I watched the first episode of the BBC Dracula series on Netflix, and that’s probably the last episode I’ll watch because…well, because. What? The artistic license they took? No, I’m all for artistic license, especially between different mediums. Book is book and film is film and it’s often best the twain do not meet. I’m not one of those guys who believes the source material must be slavishly attended, otherwise I couldn’t watch the Avengers movies. So my complaint isn’t with the BBC’s extraordinary deviation from Bram Stoker’s original story line; it’s with the extraordinary deviation from the zeitgeist. This is revisionism at its worst.
Starting right off with homosexuality. No Victorian era wink wink nod nod here, no sir; blatant, in your face, 21st Century gayness. Within the first ten minutes we’re discussing lesbianism and multiple partners. In the late 1800s.
That simply wasn’t done. Yes, yes, there are examples of letters written between Victorian men and women containing playful references about playing for the other team but that wasn’t for general consumption. It’s private, which is why a lot of letters were burned and yeah, yeah, this is a private letter between Mina and Jonathan but there’s nothing like this in Stoker’s story. Nothing at all. It is completely out of Mina and Jonathan’s – and Stoker’s – Victorian character and is only done as sop to our decadent, degenerate times. Got a Brave New World to build here, people! That’s why a lot of stuff in this production comes completely out of left – far left – field.
For example, Van Helsing asks Jonathan if he had sexual intercourse with Dracula, a question you’ll not find anywhere in Stoker’s original. You won’t find this 19th Century nun version of Van Helsing anywhere in Stoker, either, but that’s okay, I like her. Ignore that she’s a thoroughgoing anachronism (a liberation theologist nun in the late 1800s? Uh, no) and you’ll like her, too, even though she’s a plot device for the writers or director or whoever is responsible for this mess to advance their post modernist, post 20th Century concepts. See, vampirism is a blood borne pathogen, like AIDS, transmitted through intimate contact, certainly not an evil curse (hey, wait a minute, didn’t that Dark Shadows movie explore that theme?). Because, see, there are no evil curses. Because there is no such thing as evil.
Which brings us to the second desperate revisionism in this adaptation: the desperate need to eliminate any and all references to God and faith and gasp! Christianity. That’s a little difficult to do, given the centrality of Christian faith to Stoker’s novel, but the BBC is sure gonna take a whack at it. Can’t have vampires shunning a cross because the power of Christ compels them. Oh no. There is no power of Christ. Christ doesn’t exist. God? Puhleeze. God is some nebulous muffin, that fairly good feeling you have when everything is going to crap…according to the Mother Superior in an astoundingly wishy washy homily that would make any Unitarian or Methodist proud, delivered right before evil shows up and everything goes to crap. Wonder if the nuns got to experience those good feelings as their throats were getting ripped out?
Our postmodern Van Helsing has never seen any evidence of God in her many years as a nun, and Harker’s little mention that Dracula recoiled rather harshly from the sight of a cross has got her intrigued. Is this the proof of God she’s sought her whole life, a life spent becoming an expert on vampires, by the way? Funny, you’d think that the existence of vampires was pretty good evidence for the existence of the supernatural and evil and its personification in the person of the Devil who is the antithesis of God so…maybe God exists? Well, no. Somehow this nun concludes vampirism is a virus, which is damned advanced scientific thinking for the time, doncha think? So there’s got to be some other, mysterious, scientific reason why Dracula avoided Harker’s cross, and why Dracula needs an invitation before crossing the nunnery threshold and making mincemeat out of everyone. What could it be? We viewers already know: the sun reflected off the cross and the sun is antiseptic and kills pathogens and since Dracula is nothing but a bag ‘o pathogens, he avoids sunlight. Scientific. And rational. If Harker had just mentioned that whole reflected sunlight thing, then Van Helsing could have a V8 moment. As for the invitation, Dracula is nothing if not well mannered.
And this is what’s most wrong with this adaptation, the frantic effort to avoid the supernatural. Which is baffling as hell because there’s immortals and bloodsucking and unfortunates nailed inside wooden boxes for eternity and babies turned into vampires and, buddy, you can’t get much more supernatural than that.
All of what you great unwashed peasant bitter clingers consider supernatural is merely the results of illness, and we must study the illness to find a cure. Remember, there is no evil, just rational explanations we haven’t discovered yet.
Which is exactly what evil wants you to believe.