and Without Regret”:
Femininity, Masculinity, and
the Vampire Aesthetic
JOAN GRASSBAUGH FORRY
"They have forgotten the first lesson. We must be powerful, beautiful, and without regret.” When Armand speaks these words to fellow vampire Louis in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire, he is not just talking aimlessly. Rather, he is reciting a truism about how vampires are portrayed.
Perhaps the most familiar form of the Undead, vampires have appeared in many different guises over the past century. From the umpteenth re-telling of the haunting story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to the comedic children’s book Bunnicula, the story of a vampiric pet rabbit that raids the refrigerator at night and sucks the “blood” from the family’s vegetables, all vampire stories play on themes of power, beauty, and moral character.
Vampires are powerful not only because they inspire fear and terror in the living, but also because they escape from the troublesome human burdens of aging and sickness. Vampires are the ultimate affirmation of individualism, escaping from human moral obligation, caring only for themselves, and free from regret or remorse for their actions. But how and why must vampires be beautiful? There’s no doubt that they are; even Bunnicula has sleek fur and the most deep haunting eyes one can imagine in a cute little bunny. But just how does beauty work in the conventions of vampire representation? Are conventional beliefs about beauty and appearance operating in the portrayal of vampires, or do these conventional beliefs get shoved out in the sunlight to get dusted?
Conventional standards of bodily beauty, femininity, and masculinity are at work in vampire films and television; however,