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Claire Zulkey's Journal

Boys vs. Girls

10.07.09 | 38 Comments

I don’t know if it is sacrilege to invoke this, but something that’s been in the back of my mind since I’ve been reading Dracula (my second time: the first time was in high school, I believe, although I don’t remember much other than enjoying it) is how much I can’t wait to rewatch Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula when this is all done. On Halloween, of course, with a steady supply of Kit-Kats. And BLOOD! But it’s not so much to see how well the movie matches up to the book but to appreciate the possible genius of casting Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker.

On Monday Kevin noted how submissive Jonathan Harker is as a protagonist, but I’d go so far as to say that he’s kind of dim. Of course I have the benefit of being the “Don’t go in there!!!” reader, but there are times where Jonathan’s British stiff-upper-lip-ness seems idiotic compared to common sense and gut reactions. For instance, if I told some Hungarians that I was heading up to a castle and they all began crossing themselves and weeping and making me wear a crucifix and so on, I’d be a little uneasier than Jonathan was, and not say “It was all very ridiculous.” And he’s always accidentally falling asleep or falling into trances at the most inopportune times–granted, some of these little naps might not be voluntary but you’d think a.) being a skeptic b.) being a stranger in a strange land he’d work harder either to keep his wits about him or would think it was odd that he was often just falling asleep here and there. Sometimes Joanathan’s just sort of a knob in general: after he sees that Dracula has no reflection and steals away his mirror, what’s his reaction? “It is very annoying, for I do not see how I am to shave.” Right, that’s your biggest problem right now. Then, Jonathan decides that he’s going to get some pleasure out of disobeying the Count by falling asleep where he shouldn’t–but this is after he’s had the mirror incident, knows that he’s trapped in the castle and saw the count climbing down the wall like a lizard. Really? Now’s the time when you get spunky? (Of course maybe he knew he was going to be in for “an agony of delightful anticipation,” with those vampiresses, which, Kevin is right, was totally hot).

In contrast is Mina. I haven’t read far enough to really take this observation to town but it is surprising to me how very modern she is especially for the period. I’m not educated enough to know off the top of my head exactly how a proper young lady of 1897 should comport herself but I admire that she seems to have some nerve and is an inquisitive type: she’s not just keeping a journal but hoping to emulate “lady journalists” (that’s on my business card). She’s learning that new-fangled typewriter and wants to understand how the weather works. Instead of being shy and withdrawn she asks the townies in Whitby about the local legends (although of course she probably wished she hadn’t–not, of course, because it turns out to be so sad and creepy but because those old men are so damn hard to understand: “fash masel,” “crammle aboon the grees,” “jouped,” “antherums,” “gawm,” “dowps”: WHAT?) Of course Mina hasn’t yet been put in the dire straits that Jonathan has so we can’t measure her backbone against his but I have a feeling that Mina secretly wears the breeches in this relationship.

What do you think? Or am I just giving Jonathan a hard time? Who would you have cast in the movie other than Keanu? Would you marry a guy who oversees a big lunatic asylum? Is anybody else having a hard time picturing Dracula with a mustache? And if, as Valente opines, Stoker’s appearance conforms to the Victorian “masturbator,”4 what do we think think the Count thinks about when he, well, you know?

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