A Monstrous Interpretation of Dracula


Photo Credit: NBC.com
Photo Credit: NBC.com

Last night I sat down with great anticipation to watch NBC’s Dracula. It was a perfect addition to my monstrous month of all things monster-ly! With my monstrous Nerd Nite presentation about Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies two weeks ago, and my reading yesterday about Poe, it’s been a glorious October, dedicated to all things Gothic and villainous.

As far as plot goes, I will have to watch another episode or two of “Dracula” to really decide if things are going to remain intriguing. But the fact that I do want to watch another episode indicates that there were some positive aspects of the show last night. I watched one episode of the “The Following” and never went back for seconds. Since I am not yet sure if my review of “Dracula” as a whole can go one way or another, I titled this post “A Monstrous Review.” The word monstrous can be interpreted positively or negatively. So I’m staying on neutral ground here, at least for the time being.

I really enjoyed the recasting of the various characters from Bram Stoker’s original story, particularly because of the elevation of Mina’s station in life. As a medical student, she is astute and extremely intriguing. This, of course, breaks the mold of the classic Gothic heroine who lacks agency and brainpower. Lucy seemingly remains in her traditional role as the not-so-brainy beauty. I wonder if she will receive three marriage proposals in one night just like in the original story. But what is Dracula without the classic Lucy? Nothing, I say.

Photo Credit: NBC.com
Photo Credit: NBC.com

As for the men, I love that Renfield is this large and commanding man. Renfield is traditionally imagined as a scrawny bug-eating lunatic. I saw no bug-eating in last night’s viewing. I am intrigued by the teaming up of Van Helsing and Dracula. It’s a fun twist. I also appreciated Jonathan Harker as a journalist rather than a lawyer. I thought it was a nice step in bringing the story to a modern audience because it tips the balance of power between Mina and Jonathan (at least to the modern viewer). She clearly holds the cards in her hand. I think he will remain a stronger character because there has to be a believable manly foil for the character of Dracula, particularly if there is going to be the sordid love triangle that the trailers suggest will take place in this series.

Photo Credit: NBC.com
Photo Credit: NBC.com

Dracula himself was really exciting. He’s hot, of course. But what really got me going was his similarity to the classic vampire as portrayed in Polidori’s story, “The Vampyre” published in 1819. In this story, vampires are well-dressed, impeccably mannered and suave. Polidori’s vampire shows up in a similar fashion in the imaginings of Anne Rice in “The Vampire Chronicles.” Both Louis and Lestat are well-dressed and well-mannered men (at least when the mood strikes them). This trend continues into other modern interpretations of the vampire. So far in this show, we have seen Dracula’s temper with other men. But we have yet to see it in association with women. If he doesn’t dominate and control the women in his life, the writers will have broken the mold that has come to be with modern love stories involving vampires. And that would be a very good thing.

Photo Credit: NBC.com
Photo Credit: NBC.com

The Order of the Dragon is, of course, not in Bram Stoker’s story. I honestly don’t know where that comes from. But it follows with the trend of powerful secret societies found in more recent pieces of literature that have proven to be popular such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and all subsequent sequels and prequels. And it interprets Dracula in a new, almost heroic light. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I can accept the seeking revenge bit. But I’m not sure how much further I am willing to go. There has to be a line it crosses when it is no longer Dracula and instead falls into the nearly overdone cracks of the modern EMO vamp figure.

I really loved the way they awoke Dracula from his sleep and how they interpreted his desiccation. The way they decided to bring him into the Victorian era was particularly intriguing because it adds another layer to the way vampires live and perish. That list continues to lengthen with each new interpretation. But that’s postmodernism for you (or whatever this new era will be called). It also places a great emphasis on the importance of blood and shows it as more of a vital life source instead of just an aphrodisiac as in so many other interpretations—though  we see this interpretation frequently in the show too. Dracula is already a very sensual individual and the manner in which he kills or feeds is both sensual and beautiful in a very Poe-esque sort of way.

I expected to be overwhelmed with costumes, scenery and setting because the show is produced by the people responsible for The Tudors and Downton Abbey. I was certainly not disappointed.

Overall, I enjoyed the first episode of Dracula. Some of the writing was a little blasé and cheesy and the random Matrix-like action scenes were a bit of a letdown (they are absolutely unnecessary), but I still appreciated what the writers were doing. I am definitely looking forward to the next episode and seeing where the story goes next. I love how frequently monsters and Fantasy are showing up on television and in film these days. Maybe in a couple of weeks I can offer a more solid review and decide if I am going to stick around for a while and join Dracula in his bloody reverie.

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