Even if you haven’t read Dracula, the novel by Bram Stoker, you know Dracula. The infamous vampire may have the most pervasive influence of any other monster in Horror. Without him, we likely wouldn’t have the sexed-up vampires on True Blood.
This past summer, as I watched the latest season of that show, I decided to give Stoker his due, and read his novel. I couldn’t help but compare the two. In fact, I feel like we should compare the two. Vampire tales have been around for centuries, long before Stoker’s novel came out in 1897, but the man Stoker gave us, that creepy, charismatic figure, is the one who made possible modern vampires like Eric Northman and Bill Compton.
True Blood deserves a nod for handling the vampire better than some of its contemporaries. While Twilight’s vamps enjoy the privilege of walking around in the daylight—and glitter and sparkle, while they’re at it!—True Blood’s maintain the sinister and sexy feel of their godfather, Count Dracula.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, True Blood, in many ways, is soft-core porn—you know you ogle, just like the rest of us. Whereas True Blood relishes in its sexual excess, Dracula tries to contain it. Stoker does indeed sexualize his vampires, but he and his characters are at once attracted and repulsed.
Take for example, Lucy Westenra, human turned vampire. When her friends, including her fiancé, discover that she’s enjoying midnight trysts with children, they are, of course, taken aback. Stoker frames her pedophilic acts as just that—when her fiancé and friends see her, fangs and all, they’re attracted to and horrified by her “voluptuous wantonness” (Stoker 203). If sucking of necks didn’t suggest it before, then Stoker confirms the sexual undertones here. But once he brings this aberrant sexuality to light, he can’t permit it to go on.
And so, Lucy’s friends catch her just after dawn, while she’s sleeping, and her fiancé plunges his stake into her. As an English major, I’m discontent to let any phallic images go without some scrutiny—and there’s reason to believe the stake is phallic as well as sexualized. Because as soon as the fiancé plunges his stake into Lucy, she loses her “voluptuous wantonness.” She regains her “unequalled sweetness and purity” (208). It seems that Stoker’s trying to say something broader here: a good English girl is safe, in the right hands, with a good Christian boy’s stake in her.
True Blood puts the spotlight on what Dracula tried to closet. The show has benefited from decades of progress in our thoughts on sex and eroticism; since Victorianism, we’ve had sexual revolutions, gay rights, and more. And so, our favorite vampires say openly that they’re bored of conventional sex after centuries of doing it. Sookie Stackhouse enjoys sex dreams and sexual exploits. The list goes on. True Blood sees the sexual excess vampires can’t help but represent, and says, “It’s ok.”
Michael D. Anderson is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping consumers find the best information on travel deals, education, credit cards and more.