We are all familiar with the typical portrayals of vampires as blood sucking, gorgeous, and seductive thanks to pop culture; especially to Edward Cullen. However, we often forget the real, original dark vampire of the night, our beloved Count Dracula. In the famous pioneering vampire literature gothic, horror novel, Dracula, Bram Stoker, an educated author, illustrates Dracula as an individual that portrays himself as perfect, courteous, and masculine in the public eye as a mere facade in order to hide deeper, wicker intents of manipulation and malevolence towards humanity. He is honestly pretty fake, just like your backstabbing friends and tragic romantic relationships back in high school. As the result of that, it is what makes him so horrifying; his social masquerade is so carefully composed. There is no absolute limit to what he is capable of performing. He cleverly utilizes human sympathy and emotions, toying with sexual fantasies and human urges of lust and desire.
In addition, dracula challenges the fundamental social hierarchy of aristocrats; going to as far as jeopardize the domestic section. He forces inquiries of the ideology about people themselves, reality, and modern day culture.
Dracula is very similar to your parents; they make you question your life decisions and if you’re really understanding the harsh, sad reality of your life. It is like tough love. Any high school senior should be able to relate to that statement. Thanks to our buddy old pal serving as a type of agent of transmission, societal issues, such as gender norms, value of women, and oppressed sexuality and expressions, were pushed into the spotlight. As the result, in later vampire literature, vampires were defined as tragic and pitiful for hiding such issues inside them. It’s really ironic once you think about it, Dracula is an evil entity, yet he is the one causing everyone to be enlightened. He end up making the rest of the vampires seem emo. You could say it was not entirely Edward Cullen’s fault for causing the trend of emo vampires.
A focused issue is gender conceptions; the so-called ideal norms of women. Women during the Victorian era were expected to be pure, feminine, and delicate; the typical traditional view. If a lady was well behaved and had decency, she was deemed acceptable in societal standards, which was set by aristocrats. Erotic manners were definitely out the question. It was seen as improper behavior and repulsive, especially towards men. However, “three young women” (Stoker 198), who are vampires, symbolized the complete opposite of the ideal Victorian lady. These sexual deviants flirtously pursued Jonathan, the protagonist, intensely.
In addition, these ardent females possessed “deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive,” (Stoker 199) that seduces Jonathan, even though he is to be supposedly disguised according to societal standards. These vixens dominated him, a man, to the every inches of his entire being, even going as far as one of them to lick “her lips like an animal” (Stoker 199) towards him. We love and stance strong women, even though the Victorian times refused to. Consequently, this destroyed the perception of women by expressing erotic desires; a total taboo. It is empowerment to females and emphasise that women were celebrated for their pure virtues. In the text, (Un)safe Sex: Romancing the Vampire, Karen Backstein, a well rounded writer, also states that women are no longer passive and virgin; they have their own sexual strengths.
Modern portrayals of ladies have caused a shift in perspective of women because of their “degree of girl power” (Backstein 213) in sexual confidence and independence. Bella, from Twilight, is a prime example of a female becoming “the central object of desire for every man” (Backstein 213). Dracula’s purpose was to taint them to become lustful, directly challenging and insulting society to realize the reality. Since women traditionally uphold domestic responsibilities, Dracula skillfully attacked the very crux of homes. Women are the glue that holds everything together. By corrupting women, the happiness and love in homes are shattered. He is basically trying to test the aristocrats’ limits, which we have to give him good props for. I mean, did he stutter? Women have desires for sexual intimacy too.
Furthermore, the matter of men is also highlighted. Men during the Victorian times were described as stoic, decisive, dominant, and strong. Our protagonist, dear Jonathan, was sexually manipulated and submissive to vampire vixens. His masculinity was endangered because he panicked once he was alone and encountered the female vampires. He succumbed to their allure, unintentionally allowing one of them the opportunity to have her “lips on the super-sensitive skin of my [his] throat,” (Stoker 199). He was overtaken by the female vampires, disproving the gender norms of males’ characteristics as dominant and strong. To note, Jonathan has decided to be committed to a significant other; a non-vampire. Luckily for him, considering the sexual incident that just happened to him. Despite being committed to someone, he felt “a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me [him] with those red lips” (Stoker 199) of theirs. He is indecisive about what he wants and does not attempt to escape the clutches of the attractive vampires. He has a girl back home, yet this person is going after 3 other chicks. He really needs to decide what he wants and be committed about it, just like most guys in high school need to do. Sorry but, his significant other back home deserves better than him. In turn, these women decided to take advantage of him being away from his other.
We do not stance an indecisive and weak-willed man, just like the Victorian era does not. In addition, he was emotional throughout the incident. He was previously panicking and was so worried about his sanity that he prayed to his “merciful God!” (Stoker 197). He could barely maintain a calm composure, failing to be stoic. Dracula meddled with Jonathan, forcing him to experience new situations of fear and terror in order for him to realize the characteristics he truly possessed and how human nature actually is.
The societal issues that were highlighted in Dracula, in later vampire literature, such as I am Legend, are even more emphasised across modern times. The value of women are especially featured. Robert Neville, the protagonist, is the lonesome human survivor of a vampire epidemic that has struck the world. Because he is depressed from his loneliness and lack of interaction with others, Neville has urges that are left unsatisfied due to his wife entering an endless sleep without his daughter. He has sexual urges that are provoked by female vampires that purposely taunt him. Sequentially, he ends up conducting experiments on them in order to gain understanding of the vampire apocalypse. In the novel, the author, Richard Matheson, state,
“All the knowledge in those books couldn’t put out the fire in him; all the words of centuries couldn’t end the wordless, mindless craving of his flesh. It was an insult to men. All right, it was a natural drive, but there was no outlet for it anymore. They’d forced celibacy on him; he’d have to live with it. You have a mind, don’t you? He asked himself. Well, use it?” (Matheson 19)
Because he is tormented by his lust, he experiments on women solely. He is physically attracted to them. Having been deprived of sex for who knows how long, he perceives women in a misogynistic view and decreased their value to just plain temptation and basically sex objects. In “Dracula”, female vampires were portrayed in the same manner as well due to the Victorian era. It is tragic to see that women were abused in such a way.
To sum up, the social issues of gender roles and sexual oppression surrounding the original Dracula have moved through modern times, inspiring later works as the result. To the naked eye, vampires are just creatures of the night that are good looking and attractive. However, vampires are a lot more than blood-sucking beings; they symbolize our pop culture and society as a whole by representing how culture has transformed. The world was not ready for Dracula and his awakening in the world. He really meant what he meant in his original novel. He did not stutter.