Dracula-related materials have once again stirred a voracious appetite in me, and of all my obsessions it is the one I will least deny. I purchased Dracula, My Love and suspect I shall complete it within a week. Then, on Twitter, I discovered this: Dracula In Love. It sounds basically like the novel I just bought, only smuttier and with a more overt uber-feminist attitude. Either that or it'll turn into another Vampire Lesbian Spank Inferno interpretation, possibly minus the spanking. If the brief excerpt is any indication, smut or not, this will be another book that causes as much indignation in me as amusement.
Here's my issue with the ultra-feminist take on Dracula (I'll get around to the po-mo sexuality issues at a later date): it fails to regard the fact that for a man, writing about female characters of which -- even as a theatre guy -- he likely had little comprehension of, Stoker managed well. He certainly managed better than most men (and women) of his time in creating a female character whose intelligence, good nature, selflessness and humility stand markedly above other female characters in that age. Mina experiences more freedom as a Victorian woman than most did and yet sees herself as being quite traditional. The journal excerpts written from Mina's perspective in no way demean her own value, nor do they hint at some deep, burning desire for sexual release, equality (which she is given to an extent in the novel, again far above many female Victorian characters), or Dracula. She pities the dark creature more than the men, and as a female that is understandable -- this does not mean she harbours secret desires to go to the movies with him and make him her cuddle bear.
THAT aspect more than any other annoys me; the concept that in order for Mina to assert herself as more of an equal to the men in the book, to truly ascend as a feminist, she must embrace her sexual desires and fall in love with a Byronic vampire hottie whom she hopes will worship her forever. This is the best feminist writers can come up with to empower Mina? Have her fall in love with an arrogant, self-serving, demonic being who only goes after her as revenge on the team thwarting his progress to make London his undead playground?... genius. Is the best expression of female empowerment we can come up with to have Mina become Bella Swan, swooning over the gorgeous stalker who thirsts for her life? Already in Dracula, My Love she dreams of Dracula coming to break up her wedding with Jonathan claiming her as his own. In what way does that allow her freedom? That only transfers what some see as oppression in Mina's treatment from the hunters to Dracula -- it still makes her a victim of his and devalues (or ignores) the selflessness she naturally possesses in the original novel. Especially considering that no matter how the story is told, the simple fact remains that Dracula kills people. Plural. He's a serial killer. These authors are causing a supposedly intelligent, compassionate woman to fall in love with a murderer -- because that's so much less twisted and easier to comprehend than the same woman being in love with a book-smart, rational, caring, albeit a little vanilla guy who does actually develop and grow into a real man when his beloved (and humanity) is threatened.
It's not that there should be a rational explanation for all fiction, especially when you get into the murky waters of the supernatural, because life and love are not rational. However, when a human falls in love with an other-being there's a fair amount of 'splainin' that should accompany the human's journey to love, besides the other-being possessing the awesome powers of major hotness and having a master's in stalking. Otherwise at the end of the day all these re-imaginings do is create a fiction epidemic of Bella Swan clones. Sooner or later that will (I hope) make people wish for vampires that do nothing but kill whiny, self-involved little masochists who yearn for their dark lover's touch.