Archive | October 2014

Father Dracula

In the year of our lord 1442, the Turkish Sultan enslaved one thousand Transylvanian boys to fill the ranks of his army. These child slaves were beaten without mercy, trained to kill without conscience, to crave blood of all who defied them – the Turks. From among these boys, one grew into a warrior so fierce that entire armies would retreat in terror at the mention of his name, Vlad the Impaler, Son of the Dragon.  Sickened by his monstrous acts, Vlad came to bury his past with the dead and return to Transylvania to rule in peace. His subjects called him prince, I called him father, but the world would come to know him as Dracula.

The legend of Vlad Țepeș has been many things throughout the years: a horror story, a legend of atonement and sin, a vampire chronicle, a story of romance and loss.  However one aspect of the fact-based narrative that has rarely – if ever – been explored is the role of Vlad Dracula as a father.  As I sat today watching the new Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures release, Dracula Untold, I found myself utterly enchanted until the epilogue section which will henceforth be unmentioned, with the movie that saw Luke Evans play Vlad Dracula the Father.

Vladimir Dracula (Evans) with his son, Ingeras (Parkinson)

Vladimir Dracula (Evans) with his son, Ingeras (Parkinson)

I sat down to this film with my best friend as one of our traditional Matt-Pippa movie excursions and so I was by no means depressed or morose when the film commenced.  A happier and less depressed person would have grasped onto the historical or west vs. east themes of the film, which I did eventually, but for me, it was the sheer raw emotion displayed that caused my poor old ticker to palpitate in my breast.  With the initial voiceover by the Impaler’s son (see block quote), it felt crystal clear to me as a slightly deranged and basket case of a viewer that fatherhood and the father-son relationship was the crux (no pun intended!) and the heart of the movie.  It is – in short – what sets it apart and bears it aloft from the commonplace and slightly boring modern vampire films that have reformed the image we have in the 21st century of the vampire.

As a daughter of a delightful father, whom I adore to the ends of the earth, I am incredibly drawn to the father figure as painted onscreen, but as the daughter of a father who often did not raise arms and try to move heaven and earth to protect me, I was taken in heart and soul by the powerful and sacrificial father image that Dracula Untold created.  I have no desire to detract from your enjoyment of the film and all its wondrous surprises and positives by illuminating its plot too much so I’ll endeavour as best I can not to divulge too much as I write now.  That having been promised, the story about the drive of the royal prince who has to fight the Turkish threat and offer up his soul, his kingdom, his subjects and his reputation in order to safeguard his child is too enchanting for someone in my position not to elucidate.

Vlad the former Impaler who occupies the screen for the first section of the film reminds me of my father: at home in Castle Dracula during a ten year peace and happy with his queen and son having suffered extensively during his own formative years.  It is the Vlad who refuses the Turks what they demand as the cost of peace that made me smile and almost weep in my seat.  He defies the greater threat, a threat that has the potential to wipe out everything and everyone he holds dear, when the price of peace grows too dear.  It is his love for his family, his respect for his wife and his unconditional love for his son that drives him from this point forward despite his underlying yearning for peace.  The ultimate draw of the character is that his paternal and visceral need to protect his offspring outweighed and conquered his preference for peace in his land.  I can only say that I would be very different now if in the 21st century and without the magic and the devil and a pressing Turkish invasion, my father had valued my sanity, my unscarred body and what my future might be above serenity in Theydon Bois.

So, you see during this film instead of feeling for and finding myself in the shoes of the mother, unusually and refreshingly for me, I felt more kinship with young Ingeras.  This certainly put things in a different perspective than usual and instead of feeling the force of a natural maternal love, as I did in Brave, The Borgias and Angel (to name but a few!) I found myself in a role of vulnerability and the unconditional love of a child and feeling as a child does as my mind flew into the media and put down roots there.  That is not to say that the feelings of Mirena never took rest in my mind – they did – but it was ever linked to the child and a child’s link with his father.

The questions that floated around my mind during the film were: what will my children do without a father to protect them?  How can I possibly hope or think it’s possible for me to protect them by myself?  Will I be enough?  Is it selfish and heartless and unbelievably evil of me to knowingly bring a child – or children – into this world to face it without the love and pride and protection of a father?  Understand that if during a movie that is essentially about a vampire prince in Wallachia, I can be ruminating those questions, precisely how unstable and mental I am and why I need this blog to get some of the crazy out of my brain.  What is especially troubling still is that a piece of media can still get into my head and lay all its babies there and turn me into a blithering, blubbering, bawling shell of a person just because a vampire is a daddy!

So you see how the maternal-paternal-filial feelings have all come together in the aftermath of me watching this film to a head.  My children – I know and promise to every higher power and the cosmos – will have all the love I can give and will never have cause to doubt their mother’s love, but what plagues me now is that although I will give them the best godfathers, uncles and grandfather I can, I want them to know that if anything should happen to me, then a father on this earth will fight to its ends for them.  I say that knowing and being certain that I cannot ask nor expect their godfathers to do that for my children.  That frightens me more than anything; that something will take me away from my children and they’ll end up living the same life I do, not knowing if anyone really loves me or if the world is really against me or I just have that kind of luck.  Then, what I have sworn never to do and have often said to my mother, that I would die before I created another me, I will have failed dismally and utterly and it’ll be infinitely worse than failing myself or my parents or my friends because I’ll have created through my own means and by my own will, tortured children who will never be whole, all because I wanted a family of my own and then failed to protect them and ensure their secure future.  That is what Dracula Untold revolves around: the legacy of leaving a safe life for your children no matter the cost or what stands in your way.

That’s why, I guess, I invest so much heart and mind in these sci-fi & fantasy shows, books, and films that have these awesome father figures that possess magical powers or vast armies or some superhuman (or all of the above!).  Angel is the vampire with a soul father to Connor, John Crichton is father to baby D’Argo with the knowledge a whole galaxy wants in his brain, Noah Bennet adopts Claire and exercises his influence to protect her and that’s just fathers in Angel, Farscape and Heroes for you to consider.  Vladimir Dracula as played by Evans, like Angel, other than being a vampire, alternates between being good and bad, light and darkness and right and wrong, illustrated ever so clearly in his final showdown with Mehmed II (played – vexingly, I might add – by Dominic Cooper) where the adage, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter,” (Harry’s Game, G. Seymour, 1975) has never been so apt.  This is not least due in part to the fact that they symbolise a clash between east and west and Christianity and Islam, which I found a bit on the head due to the threat from ISIS currently experienced by the world, but nevertheless, it presented me with an interesting conundrum.  Although Vlad is undeniably set up as the protagonist and Mehmed as the “cardboard” (Matt’s word) villain, in the final fight where perhaps conventionally. we would usually side with the man who didn’t sell his soul and his eternity to the devil, oddly, we find ourselves rooting for Vlad as he fights for his son’s future and to keep the promise he made to his wife.  Much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer is ironic as it is now the pretty (meh) blonde girl chasing the monsters with a knife, the inversion of a supernatural heroic villain fighting a foreign threat who is – in this film, if not in history – represented as a bit of an arsehole for his family made me ask the question: can – and should – a father simply be good?  Mine certainly was and is, but I don’t know if I would have the mental and physical and psychosomatic problems I do now if my father had had a bit of evil or darkness in him enough to wage a bit of a war for me against the arseholes (myself included!) that turned my life into the circus it is today.  I know that Mirena is portrayed in the gothic setting of Dracula Untold as the stereotypical mother and damsel in distress and therefore, she is not characterised or shown, at least, to have any flaws or darkness within her – it’s all in her husband!  So, the question of whether a mother can be innately good and sin-free never really entered my mind during the feature film, for Mirena does appear to be the perfect, almost fairytale if in an Angela Carter setting, mother.  Vlad, however, in order to be a good father to his son (and, indirectly a good husband to his wife) is required to turn a bit evil, if initially temporarily and with the potential for redemption, so I just wonder if when a mother has a pristine soul, a father has to be bad, or if a father just has to have that hint of darkness in order to be the strong, virile protector he has to be.  Needless to say, it’s something I’ll be thinking about for a while and I doubt I’ll ever reach a cast iron decision on my opinion on the matter, but I will say this: the darkness within my mother has never in my life been a darkness used to protect me and the light within my father has not protected me from her darkness either so as a future single parent, I aim to be a light shade of grey and thus tone down the darkness from how strong its pigment is at the moment.  That is all I can do for my children: not be my mother and not be my father, but have the darkness of my mother and use it the way a father like Dracula did in the film for their good and to have my father’s light and accept it as the good in my soul the way the mother in Mirena does to counteract the strong and masculine darkness in Vlad.

I hope this article hasn’t bored you to death as I skirted around the plot of Dracula Untold and that I haven’t dissuaded any of you from seeing it, if you haven’t already!  I will conclude by saying that we all have monsters residing within us but it is whether we allow them to have the active or passive role in our lives that defines us as people and as children and as parents.  The right kind of darkness can be a force of light and the wrong kind of light can be detrimental.  Don’t judge someone’s darkness because it is not an obvious asset to them – it may be the only thing keeping them alive because that’s certainly what the darkness in my soul is to me.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P.Mistry-Norman

15-10-2014

Inspiration

Further to my post about my best friends, I thought I’d list a couple of the best friendships on television (like I did with teachers) so I hope you are ready for a less putative article but will enjoy this one nevertheless!  (Also, I can’t sleep again so it’s something to keep me from sliding into my occasional 3am hole of despair!)

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  1. Alex and Meredith (Grey’s Anatomy)
  2. Stefan and Caroline (The Vampire Diaries)
  3. Troy and Abed (Community)
  4. Sookie and Tara (True Blood)
  5. Ka D’Argo and John (Farscape)
  6. Malcolm and Kaylee (Firefly)
  7. Rodney and John (Stargate Atlantis)
  8. Starbuck and Helo (Battlestar Galactica)
  9. Jack and Teal’c (Stargate SG-1)
  10. Miranda and Stevie (Miranda)
  11. Justin and Daphne (Queer as Folk)
  12. Buffy and Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
  13. Angel and Doyle (Angel)
  14. Amelia and Addison (Private Practice)
  15. Jon and Samwell (Game of Thrones)
  16. John and Sherlock (Sherlock)
  17. Merlin and Arthur (Merlin)
  18. Dorothy and Michaela (Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman)
  19. Cory and Shawn (Boy Meets World)
  20. Perry and Carla (Scrubs)
  21. Javier and Kevin (Castle)
  22. House and Wilson (House, M.D.)
  23. Chuck and Nate (Gossip Girl)
  24. Spartacus and Varro (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)

So there you have it – short and sweet though it is!

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

03-10-2014

Red Roses & Black Ribbons

I don’t believe in love.  I believe that romantic love or sexual or even lustful love is the most fallible and unreliable and therefore, weakest forms of love.  What I do believe in with all my heart is the love shared and nurtured between friends and the perennial stability and strength of the love between true friends.

It is said that friends are the family you choose yourself (Edna Buchanan paraphrased).  They’re not bound to you by DNA or RNA but emotionally, logically and understandably, they are bound to you by their actions and love.  I am both blessed and burdened (as most people are) by my friends.  I have two friends – two best friends – whom God gave me when I was very young because he knew I’d need brothers to carry me through my formative years and beyond.  Ben and Matt have stuck by me through thick and thin and this article is my homage to them and a meditation on my longest friendships to date and the only ones I depend on to remain constant.  The others can fade and fluctuate for all I care!  My life would be in no more danger than it is from day-to-day should those friendships run their course but as I often tell them, I would not be able to stomach living in a world that didn’t have my Ben and my Matt in it.

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Left to Right: Ben, Matt, Pippa (The Golden Trio)

Let me kick off properly by explaining why I suddenly have the urge to pen this article.  I have just finished reading a Harry Potter fanfiction called Premonition (https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5710296/1/Premonition) that is Harry-Hermione centric.  The premise is that Harry has a nightmare in which his female best friend is felled during the Battle of Hogwarts and from there a romance blooms.  The particularly poignant part for me that instigated the whirlwind of thoughts leading to this article was:

‘”I told you, I told you they’d be after you,” he shouted at her, his voice anguished. “Oh God, come back, come back,” he pleaded with her, hugging her tight against his chest, his chin on top of her head, his eyes closed, and Ron noticed his glasses were broken. But he had no one to fix them. Hermione always did that. Would he never get them fixed then? “I don’t know what to do without you. I don’t know. I don’t know,” he murmured, sounding rather insane with his grief. He pulled her up closer, dragging her until he had all of her in his arms, his hand buried in her thick curls, his face pressed against hers, cheek to cheek. “I love you. I love you. You’re supposed to live! You were the only one… You were the only one I couldn’t lose.” He shook his head, crying against her, his arm tightening around her to be almost crushing.

“I can’t do it without you, I can’t do it,” Harry told her, shaking his head and exhaling a big whoosh of shaky air. “You promised, you promised, you said… Hermione,” he pleaded, pulling her close again, his face pressed down into her shoulder.’

See, I have had many nights (and days – many thanks, O God of Insomnia!) of vivid and frightening nightmares in which either I die in Matt’s arms or one/both of them die in mine and I am left behind to grieve.  So, you can see that it is not the development of the Harry-Hermione friendship into amour that drew me in, but the intrinsic similarity Potter’s dream had to my own.

Ben and Matt wrote my school yearbook entry way back in 2011 and in it they call me their Hermione, so I’ll share with you a brief extract of their writing as well as fanfiction.net user Shadrac’s which is featured above.

For Matt and I, she [Pippa] also fulfills her role as Hermione, forever correcting us on our grammar (in English AND Latin!) and telling us it really is “leviOsa” not “levioSA”.

Hermione Jean Granger is bookish, overbearing and pedantic but she is also loyal to a fault, smart, someone who fixes things and the person in the lives of Ron and Harry who will give up anything precious to her in order to protect them.  It was therefore flattery and exaggeration on Ben and Matt’s part to say that I am capable of fulfilling the role of the female third of the Golden Trio.  It is definitely true that I love them to a fault and that that affection breaks my heart constantly but I don’t have her Gryffindor spunk or selflessness to sacrifice all for them.  I used to be that way when I was a better person and an infinitely better friend but now I struggle to show or give them the love they deserve without lusting after emotional recompense and a bit of love exhibited or said from them to me in return.  The source of my heartache as far as my relationships with Ben and Matt are concerned is that I always expect too much from them and that I love them far more than they love me.

This is no insult to them whatsoever.  For them to reciprocate my feelings on the same level and with the same intensity, they would have to eschew their social life, their sanity and their hearts for me.  I would wish the same paltry existence as me on nobody but me because I have done some truly evil things in my life and I deserve this!  Their lives are still whole and full and just being lived so it’s better that I exist and they live than us all just existing.

There is no room for romantic love in my heart because I’ve filled that sector with the pair of them.  I have no desire or need to enter into that kind of love because it isn’t physically possible for me to replace or oust the people in my heart who keep me relatively glued together and able to look to the future with a lesser and more volatile relationship.  This is fundamentally why, if I were to lose either – or God and Heaven forbid, both – of them, I simply would have half my heart painfully scraped out and the world would be filled with red roses with black ribbons.

My godbrother, Tim Pruss' grave, with the red rose with a black ribbon tied round the stem that I leave when I visit graves

My godbrother, Tim Pruss’ grave, with the red rose with a black ribbon tied round the stem which I always leave when I visit graves

So when I have the horrific night terrors, I come out the other side praying that they both live full, happy lives in perfect health and survive long enough to help my kids (their godchildren) plan my funeral.

As you might have inferred by now, I am both easy and complicated.  It does not take much to keep me happy or away from a fatal overdose – that makes me an easy person – however finding the real me to keep happy underneath the brittle layers and behind the adamantium-enforced walls is a complex task to say the least and only two people have ever managed it.  Nobody else has ever given enough of a damn to attempt to scale the walls or mine through the layers and that is why nobody else whom I have ever called a friend occupies a room in the sacred inner sanctum of my always broken and breaking heart with Ben and Matt.

Finally, I will say that all I need and will ever need is for them to not forget that I depend on them to reside in my heart until it stops beating and to think of me as the girl they made into their woman (in a kind of Pygmalion-esque way…) who needs them to remember how much I adore them, am loyal to them and rely on them.  I need to be their Hermione in order to feel wanted, loved and fruitful in life but not so much as I need them to need me to be their Hermione.  It’s pathetic (I know) but the world would be a better and safer place if people just communicated how they felt and other people were receptive to the information.

That’s my worldview anyway, so make of all this what you will, but love your friends because the truest of them whom you love unconditionally have the power to save – and make – your life over and over and over.

LaBellaBorgia Speaks,

P. Mistry-Norman

01-10-2014