I think I should probably admit something:
I’m not a fan of Dracula.
As shocking as it sounds, given that every single vampire text has to in some way reference Stoker’s creation, I’m not a fan. I don’t like the novel,, I don’t like the way Stoker writes, and I’m not particularly interested in the ‘legacy’ of Dracula.
I’m aware that it stems from the myth of Vlad the Impaler.
By all accounts, the man was a bit of a bastard. The whole impaling thing got out of hand. His version of impaling involved inserting a pole up the rectum of his victims. They died slowly, painfully, and usually when the stake got as far as their lungs/heart and punctured them. But Dracula did no such thing. He was secretive, repulsive, compelling. He could climb up walls. He didn’t eat, and he had a coven of child-hungry female vampires. There has been unending criticism on the text, and I believe there will continue to be. Everybody wants to pitch in with their interpretation of the novel. The sheer momentum it has acquired means that writing about it, or making links to it add gravitas to the work of the author.
The Dracula myth has been warped and adapted to suit various cultural needs. At the time, it was seen as a fear of invasion. The Count was markedly foreign, and represented a corruption of puritanical Britain. He infected hearts, minds, and various other bodily parts with his powers (something that vampires would call ‘glamouring’ these days).
In the 70s, with the Hammer Horror films, we had this incarnation of Dracula:
He was sleazy, lurid, and very kitsch. It blunted the once horrific threat vampires had posed. They had become comic cannon fodder. The Hammer Horror series developed a cult following, but weren’t quite up to Hollywood standards. The vampire wasn’t revered. It was being mocked.
Then, in 1992, Francis Ford Coppola released Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Along with Frankenstein two years later, Hollywood were trying to create their own brand of the monstrous classics. This time, Dracula looked like this (courtesy of Gary Oldman):
Notice anything about these 3 pictures? I do.
1. They’re all male. (Well, obviously, but go with me on this one)
2. They’re all over 30.
3. None of them are attractive.
Since the last Dracula film, vampiric protagonists have taken a sharp turn. No longer do we view vampires as creepy, older, or repulsive. They rarely turn into bats any more. Instead, they are defined by juxtapositions. Beauty or innocence is a often-used trope to confuse the audience. How can something that looks so innocent or attractive be evil? It forces us to change and realign our perceptions of good and evil. Rather than Dracula, who is obviously unattractive, today’s vampires are closer to human (and youth) than ever. This serves two purposes: to point out that metaphorically, the legend has a great deal of potential left (and because we fetishise youth) and secondly, to make us reconsider what we consider to be human/inhuman behaviour.
Still, all being said, I’m still not a fan of Dracula.