“I, myself, am… Strange and unusual” – Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)
After recently reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and also watching Twilight, Dracula Untold, and Nosferatu for English, I keep finding myself returning to gothic thoughts. So, firstly to get it off my mind and into words, (and secondly to start drafting for my english assignment), I thought I might write a post about it. The first question you have to ask yourself is:
What is gothic?
The initial themes of the genre developed in the late 18th century, as a reaction from the Enlightenment Period. This was a time when European politics, philosophy, science and communications, radically changed. Gothic literature built of the ‘already-there’ horror aspects of human nature, and used people’s fears to create monstrous, evil beings. The gothic novel originated in England, 1765, with the publication of The Castle of Otranto. The author, Horace Walpole created and used elements of mystery, suspense, dark, gloomy settings, and women in distress. These themes all sound a bit out-dated nowadays, and surely modern society’s values, attitudes and beliefs have changed? But from the examples I have read/watched, I have concluded that actually, contemporary gothic conforms to the traditional form to a large extent. The setting is still very similar, the damsel in distress is still a main theme, and even though the depiction of vampires has changed, the evil, supernatural being is still there.
Not all gothic novels are the same, though they all show certain gothic elements, one of those being the setting. While Twilight, isn’t set in a high, looming castle, it does have other aspects that conform to the traditional. For example, at the beginning of the movie, Bella mentions that, “Thick fog was all I could see out my window… You could never see the sky….” This mysterious atmosphere continues throughout the movie, instilling a feeling of fear or uneasiness. Dracula Untold also has clear examples showcasing the eerie atmosphere, such as the jagged, rocky cave in which the Vampire lives. Stoker’s Dracula of course displays these themes, with descriptions of Castle Dracula on page 22: “…the courtyard of a vast, ruined castle, from whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the moonlit sky.” I absolutely love this description, and it serves as evidence that modern gothic texts still conform to the traditional.
Another common theme is women in distress. Whether it be traditional, such as Dracula, or contemporary, like Twilight and Dracula Untold, women will always find themselves in a position where they are threatened by a man more powerful than them. Two quotes from Dracula show just how vulnerable Lucy and Mina are. During a meeting, Professor Van Helsing states that, “…it won’t do to leave Mrs Harker alone after sunset.” While he is just being protective of her, this also implies that he doesn’t believe Mina can look after herself. The second quote is from Dracula himself, and it displays how the women in Victorian times were owned by men: “Your girls that you all love are mine already; and through them you and others shall yet be mine.” In Meyer’s Twilight, the woman is also portrayed as the constant victim, while the man, the constant hero. Edward, the powerful male, is always lurking nearby, ready to save the vulnerable Bella. This is also the same in Dracula Untold. Vlad’s wife is almost uncontrollable in her panic and distress when her son is taken from her.
There have been some changes over time to the supernatural element, but the overall antagonist is still very similar. In all three examples of the gothic text, the main supernatural event, or character is the vampire. A description of Dracula on page 458 displays Stoker’s evil character: “His eyes flamed red with devilish passion; the great nostrils of the high aquiline nose opened wide and quivered at the edges; and the white sharp teeth, behind the full lips of the blood-dripping mouth, champed together like those of a wild beast.” Again, another amazing description, and obviously, Stoker wanted to create his character as evil as can be, by mixing all sorts of horrible characteristics into one. In Dracula Untold, the older vampire who gives Vlad his powers is also a hideous beast, showing no compassion at all. And last, but certainly not least, there are Twilight’s vampires; human-looking, protective Edward, and the much more evil, sadistic James. While the depiction of these vampires has changed in many aspects, for example the human looking face, and normal shaped teeth, the thoughts behind the antagonist are still the same, threatening women to drink their blood. Again, almost no difference at all between traditional, and contemporary gothic.
Coming from two different eras, these three examples of gothic texts show remarkably similar elements. A suspenseful, gloomy atmosphere is found in all three, there is always a female character in danger or in distress, and the sinister, impulsive vampires, satisfying themselves by threatening women, are still the main antagonist. Therefore, can’t it be concluded that contemporary gothic texts from the present, are still conforming to gothic elements that were displayed in the past? I truly believe so, yes. You could argue that Twilight is not the best choice from the gothic genre, but it still displays the themes. The only question now is whether this will change in the future?
Rate this post if you feel like it!! 🙂