Intro: Deep Genre In Action – Bloody Ballet – Dracula

June 26th, 2006

(This is the first of about 6 installments that will be coming daily, reflecting the thoughts I’ve had around genre, using as a launching platform this film, vampires and Dracula.)


TO START WITH:  Confession. Vampires per se haven’t much interested me, as creatures or as a genre.  I have friends who have remained fascinated by vampires their whole lives, from childhood until now, way up in adulthood.  My first encounter with vampires was the movie Black Sunday, when I was a little girl, at a slumber party, on our local television station’s weekend Horror Theater.  All around the living room girls screamed, squealed and shrieked and hid their faces in quilts and sleeping bags and pillows.  I did not understand why.  The exotic setting with grand ruins, brooding skies, horse drawn coaches did appeal to me, but that was about it.

I did read Bram Stoker’s Dracula the first time I found a copy in my university library, and have re-read it 3 times since.  I did read Interview With a Vampire, and liked it enormously.  But it did not hold up to a second reading, and the subsequent volumes were of even less interest (to me, let me stress – obviously a lot of readers feel quite different about that!).

On occasion, at a friend’s home, I tried to watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer, since so many people I like and respect were mad about the show.  Couldn’t get anywhere with it, I’m so television-challenged (have lived without a television since I left high school).

Then, at the start of summer 2004 my damaged spinal column gave out, trapping me into extremely limited mobility for several weeks (not to mention pain).  I had a terrific over-large computer monitor for my impaired vision, a high-powered multi-media computer, with dvd player capacity (I now have a much nicer dvd player, but I still watch on monitor).  I started renting Buffy from what was then my local video store, the lamented Kim’s.  It took me 45 – 60 minutes to walk the 3 and a half blocks to Kim’s, and then the same amount of time to walk back home.  It was the only exercise I was allowed to do for many weeks.

I believe Buffy saved my sanity as I slowly crawled back to re-join the mobile.  I’m up to season four, watching the series for the second time.  It’s even better, now that I already know what happened, and can see how they did it, as the episodes go past.

It’s interesting too, how much the Buffy writers know of Dracula and Bram Stoker scholarship.  Did you know the Ascension was an actual historical concept?  (It had to do with what how the Irish-English landowner aristocracy regarded itself during what is one of the Empire’s ugliest eras).

Finally, I spent the year 2004-2005 in New Orleans, the last year of that city’s life as she was known.  My house wasn’t far from Ann Rice’s home.

All of this is to say that I love Buffy, but I’m still not interested in vampires per se;  however, I have been, and still am, a ballet lover, which is how I ran into the film, Dracula: Pages From a Virgin’s Diary, that I describe below, and which started me thinking about how different Buffy is from other classic vampire works, and why I don’t love them, while I love this series.  The film also got me started thinking about what I (let me stress this again – I, not anybody else) think of as “deep genre” vs. ‘genre.’

All hail Joss Whedon.

Just in case you all don’t know, Joss Whedon’s Equality Now speech is up on YouTube. 


17 Responses to “Intro: Deep Genre In Action – Bloody Ballet – Dracula”

  1. Mitch Wagneron 26 Jun 2006 at 9:35 pm

    Funny thing: Vampires are the subject of about a dozen of my favorite TV shows and books.

    But vampire stories, as a genre, don’t interest me, either.

    Too many of them get into the Gothic esthetic and weird sexuality, when what I’m interested in is stories about beings who are powerful, beautiful, strong, long-lived, and above moral and natural law.

  2. L.N. Hammeron 26 Jun 2006 at 10:17 pm

    I think I’ve lost the thread of the argument here — how does Buffy exemplify the qualities of deep genre?

    I ask, because I like it not for its horror genre elements in themselves but for how they illuminate the genre I see in it, namely, a chronicle of surviving the horrors of adolescence and young adulthood. In this watching protocol, the horror elements are superficial — concrete manifestations of the psychological horrors.


  3. Katharine Kerron 27 Jun 2006 at 1:57 am

    Constance is writing a multi-part essay on vampires as genre/deep genre/literature etc, Larry. I encouraged her to post it part by part because she was afraid it would be too long. Ergo, soon All will be Clear. :

  4. Kate Elliotton 27 Jun 2006 at 9:05 am

    Larry, I agree with you about Buffy – that it is about surviving the horrors of adolesecence (and young adulthood). I still think the first three seasons of Buffy are just about the best chronicle of the American high school experience, told from the perspective, of course, of the outsider. Or at least, it resonates for me.

    But without the horror aspects, the show wouldn’t have the same effect, so I think that that horror elements are not superficial but crucial to the telling. Even as I agree with you that the horror elements are simply “concrete manifestations of the psychological horrors.”

  5. L.N. Hammeron 27 Jun 2006 at 10:53 am

    Can I have it both ways by arguing the horror elements are crucial to the telling but superficial to the genre? Which is to say, the storytellers aren’t interested in exploring the horror tropes for their own sakes, but for what they tell us about adolescence.


  6. Louise Marleyon 27 Jun 2006 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve been curious about the vampire obsession for years, so these threads will be interesting to follow . . . but while we’re hailing Joss Whedon, can I give a big cheer for “Firefly” and “Serenity”? This space opera world goes back to the rich sense of fun I always had with Star Trek and with Star Wars (the early ones, not the lamentable prequels.) If you watch the DVD set of “Firefly”, do listen to the commentaries by the writers. Fascinating, and adds to my respect for Whedon as a creative force.

  7. Constance Ashon 27 Jun 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Yes indeed! Hooray for Firefly!

    I just posted the second installment. There are about 5 more to come.

    Again, may I remind everyone that I am deeply aware these are my opinions, and my opinions only. Nor do I expect everyone to agree with them.

    Hopefully this is a discussion, not a contest, not even a debate!

    For example I don’t agree with Alis either, that Buffy is only about high school, though that is an essential theme. But the show evolves through time, and shifts around, and even in the h.s. seasons we have the vampiric ‘rulers’ of Sunnydale and their minions participating. The old ruling class of the Mayor and his Renfield (but a very comic one) minion — which sort of theme is deeply part of Stoker’s Dracula.

    Not that I’m writing about Buffy here. I’m just attempting to employ the vampire mythos to explore what I think of as progenitor works — deep genre, and derivative works, genre.

    And that, again, is my definition that helps me. Nor does it have to do with “literature” per se or “literary” values, though they might be present. Or not! as the case may be.

    Love, C.

  8. Carol Bergon 27 Jun 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Louise Marley said,

    . . . but while we’re hailing Joss Whedon, can I give a big cheer for “Firefly” and “Serenity”

    Ah, break my heart! I will always lament the early demise of this series. I loved everything from the characters to the patois. And if it had to end, Serenity was a marvelous wind-up. What a great example of trope-twisting.


  9. […] (The second of what will be 5 or 6 more installments.) […]

  10. Katharine Kerron 27 Jun 2006 at 5:41 pm

    I suspect that Firefly died because it showed what’s likely to be the truth about the future: that the marvelous technology and the like will be in the hands of the few, the rich. The colonists in the “glorious adventure of space” will be back with horses and shotguns. Westerns or social commentary? You decide . . .

  11. Katharine Kerron 27 Jun 2006 at 5:47 pm

    Off-topic — Mitch! Glad you found us.


  12. Mitch Wagneron 27 Jun 2006 at 11:58 pm

    Glad to be here, Kit. I’ve been reading from the beginning.

  13. Kate Elliotton 28 Jun 2006 at 12:29 am

    Larry, of course you can have it both ways!
    Who am I to argue with that?!?

  14. […] Not to detract from Constance’s five- or six-part discussion of vampires, ballet, film, genre, sex, and Buffy… but I thought I’d mention that John Scalzi (author of Hugo and Campbell Award nominee Old Man’s War, as well as The Ghost Brigades) has posted a great interview with me about my just-released novel Infoquake. […]

  15. […] (This is the third installment of Deep Genre In Action -Bloody Ballet – Dracula. Read (1) Dracula: Pages From A Virgin’s Diary (2003): […]

  16. DeepGenre » (3) Virgin’s Diary: Lucyon 30 Jun 2006 at 3:38 pm

    […] Introduction; Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; […]

  17. […] Introduction; Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; […]

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