Constance June 30th, 2006
In Stoker’s era a woman who had sexually sinned was infectious, a contagious miasma. She who violated the sexual rule that she never submit but to her husband’s sexual appetite needed to be quarantined from all other respectable persons, especially other women, for they too might catch her evil taint. Therefore, as in Stoker’s novel, Mina (danced by CindyMarie Small) is not present during Dracula’s seduction of Lucy. In the film Mina’s at the nebulously located convent where her financÃ©, Jonathan Harker, has taken refuge, ill from the erotic fog Dracula’s vampire harem cast over him.
The ballet enacts this via Mina’s reading of his journal.
In Stoker’s novel Mina’s letters, journals, her cutup of information out of newspapers and other sources (very modern structural technique here, as critics have noticed with joy), her skills with typewriter and stenography and knowledge of train schedules and all the other technical tools of Victorian capital administration are utilized by her. She tries to defeat Dracula by exercising the powers of her formidible mind â€“ the mind that Van Helsing so admires that he elevates it to the status of her soul. Mina is active in her work to save Jonathan and herself, to track the monster, Dracula. Lucy merely submits. Writhing in voluptuous acquiescence, Lucy invites him in.
Yet, since these weapons fail, the ballet gives them short or no shrift, whilst the novel fills chapters with them.
It is only a blood brotherhood of True Men, wielding the primitive (Catholic) occult that can put an end to this threat out of the primitive east. (Various readings have characterized the vampiric threat as Home England anxieties about Jewish business interests to uprisings of the indigenous populations in the British colonies, and, as previously mentioned, in Ireland, the British landlord.) Though Lucy and, in the film, Mina too, are technically virgins, one lives to become a wife and one dies. (Mina’s not married in the film, whereas in the novel she and Harker marry in the convent.)
It’s the classic whore-madonna split of the pre-modern world, the world of crosses and priests, not the capital world of empire’s technology. Sexual knowledge transforms a woman into an Other, one vulnerable to unfaithfulness, whoring and baby eating. It’s as true of a virgin as it is of a fiancÃ© as it is, even, of a wife.
Mina is the anti-woman in this sense of the Lucy-sort of woman. Mina actively resists this trajectory of woman’s vampiric ballet of feminine helplessness-infection-injury-illness-invalidism-death. Her weapons are the anti-feminine weapons of intelligence and rejection, overt refusal to submit, the determination to say “No!” While wearing a mask of selfless helpmeet, Lucy dominates all around her, whereas Lucy merely submits. The kiss of the Dark Lover expands Lucy’s experience of the physical realm; the Kiss connects Mina’s mental ability to Dracula, his Kiss expands the powers of Mina’s mind, and make her a far more formidable opponent to Dracula. Even initially, it was her mind that attracted him to Mina, so much so that he’d already planned to take her for his helpmeet, making her his bride-queen.
In a sense, Mina is a foremother of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In Buffy it is the male characters who are changed into monsters by sex. In the place of the Brotherhood of True Men who destroy Lucy in an ecstasy of voluptuous force, Buffy slays these monster males â€“ or, on occasion, transforms them.
The authentic baby eaters, Dracula’s trinity of vampiric harem, are voluptuous and greedy and lascivious â€“ as he created them. He is the one who provides them with babies to eat. The harem trinty are set off against Mina, whom we first encounter (another departure from the Stoker novel) in a convent in Transylvania, dancing with virgins. (Or are they? There’s a mysterious crack in the convent wal ….)
Mina is a true virgin — a Madonna, not a baby eater. She was the one who lived to tell the tale, so these are her pages. Yet….
In the convent where Harker is being nursed back to health after his ordeal in the vampire’s castle, he gives Mina his diary. The diary contains his confession of his experiences that night of horrible pleasure with the vampiric harem fleshpots (“Fleshpots” is the word on the title card.) She sees Harker’s experience with the Harem as a pas a trois with him as the principal.
Mina’s danced reaction to reading this diary shows that she too has the capacity to become a whore/ baby eater. She expresses the hurt and bewilderment at what she and her fiancÃ© both perceive as his betrayal of her with the harem. However, that Harker feels shame about the feelings the Harem called up in him is one thing. That Mina offers to provide Harker the same delights he’d experienced in Dracula’s castle is something else. Significantly the delight is sucking â€“ Mina goes on her knees before him, reaches up his thighs, brings her face to his crotch. Harker flees in disgust. She now has sexual knowledge, though she’s never had a bridal night, is still a virgin, and the knowledge was imparted to her by her fiancÃ©. She now is tainted.
A woman is damned if she doesn’t, and she’s damned if she does. Is it possible that there can be no such thing as a pure woman because she’s a woman. A woman is condemned to contamination by the very fact of her existence. A woman is a container of contamination. This is irrational thinking, but by now we are in a primitive place, Dracula’s realm.
Once a man wakes a woman out of her virginal ignorance, even when sanctioned by betrothal, marriage and true love, as is the case with Harker-Mina, she’s now vulnerable to the monster of corruption â€“ the vampire â€“ of sexual knowledge â€“ no longer pure â€“ so now Dracula can come in, pursue Mina. He doesn’t need to be invited. He comes in through the crack (erotic feeling) in the side of the convent bubble that connects to his castle. The sexual knowledged imparted to her by her husband-to-be opened Mina to Dracula’s entrance. Harker rejected her, leaving her vulnerable to the Dark Lover’s lure.
And he does. Dracula comes and lures Mina away to his horrible castle.