I — Vampires

​In some horror film subgenres, such as vampire and werewolf stories, figuring out the monster's actual identity by looking for physiological indicators is a prevalent theme. For example, in Silver Bullet (1985), a paraplegic young boy Marty goes out at night of Fourth of July celebrations to light fireworks. He is then confronted by a werewolf, but escapes the monster after launching a rocket into the creatures eye.

Later in the movie, Marty’s sister discovers that Reverend Lowe, a town priest, is missing his left eye; This bodily sign, physical trauma, reveals him as the werewolf. In The Omen (1976), American diplomat Robert Thorn and his wife Katherine adopt a child, Damien. As the movie progresses, Father Brennan starts to suspect that Damien is the Antichrist. Meanwhile, Robert and Keith travel to Israel to meet Carl Bugenhagen, an archaeologist and expert on the Antichrist; he explains that if Damien is the true Antichrist he will bear a birthmark in the shape of three sixes somewhere on his body.

This bodily sign, physical trauma, reveals him as the werewolf.
Monsters and gay men share a similar stigma of textuality in their anatomy. In these horror stories, the monster usually passes as a human, at least for some of the time: werewolves appear only during the full moon and vampires victims carry the stigma of penetration literally as the bite marks on their necks.
Reading bodily signs of course also has useful real life applications in fields such as medical sciences, biology and so on. Many diseases have been and are still recognized by first hand visual observations, from different rashes and allergies to skin cancers and the notorious AIDS-defining Kaposi’s sarcoma. However, the human history has also witnessed pseudosciences where the bodily marks or different features of the body have been theorized to be signs of witchhood, racial inferiority or general proclivity to crime.

In 1897, Bram Stoker hit the goldmine when Dracula—a story filled with sex, blood and death—was published. The description of vampirism as a contagious demonic disease sank into the public in Victorian Europe, where tuberculosis and syphilis were common. According to Schaffer (1997), the epidemiological horror fiction, including Dracula, encodes the fear and anxiety of the homophobic society, that is, homosexuals want to “corrupt” heterosexuals (p. 481).

Schaffrath (2002) analyses how, in Bram Stoker’s book, the vampire represents social chaos and threatens English gender roles (p. 98). According to the author, blood-sucking is a metaphor for intercourse when a vampire’s tusks sink into the victim’s neck and the act gives birth to a new vampire. As the victims of vampire are both men and women, so the vampire can be interpreted as bisexual, but also “hermaphroditic”, possessing both male and female “essence”. This vampiric two-sex model can be associated with homosexuality, because at the turn of the century, homosexuals were seen neither as men or women, but as their intermediate form. (Schaffer 1997, p. 472).

​Although vampire tales precede the Victorian era by centuries, these creatures gained huge popularity and were closely tied—as was homosexuality—with the science of the era. Fears of disease and decay, elicited by venerial diseases and plagues, were reflected in the vampire stories and other gothic novels.

The ‘80s, ’90s and AIDS

​In 1984, having known about AIDS for little more than one year, I began to realize that there is language that can kill me or, more insidiously, language that can persuade me to kill myself.
— Ellis Hanson (1991).​
As far as I remember, the public discussions regarding cinema, media and art in the ‘90s Finland seemed to revolve around subversiveness of representations, for example movie violence and sex. Also postmodern art and its “ugliness” was on people’s lips. While post modern art was not exactly a new movement in the 90’s, it reached it’s peak in the 80’s and ‘90s and the general public caught up (Hicks 2004). Coincidentally or not, these same decades witnessed the arrival of AIDS, contagious throught sex and bodily fluids, blood and sperm.​
In 1995, Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art in Helsinki, exhibited Plenge Jakobsen’s White Love (1994-1995), an installation with blenders filled with blood, urine and sperm which famously appalled the public. The stench of secretions aroused nausea, and part of the audience feared that they would get HIV from the splashing blood. The dismay of the audience obscured Jakobsen’s idea of pure love in the AIDS era. For the organisers, causing a controversy proved to be a successful format.
Much like in the Victorian era, where plague, venerial diseases and new sciences influenced the popularity of vampire stories, the arrival of AIDS marked a rise in the popularity of vampire stories again (although vampires were never really gone.) In many cases, the vampire was revamped (pun intended) and the genre was injected with some new blood (another pun) by the prevalent scientific notions. The vampire was no longer just a hidden metaphor for homosexuality, but many writers and filmmakers consciously harnessed this cultural association—for example in, Anne Rice’s novels and their movie adaptation Interview with the Vampire (1992). In many ways, the vampires came out of the closet, and in some cases (in true postmodernist style) they were granted the position of a protagonist, and in some cases it was humans that were the enemy.
The beginning of the AIDS crisis emphasized the monstrosity of the homosexual condition again, as Benshoff (1997/2001) argues: “now more than ever, gay men are contagions—vampires—who, with a single mingling of blood, can infect a pure and innocent victim, transforming him or her into the living dead” (p. 92). Simon Watney (1987) noted that “Aids commentary does not ‘make’ gay men into monsters, for homosexuality is, and always has been, constructed as intrinsically monstrous within the heavily over-determined images inside which notions of ‘decency,’ ‘human nature,’ and so on are mobilized and relayed throughout the internal circuitry of the mass media marketplace” (p. 42). Much like in Lee Edelman’s (1994) description of gay man’s body as text, AIDS too was “a [...] pathological condition but also [...] an entrenched, proliferating text”, which embodies both “a physical and a social death” (Vallorani 2011, p. 211).
​As the study of the AIDS literature have been noted in recent decades, abjection and textuality combine in the body marked by injuries and lesions formed on the skin. The visually marked, infected body is perceived as a “feminine, exposed text” that ultimately reveals a gay persons “hidden identity”, reflecting the insistent desire of homophobic discourse to catch “false identities”. Abject bodies are essential in a homophobic culture in order for a “normal” body to be understood (Kekki 2004, p. 11).
On a positive note, horror is a genre of film that specifically activates queer viewership through its conventional structure, such as the disintegration of social order and the themes of beings rejected by society. As Benshoff (1997/2001 ) writes, the monster of horror films is often seen as a “force that tries to prevent heterosexual romance,” (p. 93) and monster films can be understood as depicting the outbreak of some kind of queer sexuality in the middle of a heterosexual environment. Benshoff believes that homosexuality is culturally constructed alongside and through the concepts of monster, sexual anxiety, and illness, and says that films allow audiences to both demonize the “enemy” of films and provide a surface of identification for queer viewers (p.93). Depending on the viewer position of the film, the monster can thus be seen as a threat or an object of identification—or both. Benshoff mimics Judith Butler’s idea that the subject position of the film’s monster is more readily achievable for viewers who (figuratively and literally) reside in subjects in “non-viable zones”—that is, those already outside the patriarchal and heterosexist order.
​To comprehend the vampire is to recognize that abjected space that gay men are obliged to inhabit; that space uspeakable or unnameable, itself defined as orifice, as a “dark continent” men dare not penetrate; that gap bridged over or sutured together, where men cease to play dead and yet cease to accept the normative sexual role. I am seen as the caped one, who hovers over the dreaming body of Jonathan Harker and exclaims, “This man belongs to me!” And “Yes, I too can love.” I dare to speak and sin and walk abroad; and so like Lucy Westenra in her bed, Renfield in his cell, Dracula in his castle, I inhabit the space of all vampires, caught between our two twin redemptions: conversion and death. Hanson (1991, 325-326).
Afterthought: The Real Monster
​Man is the cruelest animal. At tragedies, bullfights, and crucifixions he has so far felt best on earth; and when he invented hell for himself, behold, that was his very heaven.
—Friedrich Nietzsche
Valerie Solanas (2004) used the concept of projection as counter-strategy in her highly controversial SCUM Manifesto in 1967. In the text, Solanas attempts to reverse the sexist as- sociations of women as weak, emotional and ”less than men.” Solanas claims that forementioned qualities are, in fact, male qualities, which men (I read this as a synonym for patriarchy) project onto women. In Solanas’ manifesto, the real monster is Man, who has, by an elaborate scam, fooled us to believe that the Other is the monster. The real motivation behind patriarchal misogyny is the fact that men, deep down, want to be women—a kind of a reversed penis envy. Men have, as Solanas (2004) writes, “done a brilliant job of convincing millions of women that men are women and women are men”. SCUM manifesto is not particularly friendly towards all women either. Solanas describes women who voluntarily submit to male domination as “daddy’s girls”.
Solanas’ manifesto was provocative also in it’s goal “to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and destroy the male sex” as well as in SCUM’s not unearned reputation as anti-trans. Her position is similar to TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist) trolling point that trans people reinforce an oppressive gender binary. It can be concluded that Solanas’s chromosomal standard for maleness, which she establishes right away in her manifesto, offers no exception for trans women. A tiny piece of sympathy for men can be found in Solanas’ writing, when she states that a feminine, sissy gay man—while still deeply flawed—is the most tolerable kind of man as they are openly manifesting their desire to be female.
Andrea Long Chu (2019) is a transgender writer, who has been praised for starting a second wave in trans studies with her writing on Solanas. Chu disputes Solanas' labeling as a transphobe, particularly as one linked with second-wave radical feminism, which Solanas contempted. Regardless of whether Solanas was transphobic or not, she was a sex essentialist. Whatever amazing observations one may find from the text, this is SCUM's fundamental disqualifying defect. Its many charms are undeniable, but so is the reality that it calls for the Holocaust—it specifically mentions gas chambers and "degenerate “art” (p. 12 ).
As far as we can consider Solanas as a high-camp satirist, we can at least find her clear observations on patriarchy and misogyny parodically on point. If we, using Solanas’ example, flip the associations with heteronormativity and homosexuality, we can see that many of the things homosexuals are accused of, can be turned right back to straight male culture:, for example gay men as hypersexual, as rapists, as pedophiles violence, as narcissistic, as murderous and so forth.
Patriarchy and heteronormativity seem fragile in the sense that they do not bare any challenging, which can be witnessed in the sheer force used to marginalize anyone who deviates from the norm. Paradoxically, masculinity, which is claimed to be the natural state of a male body, still has to be earned. In other words, if one does not constantly reassure their status as a male, the facade is threatening to crumble down.

Benshoff, H. M. (1997/2001). “The monster and the homosexual” in Horror, the Film Reader, edited by Mark Jancovich, Taylor & Francis Group, 2001.
Hicks, S. (2004). “Why Art Became Ugly.” Navigator (Volume 7, Number 7), September 2004.
Edelman L. (1994). “Homographesis. Essays in Gay Literary and Cultural Theory.” London: Routledge.
Hanson, E. (1991). “Out Takes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film”. Duke University Press Books.
Kekki, L. (2004). “Pervot pidot: homo-, lesbo- ja queer-näkökulmia kirjallisuudentutkimukseen.” Helsinki: Like.
Long Chu, A. (2019). “Females.” London: Verso.
Schaffer, T. (1997). “A Wilde Desire Took Me: The Homoerotic History of Dracula”, in Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal (ed.), Dracula: Authoritative Text Contexts Reviews and Reactions Dramatic and Film Variations Criticism. Ed., New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1997, pp 470-482.
Schffrath, S. (2002). “Order-versus-Chaos Dichotomy in Bram Stoker's Dracula” Extrapolation 43, no. 1 (spring 2002) pp 98-112.
Solanas, V. (2004). SCUM manifesto. London: Verso.
Vallorani, N. (2011). “The Plague Years. Borderland Narratives on AIDS in the ‘90s in Discourses and Narrations in the Biosciences.”
Watney, S. (1987). “Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS, and the Media” , second edition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
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