Vampire Reviews: Top 10 Female Vampires -Part1

Vampire Reviews: Top 10 Female Vampires -Part1

September 4, 2019 50 By William Hollis


Good evenink, and velcome to Vampire Reviews. I am your host, ze Maven of ze Eventide and I… am a woman. [Thunderclap] As you know, March is Women’s History Month, and before it draws to a close I would like to celebrate the female vampire with a good old-fashioned Top 10 list. “But Maven!” I hear you saying. “Are there even ten female vampires?” Well, maybe you’re not saying that, but I get that a lot. It’s kind of sad. A couple weeks ago, I ran a little social experiment on my Facebook page (Yes, I have a Facebook page, you should like it.) asking my followers to name their favourite vampire just to see how many of the answers I got would mention females. Of the two hundred plus responses like, twelve? Yeah, like twelve. Sad to say I was not all that surprised. The female vampire tends to have a certain reputation. And that reputation is, unfortunately, not “rich and complexly developed character” No. It’s boobs. When people think of the female vampire, they think “hot!” A lascivious siren that just vants to suck your blood sooo badly, well-meaning male protagonist, that she can barely keep it in her pants. She’s sooo hot for you, and who are you to blame her? The situation becomes much more tantalising when this wants to bite your sumptuous, manly neck rather than this. Yes, sex and blood-drinking are often intertwined in vampire mythos, and this can be done well though it usually isn’t. But why is it that there’s such a difference between the stigma of the dark seducer who preys on the innocent maidens versus the stigma of the smouldering temptress who, [laughs sexily] well, if you must… Due to their general lack of character complexity the ladies are often relegated to minion status and are the first to be killed off before the hero can finally battle the real, serious vampires. The lesbian vampire trope does switch it up a bit by making them sexually threatening again, because deviance equals scary but on the screen it’s far too often only portrayed as a fetish for the male gaze instead of truly exploring the sociology that built it. Sure, there are plenty of lady vampires that try to defy the trope and transcend stereotypes but that doesn’t make them good. Of course, good vampire media generally is a tiny nugget of grain among mountains and mountains of chaff. But tonight, I will highlight for you a few of those ladies that I, your Maven, deem exceptions to the stereotype and worthy enough to be on a Top 10 list. But first! Some criteria. As this is a video list, I will only be choosing from vampires that have been portrayed on-screen in the mainstream media so that I have something to show you while I talk about them. And also I am only allowing myself one vampire from each franchise. Otherwise, let’s face it, like, two franchises would dominate this entire list, who am I kidding? So, without further ado… Number ten. Mina Harker, from the film version of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Mina ranks low on this list mainly because she’s not a vampire in the source material. However, with all the changes the film made, making her a vampire was far from the worst. In a way, it even added depth. Now, she has real reason to feel disgrace for her experiences with Dracula, and motivation for atonement in joining the League rather than just being a noble patriot. Even though the film demoted her from leader of the League, she’s still presented as the smart one in a bit of a cliché token chick style. She’s a chemist, but instead of just being the bookish sexy scientist stereotype she also uses her skills in more active ways. Doctoring the injured… Her gender is an issue for her, as she’s met with prejudice the moment she’s introduced but the cool thing about her is that she lets her strength prove itself. I’ve had women along on past expeditions and found them to be at best a distraction. Do I distract you? She’s suave and secure in the face of chauvinism and both she and the film demonstrate her awesomeness in smooth, deft ways that, refreshingly, don’t come across as trying too hard. [Mina] You’re sweet. And you’re young. Neither are traits that I hold in high regard. When it comes to her vampire nature, she is extremely powerful and it comes in handy for battle, making her one of the most dangerous fighters in the League. But it also serves as a weakness for her. Her bloodlust blinds her to Dorian’s treachery and we have to wonder just why is her husband dead in this adaptation? Did she accidentally kill him? Did he die of horror and shame of her vampire-ness instead of just divorce her like in the graphic novel? And even though bloodlust and lust-lust are intermingled for her she is still portrayed as a proper Victorian lady, sexy because of her personality, not because of her wanton ways or deep cleavage which was used in all of the film’s marketing but doesn’t even show up in the movie until the very last scene. I just wish her vampirism was used more in the film than as a convenience whenever needed for the plot or action’s sake. I would have liked to see it get in the way somehow. Make her the one member of the League who can’t participate in the sun deck scene. Let’s put it to the test. Canon blasphemy aside, I think making her a vampire is cool! Vampires always equal cool in my book. But don’t just use it when it works for the script, then pretend it doesn’t exist when it’s inconvenient. Ah, well. At least they gave her the magical hair that changes from straight to curly at random. That’s the important thing. Number nine. Selene from the Underworld franchise. Now if you’ve watched my past reviews of the Underworld movies you’ll know already that I don’t think much of the scriptwriting or characters and I dislike that Selene’s vampire-ness is used more as a sadly under-explored random excuse to make her an action girl rather than give her any character depth. But this is a Top 10 list, and she is on it so let’s focus on the positive! If we can. In the grand tradition of over-compensation of badass-ness to prove that a female character is “strong” Selene does come off as a bit of an Ice Queen – a robotic killing machine, as it were. But she does have a soft side and a tragic backstory. We see her struggle with the disillusionment of recognising that she is truly an exception among vampires. Whereas most of her peers are selfish and ruthless and look out for number one either through cowardice or outright evil she is respectful to others, and concerned for the greater good of those she loves, her kind as a whole, and the world at large. Despite the fact that, as far as the audience gets to see, the world at large may as well not exist… Positive! Positive, positive… As a female vampire who is framed as sexy, it’s refreshing that she’s not lusty. She’s not a vamp. Despite how tough she is, she’s almost an innocent compared to her female foils. She’s the one turtle-neck amid a sea of plunging necklines. And when she falls in love, it’s pure and selfless. Now some might say that this lack of physical desire of any kind might make her less of a vampire but she does use her vampire strengths to pursue her love. And she does have passion… for her job. Let’s just say that you could do a lot worse for female role models who happen to be immortal undead creatures of the night, am I right? Give that some thought for a minute. Now, about number eight. When it comes to the female vampire in fiction, the grand matron of all is Le Fanu’s Carmilla. And if this were a literature list, she would have to be near the top but unfortunately she hasn’t been done much justice on screen. However, there was one adaptation that, despite its flaws, had a huge impact on the cinematic vampire and pop culture. The Vampire Lovers. Ingrid Pitt’s portrayal of the classic character made her a Hammer Horror goddess. Sexy, yet psychologically terrifying, she changed the course of female vampire portrayal. True, the fetishism in her framing is primarily responsible for the subsequent exact sort of exploitive female characters this list is trying to transcend. But she has her complexities. And the great thing about them is that they’re freaking subtle. Carmilla is seductive, yes, and it’s directly connected to the fact that she’s a vampire but it’s not because she’s horny. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Except when it’s your only character trait. Carmilla had so much more going on with her. She falls in obsessive love with her victims, and then is tortured by the fact that her love kills them. Death is repulsive to her, while at the same time being an inescapable part of her being. Her greatest joys are also her greatest sufferings. You’re so sensitive. Only about some things. And about you. Because I love you. And I don’t want anyone taking you away from me. And yet with all this, she is not a reluctant vampire. She fully embraces what she is as a creature apart from humanity. She is more monstrous than human, but the audience can still relate to her on some level because of how deeply she loves. Even the title of the movie – though nonsensical and obviously meant to get butts in the seats – reflects this. Carmilla’s a vampire lover, not a fighter and her love is in a way far more terrifying than the classic horrors. Yes, the success of this film didn’t much lead to more nuanced performances of restrained tragic suffering. But, as I’ve said before, anything that leads to more vampires is still ultimately a good thing even if there’s a lot of chaff to sift through. Number seven. The thing about the vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that they are unquestionably evil. They have no souls, just literal demons that possess dead human bodies and this makes it difficult to make them complex. This is a good thing in the context of the show as it gives action star Buffy plenty of baddies to kill without moral consequences but it takes half of the fun out of the fact that they’re vampires at all. Also, most of the vampires are men. You can chalk this up to making Buffy look better as a hero because everyone knows that killing a woman is worse because they’re weak, right? In Season One we did have Darla, whose character trait was loyal sheep to the Master but in Season Two, we finally got someone fresh and interesting. Drusilla Drusilla is a rebel. She and her fledgling Spike show up at the Hellmouth to spit in the face of the vampires’ established system and generally have as much fun as they possibly can. She’s a bad example, and will have no cakes today. Drusilla’s also batshit crazy. She was driven mad by Angel before he turned her, and as a vampire it makes her an extra level of creepy and weird. She’s got personality! She also has a unique power of psychic visions and when she’s restored to her full strength halfway through Season Two her great physical power mixed with her childlike sadistic nature make her one of the most threatening vampires Buffy’s ever faced. But as evil as she is, she is still sympathetic. Her vulnerability at the beginning of the season makes her delicate and pitiable and we see that she still suffers from the memories of witnessing her family torn apart. Literally. Even after becoming a soulless vampire she still feels love and connection to those humans in her past that Angelus slaughtered and the impotent rage it caused adds layers to her darkness. She resents Angel despite her attraction to him, giving them one twisted relationship. Meanwhile, she also truly loves Spike. When the Judge – a character who destroys all vestiges of humanity he enounters – first appears she is his immediate focus in a room full of vampires. He senses the humanity and affection in her heart that sets her apart from most of her kind. She’s considered exceptionally beautiful by the other characters, but she’s not presented to the audience as a sex symbol. There’s a bit of the Gothic Lolita to her but at least it was a change-up from the vampiric villainesses we were used to. Plus, I love the homages to Victorian vampire roots. Bloofer lady, anyone? Number six. [sucking in breath] This one is going to hurt. You see, the thing about the Twilight franchise is that it is rife with female vampires of both the good and evil varieties. Impressive! In a way… I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen this many female vampires in one saga. It’s just a pity that most of them are shallow and one-dimensional though at least that’s not a flaw restricted to the women in this franchise. But there was one who was actually… interesting, and… complex, and… likeable… I’m Alice. Alice Cullen is one of the select few “gifted” vampires in this universe with a talent for having visions of the future. She’s also a skilled fighter in combat, and makes the most of her vampiric strength when required. Her supernatural gifts are actually important plot points in the series and more than just being used as a plot device with her down-to-earth, cheerful personality she is often the voice of reason in a crisis, icebreaker in awkward situations, and source of joy to all those around her. See? She’s whimsical! But she’s not without her flaws. Though she and the rest of her family have mastered their only real weakness as vampires, their bloodlust, she still does not magically have it completely under control like some do. I’m so – I’m sorry I can’t. And she’s also not perky all the time. Sometimes she can be a downright bitch! I can’t see past you and your pack of mutts. [Gasp] More than one personality trait?! And the mood shifts are handled smoothly, not contrived. Also, she uses her vampire powers with moral greyness that most of the other black-and-white characters in the series don’t display. I figured you wouldn’t be opposed to grand theft auto. Now, I don’t personally like her but I don’t dislike her. And for Twilight, that’s huge! Yes, I think it’s silly that she dances everywhere she goes but it’s not… un-vampire-y. We’re graceful creatures! Giving props to Twilight always takes it out of me. I’m afraid I’m going to have to pull a “to be continued” on this one, my children… but I shall return in ze next video with the Top Five Female Vampires of the mainstream on-screen media. And perhaps a new outfit. I am ze Maven of ze Eventide and I vill be back! Very soon…