I have just finished watching episode 1x6 (Of Monsters and Men) of NBC’s Dracula and find myself moved to speak about it. Initially I had my reservations about this show. The costumes were garish, the liberties with myth and story abundant, and the only saving grace at the time seemed to be the eye candy that is Jonathan Rhys Meyers. But was that enough? As it turns out this show is a delight for the senses that never seems to fail to push the boundaries of sex and violence and has an uncanny awareness of its own cheekiness to boot. Not to mention the multitude of “shipping” opportunities for those of that ilk. But that’s not what I want to talk about today.
Today I want to talk about how this show has broken my heart time and again and done so with grace and tact and insight into the lives of gays/lesbians/bisexuals. In episode 1x2 (A Whiff of Sulfur) we are introduced to Daniel Davenport and Lord Laurent who are secretly in love with each other. It is a secret by necessity due to the culture and times they live in. By the third episode Lord Laurent is killed in furtherance of the story (ie, Dracula’s greed via blackmail), and at the end of the episode his lover, Daniel, takes his own life because he is so heartbroken over the loss of the man he loves. He leaves this note for his father to find:
Dearest Father, I have decided that I cannot go on this life without my beloved. Stephen. After the the humiliation and destruction Alexander Grayson has caused. The whole of my world has been taken away from me. I hope that you will see me in the next life. Your Loving Son, Daniel.
As you may or may not know, gay men are six times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers are, and this show, this silly, inaccurate show, managed to illustrate in just two short episodes the pain and fear of being gay in a society that is not accepting of such things.
Then we have Lucy, Mina’s best friend, who just happens to have more than friendly feelings for Mina. In a show rife with on screen sex acts this attraction could have been played as something paltry and meaningless. It would have been so easy for the show runners to exploit the male gaze and make it about heaving bosoms and heavy petting between two women. Instead they chose to make it about love, about a young girl confused by her feelings as she watches the object of her affection become betrothed to a man and drift ever further away from her. In episode 1x5 (The Devil’s Waltz) there is an absolutely gut wrenching scene where Lucy collapses on her stairs in tears as it hits her that she is truly losing Mina, that she never really had a chance at all with her. I am not going to lie. I cried with Lucy because I have been Lucy.
The dynamic between Lucy and Mina, which comes to a head in the most recent episode, is one I can relate to on a deeply personal level. As an openly bisexual woman I have been Lucy numerous times in my life. In Of Monsters and Men Lucy is encouraged by Lady Jayne (for nefarious reasons) to admit her feelings to Mina, an action that may yet prove fatal to Lucy and Mina’s friendship. Emboldened by Lady Jayne’s words, Lucy makes her move and confesses her love to Mina who rebuffs her with much disappointment and disgust.
The thing about being bisexual (and I imagine this is true for lesbians and gays as well) is that people don’t wear signs over their heads stating what their sexuality is. So unless you have completely immersed yourself in gay culture and only ever meet gay people (which some people do for this very reason) you will at some point in your life develop feelings for someone whose sexuality does not mirror your own. It is also extremely likely that if you are gay or lesbian or bisexual you have also experienced hatred and bullying and harassment for being that way. And thus creates a sort of vicious cycle of fear. Not just fear of rejection but fear of being hit or raped or murdered or of having your secret revealed if you aren’t out.
NBC’s Dracula has beautifully portrayed all of the confusion and fear that’s part and parcel of not being straight. Whether you’re bi or gay or lesbian there’s a strong chance you had that moment in your life where you realized you weren’t like other people and then, even once you’ve come to terms with that, you have the first time you actually fall for someone of your gender. For many of us it’s a terrifying feeling, especially if you don’t know the person’s orientation. You have to decide whether to suffer in silence or to speak up and potentially be rejected or worse, physically or emotionally harmed.
Watching the character of Lucy come to terms with her feelings for Mina has been a gut wrenching and heartbreaking journey and it’s not over yet. We’ve seen her struggle with her feelings, finally accept them, and then bare her heart to Mina. Mina’s disgusted rejection of her is something the LGBTQ community has to face every day of their lives, not just from potential partners but from friends and family and coworkers. Lucy stands not only to lose her friendship with Mina but her standing in society and potentially her life as well, consequences that are far too real for many of us even now, after all the advancements we’ve seen in gay rights.
I say kudos to NBC’s Dracula for actually portraying these characters with heart, for showing the spectrum of emotion within same sex relationships instead of resorting to the fetishizing of same sex intimacy, and for tackling the very real and all too often very dire consequences of falling outside the heterosexual paradigm.
If you aren’t already watching this show I urge you to give it a chance. In addition to being highly entertaining it is also highly moving and, so far, a boon to queer representation in television. I sincerely hope, pun fully intended, that they continue in this vein.
I don’t watch this show, but I was checking out the tag because it seemed like they may be more explicit with the Lucy/Mina thing than versions in the past. But if this is what there is, meh.
Accurate? Maybe. Most accurate? No. It wasn’t even most accurate when all portrayals of LGBT people on TV and in film involved suicide, death, or unrequited feelings towards a straight person.
Don’t misunderstand: LGBT people (especially youth) are at a way higher risk of suicide than our straight, cis counterparts. I know that. And everyone (everyone everyone everyone, it is universal) falls for someone who’s not interested, for whatever reason.
I just… guess I’m past this sort LGBT narrative. I’d rather watch Bomb Girls (which has a coming out story, as well as both unrequited feelings and requited ones). Or any number of shows where LGBT people (though lesbihonest that it’s very rarely trans people) get to experience all sorts of things, and not just the same old storylines over and over. How likely is it that Mina will reject Lucy, then “forgive” her, then maybe have secret kissy rendezvous with her, then leave her again. How likely is it that that is what drives Lucy to Dracula? I mean, I don’t even watch the show, it’s just that that storyline has been done so much.
Anyway. Nothing against the OP! The really thoughtful write up just inspired some thinking of my own.