(Mis)Understanding a Monster: Dracula Retrospective Introduction

(Mis)Understanding a Monster: Dracula Retrospective Introduction

So. Dracula.

Talking about Count Dracula as a character and cultural icon is a rather daunting task, as he’s appeared in over 200 films, plus numerous plays, books, TV shows, et cetera, constantly changing in how his character is framed and presented. Though the novelist who birthed this creature of the night was Irish, his cultural impact has been felt far, far from Ireland’s shores. Most of us know who Count Dracula is, but how many of us truly know him in his multitudes, from a repulsive, barely-human beast to a Nice Guy who just wanted to save his wife and son (yes, really)?

Obviously, it’d probably take years to watch every single bit of Dracula media ever made, from the direct-to-garbage bin schlock to the big-budget studio productions to the barely-concealed fanfic, so I won’t be covering every single bit of Dracula media ever. I want to try and cover as much ground as I can, however. The way Dracula the character has been re-shaped over time to suit the needs of numerous creators is fascinating; it constantly reflects cultural attitudes towards women, foreign countries, sexuality, and religion. The way writers and directors grapple with the social mores of the Victorian period (or don’t, tellingly) in contemporary contexts is fascinating from multiple critical perspectives, and hopefully I’ll be able to dig into why the different versions of the character over the years make the changes they do.

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The Dangers of Sincerity on the Internet, or, The Saga of Rebecca Black

The Dangers of Sincerity on the Internet, or, The Saga of Rebecca Black

I don’t know about you, but Rebecca Black’s “Friday” is one of the biggest defining cultural milestones I can remember from my teenage years. Not just the song itself, mind you, although its repetitive earworm-iness has definitely stuck with me for quite some time. Mostly, it impacted me via the music video’s reception and subsequent meme-ification by the public. It’s hard to overstate how mainstreamed mockery of the video was: we had Youtube Poops, comedic dubs, “reviews” by angry men screaming in their basements (that I will not link to), and worst of all, an inevitable Glee cover. Yikes. All this over a song by a 13-year-old who signed with a record company that’s made an industry out of making children with rich parents into “pop stars” that was never even intended to make much of an impact, and certainly not in this way.

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It Doesn’t Get Better: ‘The Boys in the Band,’ “The Broken Hearts Club’ and Gay Self-Loathing

It Doesn’t Get Better: ‘The Boys in the Band,’ “The Broken Hearts Club’ and Gay Self-Loathing

[Warning: the following contains quoted homophobic and racist slurs from the films in question.]

It’s Pride Month, which means it’s time to celebrate the progress the movement for LGBTQIA+ rights has made, and plan for the massive strides our country still needs to make. As such, you can probably expect to see a lot of press from the It Gets Better Project, which is dedicated to helping LGBT+ youth through showing them that happiness and success are not as elusive as they may think.

It Gets Better could be considered a real-world application of many queer activists’ desires to see more positive, happy portrayals of LGBTQIA+ people in media, which has been a concern for much longer than the current age of internet campaigns over fridging queer characters on TV shows. This desire originates from queer writers’ reactions to the censoring of books that contained same-sex relationships that were not depicted as immoral, ending in death, or “fixable.” For instance, Patricia Highsmith’s lesbian novel The Price of Salt (later adapted to film as Carol) was incredibly controversial and unusual for its happy ending, while pulp novels where women had lesbian affairs but “repented” by re-discovering heterosexuality (which were often written by queer writers as a way of circumventing moral codes to achieve the slightest amount of representation) thrived and practically formed their own industry, albeit a niche one not granted much literary merit.

Eventually, the narrative of gay characters meeting tragic fates was co-opted by straight writers, usually for the purpose of educating other straight people about homophobia, and instead of being regarded as “trashy” or “pulp,” was elevated to the realm of prestige pieces. Naturally, gay writers weren’t pleased with this development, and started creating their own works in response to this trend, two of which I’ll examine here: the 1970 film version of the play The Boys in the Band (written by Mart Crowley) and the 2000 film The Broken Hearts Club (written and directed by Greg Berlanti).

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