Countess Draculas

tumblr_lci9zbG0ez1qaphz7o1_500Arguably starting with the film Dracula’s Daughter, the notion of the famous Count’s distaff side attracted audience members and storytellers.  Ingrid Pitt of course starred in a film titled Countess Dracula, although the character in question was in fact Ezebet Bathori (quite famous in her own right). In fact, the original source material, i.e. Bram Stoker‘s classic novel, barely hints the title character has any descendants at all (interestingly, the novel does hint–albeit subtly–the Count is a descendant of THE Dracula). This hardly kept folks from imagining a daughter and what she might be like.

young_dracula_series_1_episode_6The sequel to the Lugosi film of course put her in the archetype of a reluctant vampire, eager to find almost any way imaginable to become human again, or failing that to cease her loneliness. All kinds of other versions have popped up as well, including the over-achieving Ingrid Dracula, self-styled Princess of Darkness, in the surprisingly sophisticated children’s show Young Dracula. She eagerly longed to take over the world, in part in revenge for the way her father and whole family dismissed her as nothing but a girl (at one point referred to with astonishing nastiness as “egg dropper”).  Even more of a vampiric rebel was Marvel Comics’ own take on Dracula’s female offspring, Lilith, created as an undead by a vengeful gypsy with one purpose in mind–the utter destruction of her father! Later another comic book company decided to go one step further in creating Eva, the vampire-hunting daughter of Count Dracula!

draculas.widowAnother way to explore the Count’s feminine side was to imagine his bride, such as Dracula’s Widow with Sylvia Kristel in the title role. Or to simply re-cast Dracula himself as a female in Lust for Dracula (the feature image above) or in the sadly failed kickstarter project in which all the genders would have been switched.

But this all brings up a question. Why? Why focus on the female predator in Dracula’s story and/or family tree? Fun? Well, yeah. Adding the titillation of the lesbian into the vampire story? hotel_transylvaniaSometimes, yes. Sometimes not. But it also cannot help but in some way explore the whole idea of what the feminine is, for good and ill. Frankly a few of these come across as pretty openly misogynistic, casting a strong and sexualized woman as inherently evil. More interesting, at least to my mind, is the exploration of female roles. Ingrid in Young Dracula is an example of this, but no less so Mavis Dracula, one of the leads in Hotel Transylvania. In this case, the whole vampire/horror/supernatural elements become a way to re-examine what might seem fairly ordinary–father/daughter relationships especially. Thinking on this, Ingrid sticks in mind the most. When her father was accidentally hypnotized into believing himself human, thus treating her with all the love and support any girl might wish for, Clare Thomas’ performance as she watched her entire world crumble and reshape into her deepest desires proved something to behold. Or the way she saved a family of junsu.dracula“breathers” (a derogatory word for human beings) she despised–simply because they automatically bought a birthday gift for her, out of politeness. The fact she seemed furious at herself for doing so added to the impact.

Likewise, consider the Japanese production of Frank Wildhorn’s Dracula: The Musical followed a theatrical tradition in that country and cast a woman in the title role. As far as I can tell, nothing in the script was changed, yet it somehow worked best this way–at least in the eyes of those fans of this specific production. Yoka Wao, the lead in the clip below, came out of the male impersonator troupe of the Takarazuka Revue (where she won kudos for her portrayal of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights). Her performance of the icy alpha, who remains an oddly lonely and anguished figure, combined virtually all the dramatic elements of Dracula we might come to expect (or hope for). Apart from her talent, what does this say? Why did creating a successful female Dracula seem like a such a good idea, and when it worked carry such vast power? Maybe, just maybe, because vampires are creatures of our collective dreams–and like the surging interest in versions of Carmilla, they reflect how beliefs and feelings about gender are changing?

By david

David MacDowell Blue blogs at Night Tinted Glasses.  He graduated from the National Shakespeare Conservatory and is the author of The Annotated Carmilla. and Your Vampire Story (And How to Write It) as well as a theatrical adaptation of Carmilla.

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