Friday, December 08, 2017

Hospitality, Rape and Consent in Vampire Popular Culture – review

Editors: David Baker,‎ Stephanie Green &‎ Agnieszka Stasiewicz-Bieńkowska

First Published: 2017

The Blurb: This unique study explores the vampire as host and guest, captor and hostage: a perfect lover and force of seductive predation. From Dracula and Carmilla, to True Blood and The Originals, the figure of the vampire embodies taboos and desires about hospitality, rape and consent.

The first section welcomes the reader into ominous spaces of home, examining the vampire through concepts of hospitality and power, the metaphor of threshold, and the blurred boundaries between visitation, invasion and confinement.

Section two reflects upon the historical development of vampire narratives and the monster as oppressed, alienated Other.

Section three discusses cultural anxieties of youth, (im)maturity, childhood agency, abuse and the age of consent.

The final section addresses vampire as intimate partner, mapping boundaries between invitation, passion and coercion. With its fresh insight into vampire genre, this book will appeal to academics, students and general public alike.

The Review: Another academic tome with a steep price tag, this proves itself a worthy edition to vampire studies by looking at hospitality (and, of course, invitations), rape and consent and how the vampire film/story examines and explores those concepts.

All the chapters were worthwhile but I must give a quick mention that Chapter 5, Breaking and Entering: Psychic Violation, metempsychosis and the Uninvited Female Vampire was written by Facebook friend Simon Bacon. His chapter was, as ever, inciteful and, as ever, he pushed the bounds of what one might deem a vampire film by including The Host. He likened this to War of the Worlds, which he correctly identifies as vampiric in nature. However my understanding was that the film, based on a Stephenie Meyer novel, was not a vampire film. Worry not, however, I will look at it as a ‘Vamp or Not?’ in the future. If I could offer a suggested further direction to this chapter, however, it is that whilst the Le fanu story the Mysterious Lodger does not contain a female vampire, as Carmilla did (and the chapter was about female vampires), it is an ideal story to look at invitation and consequence thereof.

It was especially nice to see an academic light being turned onto Marryat’s the Blood of the vampire as, whilst it is relatively unknown, it deserves more attention.

There was attention drawn to the Originals, especially around family, and yet none of the contributors considered the classic Tolstoy story the Family of the Vourdalak, which examined familial ties and the undead early in the genre’s development.

A couple of the chapters featured thoughts on Let the Right One In and I really thought they missed a trick. We know that Lindqvist deemed the story between Oskar and Ellie as a love story, hence writing Let the Old Dreams Die as a re-balance after the two films took the idea of the vampire grooming the child as a caretaker. As this was more pronounced in Let me In, I thought this would be a better film to examine.

In her essay, Samantha Lindpop argues that Carmilla was the “first narrative to locate the vampire as somewhat sympathetic and emotionally affected.” However, I would argue that the 1824 novel the Virgin Vampire pre-dates that by just shy of half a century. I also disagree that Katherine in Son of Dracula was gullible as her machinations underpin the film. However, beyond these points I really enjoyed the chapter.

As with any academic tome, there will be differences of opinion between reader and author(s) but the food for thought that all these essays offered was excellent (whether one agreed or disagreed) and the points were well explored. 9 out of 10 (price notwithstanding).

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