Richard Dyer on the Race of Vampires

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Tue Feb 23 19:48:39 PST 1999

Richard Dyer writes in _White_ (London: Routledge, 1997):

***The idea of whites as both themselves dead and as bringers of death is commonly hinted at in horror literature and film. Horror as an emotion is surely a universal, even if what stimulates it and how it is articulated are culturally and historically specific. However, horror as a genre does seem, despite some interesting exceptions, to be a white genre in the West: African-American cinema has produced only a handful of horror films compared to its many action, thriller, music and drama films. Horror is licensed to deal with what terrifies us--partly by giving it free reign for the safe length of a movie, partly by being low, dismissible and often risible, partly by providing happy endings in which the horror is laid to rest. _It is a cultural space that makes bearable for whites the exploration of the association of whiteness and death_.

It is at the heart of the vampire myth. The vampire is dead but also brings death. Because vampires are dead, they are pale, cadaverous, white. They bring themselves a kind of life by sucking the blood of the living, and at such points may appear flushed with red, the colour of life.... Just as the vampires' whiteness conveys their own deadness, so too their bringing of death is signalled by whiteness--their victims grow pale, the colour leaves their cheeks, life ebbs away.

The horror of vampirism is expressed in colour: ghastly white, disgustingly cadaerous, without the blood of life that would give colour. The vampire's bite, so evidently a metaphor for sexuality, is debilitating unto death, just as white people fear sexuality if it is allowed to get out of control (out from under the will)--yet, like the vampire, they need it. The vampire is the white man or woman in the grip of libidinal need s/he cannot master. _In the act of vampirism, white society (the vampire) feeds off itself (his/her victims) and threatens to destroy itself._ All of this is so menacing that it is often ascribed to those who are not mainstream whites--Jews, South East Europeans, the denizens of New Orleans. _Horror films have their cake and eat it: they give us the horror of whiteness while at the same time ascribing it to those who are liminally white. The terror of whiteness, of being without life, of causing death, is both vividly conveyed and disowned_. (emphasis added & parenthetical documentation omitted) (p. 210)***

So, how does Buffy revise & reproduce the Whiteness of this Genre?


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