Monsters have existed for a very long time throughout many different cultures in the world and because of this, they have proven themselves to be a relevant topic in society. In this article, I thought that my focus should be on the monster known as Dracula. Why Dracula, though, out of all the different monsters that exist? The reason why is because society has portrayed him in many different ways since his first appearance in Bram Stoker’s novel in 1897. For example, there has been Blacula which tells the story of an African prince bitten by Count Dracula or Dracula 2000 where Gerard Butler plays a Dracula that has a weakness of silver and turns out to be Judas Iscariot. These are just two of the very fascinating directions where storytellers have gone in telling their version of Dracula but the question that remains unanswered is why do people still love the famous vampire over 120 years after Stoker’s novel? Perhaps people are still intrigued by the idea of a monster that lurks at night, waiting for his next victim. Although, Dracula still isn’t the only monster to do this. Maybe it comes from his powers – the ability to control people with his mind or by having the power to shapeshift into a bat. After all, taking the latter into account, there are still tons of Batman fans eighty years after that character’s introduction. The 1931 Dracula movie with Bela Lugosi and Dracula Untold with Luke Evans will be used throughout the article to provide a review of Dracula’s character.
The first point to talk about is why Dracula even exists in the first place. Like every other monster devised, Dracula was created during a time of fear. Europe feared the vampire might be real during the dawn of the 19th century: “The vampire had already taken root in Western Europe’s imagination, spawning works like “The Vampyre” in 1819 and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla in 1872” (Stepanic). Stoker followed in the footsteps of John Polidori (author of “The Vampyre”) and Le Fanu to create a new vampire story to entertain audiences. These three authors took advantage of something that became popular in their society and made stories about it (in this case, a vampire), a practice that still continues to this day. Bela Lugosi’s version of Dracula leaves a lot about the character’s origin to the viewer’s imagination; in fact, it is never said how Lugosi’s Dracula became a vampire. However, the audience knows that Dracula must have been one for some time since during the beginning of the movie, the innkeeper warns Renfield (one of the main characters) about Dracula: “No! You mustn’t go there! We people of the mountains believe at the castle there are vampires!” (“Dracula (1/10) Movie CLIP”). On the other hand, Dracula Untold itself serves as an origin story for Dracula – a soldier goes to a vampire and asks for the power of invincibility to protect his family and country from Ottoman invaders.
Another major difference between Dracula and Dracula Untold is that in the former, Dracula does not escape to live another day – he is killed by Van Helsing in the end. An article from the journal English Literature in Transition funnily states that “Dracula’s own death-bed follows him wherever he goes—he cannot sleep without his boxes of burial soil” (Viragh). In hindsight, Dracula actually leads to his own demise – he captures Mina and takes her to the coffins so they can be buried together but since Harker and Van Helsing are in hot pursuit, they can easily catch up and foil Dracula’s plot. Why is it that Lugosi’s Dracula gets killed off while Evans’ vampire survives in the end? Hollywood, during 1931, had extremely strict rules concerning not only what could and could not be shown in films but also the endings of movies (what would eventually become the Hays Code) compared to 2014 – the necessity that the monster get killed off was undoubtedly one of them.
It is important to again point out how Dracula has many powers: he can turn into a bat or a werewolf (although, the audience never sees the latter), has immense strength, immortality and the ability to control people’s minds. For just one monster, these are very many abilities to have, more so than other monsters like the Wolfman or Frankenstein. By these powers, Dracula proves to be a monster unlike any other and could easily be considered as more terrifying. Perhaps Stoker gave Dracula multiple powers because he wanted to show how horrified the European people were when they believed that vampires were real. What better way to showcase this than to create the ultimate vampiric terror to London society?
There is not a single version of Dracula where society welcomes him with open arms – everyone wants to kill him because he is a menace to society that must be stopped. Lugosi’s Dracula feeds on the blood of innocent women and because of this, he must die. Evans’ Dracula (who I will call by his normal name, Vlad, to differentiate the two Draculas) gains vampiric powers to kill the enemy and save his people while also feasting on the blood of men and women. When it is discovered that he is a vampire, his own people try to kill him: “He’s a monster! Satan lives in his heart!” (“Dracula Untold (5/10) Movie CLIP”). It is understandable why the main characters wanted to kill Dracula: he sucked the blood of innocent women with no remorse while Vlad just wanted to protect what he had. This sounds like a legitimate reason to become a vampire so why would his people want to kill him? A possible explanation is that after the people realized the truth of Vlad’s new powers, they came to just see him as a monster, not as one of them. In the minds of the people, Vlad became not only different from their society but a horrible demon. Why? The vampire is seen as a purely demonic being – drinking blood is despicable in said society because it goes against the Christian values.
Monster Theory: Reading Culture is a book written by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen which gives seven theses to understanding monsters in general. The fifth thesis: “The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible” argues that the monster itself treads that fine line of what is and what is not humanly possible – can some people only survive by drinking blood? Could someone actually create life out of different body parts? If these possibilities turn out to be possible then we have done something wrong. A powerful quote from the thesis states that “The monster of prohibition exists to demarcate the bonds that hold together that system of relations we call culture, to call horrid attention to the borders that cannot – must not – be crossed” (Cohen). Dracula must be stopped because he is blatantly desecrating the rules which society has given people – not to kill or drink blood. The same goes for Vlad because no matter what his reasons were for becoming a vampire, he is still a vampire in the end, a creature that is demonic, not normal.
Although, some are fascinated by the idea of what a vampire can do – Van Helsing proves extremely knowledgeable on the vampire, so much that the other characters come to him asking how Dracula can be stopped – he has proven to be the vampire expert. Van Helsing can also serve as a symbol for society – intrigued by something that is taboo but then is quick to call it monstrous when that taboo becomes reality. As Cohen states: “This simultaneous repulsion and attraction at the core of the monster’s composition accounts greatly for its continued cultural popularity” (Cohen). Society is captivated by monsters because they are abnormal and different from what people see in everyday life. “The Monster Stands at the Threshold… of Becoming”, Cohen’s seventh and last thesis, claims that humanity creates the very same monsters that we fear because, deep down, people fear what they lack knowledge of – a person’s first response to something different is fear. This takes us full circle to the first point I talked about – why does the character of Dracula exist? He exists so that humanity can have a full understanding of something which did not previously make sense – the vampire, a creature that is now just a myth. If society does not have full control of everyday life, it’s very existence will crumble so everything that is irregular (like monsters) must be destroyed.
Why do people still love Dracula after so many years? Because he is a being with extraordinary abilities yet, like humans, is also flawed. As scholar Steven G. Herbert states: “evil is not out of God’s control, He must therefore allow it to exist, governing its actions by certain laws. Dracula is bound by the Light, both literally and figuratively” (Herbert). Dracula was the pique of interest from a 1931 audience because he was paranormal but still second to God’s power while a 21st century audience would still be interested in the character because society has now embraced the role of the vampire in pop culture. Just as superheroes have proven to be extremely popular, Dracula will remain famous for a long time because he is still considered an anomaly, one that is now appreciated instead of feared.
When it comes to Dracula with Bela Lugosi, I would give it a 7.5 out of 10. Aspects that I enjoyed included moments of unexpected humor in the movie (like Renfield’s laughing), the characters of Van Helsing and Count Dracula and the moment where the former whips out the cross, something which scares Dracula. Parts I didn’t like included the characters of Harker and Dr. Seward – they just didn’t seem to serve a purpose in the storyline and the recurring gag of Renfield escaping from his cell (even though it was funny, it just didn’t seem realistic). For Dracula Untold, I would give it either an 8 or 8.5 out of 10. The action scenes enough were awesome and I really loved the dialogue in the scene where Vlad meets Master Vampire for the first time. The narration by Vlad’s son lacked in interest and the overall conflict with the Ottomans just seems like it could have been better. Despite these imperfections, they were both pretty good movies to watch.
Cohen, Jeffrey J. “One: Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, 1996, p. 13, 17.
Monster Theory is a book written by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen who analyzes the role of monsters in society through his novel. I am using this book to prove my point that most in society believe that monsters must be stopped to preserve the normality of the society in which they live. Monster Theory is a credible book because it was written by Cohen who has earned a PhD in English and American Literature.
“Dracula (1/10) Movie CLIP – You Mustn’t Go There (1931) HD.” YouTube, Movieclips, 16 June 2011,www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbz_Xq2aEQQ&list=PL68036115B288319E&index=2&t=0s. Accessed 11 Nov. 2019.
Movieclips is a company owned by Fandango which offers audiences clips of various movies online. I am using this video in my article as a fast research tool to make my point that the people already know about Count Dracula being a vampire instead of watching the movie over again. Movieclips is credible because they give actual footage of the movie they advertise instead of being fake.
“Dracula Untold (5/10) Movie CLIP – He’s a Monster (2014) HD.” YouTube, Movieclips, 13 Jan. 2016, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1nXXro4Aio. Accessed 16 Nov. 2019.
Movieclips is a company owned by Fandango which offers audiences clips of various movies online. I am using this video in my article as a fast research tool to make my point that Dracula’s own people view him as a monster after they discover he is a vampire. Movieclips is credible because they give actual footage of the movie they advertise instead of being fake.
Herbert, Steven G. “Dracula as Metaphor for Human Evil.” Journal of Religion & Physical Research, vol. 27, no. 2, 1 Apr. 2004, p. 67, EBSCO Academic Search Complete. web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=5&sid=cd2d9382-20ae-48f2-9957-6a871dbb0983%40sessionmgr4008. Accessed 16 Nov. 2019.
Journal of Religion & Physical Research is a scholarly journal that analyzes different religions and their roles in the physical aspect of life. I am using this particular articleto state how Dracula is susceptible to weaknesses. Journal of Religion & Physical Research is a credible source because it is scholarly reviewed and its content is researched by scholars of religious and physical studies
Stepanic, Stanley. “How did Dracula become the world’s most famous vampire? – Stanley Stepanic.” YouTube, Ted-Ed, 20 Apr. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7uiyz3139tE. Accessed 5 Nov. 2019.
Ted-Ed is a channel on YouTube that tries to educate students on whatever subject the video is talking about in the form of a story. I am using this video to give insight on how the vampire became popular during the time of Bram Stoker. Ted-Ed is credible because, like TED Talks, the presenter does legitimate research on the topic before talking about it.
Viragh, Attila. “Can the Vampire Speak? Dracula as Discourse on Cultural Extinction.” English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, vol. 56, no. 2, 1 Apr. 2013, p. 239, EBSCO Academic Search Complete.web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=19&sid=73975627-9805-4ale-96b8-495aa13d27e7%40sessionmgr4006. Accessed 11 Nov. 2019.
English Literature in Transition is a scholarly journal that analyzes different stories in British literature from 1880-1920. I am using this article to explain how Dracula’s coffin leads to his actual death in the end of Dracula. English Literature in Transition is a credible source because it is scholarly reviewed and its content is researched by literature scholars.