It's been over a hundred years since Dracula first declared, "This man belongs to me!" and yet in 2020, plenty of people still recoil at the idea that Bram Stoker's vampire might be gay or queer in the BBC's new adaptation.
Never mind the fact that he murders people and gulps their blood down like a Bloody Mary. No, it's the idea that this fictional character might be sexually attracted to men that really freaks them out.
We're not going to dignify these ignorant responses with an actual link, but it won't take you long to search online and sink your teeth into some of the most outraged comments. Most suggest the BBC has radically changed the source material to fit its own 'SJW agenda', ignoring the fact that Dracula and vampires of his ilk have been queer since the very beginning.
Even before Dracula was published in 1897, writer John Polidori crafted a short story 79 years earlier called "The Vampyre" which revolved around his fascination with Lord Byron. Since then, homoerotic undertones have played a huge role in everything from The Hunger and The Lost Boys to True Blood and Fright Night, reinforcing the parallels between vampirism and the othering of the LGBTQ+ community.
Of course, much of this can be traced back to Stoker's Dracula, which foregrounds the Count's relationship with Jonathan Harker (the man he "owns") above all else. Not only does Dracula's fear of sunlight echo how Victorian homosexuals were forced to meet under the cover of darkness, away from the judgemental eyes of society, but there's also the more literal idea that LGBTQ+ people were once (and often continue to be) seen as dangerous monsters.
Some scholars believe that Stoker himself might have been a closeted homosexual. If so, then it's likely that the queer themes of his greatest work reflected the inner turmoil he may have felt after watching society charge his friend Oscar Wilde with crimes of "indecency".
To be queer is to become part of "the other", at least, within a heteronormative mainstream society, and while LGBTQ+ rights have progressed a great deal over the past century, many of the issues faced by Victorian queer people are still relevant today.
BBC's Dracula could have been the perfect opportunity to reflect this in a modern retelling, but unfortunately, LGBTQ+ representation on the show kind of sucks.
While the first episode kicked things off with some not-so-subtle subtext – "I'm asking if you had sexual intercourse with Count Dracula..." – the show's take on sexuality goes on to out itself as rather regressive.
By the end of the premiere, Harker makes a point of telling Dracula that he's not like him before burning the Count with light reflected off a crucifix. So, yep, the heterosexual hero successfully managed to fend off Dracula's evil gay advances through the power of Christ, remaining loyal to his adoring fiancée.
To be fair, Dracula's not supposed to be the good guy, so one could argue that this was just a typical plot development which fits the genre. But even so, the second episode unfortunately doubles down even further on its questionable portrayal of queerness with actual gay characters who fare even worse.
While it's progressive to even acknowledge LGBTQ+ people exist in a historical story like this, one of the two turns evil almost immediately, and then they both die soon after. Sure, straight people died too, but when there's only a couple of queer characters of note featured in the entire story, their deaths mean more because that's all the representation there is just snuffed out in the blink of an eye.
We shouldn't be too surprised though. Co-creator Steve Moffat refuses to even admit that his Dracula has queer tendencies, let alone acknowledge them on screen.
Speaking to The Times, the writer played down a journalist's attempt to label Dracula as bisexual, saying: "He's bi-homicidal, it's not the same thing. He's killing them, not dating them."
Not only does this ignore all of the queer coding of the script and Claes Bang's own performance – did you see him stroke all those male faces? – such comments also disregard Dracula's queer legacy.
To pretend he's anything but queer is frankly offensive, particularly when he's portrayed as such, and denying such an integral part of Dracula's character reeks of pandering to homophobic audiences.
If the BBC does resurrect Dracula for another season, let's hope the creators learn to finally accept the story's queer heritage in full, or this show could be out for the count.
Dracula season one is now available on BBC iPlayer in the UK and international audiences can watch it on Netflix.
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