So. Vampires. I like them, you like them. They’re cool, spooky, badass, mysterious — and apparently sexy, if the last few decades are anything to go by. But whether you like them as old school monstrosities or modern alluring sex symbols, the vampire genre has given us plenty of characters that are well written, compelling, and unforgettable. And it just wouldn’t be Halloween if we didn’t celebrate one of the classic monsters, would it?
There’s a plethora of awesome vamps out there, but for now, here’s ten of them.
10. Eve — Only Lovers Left Alive
Eve is ancient, and it shows. She’s intelligent, poised, wise, elegant … and yet, there is a certain lightness to her that makes her endearing, a strange sort of bubbliness that is subtle and sweet. She’s witnessed countless atrocities committed by humankind practically since the dawn of time, seen the world fall and rise and fall again, and yet she doesn’t let it destroy her. She recognizes it, and mourns, but presses on. This is in vast contrast to her husband, Adam (who I also like). Adam has become depressed as the centuries have gone by, seeing life as more and more meaningless as he grows older. But even after all her years of living, Eve still sees life is an adventure, a tangible thing to grasp and mold to one’s liking. The dialogue she gave to her husband when learning he was suicidal is what earned her a spot on this list:
“How can you have lived for so long and still not get it? This self-obsession … it’s a waste of living that could be spent on surviving things, appreciating nature, nurturing kindness and friendship. And dancing. You’ve been pretty lucky in love, though, if I may say so.”
I love that quote. It sounds so immortal, yet human at the same time. If you can live forever, wouldn’t you want to make the most out of life? And yet as an aging human, making the most out of life is also important. Yet knowing Eve’s character, there’s something so powerful in hearing her say it. This, along with Tilda Swinton’s amazing performance, makes her quite compelling.
9. Adrian “Alucard” Tepes — Castlevania (Netflix)
I may be cheating a bit here, since Alucard is technically a dhampir – a half human, half vampire creature – but he’s the son of Dracula, the father of all vampires, so I think he counts.
Alucard is an interesting one. He’s intelligent, generally kind, and has a sense of humor, and yet he’s quiet and distant. He’s also incredibly badass, what with his inhuman strength and agility, and his swordplay and magic. But what’s compelling about Alucard is his sense of morality, and, most heartbreakingly, his willingness to sacrifice, even after his mother, Lisa, was murdered by humans on the accusation of witchcraft.
The murder made Alucard’s father, Dracula, declare a genocidal war against mankind, all in the name of Lisa. Lisa, who was a healer, loved her fellow humans, and wanted nothing more than to help them. Dracula, in his grief, wanted nothing but revenge. And yet, even though Alucard grieves, he does not condone Dracula’s actions, and seeks to destroy him for it. He explains it in this great quote:
“Alucard, they called me. The opposite of you [Dracula]. Mother never liked that. Did you know that? She hated the idea that I might define myself by you. Even in opposition to you. She loved us both, enough that she wanted us to be our own people, living our own lives. Making our own choices. And so here I am, choosing to honor my mother by killing my father.”
And Alucard makes that choice. He attacks his own father, who at that point, had gone completely mad. But there is a moment where Dracula realizes what he is doing – trying to kill his own son – and he falters:
“My boy. I’m – I’m killing my boy. Lisa. I’m killing our boy. […] Your greatest gift to me, and I’m killing him. I must already be dead.”
So Dracula relents his attack on Alucard.
When I first watched this, I thought that Alucard would spare Dracula, because he wouldn’t be able to go through with killing his father after hearing the quoted line — which is Dracula declaring his love for his son — and surrendering. But he does it. He does it, and you can see it’s destroying him. The voice acting done by James Callis (Alucard) and Graham McTavish (Dracula) is amazing here. Alucard is a son, killing his own father, the last of his family, to save a species that took his mother from him. It’s selfless, and admirable, and heartbreaking.
What’s even more heartbreaking is the end of the second season, where, after remembering his family, Alucard sits in his childhood home, Dracula’s castle, alone, with no father, no mother … and he sobs quietly. It’s just … ugh, it just kills me. It compelled me along with killing me, though, which is why he’s on this list.
8. Claudia — Interview With the Vampire (Film)
Claudia’s story is another heartbreaking one. She is a child that was dying from plague, only to be ‘saved’ by vampirism.
I put ‘saved’ in quotes because what happened to Claudia was nothing short of a tragedy. She was an innocent child before Louis and Lestat found her, and Lestat turned her into a vicious, bratty killer with no regard whatsoever for human life. Seeing a little girl murder so many people without a care in the world is disturbing and disheartening all at once, but what’s even darker is what happened later on in her life. While Claudia’s body is frozen in time, her mind isn’t. So she matured psychologically, and eventually, over the years, became an adult woman stuck inside of the body of a child. The sheer rage, mourning, and longing to grow up eventually drove Claudia mad … yet, it is one of the only things that makes her human, besides her love for Louis.
Still, her predicament, and the way it affected her character, is compelling. Here’s the scene that put her on this list:
Claudia murdered an adult woman and hid her corpse underneath a pile of dolls … the dolls she was gifted because she is seen by Louis and Lestat as still a child (and in Lestat’s case, not only a child, but a doll herself).
Most chillingly, when Louis asks her why she kept a corpse to rot in their house, she says this:
“I wanted her. I wanted to be her.”
Just imagine that. Being a grown woman psychologically, and yet, being unable to grow … all while having the monstrous, demonic tendencies of a vampire. Claudia is forced to experience this, and she breaks. She breaks, and realizes that it was Lestat that made her this way. Lestat, who sees her as nothing more than a doll, an object, a plaything. So she kills him (or so she thinks) so that she and Louis can be free of him … only to be executed for “murdering” him later on. She is punished for finally taking agency in her life, and living a somewhat adult life. It’s a sad ending for a sad character, but compelling all the same — and so is Claudia.
7. Marceline the Vampire Queen — Adventure Time
Marcy is the reason why I started watching Adventure Time in the first place. A vampire chick who plays the bass? Sign me up!
And then I actually watched the show, got to Marceline’s origin story … and yeah, she’s way more than that. She’s a half human, half demon girl who braved the apocalypse as a child, and then later became a vampire hunter, only to become the thing she hunted. There is a dark plethora of loss and trauma in Marceline’s backstory, and yet, somewhat similarly to Eve, she takes it in stride. Personality wise, she can be pouty and kind of mean (when she’s feeling mischievous), but overall she knows how to laugh and have fun, protect her friends, and save the day when she needs to.
That’s not to mention her unique powers. Marcy can shapeshift, fly, use telekinesis — typical vamp stuff. But most interestingly, unlike the other vampires on this list, Marceline doesn’t survive on blood, but the color red. Because of her powers, I always like seeing her do her thing in battle.
Her design is pretty good too. I love seeing what outfit and hairstyle she’ll wear.
And then of course there’s her lovely singing voice — all of her songs are memorable, catchy, or genuinely moving (I’m looking at you, Everything Stays and Remember You) And besides all that, Marceline is cool. She’s the artsy musician in high school that’s friends with people regardless of what clique they’re in. She’s chill, but enthusiastic. Daring, but caring. She’s really the friend we all need.
But all of that would mean nothing without her origin story, or the journey she went through. Marcy may be the cool chick, but she’s also a survivor, in more ways than one. And her admirable character is what earned her a spot here.
6. Damon Salvatore — The Vampire Diaries (TV Show)
Damon is the textbook definition of a problematic fave. He’s murderous, abusive, childish, petty, and definitely one of the worst brothers ever. On the other hand, he’s funny, protective (when he feels like it), quite clever, badass, and has a sort of sensitivity to him (again, when he feels like it). Being raised in an abusive home growing up, and being manipulated and betrayed by the woman he loved, Damon is the sort of guy that wants to be loved more than anything. But, being his own worst enemy, he stops that love from manifesting, or enduring. He has a lot of rage inside of him, a lot of vindictiveness, but a lot of pain as well. And goodness, underneath everything else.
The line he says in the season one finale to Jeremy, after witnessing the murder of Anna, was the first sign of his goodness that stuck with me:
“I was watching [Anna die] and all I could think about was … I wanted to help her, but I couldn’t.”
When I heard that line, I got really, really excited for Damon’s character, because I thought the writers were setting him up for a redemption arc (and I love redemption stories). Alas, that’s not really what happened. Don’t get me wrong — Damon isn’t static, necessarily. He develops. The problem for me is that the narrative doesn’t let him grow permanently — it takes him forward, only to yank him back right afterward. From the way his character was set up, his story should have been about him learning from his mistakes, becoming a better person, and finding an identity outside of Katherine (and, as a result, her doppleganger) since his story began with him being obsessed over her, and committing a lot of his atrocities in her name. But it’s like the writers wanted to keep a status quo, despite all of their other characters changing (for better or worse … mostly for the worst).
I didn’t feel right putting Damon in my top 5, due to the decrease in his writing. But despite the writers holding him back, the potential of where his character could have gone still keeps me holding on, and he’s a problematic fave in spite of my disappointment with his characterization, so he lands at a respectable six. Even with the writing issues, Damon Salvatore is quite unforgettable.
5. Angel — Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Angel’s got that whole “redemption” thing going on, and again, that is my jam.
Long story short, Angel was once the soulless Angelus, an evil, sadistic, savage monster. After being cursed with a soul, he was given a conscience, where he was then able to feel endless guilt for all of the atrocities he committed. As a cursed being, Angel lives his life trying to atone for the evils he’s done. When he is Angel, he is gentle, quiet, and brooding, but never in a way that is tedious or boring. And while his flaws aren’t as destructive as that of Angelus’s, they are still there. His dark side lingers even with a soul, since he was destructive as a human. Because of this, Angel suffers from an immense case of self-loathing:
“Look, I’m weak. I’ve never been anything else. It’s not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It’s the man.”
Even still, you can see the goodness within him, fighting, always fighting, despite what he may think. There’s an insightfulness to the character, and David Boreanaz portrays it all perfectly.
But the thing that’s great about Angel is that his redemption is never a straight line. There have been times where Angelus has won. But when that happens, Angel gets back up again, and seeks to ascend once more. It’s admirable, great storytelling, and, most importantly for this list, compelling.
4. Spike — Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Ahh, another problematic fave. Well, you can’t have Angel without Spike, right?
Spike is a fantastic character. He’s rebellious, funny, witty, and pretty badass. And because of these traits, he starts off as a fun, memorable villain. Then he becomes Buffy’s love interest, and things get … more complex.
Unlike Angel, who was a douchebag when he was human, Spike was a normal, sensitive guy who wrote poems and would never hurt a fly. And because of this, he was often ridiculed by his peers. Vampirism enhanced his resentment toward being mistreated, along with his insecurities, and we see that as we get to know him. Despite this, however, the sensitivity he had as a human is still in him, even as a soulless vampire. Unlike most vampires, Spike is able to feel emotions, even without a soul. He is able to love, albeit in a dark and twisted way. Because of this, his love for Buffy turned into an obsession, which led to him attempting to rape her.
Fortunately, Buffy is able to stop him, and the scene is perfectly acted by Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters. You can see every inch of shock and shame on Spike’s face as he realizes what he almost did, what he would have done if Buffy didn’t stop him. Even soulless, he knew he was wrong. He knew he had hit rock bottom. And he was disgusted with himself.
Spike’s self-loathing and shame causes him to go on a journey to retrieve his soul, starting his redemption arc, and this is why Spike ranks higher than Angel on this list. Angel’s redemption was forced upon him through a curse, but Spike chose his. He chose to feel the aching guilt that having a soul would bring him, for committing every single atrocity he has ever done … all to atone. He does it for Buffy, but himself as well. He doesn’t want to be the sort of person who could rape the woman he loves. And so he consents to essentially torturing himself, all to earn the forgiveness of not only Buffy, but himself:
“Why does a man do what he mustn’t? For her. To be hers. To be the kind of man who would never … to be a kind of man.”
The pain and guilt of it drives him nearly mad and delusional, and it is a deep, physical and psychological pain:
“They put the spark [his soul] in me, and now all it does is burn.”
Still, Spike continues to fight, because he wants to be a better man. He wants to redeem himself, even if it hurts him. And the narrative lets him.
Basically? Spike is what Damon Salvatore could have been. And his story is almost as compelling as they come.
3. Katherine Pierce — The Vampire Diaries (TV Show)
And we begin the top 3 with one of my favorite villains! Go up to bat, Kitty Kat.
Katherine’s backstory and personality is the best formula you could ever have if you need help cooking up a sympathetic villain. She was an unmarried teen mom in a time when unmarried teen moms weren’t tolerated and had her child taken from her right after birth. Then, she was banished from her home. This (unknowingly) threw her into the world of vampires, where she was pursued by Klaus Mikaelson, who wanted to sacrifice her in a dark ritual for her doppleganger’s blood. Preferring to be dead than Klaus’s captive and sacrifice, Katherine committed suicide and turned into a vampire, ruining Klaus’s plans. As revenge, Klaus murdered her entire family, and spent literal centuries hunting her down, just because she had foiled him.
So basically, Katherine was punished for having a child out of wedlock and hunted by a madman for the crime of not wanting to be his sacrifice. She spent her entire life as a vampire being on the run from Klaus at every turn. This is what made her a villain — doing whatever she needed to do to survive. She manipulated people (especially the Salvatore brothers), betrayed them, killed them, used them, all to escape Klaus. To me, you don’t get any more sympathetic than that.
With that being said, Katherine is selfish, petty, cruel, and, ironically, can be just as vindictive as Klaus. But, similarly to Damon, she craves love. And she is capable of love. She truly felt something for Stefan, despite the toxicity of their relationship, and when she discovers her daughter is still alive, she basically dies for her, because she loved her so much.
Most importantly, Katherine bleeds. She feels. She deals with the guilt she has over the crimes she’s committed to escape Klaus. But she presses on. And that’s only one of her redeeming qualities. Katherine is strong, funny, incredibly clever, and a lot of fun to watch. And honestly, the reason why she is the way she is truly isn’t her fault. And it’s also what makes her so compelling. Even when she was at her absolute worst, I never hated her. And just like Damon, and the other characters on this show, her character deserved better.
2. Alucard — Hellsing Ultimate
And onto this lovely demon.
If you’ve seen Hellsing Ultimate, you know why he’s here, and this high on the list (you might even be wondering why he isn’t number #1). I mean, how can you not talk about this beast? He is the ultimate vampire, in my book. A perfect mix of the classic and modern. Dark and disturbing, yet alluring, beyond badass, and, generally speaking, really nice to look at.
So basically, as general coolness goes, well … if Marceline is cool, then Alucard is an endless winter. But just like with the first Alucard on this list, it kinda feels unfair to have him here. It’s like it’s cheating — or rather, Alucard is cheating, because he’s more than just a vampire. He is a force. A demon. An entity. More like a Lovecraftian abomination than an undead blood drinker. A true monster …
And yet human, somehow.
For you see, Alucard is Dracula. And Dracula … is Vlad Tepes. And Vlad Tepes (the fictional version of him) was a man. A man who believed in God so much he led a crusade in his name. A man who had faith, even while enduring sexual abuse as a child. But when he lost his war and was about to be executed by his enemies, he became possessed by hatred, felt abandoned by God, and so turned his back on Him, drank the blood of his devastated countrymen, and became a vampire.
And he knows he’s a monster. He loathes himself, and respects humanity above all others. As an immortal, he is enticed by aging, and thinks the Queen and Walter, in their elderly age, are far more beautiful than they were when they were young. He respects humankind so much that he believes that only a human can kill him, because, in his opinion, only a mundane mortal, a being who abides the laws of nature, can end an abomination such as him.
He thought that human to defeat him would be Alexander Anderson, and when Anderson begins to turn himself into another sort of monster because he believes that’s the only way to defeat him, Alucard is absolutely horrified and tries to stop him:
“Anderson, stop it! […] You’ll become one of God’s monsters. Maintain your humanity — don’t succumb to power! Either side, it amounts to the same deal — whether in the name of divine or demonic, you’re still a monster in the end. This duel between us … would you really push it this far? Into the realms that lie beyond mortal life … a monster such as myself — a creature of such weakness that I could not bear the weight of a human life? If I am to be defeated, it must be by a human. Don’t do it, human. Don’t become a monster. A monster like me.”
He genuinely looks pained at the thought of Anderson losing his humanity. This is one of the few times where Alucard isn’t expressing an emotion that isn’t insanity, arrogance, or amusement. He wants Anderson to remain a man, so that he can kill him, and Alucard will finally be put down, because he wants to die — just on his own terms, and by a human. But Anderson sacrifices his humanity, and Alucard, enraged by Anderson’s decision, and refusing to be destroyed by another monster, finishes him.
And when it’s done, and Anderson is dying, Alucard weeps.
He is truly mourning for this enemy, that he respected. And while he cries, he gives us another great quote:
“You and I are the same! You are me. I was just the same! Don’t you understand? This is how I became what I am!”
This unexpected respect and admiration for humanity, despite his agelessness and power, is what earned him a spot on this list.
Also the fact that he shapeshifted into a girl once.
Now, before I get to number one, I’d like to highlight a few others…
Vicente Valtieri – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
As an elegant vampire assassin, Vicente is pretty cool in my book, and I’ll always remember him for helping my character become a vampire, but he just didn’t make the cut.
Stefan Salvatore – The Vampire Diaries
I like Stefan for the same reasons I like Spike and Angel: the redemption aspects of his character. But having another character on this list for that reason just felt too repetitive, so unfortunately, Stefan didn’t make the list.
The Mikaelsons — The Vampire Diaries / The Originals
The Mikaelsons — specifically Klaus, Rebekah, and Elijah — are definitely memorable and compelling characters. But if I speak about one, I would have wanted to speak about them all, and having so many characters on this list from The Vampire Diaries alone didn’t sit right with me. But they deserve honorable mentions, at least.
Pretty Much Every Other Vampire on The Vampire Diaries (Except for Elena Because She was Trash as a Vampire)
It’s pretty obvious that a show called “The Vampire Diaries” is going to have a lot of awesome characters that are vampires. Can’t list them all here, unfortunately. But Caroline and Rose get a special shout-out.
Count von Count – Sesame Street
I mean, why not? He’s usually the first vampire everyone got to know. We grew up with him, and he helped us learn to count. He’s important, damn it. Let him have his shout-out.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
He’s the OG. I can’t make a vampire list without at least mentioning him. All the respect.
And now, for the #1 most compelling vampire (in my humble opinion):
1. Seras Victoria — Hellsing Ultimate
I love Seras so much. Like, seriously. I adore her. And yeah, I do think she deserves the #1 spot over Alucard.
Character development, that’s why.
And this …
… but mostly character development.
Seras is so many things in this story: an orphan who lost her parents due to murder, a woman becoming a cop to honor her father (who was a cop), a lost, hesitant vampire-in-training, and finally, a true vampire — a Draculina.
I made her transition sound fast from just writing it out, but it’s perfectly paced in the anime. Seras doesn’t like the thought of being a vampire — having to lose her humanity by feasting on human blood. She still sees herself as human, and as such, is horrified when Alucard kills humans who were attacking them. Alucard presses her to drink human blood, to become her true self, but she fights it. She refuses to accept her vampirism.
And then she’s given blood by her dying love interest — given blood willingly. In turn, Seras consents, drinks his blood, and manifests into her true form.
Yet she doesn’t let it change her. She’s still the same sweet, bubbly, goofy girl she always was — she’s just comfortable with what she is, now. But she still respects humanity and values human life.
I’d also like to point out that even as a human, Seras was admirable. As a young child, she witnessed her parents murders, her mother being raped, and she was nearly killed herself. And when she grows up, she follows in her father’s footsteps to ensure that what happened to her wouldn’t happen to anyone else. But then her whole squad is killed by a vampire, and she is turned into a vampire by Alucard. We see this new world through her eyes — the existence of the supernatural, the rules of the Hellsing organization, etc. We learn as she learns.
We see her struggle. We see her grow. We see her get completely broken down by Zorin Blitz, who reminds her of her trauma and dismembers and mutilates her.
And we see Seras win.
We see her go from a blue-eyed, human looking vampire, to a Draculina with red eyes and a demon arm.
And she achieves it without resorting to becoming a monster like her creator Alucard. She did not take human blood — it was offered to her. Unlike Alucard, Seras is able to maintain her humanity and live as a vampire. Though she is immortal and inhuman, she is still Seras Victoria.
Just look at this:
That’s Seras Victoria, sporting a new pair of red eyes and a demon arm, but look at that smile! Look at those mannerisms! Have you ever seen anything so pure?
Seras is still as cute as can be, because only her body has changed — not her spirit, and not her mind. She’s still a pure cinnamon roll — when she’s not killing people, that is. But here’s the thing: Seras only kills bad guys. She has never hurt an innocent human, nor has she ever been tempted to. Besides Marceline, she is the only vampire on this list that I am not afraid of whatsoever, because I know that as a non-villainous human, she would never hurt me. Because Seras Victoria is living proof that monstrosity does not lie in what you are, but what you do.
And she shows that by having one of the greatest level ups and character arcs in anime history — or at least, in the anime I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few.
Seras Victoria’s story and character has stuck with me, even though I haven’t rewatched Hellsing in quite some time. She’s genuinely likable, admirable, badass, and has managed to maintain her morality and humanity despite her circumstances. And that is why, in my opinion, she’s the most compelling vampire — on this list, at least.
Images Courtesy of Sony, Netflix, Warner Bros., Cartoon Network, The CW, Funimation
I like my women… competent
Criminal minds is a show that I enjoy watching despite sometimes watching it trough my fingers. It never fails to get my adrenaline going. One of it’s many great traits is the selection and capability of present female characters, be it unsubs or agents. The lead women are versatile and different while still having a few common traits. Furthermore they’re always competent and do the job the best they can.
Emily Prentiss is one of member of the team that was with them from almost the beginning. She went trough all the career steps, finally becoming the team leader.
Her being in charge was one of my favorite story lines. She earned that privilege with exceptional service and field work with various agencies. Her character replaced Aaron Hotchner as unit chief in season 12 after he resigned. It’s wonderful to finally see a woman leading a team; it happens so rarely. She has a great deal of experience with many different cultures as her parents were diplomats. That’s also how she speaks a few different languages, and it’s a skillset that has helped solve quite a few cases.
While on cases, she’ s rarely upset or lets her emotions get in the way, which is one of the reasons why she makes a great unit chief. She is level headed and calm and always factors many different scenarios into her decisions. With that being said she is also quick on her feet and can make split second decisions when she needs to.
While being calm and collected she still empathizes with the victims and their families and doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice herself to protect others. She’s not only a skilled field agent but also an undercover operator, which was shown in her stint catching Ian Doyle. That particular unsub also forces her to fake her own death without informing her team, with JJ and Hotchner being the only exceptions. She eventually reunites with the team in season 7 after the whole Doyle debacle was over.
She isn’t with the BAU the entire time. As previously stated she also work with other agencies like the Interpol. Even if she isn’t always with the team, she is referenced and talked about or pops up for a visit. Her work as unit chief hasn’t always been smooth sailing either. She was reassigned after she pursued a case and went toe to toe with Linda Barnes, who disbanded the team.
Jennifer “JJ” Jareau is the only women on the team with a family. She has two sons with her husband Will, who was a police detective in New Orleans. The fact that JJ is a mother strongly affects the way she acts and responds.
Although she started working when she wasn’t a mom, she always sympathized with the victims and their families the most visibly. Since she started as a police and media liaison, JJ was often responsible for contacting the families of the victims or their loved ones. She always did a great job while consoling them.
Her early role as media liaison made her the “media face” of the bureau, as she often spoke at press conferences. She was also responsible for choosing the cases the team would be working on, so her job came with a lot of responsibility. Her excellent work in that position was the reason for her reassignment and classified assignment. After her comeback in season 7, she made the change to profiler and her responsibilities were taken over by Hotch and Penelope. She is a skilled profiler, as even before she was one she was often crucial to solving cases and did that job even without the title. Her transition was also easier because she observed the team as their liaison.
She was one of the two people to know that Emily didn’t die. As they are close friends. JJ was also the one who met Prentiss in Paris after her “death”.” That close friendship is a recurring theme with the two characters, as Prentiss comes back when Jennifer is missing.
JJ has been trough tough times including the suicide of her older sister, her classified assignment, not to mention the toll the cases take. While she can wear her heart on her sleeve, she is also a skilled operator who will do anything for her family and for the people she loves. As my choice of calling her “the mother” implies, Jennifer is the one who takes care of all the team members. She shares a special bond with Reid, who is the godfather of her son Henry.
Finally, Jennifer is also a great leader, which was showcased when she replaced Emily Prentiss in the role of team leader. Although she has the ability to lead she doesn’t aspire to be the BAU’s chief. She’s content being an SSA.
The first thing that springs to mind when thinking of Penelope Garcia is her relationship with Derek Morgan, well, and her unique personality.
Penelope is a former hacker gone good who’s now a technical analyst. Out of all the Criminal Minds characters, she’s the most colorful one—literally. Garcia often offers comic relief and a sense of light and joy to the intense show, and is the one the audience can probably relate to the most if you exclude her computer knowledge.
She is very emotional and openly shows all of her reactions. It doesn’t surprise anyone that she can’t look at horrific crime scene photos; her office is filled with colorful and cute stuff because of the horror that fills her screens (that’s what Hotch says to Strauss while describing the analyst). She also often speaks a bit too intimately when talking to team members, especially Derek. She gives him nicknames like chocolate thunder, etc, and he, in turn, calls her ‘baby girl’. These would normally be considered sexual harassment (which was even addressed in a funny scene in episode 9×12).
But it never actually crosses that line because they have a mutual understanding that it’s a consensual conversational choice. In fact, Penelope’s special relationship with Morgan is what initially drew me to the show. There is just something in how different they are personality-wise while still being very close to each other and understanding the other perfectly that compelled me. And while my shipper heart never understood why the two never dated, I have to admit that sticking to a platonic relationship between these two was a great move.
She makes him laugh and calls him out on his BS. He grounds her and helps her focus and get the job done. Their close relationship is probably the reason why it took Garcia a long time to warm up to Luke Alvarez, who replaced Morgan after he retired. It was implied that Garcia and Morgan are still in contact despite him not being on the show; she is even the godmother to his son.
As previously stated, Garcia is a skilled computer expert and former hacker. Her work is often crucial to finding the unsub. While that is her primary job, after JJ’s promotion she also became the liaison for the team. A job she shared with Hotch till he retired. The best way to describe her is that Penelope’s character is the counterbalance we need to all the heaviness and seriousness of the show.
Criminal minds proves that we can have a show that perfectly balances it’s male and female characters. It offers us a selection of women who all are intelligent, skilled, competent, educated, professional, and strong while staying human and showing emotions.
Images courtesy of CBS
Game of Thrones 3×06 Rewatch: The Fall
It’s time for one of the famous Game of Thrones monologues in this week’s installment of The Wars to Come, our rewatch project looking back over David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D)’s masterpiece to see where it slipped out of gear. Last week, we appreciated Bryan Cogman’s use of book dialogue. This week, Kylie, Julia, Musa, and Bo examine some of D&D’s iconic writing in “The Climb.”
It’s a difficult week for our characters on Game of Thrones, and Sam and Gilly are no exception. They may have escaped the Night’s Watch mutineers, but they’re still a few days from The Wall, and traveling alone.
Bran is also traveling, though with his new companions in the Reeds; there’s also new strife between Osha and Meera. The two women bicker since both feels the other is rude to them; this is quickly interrupted when a sleeping Jojen begins to have a seizure. Meera takes care of him through it—apparently this is a common side-effect of his green dreams.
Also traveling up north are Jon and the wildlings, who are planning on scaling the Wall. Ygritte tells Jon that she knows he didn’t really defect from the Night’s Watch when he killed the Halfhand. She doesn’t mind that, but she tells him that they need to look out for each other, since they’re both just soldiers on different sides of wars who don’t truly matter to those leading the efforts. They climb the Wall with Tormund and Orell, though there’s a moment where it seems like they won’t make it, and Orell proves that he was more than willing to sacrifice them if it meant him making it to the top alive. When they finally reach the top, Jon and Ygritte passionately kiss.
Meanwhile, in parts still undetermined, Theon is yet again being tortured, this time by the man who pretended to free him. The man admits that he is a liar, and they “play a game” where the man flays one of Theon’s fingers. If Theon begs him to cut it off, the man wins.
At Riverrun, two Freys deliver Walder’s terms to make up for Robb’s broken marriage. Walder wants Harrenhal, which Robb agrees to give after the war is over. He also wants Edmure to marry one of his daughters in place of Robb. Edmure initially refuses, but this is the only way to get Walder to agree to support Robb’s efforts in taking Casterly Rock, so Robb, Blackfish, and Cat all persuade him otherwise.
Speaking of that now promised Harrenhal, Jaime and Brienne dine with Roose Bolton, since they are now being treated as highborn prisoners. Roose tells Jaime that he’ll be free to go back to King’s Landing, provided that he explains to Tywin that it was Locke acting independently when he cut off his hand. Brienne, however, has to stay behind, since she holds no value to Roose and he considers her a traitor. Jaime argues against this, but Roose tells him not to over play his…position.
Elsewhere in the riverlands, Arya practices her shooting with the Brotherhood without Banners when Melisandre unexpectedly rides up. She meets Thoros and Beric, and learns about Thoros resurrecting the storm Lord numerous times. She then gets the Brotherhood to sell her Gendry in exchange for gold. Arya yells at them for this, but they don’t change their minds.
Finally, in King’s Landing, the weddings between Tyrion and Sansa, and Cersei and Loras, are finalized when Tywin tells Olenna that he’ll name Loras to the kingsguard—giving up all claims to Highgarden—if she refuses this offer. Loras likely won’t mind, since his attempts to converse with Sansa demonstrate his supreme disinterest in the match. Cersei and Tyrion discuss their upcoming weddings with each other, and how they’re unlikely to be able to get out of them. Tyrion asks once again about Ser Mandon trying to kill him, and it’s revealed that it had been Joffrey, not Cersei, who gave the orders.
Resigned to his fate, Tyrion tells Sansa about their engagement, made all the more awkward by Shae being right there. Sansa is crushed. Littlefinger and Varys discuss these events in the throne room, since it was Littlefinger who spoiled the arrangements anyway. He tells Varys that he thrives on chaos, which is a ladder, and implicitly informs him that Ros is now dead, since she informed on him to Varys. We are then shown Ros, who was murdered by Joffrey with his crossbow, presumably wanting to try out killing for the first time.
Is chaos a ladder? We are absolutely going to discuss that below.
Initial, quick reaction
Kylie: Aaaaand here’s the Game of Thrones I’ve been watching for the past three years. Holy bajesus did this episode plummet right off the cliff faster than Jon and Ygritte. There’s a few pieces that were fine, but the King’s Landing plotline (and climax) is just a comedy now. Then we’ve got the return of torture porn, Mel’s adventure of randomness, and a catty Osha and Meera. This was just…such a decline in quality.
Bo: They quadrupled down on the gratuitous violence here. It’s the only impression this episode left on me. The hard dive into torture porn was unrelenting. You can tell they really want this to define Game of Thrones, too. I suppose it does. In the end Game of Thrones is the show of gruesome violence that punishes viewers for caring about anything and simply tortures for torture’s sake, just like Ramsay. The ultimate example of which comes in 3 episodes.
Julia: I like the idea of show!Ramsay being some kind of personification of the show itself. The question then is, who are the Knights of the Vale?
The only thing this episode didn’t have, in terms of Classic GoT Moves™ was making you like a character and then killing them horribly.
Musa: I was seriously just bored throughout this episode. There was so little about it that I felt in anyway compelled to be interested in. Even the infamous speechifying at the end was not enough to save it.
Kylie: I remember it being funnier, and less like word salad.
Kylie: I think my highlight was the Roose/Jaime/Brienne dinner. Those are three great actors, and you could tell that things were in motion with Roose that Jaime/Brienne were in the dark about. It also felt like there was tension, with Jaime insisting on Brienne accompanying him and such. There’s not much to say beyond that; a solid scene in a cruddy episode.
Am I allowed to pick everything in King’s Landing? I guess I’ll pick Sansa’s scripting if I have to focus in on one thing, where she’s so oblivious talking to Loras as he’s going on about fringed sleeves, and then is naively prattling to Shae who seems to know she’s being dumb, and finally she’s shown crying at the boat just as Littlefinger says, “Some are given the opportunity to climb, but refuse.” Everything put together makes her seem like this unobservant, imperceptive, superficial dolt. Which is a charming 180 from the books.
Julia: In the interest of lowlight diversity, I’m going for the stuff with Osha and Meera. I think it’s quite indicative that they saw a plotline they thought was boring (their problem, in my opinion, not the plotline’s) and decided to fill it out with two women snipping at each other for no reason.
I would count the Brotherhood selling Gendry, but I think that’s mostly because I know what they’ll do with it by season 7. They did seed that they compromise their principles because they “need the gold” after all.
Highlight… huh. I agree about the Harrenhal scene, I guess. Though I think the direction was a little too willing to laugh at Brienne in a dress, rather than, like, using her discomfort with wearing traditionally female clothes to develop her character.
Bo: Meanwhile, Loras Tyrell, promising knight who represents a young Jaime, knows more about fashion than Sansa Stark. Of course he does. He’s gay. Get it. Everyone laugh because sword swallower.
I really don’t have anything that stood out as a highlight. The Bolton dinner scene was fine. From a purely spectacle level, the Wall climb was pretty cool. That’s all I have.
Theon’s torture is my lowlight. Ramsay says all there is to say. This scene exists just to exist. It’s just there to make us feel bad, just as he’s only torturing Theon to hurt Theon. It’s pointless, gratuitous, torture porn by every definition of the phrase. Ramsay also speaks the line that truly defines one of the key reasons I dislike the show so much, and the line that has caused millions to misinterpret what Martin wants to do with A Song of Ice and Fire. Shame on the torture scene. Shame on everything about it.
Musa: I’m going to have to double dip and say the torture stuff was my lowlight too. There’s a lot to be said about the poor handling of Theon’s torture. I’m sympathetic with the idea of not wanting to just leave the character and his story hanging for a whole season where he doesn’t appear (though it’s not like they wouldn’t do exactly that with Bran later) but there doesn’t actually seem to be anything worth exploring in what they show. Ramsay is a monster and Theon is being horribly brutalized after having done a lot of terrible things in his own way. That’s basically about the gist of this plotline and they spend ALL SEASON on it.
A highlight is significantly more difficult to really pull out of my hat here. Honestly, aside from all the nonsense of that scene itself, I actually do enjoy the back and forth between Charles Dance and Dianna Rigg. I mention the actor’s names instead of the characters because it’s honestly really just the actors showing off their performance chops in a scene together rather than anything meaningful for either character that they’re supposed to be playing. I don’t know whether I want to fully believe Tywin is just THAT uncomfortable with the topics of menopause and homosexuality, but I definitely felt that I was watching an old straight white man being confronted by things that are not his forte and thus terrify him to discuss them openly.
Quality of writing
Bo: “Chaos is a laddah.” “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
We could probably leave it there. This episode was full of grimdark nonsense that D&D love. I’m probably being overly harsh, but I just feel nothing but grimness and anger afterwards. The Tywin/Olenna and Varys/Baelish scenes are also prime examples of D&D thinking they’re more clever than they really are.
Julia: You forgot “A sword swallower, through and through.”
I think it’s kind of amazing how obvious it is that the split of A Storm of Swords leaves both Cersei and Tyrion with nothing to do this season. So Tyrion is just asking random people who tried to kill him and Cersei is…sad she can’t control Joffery? What Emmy worthy arcs.
Bo: Remember people saying they can’t adapt A Dance with Dragons because it would be boring to have Tyrion wander Essos asking, “where do wh*res go?” every episode? I guess this is different somehow. Tyrion sitting around Meereen drinking and telling jokes was different, too. Somehow.
Kylie: I guess Tyrion gets married on top of drinking. Though why that particular conversation was put off-screen is beyond me. It kind of seemed like the one bit of natural tension there to be explored, since Sansa and Shae were both in the dark.
We have to talk about the climb monologue, since the whole damn episode is structured around it. Nevermind Varys and Littlefinger no longer bearing any resemblance to their book counterparts (this is why the spy vs. spy doesn’t work!), but the content of the speech itself was complete drivel. “Some think about climbing, while others don’t climb, and some only know the climb, and the realm is an illusion!” It sounds like some first year English major who just learned about post-modernism. The point is that chaos creates social opportunity, but he’s still climbing the social order very much within the feudal framework. So…it’s less “chaos” and more “unrest.” Or even more simply, “some people profit in war.” Menacing.
Bo: Which is exactly what I mean by D&D thinking they’re more clever than they are. They love monologues like these, even when they’re often complete nonsense. I suppose you could give them the benefit of the doubt in that this is only Littlefinger’s view of the world, and that it’s a view proven false when chaos does prove to be a pit that swallows him whole later. But do we really think that’s what D&D had in mind with this speech?
Musa: The biggest problem with all the Littlefinger and Varys stuff is that they clearly outright state to each other stuff that they’ve done to try and thwart each other. In the books, they don’t do that…because they don’t want the other one to know what they’re doing. And that, children, is how actual spies and political machinators operate. Littlefinger expositing to Varys that he KNEW ALL ALONG about Varys’ scheme to give Sansa to the Tyrells and that he’s also had Ros killed just gives Varys additional information.
Also another sighting of random Varys Marx, doing things “for the good of the realm,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. No wonder that sends Littlefinger off into his nonsensical monologue, it makes just about as much sense as Varys doing things for the good of the abstract concept of “the realm.”
Kylie: He was having Ros confide to him about Sansa boat logistics for the good of the realm. Duh.
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Kylie: I’m having a really hard time linking what Ygritte said to Jon to anyone else. From what I can tell, the best theme is, “everything is bad, and if you think it’s good, you’re dumb.” In every plotline, maybe with the exception of Bran/Sam’s, people are not having the best go of it. Sansa, Loras, Cersei, Tyrion, Ros, Shae, Edmure, Theon, Brienne, Gendry, and even mildly Olenna are dealing with some kind of terrible news this episode. Jon and Ygritte maybe ties in with her words about how everything’s terrible, which is why they need each other, though they had a more uplifting ending to it. Still, acedia is in full swing here.
Julia: I think you can actually link the title and the speech with that, as eye rolling as the exercise is. And the Wall is a visual representation of this ladder that LF is speaking of, though why they chose to mix their metaphors here is a good question. Why can’t chaos be a wall?
Bo: Jesus, why wasn’t chaos a wall?! I doubt it helps the speech that much, but it would have been better than a ladder. I’d agree that the “chaos ladder” is the theme of the episode. We’re seeing everyone try to climb it and how well (or not so well) the climb is going.
Except Ygritte, who just wants to step off the ladder and take Jon with her? What a wonderful metaphor for my interest in this show.
Kylie: I keep think of Turtle’s “chaos is a catch-all.” Go read that one, guys.
The Butterfly Effect
Bo: I’m not sure this fits here, but let’s remember how Melisandre banged the audience over the head with foreshadowing about Arya that never actually comes to pass. I’d wonder if they were going to cram it into season 8, but they already removed Mel from Arya’s list without any explanation. Game of Thrones does this a lot in the first 3 seasons, where they foreshadow future plot points or establish future conflicts, then randomly dropped them when season 5 rolled around.
And of course, acedia. Sooooo much acedia.
Julia: Maybe we’re just supposed to think Mel is full of shit by season 7?
Kylie: I think they were setting something else up for Arya entirely this year, maybe thinking they couldn’t just have her fuck around the riverlands for an entire season with The Hound, and certainly not spend two years in Braavos. This whole event puts Mel and the Brotherhood on her list, and then she just drops them off it by Season 5, deciding she’s “forgiven them.”
Something worth noting is that D&D stray further and further from using book lines, and begin to think of themselves as masters of iconic one-lines. Littlefinger and Ramsay both show that off here. I have to think if they had written the Jaime/Brienne tub scene rather than Cogman, I have to wonder if it would have still ended on the note, “My name is Jaime.”
Bo: Considering their numerous changes to other lines, probably not.
Bo: Good Guy Tyrion had to tell poor Sansa what’s happening, rather than spring it on her come the wedding day like everyone else.
Kylie: I’m still confused why that was off-screen. And why Tyrion was the one to spring the news, now that I think about it.
I hate hitting on this every week, but Olenna’s adaptation is just god-awful. Now we’ve progressed to her implying that Tywin had a gay experience because the Reach is so full of great allies?
Julia: I mentioned last week that that week’s Olenna content was the second worst example of her being the official negotiator of House Tyrell. Well, here is the prime example of that nonsense. Maybe it would have made sense if she was yelling at Mace about his negotiating strategy, but Tywin actually had a meeting with her to discuss official marriages. During which she insults him to his face several times.
What even is patriarchy?
Kylie: Meanwhile, up north, can you tell me who is the best rabbit skinner of them all?
Julia: There’s more than one way to skin a rabbit, Kylie. God, you’re so judgmental.
Bo: It’s hard to decide what they adapt worst at this point, but how they turned the Reach, the pinnacle of patriarchal medieval feudalism, into this anachronistic nightmare is beyond me. Did they just assume the entire Reach is like Renly since they followed him as king? I mean, Renly’s not even FROM the Reach.
And I know I bang this drum a lot, but holy hell do they miss the point with Littlefinger, and his climb speech is exhibit A. Petyr Baelish is not a man creating chaos for chaos’s sake, just to see what opportunities it creates. He deliberately causes havoc aimed at very specific goals. He doesn’t pit the Lannisters against the Starks just to see what comes of it. He does so with goals in mind regarding Cat, and then Sansa. Reducing his scheming to, “lol chaos” would make book Baelish scream.
Also, the irony of Brynden freaking Tully trying to threaten someone into marriage. It’s not completely against adaptation or anything, but it’s quite funny.
Musa: I have a serious bone to pick with the change from it being maybe Cersei who possibly ordered Mandon Moore to kill Tyrion to it being definitely Joffrey who did so. They just keep on doing this thing where they continue to give Tyrion additional sympathy points while simultaneously taking menace and agency away from Cersei to give it to Joffrey. It ruins pretty much all three characters overall.
Kylie: Well Musa, that brings us to…
Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?
Kylie: Poor Carol has done her best with Joffrey, but he went and tried to kill Tyrion and then she had no choice but to cover for him! Also, she’s sharing in her misery with Tyrion and genuinely bonding about that. Yeah, we get some zingers like, “we could kill them” and calling Margaery a, “doe-eyed whore,” but we all know Carol has a bad bark.
Julia: Well, Carol’s character is hardly free of internalized patriarchy either. And who can blame her for being resentful of Marg, who’s flouting all the rules and getting rewarded for it, when Carol spent all those years trying to make her marriage work and be a good mother and was still screwed over for it. Indeed she still has her dad trading her like a baseball card.
Bo: She loves her family so much. It’s such a shame everyone tosses her aside when she just wants to protect them. How dare Tyrion question her about Mandon Moore? Lions need to stick to their pride.
Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?
Kylie: We learned that Jojen has seizures without anyone saying something, which is a good use of the visual medium. And I guess Sam explained highborn fire-lighting to Gilly. But in general, I’m just not remember a ton of exposition this episode. Which is probably more of a good thing than the alternative.
Bo: Yeah, the fact nothing immediately stood out as bad exposition means they at least did well here. Sam’s song also does a nice job establishing more about religion in Westeros. Thoros described his life and newfound faith quite naturally, and overall the conversation with Mel imparted knowledge about the red priests.
Kylie: Yeah! Good on you, D&D!
How was the pacing?
Julia: This whole season’s pacing is hilarious. I love how Littlefinger is still packing all his stuff six episodes in. And I’ve already mentioned how Cersei and Tyrion have had nothing to do.
Kylie: I feel like the people that actually have a full season’s worth aren’t in focus at all. Jaime and Brienne might be an exception, but the Night’s Watch, Jon’s new Wildling posse, even Bran and the Reeds (if they had wanted to bother building up characters) could have all benefited from more screen-time. It really is astounding how little happens each episode though.
Bo: Game of Thrones is so poorly planned. They clearly don’t have a plan beyond the current season being written. That’s how you end up with A Storm of Swords taking two seasons when it really shouldn’t have. They should have bitten the bullet and dove into A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons in the last third of season 4. We’re supposed to buy the excuse that Feast and Dance would have been boring to adapt properly, though. We can’t have multiple episodes of characters doing nothing!
There was no sex, baby
Kylie: Just some torture porn with both Theon, and then Ros’s obviously sexualized death. Are we supposed to make something of the fact that Joffrey hit Ros in the same place Arya hit the strawman?
Bo: What is it with HBO shows and the taboo on men giving oral sex to a woman? Jon’s weirdness about it brought back bad memories of The Sopranos doing a whole plotline about Junior Soprano being good at going down on his girlfriend but not wanting anyone to know.
Julia: And what is their weird thing about gay men not being able to pull off political marriages? And this idea that, like, they find all women so…boring or something, that they can’t even have a conversation with them, even as just two people having a conversation.
I just remembered that the one thing Renly did say to Marg during their marriage is that he liked her dress.
Bo: They can’t even get their stereotypes correct. I thought gay men got along great with women since they have so much in common, but not straight men? Wouldn’t Loras and Sansa have a great time talking about gowns and weddings? I guess Sansa was too busy not being the least bit perceptive of people to notice.
Kylie: All I know is that as a bisexual, I have great conversations with everyone because of my sexual interest in 100% of humanity.
Julia: That’s why the Dornish are the best conversationalists.
Julia: The real death was any faith I had left in this show.
Kylie: Oh snap.
Bo: It’s okay, Julia, you just need a good old-fashioned desperate resurrection to restore the corpse of your love for Game of Thrones. Just remember the old words they taught you.
Kylie: I think we’re dancing around Ros’s death because it’s just so transparently voyeuristic. And gross. We didn’t need it to characterize Littlefinger, or Joffrey, and it’s just more of that punish you for caring. Ros showed concern about Sansa, well NOPE. Their shock-chasing is of the, “oh no, how messed up!’ ilk, and this is a nice inception point.
Musa: Though overall, this episode seriously does a number on Game of Thrones‘s reputation as the show with lots of tits, dragons, and death. This episode barely had any of those things. So is it REALLY a real Game of Thrones episode, even?
Kylie: Not according to Ian McShane, though I’d say this can hang with the best of Season 6’s wheel-spinning clunkers.
However, it’s time for us to climb the ladder on out of this rewatch for now. We’ll be back next week for some bear pit shenanigans, but we’re curious to hear your thoughts on this week in the meanwhile. Again, we closed on King’s Landing. Is it just the bad taste in the mouth that keeps on giving? Tell is in the comments, and we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.
Images courtesy of HBO
My First Queer: Evil Queens
This article is part of the My First Queer series, a site-wide series of articles written by some of our non-straight Fandomentals contributors. Each will contain their thoughts on their first experiences with queer media and what it meant to them. Enjoy!
Looking back at the other My First Queer articles, I have to say my experience is going to be rather different – but then again, each of those was different, too, and the experience is varied. Still, mine differs in the way that it is much more focused on attraction, instead of the more generalized realizations of queerness or powerful stories of love.
The second is definitely because there were none to be had. The first is, perhaps, because I grew up in a very liberal household. I knew about the existence of the the letters of the LGBTQIA acronym — except queer itself, I guess, because it doesn’t really have a Czech equivalent — probably by the time I started middle school, and certainly by the time I was fifteen. There was no need to discover the idea of queerness.
What was an entirely novel concept, on the other hand, was the idea that it could somehow relate to me, or to anyone close to me.
After all, in most media queerness was — and still is — only incidental, something that happens to the side characters, and as everyone is a protagonist of their own story, I never considered that it would be something to touch me in person. When I try to think of the first piece of media where I encountered a non-straight relationship, it’s difficult. I have been reading fantasy intermittently since I was eleven. Some of that fantasy probably contained background queer characters in a casual way that went well with my general expectations of “this is something that exists somewhere in the world but doesn’t concern me in any way”.
I do remember the first book where a non-straight relationship was at least a little bit prominent: the Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski. If you know Sapkowski or have read the books, you know it’s not…exactly an ideal introduction into the world of queerness. The protagonist — or one of the protagonists — of the book, Ciri, runs away from an attempt on her life, almost dies in the desert, and finally joins up with a band of outlaws. The first night with them, she is molested and almost raped by one of the men. One of the other women stops him…and then slides into bed in his place.
This is the beginning of Ciri’s first romantic relationship, which ends with her lover/rapist being brutally murdered by a man who then proceeds to enslave Ciri. So, you know. Not exactly the pinnacle of representation, and definitely not something you would want to model your romantic life on.
Sapkowski’s books have other mentions of wlw, too: the long-lived sorceresses being bored of their relationships with men and so trying women for a time until they discover it’s not any better. That caught my attention a little more.
I loved everything about Sapkowski’s sorceresses. Powerful, beautiful and arrogant, I can say with the benefit of hindsight that however over-the-top and mired in sexist stereotypes, they were a combination of my life goals and my wife goals.
However narcissist that sounds, the kind of person I want to be has always been similar to the kind of person I want to have, be they women or men, because I’ve always been more fan of the concept of “marriage of true minds” than “opposites attract.” That probably didn’t help with making matters clearer, since it provided a comfortable excuse for why I cared about them so much: I wanted to be like them.
The most important part, though, is that the sorceresses weren’t really queer. They were still predominantly depicted as straight, focused on the men and interested in them, and their gayness was only incidental, and always connected to men. That, combined with my real-life experiences, likely shaped my views for quite some time. Because the thing is, there was a lot of wlw women around me, but either none of them identified as bisexual, or I didn’t know they did. Just like in Sapkowski! Sleeping with both men and women was just what all the really cool girls did, right? And men found it hot.
What an amazing view to absorb.
Sadly, it held through my actual first experiences with women, and of those around me. Looking back at it, it was insane. A good friend of mine was in a relationship with a girl, they even got fake-married, but I still thought of her as straight and didn’t take it seriously. After all, it was just a couple of gals being pals. In bed.
In short, Sapkowski was the piece of media during my adolescence that got the furthest in having me engage with female queerness, and it did not go very well. But there was another way my identity as a straight girl had the potential to be eroded. Not with explicitly queer women, but with (assumed) straight women I simply found hot. And boy, were there plenty.
Like I said, Sapkowski’s sorceresses hit me exactly in my weak spot. I have always been fascinated by the “evil queen” archetype. If I lived in a country where Disney animated fairy tales were the standard entertainment for children, I’m pretty sure my first queer would have easily and decidedly been Maleficent and the Evil Queen from Snow White. As it is, I only came across them later, and Czech fairy tale films don’t really have any properly evil queens to speak of, for some reason.
So as it was, my first glimpse of this was Circe.
I had a retold-for-children version of Odyssey when I was little, and it was my favorite book. Odysseus was an amazing hero and everything, but there were also beautiful illustrations in my version, and the women in those illustrations were really pretty. Particularly attractive was the evil sorceress who almost defeated Odysseus (and totally would have if he hadn’t cheated by getting help from the gods). She was a-ma-zing.
Not too long after, there was an encounter with Disney after all: I had a book version of Aladdin, and in Aladdin there was Yasmine. In particular, Yasmine in her slave outfit. Yeah, I know.
Looking back at it, I can hardly see for the amount of cringe I’m doing, and I could write dissertations on the orientalization and sexism specific to what can be found in those scenes. But my seven year old self didn’t know anything about that. I just knew that there was, you know, something about Yasmine in that outfit, being so clever as she pretended to be willing to rule alongside Jafar.
I mostly thought it was because she was wearing red and I liked red. Like I said, I was seven.
The next step on this way was the evil queen from Never-Ending Story 2. I remember always being frustrated when she pretends to be good in the middle of the film, because she lost like half of her sex-appeal – though again, I wouldn’t have put it that way when I was probably about ten at this point. Then came Sapkowski, and my love for his sorceresses. And around the same time, there came the most important stepping stone from the realm of media on my way to self-discovery: Monica Bellucci.
I honestly don’t remember how I first came across her. It must have been online, because going through her filmography, the only things I really recall seeing her in are the Matrix films, and before that I was only aware of Asterix and Obelix. And I distinctly remember thinking when it came out, as a connoisseur of the animated version: yeah, she’s a good fit for Cleopatra, she’s hot.
So, somehow, somewhere, I discovered Monica Bellucci, and I was immediately smitten. To this day, I consider her effectively the epitome of female beauty.
I was fourteen when Matrix Reloaded came out, and I really enjoyed the scenes with her. A lot. In fact, they probably make me recall that film in a much more positive light than it deserves. Soon after this, my computer was stuffed with all the pictures of her I could find, mostly of them lightly erotic. Hilariously, yes, I still believed I was straight.
I could continue listing all the other movies I saw with impressive evil queen/femme fatale types in them. Snow White and the Huntsman was a disaster of a movie. But the Queen, oh, the Queen! Well, I think you get the idea.
At any rate, Monica Bellucci was the first woman I have ever seen that I looked at and thought, yes, I want to have sex with her. Not even this, though, was enough to bring any change in how I understood my sexuality. Looking for the media that helped with that, the first media that actually included a healthy queer couple… That would be fanfiction. When I was over twenty, maybe even closer to my mid-twenties.
To be fair, if I had a varied romantic life in the years between, I probably would have figured things out sooner even without any books to help, but as I began dating my husband not too long after my Bellucci-induced awakening, that rather limited my exploration.
The fact still remains, though. It took twenty years of reading to come across a wlw couple worthy of the name. And it required fanfiction.
I read a lot, though I didn’t seek out queer books – I probably didn’t know that was a thing, to be honest, and if I did, I wouldn’t have searched them out anyway. I was straight, remember? But I read a lot, and varied things – detective stories, fantasy, literary fiction. In none of that did I come across a proper wlw relationship.
The first “femslash” fanfiction I read was a bunch of stories from the Harry Potter universe. It was mostly sexual relationships, combining various Hogwarts girl into pairs and seeing what happened. While fun, it didn’t do much to convince me to take my own preferences too seriously.
I can’t actually pinpoint the one story that did that. What I do know, though, is that as I moved from my reading from HPFF to FF.net and then to AO3, the number of wlw relationships that appeared in my reading increased. Though they were still mostly background relationships, they were at least treated more seriously than what I was used to.
Little by little, the stories chipped away at my denial. But I still can’t help to think that had Sapkowski been less of a sexist clown, and had two of his powerful women been badass wlw queens who ruled the Lodge of Sorceresses, I could have figured everything out so much easier.
In fact, that sounds like an AU fanfiction someone should write.