Biting Back: Racism, Homophobia and Vampires in Bram Stoker, Anne Rice and Alan Ball will seek to expose the various metaphors hidden within the world of vampires. Specifically, my analysis will focus on how vampires have been used to critique and explain the social fears that plague any given age, with a specific focus on racial and sexual fear. In each of these popular-culture phenomena, vampires critique the way the masses fear what they do not know, and what is foreign to them. Thus, through vampires, they are able to act on their fear of transgressive sexuality and ethnic others. The masses transform their hatred for the unknown into a hatred of vampires. These chapters are featured chronologically, in order to show how monstrous vampires will adapt and transform as time goes on. The first chapter will discuss Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is, in many regards, the most influential and important vampire story to date. This chapter will feature two parts, one devoted to sexuality within the text and one devoted to race/ethnicity. The sexuality section will focus heavily on women: the vampire brides, Mina Murray, and Lucy Westenra. Stoker juxtaposes the punishment the vampire brides and Lucy faced for their prevalent sexuality with the rewards bestowed on Mina for being a chaste female. Stoker also makes sexuality a central concern in his depiction of men. Homosexual undertones permeate the relationship between Harker and Dracula that point to contemporary anxieties about transgressive sexuality, the onset of the twentieth century, and the obscenity laws that persecuted figures such as Oscar Wilde, someone who was once a friend of Stoker’s. After this discussion of sexuality, the chapter examines race and ethnicity in Dracula, and how the oriental or ethnic other was feared and ostracized within 8 Victorian Britain and beyond. From the start of the novel, readers bear witness to Harker’s Victorian sense of superiority, as he sneers at most everything he encounters while visiting Dracula’s home country. The section also examines the difference between the eccentric Dr. Van Helsing and charming, American-as-apple pie Quincey Morris, juxtaposed against the frightening Count Dracula. Overall, the entire chapter is devoted to proving the way Stoker critiques the stringent and usually harmful morals and ideas in Europe during the Victorian period. The second chapter focuses on sexuality and race in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. Much of the sexuality section focuses on the complicated and painful relationship between Louis and Lestat, and how it replicates a homosexual relationship. In the novel, Rice presents same-sex desire a natural part of life, and something that comes naturally to vampires with ample opportunity and time for experimentation, as well as disregard for cultural norms. Through the normalcy in which she depicts the relationships, she is criticizing those that would view same-sex desire negatively. Within Rice’s depiction of the abnormal family, she is critiquing the stringent society-regulated family unit, one that defines a family as a female mother, a male father and children. Rice’s vampiric family twists these notions, offering instead two men who fulfill the roles of mother and father, and more. The race section focuses primarily on slavery, as the novel begins within the American south, and Rice uses Louis’s plantation and slave ownership to remind readers of America’s inescapable racist past. This theme of slavery is prevalent throughout the entire work, as readers watch Louis become enslaved to his affliction, his master and his bloodlust. Furthermore, the race and ethnicity section also explore how slavery can be represented within vampirism itself, creating an important parallel between the two that furthers Rice’s idea. 9 The third and final chapter focuses on the first season of Alan Ball’s television adaption of True Blood for HBO. Throughout the series, Ball sheds light on the rampant racism and homophobia that plagues America, especially the American South, in modern times. Ball uses the hatred of vampires in the show to examine the difficulties of contemporary civil rights, including the ongoing struggle for black rights and gay rights. Specifically, he depicts the exploitation of African Americans through the way they are consistently undermined and persecuted throughout the show. Tara, best friend of protagonist Sookie, is an intelligent black female in the American South. She is aware of the racial hatred surrounding her, yet she seems to be the only one. She receives no sympathy from her lovers, her coworkers or even her best friend. The primary black male character and her cousin, Lafayette, is a homosexual, and his life in the South is plagued by discomfort and hatred as well, from both homophobes and racists. These brutal truths are paired with the fictional struggle of vampires, from their fight for vampire marriage to having to constantly defend themselves from those that seek to use them for their valuable blood. In these depictions, Ball is forcing viewers to understand and condemn the racism, misogyny and homophobia that overwhelms modern America. Through the treatment of vampires and vampire-human relationships, as well as the depiction of a black homosexual in the American south, Ball is able to condemn this bigotry. These different depictions of vampires act in different ways, and despite being set in different time periods, they all share a similar argument: vampires act as vessels to condemn and critique harmful and prevalent social and cultural fears. In each example, vampires are used to critique the way transgressive sexuality and racial otherness has been targeted and persecuted in Western culture, and they challenge white, heteronormative, patriarchal values that promote inequity and harmful divisiveness.
Vampires, Victorian, Alan Ball, Bram Stoker, Anne Rice, Sexuality
Year of Completion
Dr. Thomas Fahy
Gammello, Alyssa, "Biting Back: Racism, Homophobia and Vampires in Bram Stoker, Anne Rice and Alan Ball" (2018). Undergraduate Honors College Theses 2016-. 47.