This new telling of the classic tale doesn’t debut until January 1, but a cloud of bats is already hanging over this adaptation, as Moffat thought it was necessary to deny one of the queerest characters in classic horror in a recent interview. But first, the trailer:
Dracula stars Claes Bang as the titular vampire lord, tracing his origins in Eastern Europe all the way through his battles with Van Helsing and at least one of his descendants. A key figure in his story and life is Jonathan Harker (John Heffernan), a solicitor who’s sent to his home in Romania.
Dracula is obsessed with Harker in the original 1897 story from Bram Stoker and his significance is apparently expanded upon in this adaptation—including, according to news outlets, an implied sex scene between the characters. This led The Times to ask Moffat to address Dracula’s bisexuality. Moffat’s response was…umm. It sucked? Sorry, not sorry.
“He’s bi-homicidal, it’s not the same thing,” Moffat said. “He’s killing them, not dating them.”
Moffat added that another reason Dracula isn’t bisexual is because we don’t see the character have sex with anyone of any gender. Of course, that implies that you have to have sex to be bisexual, which could not be further from the truth. Sexual orientation doesn’t have a litmus test (besides, I have doubts he’d say Dracula isn’t sexually attracted to women for the same reason). Dracula is considered by many to be an LGBTQ figure, one of the earliest in horror. Saying he’s “bi-homicidal,” not bisexual, is a regressive statement that ignores Dracula as a character—and Stoker as a storyteller.
Much of Stoker’s life has been lost to history, but researchers have uncovered information that supports claims he was sexually attracted to men (alongside his marriage to a woman, Florence Balcombe). This includes an examination of his decades-long relationship with Oscar Wilde, which went above and beyond an infamous love triangle with Balcombe. Stoker started writing Dracula one month after Wilde was put on trial for sodomy, giving a context that some literary critics have used to draw parallels between Wilde and Stoker’s relationship and that of Dracula and Harker’s, and suggested that Dracula was Stoker’s way of processing what was happening to Wilde…and what he feared could happen to him.
Dracula doesn’t have to be seen having sex with men for him to be interpreted as a bisexual character. The character is, at his core, a sexual figure, and there’s no reason not to embrace his sexuality—especially if your own show is teasing it onscreen. Otherwise, it’s just queerbaiting. Furthermore, coining a term as stupid as “bi-homicidal” to avoid addressing one of the core tenets of this iconic creature’s un-life story feels like a poor decision on Moffat’s part. It reminds me of the many times Moffat came up with excuses for not having a female Doctor on Doctor Who, something that only happened as he was exiting the show.
Alas, it doesn’t help that the trailer looks boring, filled with bad music choices better served with something like Blade 3. Dracula debuts its first episode on BBC January 1, 2020, with the other two episodes airing on the subsequent days. The three episodes will then be released on Netflix over the following weekend.