Vampire Reviews: Top 10 Female Vampires -Part 2

Vampire Reviews: Top 10 Female Vampires -Part 2

September 15, 2019 100 By William Hollis


Good evening and velcome back to Vampire Reviews. I am your host, ze Maven of ze Eventide, and tonight we continue our celebration of the female vampires that transcend the stereotype of lust-driven character motivation, and prove that they are more than just their amazing boobs. When it comes to ranking these ladies and choosing which one from each franchise makes the list my most important criteria is how well they do as vampires. So even if there are other females in the franchise that are interesting characters if I don’t think they’re as good as vampires, they don’t make the cut. And then whether their gender is significant to their characterisation or incidental makes for intriguing analysis. For what it’s worth, I’m only really focussing on franchises that have had a foothold in relatively mainstream pop culture and just to remind you, besides limiting myself to one from each franchise this is a video list. So I am only incorporating vampires that have been depicted in TV or film so that I have something to show you on-screen while we discuss. Let’s get right down to it, shall we? Number five. Seras Victoria from Helsing. Now here’s a character that I find usually doesn’t get enough credit, probably because she’s overshadowed by the more epically awesome characters that surround her, but it’s time we gave her some attention. She’s an action girl who succeeds as a vampire in the way Selene from Underworld lacks. Especially in the TV series, where Seras is used as the audience’s viewpoint character. She’s new to the Helsing organisation and a new vampire so we get to experience the struggles of being introduced to this world through her. And does she struggle! We get to see her grow from weak and frightened reluctant vampire to ass-kicking hero who overcomes the horror of being a monster as well as the prejudice against her for being a female in a male-dominated job. [Seras] Oh, I get it. Neither of which are easy and her very emotional responses to the difficulty she faces make her relatable to the audience despite the fact that she’s a murderous, slaughtering creature of the night. Sure, she usually only kills vampires, but sometimes her vampire rage gets the better of her. And then she suffers from the moral consequences of the realisation of the loss of her humanity. Yeah, she’s drawn to titillate the boys in the audience and the misogyny she faces often verges on fetish territory but as a vampire, her sexuality is not a driving force. Her priorities are respect, and doing what’s right for others. In her life, as a cop, she was passionate about the whole “Serve and Protect” thing as a result from the wrongs that were inflicted on her in her youth. Where this might have driven more cliché vampires to become brooding emos who use their powers for revenge or just more brooding, Seras Victoria instead becomes a selfless hero while still retaining a quirky and interesting personality. And how often does the emotional core of the series get to also be the comic relief? Seriously, really compare her to Selene from Underworld and then try to tell me that Selene is more than just a half-baked vampire. Sorry. Moving on! Number four. This list would be incomplete without a cinematic first. [Man onscreen] Countess Maria Zaleska [V/O] The 1936 film Dracula’s Daughter is a direct sequel to the Bela Lugosi Dracula and it begins immediately after Van Helsing kills him, with the countess, who is his vampiric daughter, destroying his body in the hopes that it will free her of her vampirism. [Maria] Free to live as a woman! Free to take my place in the bright world of the living! [Gasp] Could it be? Hollywood’s very first reluctant vampire! And also pretty much the first time a female vampire was the star of a film. [Maria] I never drink… wine. [V/O] We are introduced to Zaleska and become deeply involved in her moral struggle before we even meet the hero and damsel of the story. And this makes her a sympathetic antagonist in a far more developed way than Dracula ever was. The audience feels for her as we see her struggle and fail in her attempt to overcome her dark nature, but we also fear her, as she’s framed as a respectable villain. Her quiet, subdued, aristocratic bearing make her mysterious and powerful in a way that is both alluring and terrifying. And her attractiveness and – yes, sex appeal – come naturally from her dignity and poise combined with her vulnerability, not from any needed, active effort on her part. With such an iconic start, it’s amazing that Hollywood fell into such traps of poor writing with future characters. Gloria Holden’s nuanced performance of restrained desire excellently captures one of the most important sociological metaphors of the vampire: the monster within all of us that desire can breed. And seeing it portrayed by a woman in 1936 makes it all the more impactful because women – at least, sympathetic sane ones – were previously typically viewed as exempt from such struggles. Witnessing a character in this situation who is as desperate to be good and normal as Zaleska is we have to wonder: are we, as humanity, truly so different? Where is the line drawn? What small thread keeps us from going over the brink and indulging in the dark temptations of the night? And this is unsettling. And when the film ends without offering any cliché answers of morality the audience is left with the chills that make classic horror truly timeless. Number three. One of the main things that make vampires such compelling creatures is their balance between the human and the alien. But when it comes to vampires in children’s media that are meant to be anything other than scary villains it’s difficult to do them justice. There’s really no way you can get a kid to accept a murderer or general violator of personal neck-space as identifiable. And so the blood-drinking is usually the first thing to go. Even if they’re still nice characters, they’re not very good vampires because they’re so watered-down that they lose the aspect of the alien. This isn’t a new issue, but it’s especially prevalent in this post-Twilight over-humanised vampire age in which we live. Which is why it is astoundingly refreshing to see a vampire for kids that transcends this. [Marceline] I’m Marceline, the vampire queen. [V/O] Adventure Time generally pushes the boundaries of children’s entertainment and is one of those shows that you have to wonder if it wasn’t more made for the adults. And the supporting character of Marceline hasn’t become a fan favourite for nothing. Her emotional complexity and rich backstory filled with adventures and suffering give her the human aspects required to make her interesting and relatable. But she is also still strange enough – even in a strange, strange world – to fulfil the truly alien criteria required as well. [Jake] She’s going to kill us. When she finds out she’s going to tie us up and eat us like a spider. She is scary and intimidating to the other characters even after they get to know her and trust her as a friend. She’s a thousand years old, and has fallen out of touch with the living, though I have to wonder if she gives Finn bad girl-wooing advice because she’s genuinely clueless, or purposefully out of jealousy. [Bubblegum] Hey, Marceline. [Marceline] Hello, Bonnibel. Also, she drinks blood! Yes, she drinks anything that’s the color red, which is how they get away with it for the kids but when we first meet her, she outright kills Jake. Or at least thinks she does. He saves himself, but she doesn’t know that when she does it, and neither does the audience. Adventure Time goes there! She can be genuinely terrifying in one moment and then wring tears from your heart with a song that’s so brutally honest and vulnerable that it leaves the other characters standing agape. From her moral issues rooted in her complicated relationship with her father – who’s essentially the Lord of All Evil by the way – rockin’! – to her tragic history with the Ice King, her angst over Princess Bubblegum – they are so totally exes – to the fact that she’s just plain fun! And can I just say it is awesome to see what’s obviously meant to be the “cool” character in a kid’s show done well and actually coming off as cool! Number two. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned before what a big fan of True Blood I am. It’s a very silly show, and I don’t know that I would have thought as highly of it if I hadn’t read the books first. It is a very silly show. But I love it! And I think I can make a case for just about any of the female vampires in it to be on this list but I’m going to have to go with Pam. In large part because she’s actually from the source material, but also, she’s just awesome! She’s technically a good guy in that she’s usually on the side of the human protagonist Sookie but for the bulk of the series, they’re frenemies at best. I don’t like how the show changed her human backstory from being a rebellious ahead-of-her-time noble girl to being a brothel madam dragging her into the cliché, sex-forward character territory this list is trying to avoid, but I don’t let myself get too caught up on the changes from the books. In both versions, Pam’s had a rough life but rather than sulk about it, she’s become hard as nails with an unshatterable sense of humor. Even when her own face is melting off due to a witch’s curse, she still cracks her dry jokes at her own expense. Strong, and smart, but also revealing of the emotional walls she’s had to erect for self-preservation, she is a vampire, down to the core. Unlike the other non-evil female vampires, Pam’s truly lost touch with humanity, and views it from an outside perspective, but she’s still quirky and unique enough to be accessible to the audience. As a vampire that supposedly exists in our current world, she makes the most of our clichés, and the effects they’ve had on our society, to use them to her advantage when dealing with humans. She’s a classic vamp who subverts the trope because she’s self-aware. She plays a lusty dominatrix at work to draw customers to Fangtasia, but on her own time she’s all tracksuits and cardigans. She has identity coming out of her ears and she’s not all sneers and witty retorts. When her priorities are challenged her emotions emerge, and she loves and cares as much as any human can relate to. When faced with a tough choice she will usually do the right thing, even as she snarks about it. [Pam] I am wearing a Walmart sweatsuit for y’all. If that’s not a demonstration of team spirit I don’t know what is. [V/O] And her devotion to her maker Eric is especially compelling, as they share a deep bond that transcends romance, despite how overly sexualised the majority of the show can be. And speaking of romance, in the book her inclinations are an homage to the vampire lesbian trope that also subvert it, by treating it as a simple matter of fact. Unfortunately, the show totally fetishizes it, but it’s HBO, and we can only ask for so much in the ways of progression. I’m thankful for what we get. Which brings us to: number one. Go on. Guess. Though the ladies of the Vampire Chronicles are generally relegated to supporting roles, they are still more richly developed characters than many female protagonists I can name. They are strong both because they are women, and in spite of being women. The Chronicles do not dismiss or shy away from issues of gender, and I could probably justify almost every single one of Anne Rice’s unique, complex and progressive female vampires as being on the top of this list. But as I can only pick one, it’s got to be… [Piano playing] [Lestat] Claudia. [V/O] I think Claudia is hands-down one of the most interesting vampires ever written. Just the fact that she’s a child who suffers through the growing understanding of the horror of her nature and the disillusionment of her parents is compelling enough. And she could have been written as a little boy and still achieved all this. But the fact that she is a woman inside a little girl’s body raised by two men who she sees as both lovers and fathers adds infinite layers to her complexity. In the film version of Interview With A Vampire, she’s played by twelve-year-old Kirsten Dunst, who does an amazing job for such a young actress. But in the book, Claudia was supposed to be five or six. Imagine, just for a moment, how excruciatingly frustrating it would be to be eternally trapped in a body so young, and yet have all the desires of maturity. And does she have desires! She yearns to be seen as a woman, and dresses the part but then is racked with self-loathing to know what a fool she makes of herself as people on the streets gawk at her. Her struggle with the fact that she’s a vampire and how she hates her immortal form lead her to actions that are the driving source of conflict in the story. [Claudia] I promise I’ll get rid of the bodies. And yet she’s not a reluctant vampire. She loves the fact that she drinks blood to survive and is superior to humans. And yet she’s not a sociopath either. She has an intense capacity to love, and loves until her heart breaks as she becomes disillusioned with her parents, loves Louis in one of the most complex and twisted relationships there ever was. She is sexless, and yet intensely sexual at the same time. Her femininity is her strength and her power. She is both wise in her years and keen intelligent, but also bold and rash in a forever childlike way, a combination of qualities that also directly reflects the dichotomy of her two fathers’ parenting styles. When faced with a threat in Paris, and her ambivalent feelings towards Louis as he fails to act, she takes her fate into her own hands, and makes the hardest decision she’s ever had, hurts the one she loves most in order to attempt to save them both. And when she fails, even in spite of all the horrible things she’s done, the tragedy of her loss is one of the most heart-breaking scenes in fiction or film. It takes one hell of a vampire to elicit that kind of emotional response. I’ve read that Anne Rice wrote Claudia as an allegory for losing her own daughter to cancer. There’s truly something to be said for creating art from a place so vulnerable and painful. Even though Claudia dies in the first book, she haunts the rest of the series in both literal and metaphorical ways that the characters are never able to escape. In a way, she is the heart of the Chronicles. Perhaps a broken, black heart, but… vampires. I’ve gotta say that ranking these ladies was hard for me. Honestly, I could have justified ordering this list in just about all different ways, except Selene would have always been at the bottom. And I hope you didn’t start taking shots every time I said emotional, complex, or relatable, or… You know what? I’m going to stop giving you ideas. But before I release you now, I’d like to leave you with two questions, to – to make you think and stuff. One: where are all the vampire ladies of colour? And why weren’t any of them rich enough to make my list? And two: why did have have to spend so much time making excuses for and justifying why half of these ladies made this list at all? Well, the answers are unfortunately kind of obvious, so… instead of dwelling on those questions, why don’t you think about how you can improve women in vampire fiction for the future? You can do it! Someone’s got to. I am ze Maven of ze Eventide, and here’s to tomorrow’s vampires! And boobs!