Thursday, May 6, 2010

I Was Wrong: A Look Back at Dracula Exotica

Ok, so perhaps when I wrote this review of Dracula Exotica way back in March 2009, I wasn't "wrong" exactly, but rather "young." A little background for y'all...

I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to write my dissertation about, and because of Forced Entry and Femmes de Sade, I was thinking about writing it on representations of rape/sexual violence in hardcore pornography. When I say "thinking about it," I mean I had done a bunch of research, outlined my chapters, and was ready to meet with my committee chair the next week. Clearly, I did not take that route, and thank god -- I would be in living hell. But I tell you this so you understand that when I watched Dracula Exotica, I was watching it as a "scholar of rape," so to speak, and had done a lot of reading on the subject. In addition, studying porn in general can be taxing on the emotions at the best of times -- I often find myself wondering what the heck I'm doing, and become plagued with self-doubt regarding my thoughts on the sex industry and women. In this context, the film made me feel nauseous, and I guess I rebelled against it. I also was a relative novice in the porn-nerd department (it has been a steep learning curve), and had little knowledge of generic conventions and certain porn personas.

I recently returned to the film, and I loved it the second time around, but I think it's important to also note that the rape scenes are indeed distressing, the necrophilia is disappointing and upsetting after witnessing Vita Valdez's sexual autonomy, Big Bird (Eric Edwards) is a misogynistic creep, and in general the film has a seedy feel to it that's hard to shake during the first half.

Nevertheless, the film's second half redeems many of the nasty feelings you might acquire at the beginning, and I found it to be a rather progressive film in a lot of ways, particularly through the character of Surka/Sally (Samantha Fox) who, as a re-imagining of the original novel's Mina, suggests that active female sexuality is not something to be condemned like it is in the Stoker text. There is a lot more to say about this film -- the way it exposes the religious/institutional forces that oppress Surka, Vanessa Del Rio's Latina persona as subversive racial performativity, the homosocial/homoerotic conflation of blood and semen (displaced in the novel, but rendered literal in the film) -- but I won't bore you with details. Writing this chapter, looking at these films while thinking about adaptation, Victorian culture, and genre, has really enabled me to think in more complex ways about texts that formerly may have made me uncomfortable, and I'm really happy I have this blog to look back on as a way of analyzing my thoughts as they formulate and develop.

Suffice to say, the film is nasty, and at times problematic, but I didn't give it it's due the first go around, and wanted to say "my bad."

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