10 October 2009

Cross-dressing vampires

"I saw her as if she were a vision when I looked up--a flawless young boy with porcelain cheeks...Oh what a divine guise it was--Bianca as the young nobleman known to the few mortals who mattered as her own brother" (Rice).

The act of cross-dressing exemplifies the mixing of gender roles, whereby one individual trades the socially-conscripted role for the reverse, through the guise of the opposite gender. The previous article [Sexuality & the Female Vampire], discussed how the vampire exemplifies what is taboo in the society. In traditional society, the woman should be a submissive wife or daughter and a sacrificing mother. The converse of the woman's role is that of the female vampire--the sexually aggressive, dominant, and powerful female who not only fails to be a mother but is also accused of destroying children. The female vampire of folklore and literature does not fulfill the social role of the woman; instead, she is the perfect antithesis.

"Many writers realize that it is not enough to reverse the gender roles: the roles would remain the same, only the ascribed gender would change" (Hamilton 7). Females would be as males, and males would be as females, but the dualism of gender roles would still exist. Therefore, literary vampires are described to "transcend gender when they leave humanity behind" (Hamilton 7).

Janet Golding comments on this dissolution of gender in regard to Anne Rice's Louis and Lestat by saying, "I don't think they're so male- or female-looking. I think they sort of cross both lines" (Williamson 157). "Rice voices this directly in the tale of Gabrielle...When Gabrielle becomes a vampire, she turns her back on the social expectations. She also shows her freedom in appearance by dressing up in male clothing, commenting to her son, Lestat: 'But there's no real reason for me to dress that way anymore, is there?'" (Hamilton 7). In truth, there is not. The vampire exists outside or on the fringes of normal society, so there is no reason that a vampire should conform to the physical manifestation of a gender as mandated by society.

Once social skins peel away, the vampire is free to become the pure predator. Blood drinking is a physical pleasure that replaces or accompanies sexual relations. "As sucking is gender-neutral, sexuality becomes freed from gender rules and heterosexual norms. Therefore,...what was the ultimate social evil--crossing genders--has become the ultimate act of liberation" as exemplified by the vampire (Hamilton 7).

Dos besos,

[Note: Examples of cross-dressing vampires in literature are most poignant in Anne Rice's -Vampire Chronicles-. I have used examples from Rice's work exclusively, but this is not to mean that she is the only author to use this convention.]

Hamilton, Richard Paul; Margaret Sonser Bree. This thing of darkness: perspectives on evil and human wickedness

Williamson, Milly. The lure of the vampire

Rice, Anne. Blood and Gold.

1 comment:

  1. Great link! I adore the androgeny of Rice's vampires. I also think, with centuries of life ahead of them, the female vamp would feel no need to constrict herself with the fashions and social limitationss of her time. Also, pants are just more comfortable and efficient.