The Monstrosity of ‘Dracula’

What makes Dracula so iconic? Is it the many, many adaptations, or is it the fact that Dracula, and vampirisim itself, stay so relevant because they reflect societal fears?

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One! Two! Three! ah ah ah. Happily enough, it’s been exactly 123 years since the seminal classic Dracula by Bram Stoker was published, so I can do that joke, and you can find its influence everywhere, even in children’s educational shows. But what makes Dracula so iconic? Is it the many, many adaptations of him including performances by the likes of Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman? Or is it the fact that Dracula, and vampirism itself, stay so relevant because they reflect societal fears no matter the decade or century?

Each culture has their own myth of a blood-sucking fiend, including the chupacabra of Mexico and the jiangshi of China. but somehow, the Eastern European count has taken hold of Western media, which transitions nicely into the next paragraph.

 

 

When Stoker was writing Dracula, he put the fears of Victorian Britain into one entity, the titular Dracula, and made him into the iconic vampire villain he is today. What made the idea of Dracula frightening to Victorian Londoners is that he represented immigration, homosexuality, and feminism all in one. He represents the fear of “otherness.”

One of the characters, Lucy Westenra, has that name because it literally means, “Light of the West.’ When she gets bitten by Dracula, an Eastern European immigrant/invader, his threat level sky-rockets. He represents the fear of a rich and strong Western Europe being taken over by immigrants from the less rich and powerful Eastern Europe.

 

 

In terms of homosexuality, when the protagonist Jonathan Harker comes to Dracula’s castle, he is unnerved by him, and the creepy atmosphere in the castle comes to a climax when he is trapped by Dracula’s brides, only to be rescued by him with these lines uttered to the brides, “This man belongs to me!” Even now, the idea of the vampire is incredibly sexual, with the trademark fangs being seen as phallic symbols. If Dracula were to ever bite Harker, Harker would be in the submissive and receiving position with another man, completely upending Victorian societal norms and propriety.

Finally, in terms of feminism, when Lucy gets bitten and turned into a vampire, she does numerous acts that do not coincide with the expectations for a proper English lady, including killing a child in subversion of the motherly role, and becoming a more sexual being. Although the men try to save her, it is too late , and she is killed by another phallic symbol, the stake. In contrast, Mina is more of a proper Victorian lady, which is why she is saved and has a happy ending.

 

 

Although these specific fears don’t fit in with the present, the idea of the vampire is still as powerful as ever. They still represent the idea of groups of people being forced to hide from mainstream society, and otherness in general. Due to this, Dracula and the vampire itself will continue to live on for many years.

Featured Image Via Clément Falize