Season of the Count: Buffy vs Dracula
Leave it to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to make an episode that is just as much a tribute to Dracula as it is a public roasting of his more eccentric affectations. Buffy vs Dracula is a rare thing for Buffy: a season premiere not written or directed by Joss Whedon (he was busy trying to make the dawn of Dawn work); instead we have Marti Noxon expertly celebrating and taking the piss out of the Count in equal measure.
One of the many strengths of Buffy as a show is how it modernized both the dumb blonde who dies first as well as the vampire mythos in the horror genre. The show’s first big bad was The Master, a blatant symbol of the classic vampire myth; he and his minions were all about prophecy, tradition, and blood rituals. Buffy kills him good and proper, making way for the true vampire characters of the show, the aptly nicknamed “The Whirlwind”. Made up of Spike, Drusilla, Darla, and Angelus, it’s the first two that bring the vampire into the modern era. Spike and Drusilla have gothic sex appeal in spades but they have no respect for tradition. They drive cars, watch TV (Spike loves his soaps) and could give a shit about prophecy. As the seasons continue, Spike, in his many differing roles, never feels like the relic of an older age and Angelus was off in his own show getting the piss taken out of him every week, so it was about time to see how the vampire of all vampires would look in Buffy’s world.
The Dracula (here played by Rudolf Martin) of Buffy is a masterpiece in believing your own hype. His grandeur and stature only work because he’s famous. After the noir-ish long coats of Spike and Angel, a proper cape looks ridiculous, his effect on the weather (it never rains in Sunnydale apart for that one time Buffy and Angel got, ahem, wet), the big gothic castle that both Riley and Giles have never noticed before, and the fact that he can’t die are all affectations. As Spike, who is an old rival of Dracula’s (because of course he is), comments, it’s all literally smoke and mirrors. Dracula knows some magic and has turned himself into an icon, though his hunger for fame had the downside of demystifying vampires so much that now everyone knows how to kill them.
In spite of the nonsense, all of this still gives Dracula a gravitas. Buffy is attracted to him, Xander is a perfect Renfield candidate for the Masterbator, and both Spike and Anya have name- drop stories about him. Buffy beats Dracula, because Buffy is the symbol of modernity: this is the Dracula story written by and starring a woman, and they both think that Dracula, in the end, is a bit gross and self-important. And they are both right.
Check out the rest of the Season of the Count series on No But Listen!
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via Doux Reviews)