15 of the most interesting female monsters in fiction

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11. Carmilla and other sad vampires

Ultimately, most vampire stories are tragedies. For many of them, it only takes a few years to realize that they’ve been dealt a pretty raw deal. Wouldn’t you get pretty gloomy if you could never see the sun or eat normal food ever again? Immortality apparently gets less and less attractive to many of the walking undead, no matter how glittery your skin gets.

Female vampires are especially interesting figures. They’ve got the standard issues afforded to most vampires, but with the extra baggage of gender on top. There are already plenty of unfortunate and harmful stereotypes that paint women as life-draining bloodsuckers. Undeserved as that is, it’s been a prominent trope for well over a century. Think about the succubi, a whole class of life-draining female demons that have been the subject of horror for at least a thousand years.

LGBTQ themes

And if that female vampire’s victim is also a woman? Things get even more complicated. See, over their history as fictional characters, vampires have also become metaphors for sexual deviance. From a conservative perspective, that makes it bad enough when it’s a vampire of one gender preying on another. But if vampire and victim are of the same gender? Time to clutch your pearls.

Those are certainly the undercurrents in Carmilla. The story began life as a gothic novel by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, published serially in 1871-1872. It follows a young woman named Laura, growing up in a remote and mostly empty castle with her father. She longs for a friend and, wouldn’t you know it, a carriage accident happens nearby and brings her that friend — Carmilla.

This new young woman is familiar, however. Laura has been having dreams about a mysterious nighttime visitor who intimately bites her, and who looks just like their new visitor. In Le Fanu’s book, Carmilla is eventually dispatched in gory fashion. However, she fares better in modern times. In a web series and its later film adaptation, Carmilla and Laura enter into a consensual romantic relationship.