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Lesbian Vampire


This is a page that accompanies the page on lesbian vampirism.

Lesbian Vampires

Sucking the Evil out of the Lesbian Vampire

By Coleen Fretz

Living in our entangled web of popular culture, most of us are familiar with the vampire as an eccentric, wealthy, and often darkly exotic middle-aged man, typically from a European country, who, dressed in elegant velvets and silks, recites poetry from the Romantic period with a flourish of an accent; all to the intoxicating sounds of a violin which tenses into quick bursts of noise when he attacks his victim. The vampire needs blood; he suffers unendurable pain without it. The vampire is compelled to drink blood; he did not choose such a fate, nor does he relish it. He appears tortured; his immortality banishes him from the presence of God. But because of his remorse, he is absolved of the evil that is essential to his being.

Often, the male vampire is eroticized, yet he is impotent. He seduces solely to drain the victim of blood. Hence, this act sexualizes, eroticizes, the act of bloodletting. The victim is always female. Victim; hence, Object, the Objectified; the Other. Despite his impotentence, the vampire is heterosexual, feeding on women because that is the path he is doomed to walk. It is not his fault. This is tradition.

Most of us do not know, however, that the vampire is also associated with an entirely different myth: a vivacious, voluptuous, and dark-featured young woman, typically of European descent, who, dressed in black lace lingerie with ruby red dagger-like fingernails and blood red lips, stalks her prey to the sound of an organ; a dirge. The female vampire is not under compulsion; she chose her fate by free will and revels in such power, for she exhibits lavish exhilaration at the hunt, a wanton abandon which knows not the boundaries of morality. She, however, is not absolved of her evil, for she is evil incarnate because she is a woman.

The female vampire is always eroticized; her seduction is not only for the purpose of securing a victim, but also to tempt the victim into corruption and eventual loss of soul. Here, the demise is not just a physical one, but a total annihilation, leaving the victim in a state of barren ruin. Her victim is always another female. Hence, the female is objectified within this ideology as well. Yet the female vampire is homosexual, feeding on women because she is the destroyer of men, thus doubly evil and doomed to destroy her own kind. Again, this is tradition.

What, then, can we derive from the stereotypical image of the lesbian vampire? She is a ruthless temptress who represents the all the evil women have perpetrated on men since Biblical times. She is a whore. Do we then say Female Vampire = Lesbian; hence, Lesbian = Evil? It does not appear that anything positive can come out of such an archetype on the surface, yet I feel we must deconstruct the traditional image so that we can create a new discourse which allows for the lesbian-as-vampire motif without the immoral connotations of antiquity.

Unfortunately, throughout history, one of the most dominant symbols of lesbianism has been that of the vampire. This is what we have been given to conceptualize lesbianism. In a utopia, there would not be such a prejudice, such a misconception, and there would be no need for such a mythology, but to think that way would be to ignore the problem at hand. There is no reason why we should discredit and invalidate the lesbian vampire. We should elevate her to the status of power which her male counterpart enjoys within our society¹s mass-marketed chic. No more should she be exploited by the eyes of voyeuristic, heterosexual men who want to watch a lesbian and her lover in an intimate scene, yet are so afraid of the threat that this woman might be superior to them, or have no desire for them. By donning fangs she has achieved penetration, they relegate her to the role of evil minion, thus disabling her powers in the process.

The lesbian vampire is powerful, for she navigates in a patriarchal hierarchy, choosing her fate actively, not passively, which means not wasting time on male victims. She picks female victims, not because they are weak, as the male vampires do, but because they are of her mortal kin. She seeks to elevate them as well, offering them immortality so they will become as powerful as she is. The lesbian vampire is more powerful than the male vampire, for he is an aging icon of years past, adhering to the mores of the society of which he is a product, whereas the female vampire is able to transgress such binary structure, refusing to be heterosexual in eternity as she is expected to be as a mortal. Her ³evil² then, should be regarded as a positive attribute, for it is merely the punishment men find necessary to inflict upon her since she fluidly escapes the male-dominated construct which they thought adequately controlled her. She is no longer bound by them, hence, she is now Subject: no longer the mindless Other she once was. Perhaps the ³evil² characterization can someday be waved as a flag of accomplishment! But for now, let¹s not push it. There are still problems with accepting the trope of the vampire in general, for in the late-twentieth century, it is risky business to venerate a mythology which condones the ingestion of blood; a substance every one knows carries the AIDS virus. Of course, the vampire is immune to such a disease, as he/she is to any other,yet to emulate this practice could prove to be a dangerous affair. Our post-modern society needs to embrace the male vampire, and, as stated earlier, women, lesbian and otherwise, need to embrace the female vampire as well, but one should never do so at the cost of hurting another, or just as importantly, oneself. --Copyright ©1997. May not be redistributed without permission. --By Coleen Fretz, University of Pennsylvania B-GLAD'97 Magazine.

Lesbian Vampires (2)

I was watching Joseph Larraz's film, Vampyres, recently and began to think about the lesbian vampire film as a subgenre of the horror movie. I find it curious that the lesbian vampire movie should have developed into a distinctive subgenre while the gay vampire movie has not. I mean, the myth of vampirism has an element of homoeroticism built right into it: vampires orally exchange bodily fluids. There is a sado-erotic content, too, that dovetails nicely into some of the more socially unacceptable varieties of gay culture (and what, if anything, is Al Pacino and William Friedkin's film, Cruising, but a gay vampire movie without the vampires?). A lot of this is obviously cultural. It is a widely known fact of life in the movies that if you show two women kissing, you will titilate most of the audience, while, if you show two men kissing, half the audience will walk out of the theater. Lesbianism certainly tickles the erotic fantasies of many straight men. It is not surprising that most dyed-in-the-wool exploitation movies, from Russ Meyer's Vixen, through Caged Heat and the women-and-prison movies, all the way up to the recent Jet Li movie, Romeo Must Die, include lesbian eroticism of some variety. Actual gay vampires don't show up in the mainstream until the movie version of Interview With the Vampire, but Interview isn't very good.

Which goes a long way towards explaining why lesbian vampires form their own distinctive grouping of films.

Of course, part it comes from the literature. Carmilla, the grand dame of lesbian vampires, is older than Dracula. Bram Stoker borrows liberally from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's novella. He also mines the Elizabeth Bathory myth. There is nothing in Vlad the Impaler's blood-soaked biography to suggest vampirism, so Stoker appropriated it from his distant cousin. Elizabeth Bathory is said to have murdered some 650 women in order to bathe in their blood. For the blood is the life, you see--it keeps one young and beautiful....How could a writer of horror fiction ignore so grotesque a monster?

The movies have been all over lesbian vampires since the late sixties. Most of the movies in this particular ghetto are dreadful, but many of them are interesting in spite of that. At least one filmmaker, the French director Jean Rollin, has made an entire career out of lesbian vampires. Direct to video soft core lesbian vampire movies without number have appeared over the last several years. It's a sizeable chunk of films.

As a service to the curious, I am going to list a bunch of these movies even if I haven't written about them. I won't link to them until I have a review ready. These movies are becoming more widely available thanks to the folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment and Redemption Home Video.

Lesbian Vampires (3)

Long before lesbian chic reached mainstream movies and TV shows, lesbian vampires (or, should I say, vampires with lesbian tendencies) heated up the movie screen. The coupling of lesbianism with vampirism seems like a natural one, as far as filmmaking goes. Most of the vampires in these movies are actually bi- or "ambisexual", helping to produce a kind of ultimate male fantasy. Granted, their transgression of traditional gender roles helps to distance the vampires from "normal" humanity. But, there haven't been many vampire movies with a male homosexual theme (Interview with the Vampire being the only one I can think of, and the movie toned down the homoeroticism quite a bit, as I recall). So, I think the (straight) male fantasy thing is the greater motivating factor at work, here. In any event, there are a number of movies that touch on this theme. Namely...

Daughters of Darkness (1971)
This low budget British film casts Delphine Seyrig as the Countess Elizabeth Bathory. She and her companion/slave, Ilona, run into a couple of British newlyweds while abroad, in a Flemish(?) hotel. Bathory takes a shine to the young bride and goes about seducing her. Then, there's a bizarre subplot in which the young groom refuses to tell his "mother" about his bride. The groom also has a morbid fascination with death and horror, attracting him to the Countess Bathory, whose name he recognizes. He also has this weird habit of beating his wife.

Although it has its moments, Daughters of Darkness is a little too slow for my tastes. It also lacks any real character or originality or even any real eroticism. So, this movie will probably only appeal to vampire buffs.

Le Frisson des Vampires (Thrill of the Vampires)
This French movie starts with a couple of young women, servants to a couple of dying vampires, seeking another to assist. They find one, Isolda. Enter a couple of newlyweds (what is it with vampires and newlyweds?). The bride, cousin to the dead vampires, arrives at their castle for her honeymoon. Stereotypically, Isolda goes after the bride. Later, it turns out that the cousin vampires were not, in fact, killed, but only faked their "deaths" in a convoluted scheme to identify and destroy other vampires.

The result is a bizarre little film. The vampire cousins are weird and flamboyant (as the groom describes "half hippie, half Louis the Fourteenth"); the sex is frequent and gratuitous (focusing mainly on lesbianism and S&M). The dubbing is okay, but the background music has an odd European disco-like flare and repeats continuously like in bad porno movies.

Ultimately, this isn't a serious movie, but it is pretty amusing. Kind of a French version of Blacula, I guess.

The Hunger (1983)
How could I forget The Hunger? This is one of the classier vampire flicks made, starring Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as a pair of ancient bloodsuckers. But, The Hunger takes a different approach to the vampire mythology. In this movie, Deneuve is the primogenitor who seduces others to be her companions. Bowie plays one such cohort. Unfortunately, the companionship doesn't last as the partner inevitably (after many many years) succumbs to a rapid aging process. Enter Susan Sarandon, a scientist researching the "biological clock" and longevity.

The Hunger is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's done very artistically, the story is compelling and original, and the acting is pretty good (with small parts played by Cliff De Young and Dan Hedaya). And the sex scene between Deneuve and Sarandon is pretty steamy, too.

A Showtime cable series (also called The Hunger) is currently showing, but I don't know how closely it adheres to the ideas in the original movie. My guess is that it doesn't, but I've not seen the series so can't comment on it, yet. In any event, the movie is required viewing for anyone who considers themselves a vampire afficionado.

The Vampire Lovers (1970)
Perhaps the quintessential lesbian vampire movie, The Vampire Lovers stars Ingrid Pitt as the enticing Marcilla/Carmilla/Millarca who charms her way into the households of rich noblemen, and then into the hearts of their daughters (in more ways than one, heh). The first to fall prey are "The General" (played by Peter Cushing) and his daughter, Laura (played by Pippa Steele). Later, Carmilla goes after the lovely Emma, played by Kate O'Mara.

The Vampire Lovers is actually a pretty interesting movie, based on the book, Carmilla, by J. Sheridan LeFanu. But it is also quite erotic, in true Hammer Film tradition. Interestingly, Pitt argues that her character's attraction to Emma wasn't sexual. In an interview with Bruce Hallenbeck (Femme Fatales, Winter 1992), Pitt states "It wasn't lesbianism! I think vampires have no specific gender. It really didn't matter. If other people see it that way, fine, but I didn't play it that way. It all would've fallen flat on its face had I believed they were lesbians. Mircalla gave up her life compassionaltely for another being whom she loved. If there had been something sexual about it, it would've ruined this feeling of love. She truly loved Emma. She gave her soul fo this woman. It had nothing to do with the fact that she was a girl. If the vampire had been a male, it would have been the same thing."

This sounds a little like an evasion to me, but it is a point well taken: do vampires really have a gender? And is it really sex, or is it just playing with one's food? Anyway, The Vampire Lovers is worth seeing.

Vampyres (1974)
Another popular cult classic, Vampyres is a low-budget British flick starring Marianne Morris and Anulka as a couple of sexy vamps who lure men into their mansion for sex and a bite (or two) to eat. Although Vampyres' claim to fame is probably its sex scenes, which are pretty numerous and graphic, it also presents an interesting, semi-original treatment of the vampire mythology. It foregoes the undead walking the earth, sleep in a coffin, stake through the heart traditional view of vampires, and portrays a more subtle distinction. It's not a particularly slick film -- no real special effects or lavish sets, but it is worth seeing for the vampire-enthusiast. --http://www.drizzle.com/~lostboy/Graveyard/Vampires/Lesbian.html

Lesbian Vampires Bibliography

Source: http://www.feministsf.org/femsf/bibs/grrlvampyrs.html

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