I meant to post this around Halloween, but it’s never too late for a good scare. I had the idea for this short little screenplay from a stress dream I had, combined with my experiences of living with anxiety.
One of my first experiences of profound disappointment in a book (that I didn’t read for class) that I can remember was with Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn. Yes, reader, I was a Twilight fan; you can laugh if you want. But the thought of 13-year-old me being obsessed with Twilight isn’t ridiculous to me at all. I was, after all, a lonely teenager who felt “different” from his peers for some reason (just like Bella, omg!) and had very idealistic ideas about what romance was, and I just happened to love vampires. Of course I liked it. Meyer, for all her faults as a writer, was incredibly good at weeding out specific little details about teenage loneliness and grabbing the reader with them. I felt understood and comforted by Bella’s wannabe Dorothy Parker observations, even if I didn’t always find them funny.
Like any fantasy, however, it wasn’t meant to last forever. Upon reading Breaking Dawn’s nightmarish Xenomorph baby-filled conclusion, I was made painfully aware of the series’ faults: the repetitious and clunky prose, the lack of true lasting conflict with real consequences, the racism, the bizarre and creepy ideas about what constitutes a healthy relationship, the racism, the glorification of women’s suffering, and did I mention the racism? I was horrified. I liked this? Why was I okay with this before? I had to figure out why I felt the way I felt. So I did something I thought I’d never do before: I started reading criticism of Twilight on the Internet. It’s not that I hadn’t been aware of the backlash to Twilight. I’m not sure how anyone could have been unaware: it was just as omnipresent as the fandom. The form the backlash often took, however, was what completely turned me off. Most of it amounted to little more than calling Edward a fag or saying that the series was gay and sucked because the vampires sparkled (which turned me off for…obvious reasons), or various flavors of misogyny ranging from calling Bella a bitch because she “friendzoned” Jacob to calling women in general bitches for liking things, because men have never enjoyed anything weird or gross or awful.
The whole thing was definitely a learning experience, kind of a Baby’s First Women’s & Gender Studies. I did manage to find some more intelligent and insightful critiques on the series (most written by women, imagine that) that actually talked about the issues I’d brought up before and a lot more that I hadn’t even thought of, but the bad or even thoughtless ones were so toxic that they complicated my feelings. I didn’t feel entirely ready to abandon Twilight just yet; after all, I did spend a lot of a formative period of my life reading it and identifying with it, or at least parts of it. Was it really so simple as just loving or hating something?
Turns out, it wasn’t.
Dracula/Dracula Analogue Performed By: Carlos Villarías
Director: George Melford
Country: United States
Character Archetype: Not Like a Regular Dad, a Cool Dad, Who Does Murders
This film is a little difficult to talk about as a stand-alone feature, because it was created specifically to be a Spanish-language version of the Tod Browning film (both were released in the same year). In the early days of sound film, it wasn’t uncommon for films to be at least partially re-shot on the same sets with the actors speaking a different language (this was even done with Fritz Lang’s M), but this is one of the rare alternate language versions of a film that’s built up a strong following in its own right. Some people even go so far as to say this film is better than the Browning film, but I prefer to think that they’re both well-executed films that play to different tastes and have different strengths.
Dracula/Dracula Analogue Performed by: Bela Lugosi
Director: Tod Browning
Country: United States
Character Archetype: Horrific Propriety
I gave Nosferatu a lot of praise last time for its huge impact on pop culture and for the wealth of imagery that other things have borrowed from it, but if there’s anything in the Dracula canon that can give it a run for its money in that regard, it’s this film.
Tod Browning’s film is less of a concentrated vision than Nosferatu, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and there’s a lot of reasons for why. For one, it’s based less directly on Bram Stoker’s novel and more on a popular play written by Hamilton Deane and revised by John L. Balderston, which shuffles some of the timeline around, cuts out older characters and adds new ones. Some of these changes are pretty minor and inexplicable and didn’t survive the transition to the screen (such as switching Mina and Lucy’s names for no reason, or having Renfield survive), but other changes were significant enough (such as giving Renfield the same job as Harker, making him the first to go to Transylvania to meet the Count) that other versions have adopted them over material from the novel.
I had a dream I meant something to you;
I know it was a dream because of the cruelty of the awakening,
The betrayal that I felt upon opening my eyes,
The searing knifelike pain of knowing the feeling of your fingers on my spine
Was merely my brain working overtime for something it could not afford.
I had a dream that you memorialized me in your art;
I glowed beautifully in your gaze, danced across your visions,
Your hunger for me, nothing but me, the idea and reality of me, kept me alive,
Your belief in talents I didn’t know I possessed gave me strength,
So much I could have backflipped through time and space to please you.
I woke to find my body, my real body, my imperfect body as it was;
I could no longer do the things you might have asked of me.
I couldn’t think myself worthy to meet your gaze,
I wanted to fuse all my parts together to make one abstract glob of self;
Something you might look upon in admiration.
Your perfect boy.
Recently, I saw Wonder Woman, the new entry in the D.C. Expanded Universe, and a movie that literally everyone has been talking about. I really enjoyed it, especially in comparison to the DCEU’s previous films, so much so that I was worried for a moment that maybe all of my praise was coming exclusively from that. After some careful deliberation, however, I came to the conclusion that I did like Wonder Woman on its own merits. I don’t intend to write about the film itself at length (there’s tons of women out there who are covering the main talking points better than I ever could), so instead I wanted to talk about Wonder Woman in relation to something that scares me: expectations.
[The following contains spoilers for Personal Shopper.]
I had more difficulty writing about Personal Shopper than almost anything else I’ve written about, because of what’s been happening in my life of late. Just last month, a mere week before I saw the movie, my uncle passed away after a long struggle with his health. There’s a hole in my life he left that I don’t think I’ll ever fill; he was a kind and giving man to everyone, a fantastic brother to my mom and my other uncles and was never anything but supportive of me. Sometimes it’s still hard to grasp that he’s gone. I feel like he’s still with me even now. Personal Shopper was exactly the movie I needed to see at that moment, because its statements on grief, technology, and how the two are intertwined profoundly moved me and helped me achieve some kind of closure.