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Subjects of the Visual Arts: Vampires  

An invention of the nineteenth-century, the artistic vampire, as opposed to the vampire of folklore, is connected not with disease but with sexuality. For authors, artists, and filmmakers, artistic vampires represent a common sexualized metaphor--the release of insurgent passion and emotion--that includes such details as the erotic foreplay of vampires' attacks and the creatures' dependency on the bodily fluid of their victims.

From its inception, as an outsider within polite society, the artistic vampire has been consistently linked with homosexuality. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Christabel" (1797) portended a lesbian vampire, while John Polidori's "The Vampyre" (1819) depicted a young man's desire for the dominant male vampire.

While this association pervaded much of the Victorian era, by the beginning of the twentieth century, the sexual vampire gave way to a more horrific image, and the first vampire films, F. W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1919) and Tod Browning's London After Midnight (1925), reflect this trend. Early vampire cinema is remarkably heterosexist, belying the literary tradition that spawned it.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s, coupled with the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and a new public awareness of homosexuality, soon altered things, and gay and lesbian themes became commonplace in vampire cinema.

The first important homosexual vampire film was Roy Ward Baker's The Vampire Lovers (1970), an adaptation of J. Sheridan Le Fanu's "Carmilla." Other gay vampires appeared simultaneously in Roman Polanski's The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), Lancer Brooks' Sons of Satan (1973), Ulli Lommel's Tenderness of Wolves (1973), and Jimmy Sangster's Lust for a Vampire (1973).

This marriage of metaphor--vampire to homosexual--remained a constant throughout the 1970s, culminating in Tony Scott's The Hunger (1983).

Now permanently linked with sexuality in such films as Neil Jordan's Interview with the Vampire (1994), Abel Ferrara's The Addiction (1995), Michael Almereyda's Nadja (1995), and David DeCocteau's The Brotherhood (2000), homosexuality remains a common if not constant theme, a sexual metaphor that continues to bind representations of vampires with homosexuals in the arts.

Michael G. Cornelius


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Max Schreck as Count Orlok in a promotional photograph for F. W. Murnau's film Nosferatu.
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literature >> Overview:  Ghost and Horror Fiction

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arts >> Ball, Alan

Award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer Alan Ball, whose work frequently features glbtq characters, has had great success in both film and television.

arts >> Murnau, Friedrich Wilhelm

Acclaimed as the greatest director of the German Expressionist period (1919-1933), F.W. Murnau created the first masterpiece of the horror film, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1921).


Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Beebe, John. "He Must Have Wept When He Made You: The Homoerotic Pathos in the Movie Version of Interview with the Vampire." The Anne Rice Reader. Katherine Ramsland, ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997.

Benshoff, Harry M. Monsters in the Closet: Homosexuality and the Horror Film. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1997.

Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book. Detroit, Mich.: Visible Ink Press, 1994.

"Queer Horror."

Weiss, Andrea. Vampires and Violets: Lesbians in Film. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2001.


    Citation Information
    Author: Cornelius, Michael G.  
    Entry Title: Subjects of the Visual Arts: Vampires  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated December 16, 2010  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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