Carmilla Makes Vampires Fun Again

Carmilla Makes Vampires Fun Again

By Camille Elston

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There are a lot of mythical creatures out there, with one of the most popular being the vampire. I remember becoming fascinated with vampires after reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Once I had a taste, I had to find more material. This led to studying vampire lore, reading R.L. Stines teen series Dangerous Girls and later, embarrassingly, binging the Twilight series. 

It wasn’t until waking up from the awful writing of Twilight (sorry, not sorry) that my interest in vampires began to wane. In fact, it died down enough for me to be derisive when faced with new literature or filmed media that had anything to do with vampires. The only thing I could stand, in fact, was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a couple of episodes from Xena and Charmed. In all of these, vampires were being killed. This was highly satisfying. 

“Carmilla is not your average vampire story. In fact, it’s not even your average web series.”

With that said, I am utterly shocked to say that Carmilla, a web series about two queer women (one of which is a vampire), is now one of my favorite shows.

Carmilla is not your average vampire story. In fact, it’s not even your average web series. Told in 3-7 minutes episodes over three seasons, Carmilla focuses on a group of students who work together at their very strange university to save the world from utter destruction. At the center of the story is Laura Hollis (Elise Bauman) and Carmilla Karnstein (Natasha Negovanlis). It’s a typical I-hate-you-but-now-I-love-you story surrounded by mayhem as they and their friends try to avoid death and destruction. However, the story is made interesting by the extravagance of the evils they have to face, as well as the unique single frame vlog style the story is told in.

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Overall, the web series is overly exaggerated, cheesy (but in the best way), sweet, and immensely enjoyable to watch. The same can be said of the film, which was released in 2017 and featured in the 2018 Outfest Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The aspect that impresses me the most about the series is the treatment of the queer characters. It stands out because other than an issue with the characters La Fontaine and Perry (which I will get into later), there is no treatment. Laura is queer, and there’s no drama around it. Carmilla is queer, and the same is true. In fact, most of the main characters are queer, and there is no need to bother over it. It’s just a fact. There’s no issue with parents, or traumatic past issues, or stress over being accepted. They just ARE accepted and the fact that they’re queer is NBD. 

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“Gender identity doesn’t change what you innately love about a person.”

More than once both me and friends have wished that there was some media out there that would get over the coming out story and the gay cheating spouse story. It would be really refreshing, we thought, if a queer story did not center on the innate queerness of the characters, but on the overarching story itself. Carmilla provides such a story. Yes, most of the characters are queer, and yes, there are queer relationships, but those aspects are not what’s important. What is important is the fact that there are evil vampires and giant fish monsters trying to destroy the world. 

The only time this isn’t true is when the character La Fontaine comes out as non-binary. Everyone generally accepts their identity except for their best friend, Perry, who honestly I wish I could kick. Unfortunately, that storyline reflects the difficulty people sometimes have with gender identities and updating their use of pronouns when they’ve known a person their whole lives.

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What with the accepting environment of the show, Perry’s lack of understanding makes her look like a real asshole. I think that’s the point they were trying to get at: like sexuality, gender identity is just a part of who a person is, and if you aren’t willing to accept that, you’re an asshole. It’s not that big of a deal in the larger scheme of things. Gender identity doesn’t change what you innately love about a person. The only thing that really changes a relationship and the love between two people is choosing to not respect that person enough to use the pronouns that they’re comfortable with.

Could the series and film have used more people of color? Yes. Would it have been cool to actually see the giant fish god/monster thing? Totally. Overall though, what you have with Carmilla is a fun vampire series and film that makes me believe in bloodsuckers again. It also makes me believe that we are on the road to seeing more bits of media where queerness is secondary to an overarching plot. I am so ready for it!

If you love vampires and queer things in general, I suggest that you celebrate the Halloween season with Carmilla. Check out the first episode here!

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