The Façade of Dracula

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Have you ever stepped outside your usual emotional reaction and looked at something you love objectively? It can be a truly enlightening experience, not only about the thing itself but you as an individual.

My hobby of MBTI typing fictional characters has forced me to look at them more objectively. With Halloween around the corner, I decided to type characters from literary adaptations and “monster movies.” Initially, I come up with a speculation as to their type based on what I remember of them and then re-watch a film to check it. Sometimes, I reach the conclusion that my initial perception of a character is not the truth of the character itself.

Last night, I decided to re-watch my favorite adaptation of Dracula, filmed in 1979. This Dracula doesn’t go around with blood trickling from his fangs. He’s suave, elegant… and an unmitigated, heartless, murderous fiend. Considering Frank Langella’s Dracula is the most romantic incarnation of the character, that came as something of a surprise to me, but it reinforced the truth that people are not always what they appear.

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Dracula, when we first meet him, is charming, social, and interested in surroundings. He quickly wins over everyone in the room. Twenty-four hours later, when Jonathan pays him a visit in Carfax Abbey, he’s like a completely different person – reserved, calculating, callous, and cold. This is the real Dracula; the other is a farce. We see the truth of Dracula in his treatment of men, and the façade in his appeal to women.

Fans (including myself, up until recently) of this sexy, charming Dracula like to try and excuse his behavior but he thwarts us at every turn. Our assertion is that “He couldn’t have intended to kill Mina,” when in fact, he tells us flat out that he did. “Mina was very ill, wasn’t she?” Dracula asks Jonathan the morning after her death. “I saw it when I looked into her eyes.”

It seems an innocuous statement until you remember his remark to Lucy the night before: “I despise women with no life in them, no blood.”

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Our human instinct is to have compassion for dear, sweet, fragile Mina, who never did anyone harm in her life. But Dracula hated that weakness in her. He neither cared what happened to Mina, nor intended her to survive; he detested her for her natural human weaknesses, let her become a monster, and left her on her own. Dracula is a predator who can cast women under a spell and make them adhere to his will. The film is unapologetic about revealing this to us (“When I will you to do a thing, it shall be done. Hear and obey. From now on you will have no pain!” “And no will of her own, either!” asserts the quick-minded Lucy), yet it often goes unnoticed (or perhaps deliberately ignored) in our attraction to the charismatic Langella.

What this film (among many others) has taught me is that often I value and admire intelligence over goodness. I have a long history of unabashed affection for villains because in most instances, they are much smarter than the hero. Brilliance to a Thinker is like catnip; an instant rush and attraction. Intelligence is sexier to us than just about anything else. However much we may like a character’s goodness, a very dominant part of us is always going to be attracted to other Thinkers. The hero of this film is supposed to be Jonathan Harker, but he frustrates me with his utter stupidity and lack of conviction, which means that the intelligent, manipulative, and powerful Dracula is cast in a much more attractive light. It isn’t intentional, and it might not even work that way on other types (who will hate him just because he’s “in the way”) but it does for me.

Can I ever watch this film and root for Jonathan? I doubt it. But facing the truth about Dracula, while not undermining my affection for the film, has shown me a lot about myself.

26 Replies to “The Façade of Dracula”

  1. You’re right, it’s not just Thinker types that are attracted to intelligence. I’m an INFJ, and I also tend to root for villains when they’re smarter than the hero. It drives me crazy that heroes (especially in “Christian” fiction) are often simpletons who manage to defeat the bad guy through luck or a change in circumstances. Virtue doesn’t mean idiocy! I get that the villain needs to be stronger (at least in the beginning) to heighten the “will the hero survive?” tension. I don’t get why most heroes never mature and have no capacity for logic.

    1. Some of my favorite heroes in fiction are smart in addition to being kind. I admire things like loyalty and devotion in a good hero — but if they’re foolish (and never mature out of this foolishness) I have a hard time liking them.

  2. Hmm, this causes many fascinating thoughts.
    I am an INTJ with a strong F, and until a few years ago, I was never attracted to the bad guy. Bad guys repel me. I hate the waste and pain of needless (or even needful) destruction, and manipulation and selfishness give me the creeps. Not only that, but I am strongly attracted to good. It’s not only in my emotive, value-driven nature: in my intellect, I know that good must win. In order for people to live their optimum lives, good must win, and in the long run, good will win in God’s Kingdom. I’m automatically mentally and emotionally aligned with that. Virtue in movies enthralls me.
    And yet I’ve been discovering precisely what you’ve said above: I do find intelligence actually more attractive than any other feature in a character. I cannot be attracted to someone who is not quite intelligent, and I am very frequently attracted to the character of intelligence, foresight, and self-control, whether it’s a baddie or a goodie. I may have noticed it for the first time while watching “Lost” a couple of years ago and realizing that Ben Linus was my favorite character. And then Loki in “Thor,” manipulating everybody in such a clever way to do everything he wanted. Count Rugen in “The Princess Bride.” Michael Emerson as a serial killer on “The Practice.” More and more these characters have been growing on me, and it’s a little scary.

    1. You’re fortunate to have such a strong attraction to goodness. I… can’t honestly say that I share that trait, unfortunately. I find that I am also drawn to dominant characters — not the cruel ones so much as the ones who know what they want and pursue it with single-minded intent. My one exception to sheer intellectual attraction is if it comes with a side dose of womanizer. I just can’t admire that, which is one reason I despise Tony Stark with every fiber of my being. He may be smart, but he’s also an unmitigated jackass.

      Loki is such a fantastic character, miles and away smarter than his brother. In “The Avengers” when he got himself caught so easily and then stuck around instead of escaping when Iron Man and Thor had their brawl, I actually said out loud to the pair of them, “Can you REALLY be this stupid?!” Yes, apparently so!

      1. Yes, indeed. That was a rather stupid scene, but then, it was supposed to be.
        If the guy’s good, I automatically root for him and want him to win, but I’m not going to automatically fall for him, as Jane did for Thor. Ew. Of course, Thor was designed to be a pompous idiot at that point.

      2. Thank you. Finally somebody who hates Tony Stark as much as I do. His only redeeming point in Avengers was when he befriended Bruce when everyone else (including the super-nice and normally non-judgemental Captain America) wouldn’t go near him. I don’t really count the whole “self-sacrifice” thing he did at the end. It went against his character. The true Tony Stark would have figured out a way to disarm/destroy the missile without hurting himself or anyone else…and then talking smack to everyone else about it afterward. Bad move on the writers’ part, in my opinion.

        1. YES! I can’t STAND HIM. That’s why I never watch the Iron Man movies. But I’m not surprised he acted out of character — these days, characters shift to accommodate what needs to happen in the plot, rather than the plot resulting out of what happens with the characters. Bad writing, all around.

          1. I entirely disagree. Over the course of his movies (though I haven’t seen the third one, but I know the basic plot), he’s been having a sort of reformation from self-centered jerk to self-sacrificing jerk. That’s the whole point of his character arc, that he learns there’s something more important than himself. Are you really saying that a conceited, arrogant jerk can never change and become better? I thought it made perfect sense for where they were leading his character through all the movies he’s in.
            I don’t know why, but I slightly love Stark. Usually I hate his type of character, but there’s something slightly endearing about him, and then there’s that whole redemptive arc he goes through. I’d never be attracted to him, but he’s like an amusing and annoying child.

  3. What this film (among many others) has taught me is that as a Thinker, often, I value and admire intelligence over goodness.

    I found myself thinking about this the other day, (especially after finding out another young christian lady of my acquaintance was an INTJ–either they’re more common than estimated, or I keep VERY good company 😉 ) I feel sorta split on this–I can’t root for hero if he doesn’t display some intelligence, and…I dunno, “drive” as in doing goodness for goodness’ sake–not just because it’s “his” girl in danger, or because he’s “less” evil than the hero. Like I said, I also expect a manifestation of some intelligence otherwise…what’s the point? 😛

    On the other hand, I do find myself struggling over…”ends justify the means” moral dilemmas. I don’t know if this stems from Intuitive/Judging types being good at seeing the “big picture”, but I find myself often feeling that “for the greater good” is the better option. That said,I also realize than in some real life situation, I would hardly want to be one of the “few” sacrificed for the many.

    😉 Another friend of mine (probable INTJ or INTP) says he detests this mindset, and the idea of choosing the “lesser of two evils”, because it’s still an evil. I get where he’s coming from, but in many cases, what choice do people have? In war people make decisions that will still result in innocent deaths, because it will result in fewer deaths. Because it will end the war, bring peace, and in the long run be for the better.

    Also when it comes to heroes vs villains, we all would like to believe we’d be the hero (or heroine) but in reality–most of us aren’t so different from the villains. Agatha Christie wrote once that what stopped most men from committing murder, isn’t fear of murder itself but fear of being caught. Villains–especially those crafty INTJ villains–often go after what they want because they are certain they can “outsmart” the good guys. Think about it, what stops the frustrated office drone from leaving his dead end job and holding up the local bank, then walking away with a few million and getting himself a villa in the Cayman Islands? It’s certainly not horror at the idea of defrauding fellow bank users of their hard earned money! It’s the knowledge that a heist would probably end with a SWAT team descending upon him, and never seeing the outside of a prison again 😛

    To bring this full circle…certain things can turn a “hero” into a “villain”, in fact, it’s arguably a far easier process than turning a villain into a hero. The incorruptible cop may vow he’d never take a bribe, or hurt an innocent, but what happens when someone’s pointing a gun at his wife’s head, and gives him a choice–her–or a random stranger will be the next to die?

    Your remark about the villain often being more intelligent than the hero makes me giggle, because it reminds me of a discussion I had with my singing teacher about a baroque opera with a far more “interesting” role (both musically and plotwise) written for the villain, vs a rather bland, standard “romantic lead” hero.

    “Oh,” She laughed, “but isn’t the villain usually always the most interesting character anyway?”

    1. You keep excellent company, if I do say so myself. 😉

      Can we talk about Smallville for a moment? I was supposed to root for Clark, right? Except, I couldn’t. He was holier than thou. He was whiny. He was immature. And he was stupid. And people wondered why I preferred the elegant, sophisticated, manipulative Lex Luthor? HE. WAS. SMART. Intelligence = Sexiness. I realize this isn’t a Thinker-only problem, since Carissa was damn near as attracted to Khan as I was in the last Star Trek movie, but I do think it surfaces easier in Thinker types. I’m attracted to Michael Corleone, for heaven’s sake – and she certainly isn’t!

      Also, guilt complexes aren’t attractive in men, which is why I never liked John Ridd much. Carver was a sadistic, temper-tantrum-throwing brat, but at least he was fun to watch. Not smart sometimes, though. Poor guy.

      Battlestar Galactica was a good show for asking me to choose between rational “ends justify the means” ideas and my own sense of morality – I remember one episode in particular when Laura Roslin was asked to destroy one of their ships, presumably full of innocent people, in order to escape the Cylons. She did it. And I understood why she did it. And people objected to it, but she really did “sacrifice a few for the many.” I think it’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and pontificate about what we would do in a situation we aren’t facing. Do we bomb innocent people to save the lives of our own soldiers, and bring about a peaceful resolution sooner, or do we play by the rules and prolong everyone’s torment? Personally, awful as the situation may be – I say drop the bomb.

      I often don’t do bad things because a) I don’t want to be found out and b) I don’t want to pay the price for it later. And you’re right, often the INTJ type villains are convinced they’re the smartest person in the room and can get away with it – and most of them would, except this is television / the movies and the good guy must win. In real life, bad guys that smart would never make the stupid mistakes fictional villains do.

      Villains have more fun. It’s a fact. Who is more memorable, Raoul or the Phantom? Scar or Simba? Plus, they have to make us FEEL SORRY for the villain now (secular humanism – nothing is ever the result of pure and simple evil), so he gets a complex, multi-layered background in order to explain his evil tendencies. Hence, he’s way more interesting than the boring hero.

      1. Attracted to Khan? Who, me? Well, maybe just a little . . . or a lot. Certainly more than I was attracted to Kirk’s emotional irrationality. Oh my gosh, every choice Kirk made was based on emotion, like saving Spock at the risk of the populace seeing the bloody ship. Not that I’m angry with him for that, but as Pike put it, he should have never placed Spock in that situation in the first place. And he wouldn’t have if he’d thought stuff through logically. But that’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Kirk!

        Sort of in response to both of you, it would be fascinating to write a story about the villain becoming the hero. He would have all the traits that make a fantastic villain (minus the mistakes that Khan and Loki both make), but he would make a conscious choice, for whatever reason, to choose a righteous path. What would lead him to that choice? What could? Now I’m curious!

        1. “it would be fascinating to write a story about the villain becoming the hero. He would have all the traits that make a fantastic villain (minus the mistakes that Khan and Loki both make), but he would make a conscious choice, for whatever reason, to choose a righteous path. What would lead him to that choice? What could? Now I’m curious!”
          Ah, that sounds marvelous. I love books that explore the inner lives of characters and drastic changes that happen to them.
          As a matter of fact, I think I’ve written several books in which that happens… Redemption is one of my favorite themes.

        2. See? Therein lie my problems with Kirk. At least the older one was an Intuitive-Feeler and far less reckless. Of course, I mostly want him to win but all the same… it’s … well, kind of enjoyable watching Khan outsmart him most of the time.

          Hmm… been there, done that, a bit with Oscar and Julian and even Pilate. The challenge in it is, as you say, discovering a reason why they would turn from evil to righteousness — and making it believable.

          1. I never saw Oscar as the villain, just uniquely peculiar. Although it has been what, eight years since I’ve read those? My memory is always faulty at best so maybe I should look at them again. Or I can wait until you rewrite them. 😉

            You know what I wish about Khan? That he had just awoken his people at the beginning of the movie and they could have spent the whole film stopping an entire race of Khans! That is what I wish! I think it would have been a lot harder and, well, Kirk would have been thoroughly trounced. Which is probably why Abrams decided to just skip that little bit of logic in having Khan wake them up before the movie even started. I guess he didn’t want his heroes dying because I do believe Khan would have won with his entire crew backing him.

          2. Most of them I’d classify as “anti-heroes” instead of villains, but all of them do some awful things. Murder. Manipulation. And yeah, you might as well wait for the rewrite, one I figure out how to do it.

            Yup. Khan aimed a machete at a mosquito instead of doing the easy, simple thing and waking up an army of super-humans. Even so, it’s still an awesome movie.

      2. Hmm…well actually, I sometimes thought that as smart as Lex was, he had certain…”blind spots.” things that were too uncomfortable to admit even to himself. Such as concerning his relationship with his parents, his own desires etc; In fact, I’d say a lot of NTs seem to have blind spots, mostly emotional blind spots of this nature, Another dangerous trait, is the assumption that since they’re usually right, based on analysis, instinct, or something in between, that they’re always right.

        Do we bomb innocent people to save the lives of our own soldiers, and bring about a peaceful resolution sooner, or do we play by the rules and prolong everyone’s torment? Personally, awful as the situation may be – I say drop the bomb.

        Again–my take on the matter would be a bit different. Do we have reason to believe that many of those innocent civilians are children? Then no, we don’t drop the bomb, as that would violate one of Christ’s commandments. However if you’re talking about able bodied adults, well then, they’re in a war zone, they should consider themselves warned and can look after themselves.

        Plus, they have to make us FEEL SORRY for the villain now (secular humanism – nothing is ever the result of pure and simple evil), so he gets a complex, multi-layered background in order to explain his evil tendencies.

        Now actually, I would agree with certain aspects of this, not that a tragic past justifies sin. But that most people don’t start out with the desire to be evil. We don’t bound out of bed in the morning and give voice to a reverberating “BWAHAHAHA!” before gulping down eye-of-newt stew and heading out to the Villains Academy.

        At least–not most of us 😉

        The majority of people, like to think of themselves as “nice, good” people. Perhaps feelers are a tad more prone to it, but think of how many real life villains, such as Hitler or Stalin, thought they were building a new, glorious empire. And what (worthy!) citizens wouldn’t be proud to be part of such a brave new world? Even serial killers will sometimes self-justify, “the whore had it coming, that guy was a crook” etc;. While there are people who do seem to on some level recognize their evil and are quite unapologetic about it. It’s likely this still wasn’t what they had in mind on career day when they were 10 years old. While villains can have elaborate plans, villainy itself is often unplanned, something that happens in a moment of panic in a dark alley, as a drunk frat boy shoves his pal or girlfriend against a wall, only to find himself thinking “They’re dead–I didn’t mean to hurt them that hard–nobody can find out about this!”. It can be the gradual process of years, the desperate cashier who thinks “nobody will miss a little $$$ from the register–and I NEED it more!”, what happens a few months later, when they need “just a little more” or start thinking of more drastic ways to get cash? Nearly everybody has a price, and many who would never commit a crime on impulse will find themselves tempted if the pay off seems worthy. Mae West (of all people!) was right, we scrupulously avoid temptation, unless we simply can’t resist it!

        1. Lex wouldn’t be human without his blind spots. We all have them. NT’s greatest flaw is not paying enough attention to the moment, to notice when something is going array, particularly in their relationships. NT’s also have a habit of “doing” rather than “saying” love, and they hate to admit that they need anyone, which means often their feeler friends and/or romantic interests aren’t sure of their affections. And if you throw in a J, well… that leads to being rather domineering and controlling, which is of no help either. And yes, our greatest fault is in our belief that we are always right. But… but… we’ve thought about it, we’ve analyzed it, we’ve factored everything into it, and made a decision… we must be right!!

          I have a good deal to say about bombing and hiding behind children but I don’t care to get into it, so I won’t. 😀

          Oh, come now… we all start out wanting to be evil. We may not consider it evil, but you don’t have to teach a child to be cruel to another child, or to be selfish, or to want their own way all the time. If anything, we have to teach children to be kind to one another. So I think we all start out with degrees of evil and given our personalities, our morals, and our religious upbringing, either that evil is stamped out, subdued, or encouraged. And you’re right, everyone wants to think of themselves as a nice person. But most of us aren’t, at least according to God’s standards. That was an impediment for me in coming to salvation for quite a long time, actually – because I’d never done anything all that cruel ,or rebellious, or just plain “wrong” I had a rather high opinion of myself.

          Evil crosses my mind at times. My father would call it a fiery dart. I dismiss it, but at the same time, there’s an allure of attraction to it that I suspect is tied into my NT personality – a desire to “find out what might happen, and how others would react” based on throwing them into this situation. I’m quite bad about that, on a minute level. I do it with entertainment all the time, among my friends – take them into something simply for the joy of seeing them react to something shocking. Ask Carissa – I didn’t breathe a word about the twist ending to “Breaking Dawn Part 2,” I just sat there and observed her emotional reactions. =P

          1. “Ask Carissa – I didn’t breathe a word about the twist ending to “Breaking Dawn Part 2,” I just sat there and observed her emotional reactions. =P”

            Yes, you did, you evil person you. And I’m sure my terror gave you hours of delight. Like Sherlock toying with John. Let’s see you try it again. though. I might be more on my guard the second time! 😉

          2. Oh, I enjoyed it immensely. Particularly the part where Carlisle’s head came off and you about died.

            If I do try it again, you’ll probably have no forewarning so… this could be fun.

    1. Go in knowing a lot is different in this adaptation — not the least of which is them changing the names around. It’s based on the original Broadway production that Bela Lugosi starred in — they revived it in the late 70’s and Langella became a sensation in the part. Jeremy Brett took over for him, when he retired from the role.

  4. *sniffle* I liked you living in a dream world with me where Dracula is the hero. Kidding!

    Dracula is quite the villain. Although I never connected his statement about despising weak women with why he left Mina to die that way. At least until now. But it does make sense. He simply wasn’t attached to her. Her illness and weak mind disgusted him. Lucy, in her strength, is what attracted him.

    As for rooting for Jonathan, I would rather have Lucy be with neither of them than choose Jonathan. He’s a horrific, slobbering bully of massive proportions with a caterpillar crawling on his upper lip. Nothing, not even Dracula’s cruelty, could induce me to like Jonathan. *bleh*

    Poor Dracula. Will you still find him attractive now that you’ve analyzed him?

    1. Have no fear, my attraction for him has not and never shall wane. 😉

      I made a lot of connections watching it last night that I never had before; in some ways, it adds extra dimension to the film and enriches the experience for me to realize how my senses are being manipulated to such an extent that it overwhelms my moral opinions. (Frankly, I love movies that do that to me.)

      Jonathan strikes me as someone who will never forgive Lucy, so their relationship is doomed whatever happens. He’s arrogant, selfish, and childish and if they wanted me to like him, they should have tried harder.

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