novels’ dual presentations of her as both stereotypically vampiric in her bar apparel and as the conservative ultra-fem at all other times. This differentiation even continues to occur into third season but is quickly down played as TBP herself draws attention to her appearance: “I don’t know what it is about me that makes people think I want to hear their problems. Maybe I smile too much. Maybe I wear too much pink. But please remember I can rip your throat out if I need to”. Here, she indicates that her way of dressing is what makes her appear weak and approachable in the eyes of humans. Furthermore, after this moment, TBP shows disdain for her signature apparel and does not wear the pastels or the vintage clothes in public view anymore. Conversely, she embraces the black and red leather and lace costumes of the clichéd, intimidating vampire she plays at Fangtasia. Hence, True Blood visually narrows TBP to be only stereotypically vampiric and leaves her softer, humanized self behind, reductively dealing with Harris’s Pam yet again for those views who want to see supposedly real vampires.

With this idea of vampirism, TBP is additionally revised to value her father-daughter relationship with her maker Eric over the development of human friendships. Upon her first appearance, the evidence of her commodification of humans is obvious as she tells Sookie that she “never forgets a pretty face” and that Sookie is “in [her mental] vault”. From moment one, the audience knows that Pam does not really care for humanity and that they are commodities for her to use. TBP demonstrates this even more clearly when she offers Eric the advice of using Sookie as a bargaining chip to keep Russell Edgington from killing him. When she suggests this, she additionally admonishes that “We’ve lived through so much for so long. It can’t end this quickly,” showing her love for her father figure and indifference toward humanity. Later, the relatively emotionless Pam even cries tears of blood for Eric as she watches him burn in the sun and can do nothing to save him. Within the show, Pam’s affection for her vampiric father and commodification of the humans around her revise Harris’s character in such a way that she again becomes more intimidatingly vampiric. However, TBP upholds the strength of family unity over friendship and advocates an importance of familial relations that many viewers can and will appreciate greatly, even though it occurs within the framework of a show that values viscera and sex just as highly if not more so.

Finally, the most inane revision that True Blood makes of Harris’s character revolves around TBP’s pansexual and domineering nature as opposed to her downplayed, monogamous lesbianism. Though TBP is shown to be partial to females as sexual partners or blood donors, she additionally feeds upon and dominates several men throughout the course of the first four seasons, yet many of these men inevitably irritate her because of their over-exuberance during sexual acts and their overreaction to her penetrating them. For example, one man bothers her so much with his grunting and commanding her to bite harder that Pam stops feeding and tells him to “Dial it back Jethro. You’re starting to piss me off”. While True Blood is obviously changing Harris’s character in this way to conform to an idealized notion of the vampire as pansexual, this predilection for pansexuality additionally causes her to be inherently more domineering as a result. By wearing her leather and lace costumes as she feeds on or sleeps with both males and females, TBP becomes a living sexual fantasy and dominatrix of sorts, waiting to inflict pain on those individuals willing to let her beat, bite, or savage them. As a result of this pansexuality and domineering, TBP once again becomes more dangerous and imposing within the realm of the show and in the eyes of its audience, and thereby, the seemingly genteel young women in Le Fanu’s and Harris’s works are dismissed almost entirely.

Although all these revisions serve to make TBP more of a supposedly real vampire, she additionally serves as a foil for Bill Compton, the central vampire character of the television program. Elizabeth Nelson contends in her article “Abstinence vs. Indulgence: How the New Ethical Vampire Reflects Our Monstrous Appetites,” Vampire Bill represents an ethical vampire because he “has refused to prey on humans” and uses synthetic blood to “keep him alive, allowing him to live alongside the human community he cherishes”. Moreover, throughout most of the first four seasons, Bill sustains a monogamous relationship with Sookie and builds friendly relations with the humans that surround his home in Bon Temps. Due to his fastidiousness, he becomes an upstanding, vampiric citizen and a model for other mainstreaming vampires. Conversely, TBP serves as a counterpoint to Bill; she is the decadent vampire that Nelson claims pop culture is moving away from. Therefore, as a model of what audiences expect vampires to be, TBP exposes the underlying monster or Other that Bill is attempting to mask. TBP embraces her nature and revels in being a vampire, whereas Bill could potentially break character and attack like a caged animal that has been set free. By reading TBP alongside Bill as an equal but opposite vampiric figure, True Blood creates palpable tension between their supposedly good character and the morally ambiguous TBP which makes their audience uneasy, offsets Bill’s sterling character, and foreshadows the ultimate betrayal that occurs between he and Sookie (and perhaps he and the human race as well).

Ultimately, the chain of revisions from Carmilla to Harris’s Pam to TBP exposes the profound effect that Le Fanu’s character has truly had on vampire fiction from Carmilla’s inception in Victorian England until now, but moreover, this chain helps exemplify that Carmilla is a significant vampiric figure that is as worthy of study as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Furthermore, while similar tropes exist between all three iterations of the archetype, the differences expose what modern readers and viewers expect from their commoditized undead. Although these characters exist along a spectrum from secretive lesbian vampire to pansexual vampiric Dominatrix, all three versions exemplify feminine strength, agency, and authority in such a way that they are bound together against the more culturally dominate Dracula-like, male vampires. By maintaining this continuum of Carmillas and relying on revisionary relationships to empower a lineage of many more, contemporary audiences can rest assured that if they “from a reverie. . .have started, fancying [they] heard the light step of Carmilla at the drawing-room door,” it is probably one of her literary ancestors coming to penetrate and trouble their minds once more.

 

 

**I thank you for reading and hope that you enjoyed this stuff about vampires. It must be noted that plagiarism of this work is strictly prohibited. Additionally, the works cited page has been omitted to help avoid this temptation. I’m not saying that my ideas are super-fantastic, but I would like to receive appropriate credit for this. Also, a quick side note, if you found this your professor can too. Thanks all! :)

One of my fellow Graduate Teaching Assistants said in jest yesterday, “I know modern poetry. Erin knows teaching. And Barry knows vampires” (this is close to what she originally said, but it might be slightly different). Although this statement was said within a context of teaching, t states an inherent truth about my interests in the academic realms. I like monsters and the creatures that haunt the collective imaginations of society and the cultural contexts that surround said figures. Vampires just happen to be my favorite creature to examine (with zombies coming in a close second).

Why vampires? Ever since I was a child of eight and saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula appear on Fox, I have been intrigued by vampires. Gary Oldman making his way down the side of the castle to meet with his wolves sticks in my mind as my first experience with vampires. However, after reading Dracula at age 9, I realized that there was something there that was both scary and intriguing… and I was hooked. From reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles and other vampire novels / novellas / short stories to watching movies and television shows featuring vamps prominently, I was the one other people talked about being a little odd because I loved these creatures of the night. I even did my senior thesis in undergrad over Dracula and Frankenstein and looked at the monsters in them and what cultural phenomenon they stood for.

By Work Projects Administration Federal Art Project, California [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Now, they are a constant in my life. Books of vampire critical theory and books about other vampires fill my bookshelves and my kindle library. And I even still get to write stories about them (my novel I’m working on has vampires in it… not the Twilight-y kind though…) and papers (I’m actually about to present a conference paper on Pam from Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampires Mysteries and HBO’s True Blood).
So I guess I will take that I’m the vampire guy with a flair of my cape (I wish I had a cool cape… but this is more of a metaphoric one) and a maniacal chuckle into the night. Better than just being a creepy guy… right?

By Uploaded to Commons by Xeworlebi, self created [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you follow my other blog (Bleh with Barry… *shameless plug*), you know that I have an addiction a love of HBO’s True Blood and the books that sired it. Usually, I do this update on my thoughts about the season thus far on my other blog at least a couple of times during the run of the season. However, after starting this blog dedicated to vampires, I think that it’s appropriate to move the posts over here. So without further ado, I give you my thoughts on season 5 of True Blood as of episode 6, and to try and keep negatives / positives balanced, I’ll try to go one by one.

Positive 1) The Authority reveals their faces and we deal with the aftermath of the last seasons– Honestly, this might  be one of the more exciting points for me this season. They have touted the Vampire Authority for the past several seasons through Nan Flanagan, the Magister, Russell Edgington (“Fuck the Authority” … had to quote it), etc. Yet now, we finally see Roman, Salome, and the others in all their bureaucratic glory and analyze how their vampiric government functions. Moreover, we are also able to see what happens from the Russell / Witch incidents that Eric and Bill have been in the middle of. From being interrogated about their allegiances to the iStakes, we are seeing how the Authority deals with those it feels have been disobedient vampire citizens.

Negative 1) Terry Bellefluer and Shawn from Scrubs— I know that Scott Foley is playing Patrick, but I will forever remember him as Shawn the dolphin trainer on Scrubs. This is beside the point however. I’m not a fan of the ifrit story line simply because it has nothing to do with the main story whatsoever at this point beside the fact that Terry is involved. I’m all for character expansion, yet I think that True Blood may be overstepping its plot arcs with this one… maybe they’ll tie it back. Who knows? I would also like to point out that Pam’s “spell died when Marney died”… Marney’s spell was a curse on Pam; thereby, by the show’s logic, the curse on the army guys should not be there since the woman died… Hate to poke holes in things, but this bothered me.

Positive 2) Handling the Fairies a bit better– Honestly, the weird Fairy story arc where they were going to harvest humans was completely weird. I’m glad that they’re streamlining it to Hooligan’s (Claude’s fairy strip club). It’s interesting to me to see what they’re doing, especially since they’re pulling ideas from the later books in the series to expand upon the universe this early (like Hunter Hadley’s little boy and the idea that the flood didn’t kill Sookie’s parents… don’t know about the whole “vampires did it” thing though). It’ll be intriguing to see how they handle all this.

Negative 2) Trying to make me care about Tara– I love Pam, so much that I’m writing a conference paper over her that I will deliver in September. Making her turn Tara into a vampire did not make sense to me in terms of Pam’s character (besides lording over Tara), but additionally, even though I love Pam, I still don’t give a crap about Tara. Also, the whole  self-loathing / suicidal thing that they’re trying to do with her just makes me go “Maybe this time she will really be dead.” After the first season, True Blood lost me on Tara… she’s gotten perpetually more whiny (sometimes rightly so… that’s a little debatable) and annoying.

Positive 3) Shifter / Werewolf plots– I’m okay with what they’re doing with the shifters and weres for the first time in a while. Without Sam’s family, a sense of normality has fallen back over Bon Temps for him, even though someone is apparently able to sense shifters and is attacking them as a result (another supe mayhaps?). I’m sad to see both Sam and Luna get shot by the fanatics, but it’s more interesting than what they’ve done with Sam in a while. Moreover, Alcide’s role in the overall scheme of things with the vampires, Sookie, and the shifters is quite interesting. I kind of feel where they’re going with the whole thing. However, I’m keeping my ideas to myself just in case my inkling is completely wrong…

Negative 3) Hoyt’s folly– While I liked Hoyt a lot up until the blow up over Jessica, I can see that Hoyt might reach the breaking point wherein he becomes a fang-banger… However, I feel like this is a step back for the character that had been quite independent thinking and strong-willed over the past couple of seasons (he left his mom and told her off completely… beat up on Jason… etc.) Now, he looks like a reject from an 80s group (the purple cut off shirt and red tie on top of all black)… the only reason I can think that they’re going to do this is to give Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) an exit via killing by extremists and ripping our hearts out as a result… I feel that we’ve all come to love that baby vamp.

Positive 4) Russell “Fucking” Edgington– Here’s Russell (cue eerie music and face pressed against a hole in a door a la The Shining). While Marney and her crazy necromancer self was intimidating in an off way, Russell Edgington was a villain to be remembered from season 3, and now that he’s returned, it looks to be quite awesome, especially since he seems to be the puppet master pulling the strings of some of the Authority members… I’m excited to see what occurs with him and who it turns out will be the one who rescued him (I’m placing me bets on Salome being his child… all I’m saying…). Besides, it looks like a war is brewing with him at its epicenter. Like he says, “Peace is for pussies.”

Positive 5) PAM!!!!!!! — As I’ve mentioned previously in this post, I love Pam. This season has been spectacular thus far in its usage of her (whether I agree with all of it or not is beside the point). From letting her be a maker or showing us how Eric made her, she’s being used excellently while still including her trademark wit and cynicism. I don’t know that I can say much more about her because I will gush; however, I’m excited to see what they’re going to do with her as the season continues down the back 6 (except for the terrible crimped hair… I don’t know why they’re trying to bring back bad 80s / 90s fashion on her this season… but they need to stop that shit…).

Well, this post just shows me that I’m finding more interesting things this season. Hopefully, the overall power of the season will continue as they go on the fast-paced jaunt to get to the end of the season and the climax overall… Yep… oh… I also feel it necessary to mention in closing that the Lafayette story is pretty okay too just because it includes Alfre Woodard as his mom, and she’s fantastic. Here’s hoping a good last six!

I know that this may come as a little bit of a shock to some of you, but I am not a Twilight fan at all. I could give you any of number of reasons and perhaps one day I will. However, I share with you this comic that sums up one of the reasons fairly readily.  I’ll be honest with you all, I’m not sure where this is from exactly but found it on The Metapicture… maybe someone will know so that I can properly attribute. Without further ado, the comic that sums up Twilight. 

Today, while trying to put an ear worm in my friend’s head, I played Bananarama’s “Venus” video because it is an extreme catchy tune and the 80s videos were quite entertaining. However, in watching this video myself, I came across an interesting portion of the video that made me pause for a second. If you’re unfamiliar with Bananarama’s cover of the Shocking Blue‘s hit, they sing about a figure, Venus, who basically serves as her namesake the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Yet what is the most intriguing about all of this is the fact that in Bananarama’s video they show versions of this figure that occupies both the traditional modes of beauty (one of them actually dresses as Botticelli’s Venus from “The Birth of Venus“) and non-traditional dominatrix type figures.

It was in this video that I came across two very different models of the female vampire. One is the innocent in white being let out of her coffin by a savior, who she will invariably feast upon. The other is a sexy capped individual with a bat wing-like cape and tight leather bodice. Additionally, this second vampire has a passel of loincloth clad subservient men.  These interpretations of the vampiric female s are always intriguing because it seems that rarely are there any that exist between this dichotomy. The vampiric female is either the presumed innocent or the sexpot. There is not usually a lot of in between. So there you have the vampires in odd places of today… Enjoy the video, and if you see some vampires in odd places, let me know.

So I’m sure that you’ve all seen Count von Count on Sesame Street. Additionally, we all know his purpose on the show is to teach those tuning in to count. While many may think that this is a compulsion that the Count alone has, the ideology of the counting vampire / fairy creature is one that permeates folklore as a way to impede their progress and keep them from their intended victims. Here, I offer you some info about the matter.

 

The idea behind this counting compulsion is that if a vampire or fairy creature came upon a large number of something like pebbles, salt grains, or any number of other things they would have to count ever last crumb before they could continue.  Due to the minute nature of some products and their innumerable nature, something like salt or sand could keep the vampire busy for a long time allowing the person being chased to escape or to kill the vampire in question.

Count von Count plays upon this ideology to some degree because he must count things that he comes into contact with. While it’s not the massive compulsion that some folklore vampires have, he is still occupied on the show with the necessity of counting, and in doing this, he provides a good role model for children… well, without the folkloric connotation of course. However, I just thought about this and wanted to share with those who love vampires out there. I’m going to continue pondering what ties he has to the folkloric nature of the vampire (because let’s face it with it being a children’s show… things are going to be changed greatly…).

This piece is one that I wrote for my Gothic literature class. I hope you enjoy!

The Auditory Tension of Varney’s First Feast in James Rhymer’s Varney the Vampire

          From the beginning of Varney the Vampire, or, the Feast of Blood by James Malcolm Rhymer, the importance of perceived sound by both the characters in the scene and the audience members punctuates key critical moments within the text and creates dramatic tension as a result. The usage of sound in this way is seen clearly in the first episode of the novella where Varney makes his way into Flora’s room and attacks her in order to satiate his bloodlust. Within this moment, the sounds of clattering nails on Flora’s window, her scream of pain as her hair jerked, Marchdale’s gunshot, and Varney’s laughter keep time in the work in such a way that mimics the literal storm occurring just outside Flora’s house, as the vampire’s actions and the sounds that surround him slowly make him into a symbolic storm. Moreover, while these sounds fill the space at many given moments, ominous silences of varying length between each instance of sound develop into points of vacuous and claustrophobic tension which envelop both characters and readers alike. Through this particular attention to sound and its absence, Rhymer produces an auditory complexity in the novella which he collapses into the Gothic space, thereby creating a new level of drama and heightening the overall experience of horror within this vampire story.

To start immersing the audience into this realm of sound, Rhymer uses the horrendous storm as white noise to create a point of isolation for Flora and the reader. Early on, Rhymer shows exactly what is going on outside the mansion as “the storm raged! Hail—rain—wind. It was, in very truth, an awful night” (26). These assertions about the storm continue to enter intermittently throughout the beginning of the narrative as Flora and the reader’s attentions are focused in on various aspects of what the storm is doing, such as “how the hail dashes on the old bay window” or “that lightning [explodes with]. . .an awful, vivid, terrifying flash—then a roaring peal of thunder” fills the space (27). Further still, the storm and its cacophony of sound acts as a force of separation for Flora as she can only gasp or speak “in a hoarse faint whisper cry” while it continues to rage, thereby muffling her voice to the space outside her room (29). Through Rhymer’s juxtaposition of Flora’s quiet voice against the sounds of the storm, her room in the ancient mansion feels more like a Gothic space in which the reader exists as an omnipresent observer because not only is she trapped in a creepy area with a supernatural evil but it appears that no one will be able to save her before it is too late. Hence, even as the storm itself starts to dwindle, Rhymer’s sound-based isolation of Flora and the reader serves as a creator of Gothic space and mood enhancer, especially as the specific storm sounds themselves begin to distort and the familiar becomes foreign.

Further, by relying heavily on the storm sounds in the beginning of the scene to set the mood, Rhymer not only familiarizes his readers with a natural (or potentially unnatural) phenomenon that has become a staple of the Gothic genre, but additionally, he complicates this traditional Gothic element by transforming the associated storm sounds into monstrous analogs. As the storm itself subsides, Flora continues to hear what she thinks to be hail hitting her window; however, she soon realizes that it is the creature Varney outside with “finger-nails upon the glass that produces the sound” (28). The realization that this sound no longer comes from natural occurrences but a gaunt creature with long fingernails eliminates the focus on the literal storm and repositions Flora’s and the audience’s attention of the vampire, the symbolic storm that is coming to ravage Flora. Shortly after this revelation, the patterns of sound within the overall scene of Varney’s feeding start to follow a relationship similar to that of lightning and thunder, as each ominous sound punctuates a sinister or disturbing visual that comes shortly before it. Varney’s entrance and approach is emphasized by his “clash[ing] together the long nails that literally appear to hang from the finger ends” (29). Then, Varney’s stroking and grabbing Flora’s hair resounds with her screams as “Shriek followed shriek” (30). Next, Varney’s feeding on Flora and his retreat are met with Marchdale’s pistol fire which was “tremendous in that chamber” (30). Finally, Marchdale’s movement to check his marksmanship is met with Varney’s “wild terrible shrieking kind of laugh” (31). With each flash of an image or vignette that Rhymer creates, he leaves the audience to count the moments until the sound is issued in order to judge the distance of the monster, much like counting the seconds between the flash of lightning and sound of thunder is used to approximate how close a storm is to an individual. Through this transferal of sounds and the overall way in which the storm has been functioning onto the figure of Varney and the events that surround the attack, Rhymer intensifies the image of the storm and doubly isolates Flora within it and as the target of the vampire.

While the sounds of the literal and the symbolic storm are an important aspect of the opening scene, the moments of their absence is equally powerful as they cause the dramatic tension of Varney’s approach, feeding, and retreat to increase. Between the introduction of the visual and the following sound that reminds Flora and the readers that the monster is getting closer, a moment clearly exists in which they are left to rationalize what is going on within that moment. For example, the foreignness of Varney’s “perfectly white—perfectly bloodless” face, his “fearful-looking teeth—projecting like those of some wild animal,” and his other vampiric accoutrements are introduced for Flora and the reader’s mental consumption before the clicking of the clicking of his nails brings the focus back to him (29). During this brief window of time between the initial image and the terminal sound, Flora and the reader are forced to interpret what is going on via the inherent absence of sound. Yet in this brief span of silence, the knowledge of what is in the dark and the inability of knowing how close or far Varney is from her build the tension of the scene because Flora and the readers do not know where he is or if he will attack until the next auditory cue sounds. Moreover, it is this sort of tension that permeates the other storm-like, lightning-thunder moments throughout the rest of the scene. As Varney “seized the long tresses of her [Flora’s] hair, and twin[es] them round his bony hand,” the audience is left to wonder what will happen to Flora as she is dragged to the bed, and then, she screams alerting the house of her predicament (30). As Varney runs to the window after feeding on Flora, the audience does not know if Varney has killed her or if he will get away, but Marchdale’s gunshot brings them back to the action. Further still, as Marchdale approaches the creature that he thinks is dead or injured, the audience must question whether the vampire is dead or if Marchdale is going to be a victim himself as “The tall form turn[s] upon him” and emits a terrible laugh (32). Within this construct of vignette, silence, and sound, Rhymer strengthens the tension in each moment of the scene by creating this division of sound and its absence but, additionally, by placing the action in a cerebral space that the audience itself must configure and reconfigure to determine the significance of the sound cues and the entirety of the episode.

Throughout this short feeding scene, Rhymer illuminates the true nature of his descriptive power as he uses the perceived sounds and silence to heighten the Gothic space and mood as a whole. Furthermore, his attention to this auditory detail strengthens the overall monstrousness of Varney’s attack and helps define the vampire genre a little more clearly. From the introduction of the storm to the reconfiguration of its sounds into the rest of the scene, Rhymer creates a symphony of sorts that he conducts to great effect, emphasizing every moment within Flora’s room as a line of the score. Additionally, this multi-layering of sound informs a complexity not only within this text but the other vampire stories and movies that followed it, like Dracula (the novel and the multiple versions of the movie), Nosferatu, The Lost Boys, and many more. Thus, Rhymer’s experimentation with Gothic sounds in this novella that come to be considered vampiric results in a foundational text for the vampire genre and functions as a continuation of the Gothic, even as it carves out a distinctive niche of its own.

**I thank you for reading and hope that you enjoyed this stuff about vampires. It must be noted that plagiarism of this work is strictly prohibited. Additionally, the works cited page has been omitted to help avoid this temptation. I’m not saying that my ideas are super-fantastic, but I would like to receive appropriate credit for this. Also, a quick side note, if you found this your professor can too. Thanks all! :)

Posted on Twitter earlier today. I thought that I would share with my vampire fans out there.

While the musical genre may be viewed be some as a niche, the vampire musical is even more narrowly defined even still. Although they deal with many issues that the vampire represents (i.e. sexuality, cultural consciousness, etc.), these musicals also add another layer that movies and books cannot necessarily fulfill because music touches us in ways that printed words or visuals cannot. So my aim here is to introduce you all to a few musicals that have vampires in them and revolve around these creatures of the night.

The first one I want to introduce is Dracula the Musical music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton. A take off on Bram Stoker’s Dracula (obviously), the story plays the love story angle up between Mina and Dracula to a degree but ends in much the same way as the novel. While an American version did head into production on Broadway, it was never as successful as its German counterpart. The song I’m giving you a taste of comes from the most recent German revival wherein they overhauled several songs and added six new ones. “Zu Ende” (roughly “It’s Over” in English) is when the confrontation between Dracula and the merry band of vampire hunters takes place. Performed by Uwe Kroger and Thomas Borchert, the song illustrates the battle over the soul of Mina and ultimately what Dracula’s conquering of her would be if he actually succeeded.

The second musical is based on Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers; Or Pardon Me but Your Teeth are in My Neck. If you’re familiar with the film, the musical follows pretty much the same trajectory. Alfred and the Professor are looking for vampires and find them when one absconds with Sarah a girl from a village Alfred and the Professor find themselves in. They go after her and hilarity / horror ensues. Tanz der Vampire (Dance of the Vampire) deals with all this in music and stays true to the source material, partially because Polanski directed the original German production. With the music of Jim Steinman (think 80s power ballads) and lyrics of Micheal Kunze, it’s an 80s-tastic romp through ballads of Bonnie Tyler, Meatloaf, and others. In the following song “Unstillbare Gier” (“Insatiable Greed” / “Insatiable Appetite”) Steve Barton as Graf Von Krolock has an existential crisis about being a vampire with an endless appetite and his ultimate decision to be what his is at any cost.

The final one is from a musical that has never been produced but has been born from the mind of Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. In his Dracula puppet musical, we have a confrontation between Dracula and Van Helsing at the end and hilarity happens. If you haven’t watched the movie, you should… it’s hilarious, but warning, you will see penis if you watch the movie. Here is “Dracula’s Lament.”

Hopefully, you will enjoy these musicals / musical numbers about and starring vampires. I know that I enjoy them.

 

While the following list does try to be truthful to the comparison, it is also just for fun, so please, no stakings for it. I hope you enjoy (Also, be forewarned that I wrote this with a *Budum Chi* symbol sound coming after .

10. Vampires don’t rot (Whew, the stench of these walking dead people is making me start to crave brains).

9. When vampires feed, they’re not nearly as gross as zombies (Intestines and brain matter do not fly with the vamps).

8. Vampires are a crafty sort (Zombies are lucky to stumble into food).

7. Vampires are solitary creatures that are selective about who they turn (Zombies will let any and everyone into their club).

6. Vampires have celebrities among them such as Dracula, Carmilla, Lord Ruthven, etc. (Literary history gives us no prominent zombie figures… except the ones that start the outbreak).

5. One vampire can take down a horde of adventurers (Zombies usually need a horde to take down one adventurer).

4. A specific skill set is needed to take down vampires (Zombies can be beaten by any Tom, Dick, Harry, or head shot).

3. Vampires live forever or near to forever and usually remain youthful doing so (Due to the aforementioned rotting issue, zombies will eventually either be a lot less attractive / mobile or waste away to nothingness… BLEAK!)

2. Vampires have literally existed longer in the literary heritage because of their deep roots in folklore (Zombies are relatively new and sometimes stink of the rotted, fleshy newness. . .even to their allegorical meanings).

1. Vampires are intelligent and remain so throughout eternity (Zombies live for the flesh and nothing more… and then, they quite living when the food supply runs out).

There you have it. Vampires are definitely way cooler than zombies, even though I like both to some degree. However, viva la vampire!!!