Notes & Queeries: The Allure of the Lesbian Vampire

Notes & Queeries is a monthly column that focuses on the personal side of pop culture for lesbians and bisexual women.

As any regular reader knows, the number of lesbian and bisexual female characters on scripted television in the United States tends to hover in the low single digits.

In movie theaters, we have even less to cheer for. Hollywood barely manages to make films with interesting women characters, much less lesbian or bisexual ones. Independent film, niche television programming and internet video are all doing their part to raise the visibility of lesbians/bisexual women in entertainment.

But the fact is, we also need mainstream visibility. And this year, for better or worse, our best hope for mainstream visibility may lie in the lesbian vampire.

This past spring, the dreadfully reviewed horror-comedy Lesbian Vampire Killers attempted to update the campy exploitation films of the 1970s such as Daughters of Darkness and The Vampire Lovers.

Earlier this month, we learned that a new remake of Carmilla, based on the 1872 novella by Sheridan le Fanu, is in the works — this time starring British actress/model Jennifer Ellison.

Author Sarah Waters recently included Carmilla, which is probably the original lesbian vampire story, on her list of favorite ghostly tales: “For unnerving atmosphere and general queerness, this story of a beautiful revenant and her fascination with attractive teenage girls really can’t be beaten.”

Carmilla has been turned into a film several times already, and whether or not this version actually gets off the ground remains to be seen. But now is a better time than most to seek financing for a lesbian vampire film, because vampires in general are definitely back in style.

The many cinematic versions of Carmilla

The movie Twilight, based on Stephenie Meyer’s young adult novel of the same name and released last fall, has so far raked in more than $191 million at the U.S. box office alone, and was the eighth biggest film of 2008. The sequel, New Moon, will hit theaters this November. The four novels in Meyer’s Twilight series have dominated the New York Times Series Books best-seller list for 96 weeks, prompting publishers to release countless other vampire-themed novels to capitalize on the craze.

Meanwhile, another best-selling series of vampire novels, Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, has been turned into a provocative HBO television series, True Blood. Executive produced by openly gay Alan Ball (Six Feet Under), True Blood just began its second season this month.

Amid all this bloodthirsty mayhem, it’s not surprising that the lesbian vampire, one of the most enduring (and campy) tropes in film, is also making a comeback.

The vampire, as a metaphor for our darker desires, has always embraced or even reveled in queerness.