Dracula (1931) Analysis, Part 5

It’s gotten cold again. For the love of Godzilla, can’t this city make up it’s weather-mind!?!

Anyway, tonight we are going to be discussing Wilhelming Murray, our (alleged) heroine.

Join me under the cut!

Wilhelmina Harker, nee Murray

If there’s a character who gets more consistently screwed over in adaptations, you’re going to have to point it out to me ’cause I can’t think of one. ‘Cept maybe Mr. Darcy but no. That’s mostly in pop culture he gets screwed over.

Mina Harker, in the original Dracula novel is a competent assistant schoolmistress/unofficial legal clerk (she explicitly states that she’s going to try learning shorthand to help Jonathan in his work) who takes a couple of levels of badass and helps lead the crew against Dracula. Arguably, without Mina, the crew would never have gotten even close to Drac.  Her knowledge of train schedules, plus the psychic connection that Drac basically forced on her, are the real keys of destroying the centuries-old vampire. She hovers on the edge between first-wave feminism and proto-feminism, has a strong friendship with Lucy, close platonic relationships with three men (something you cannot do in fiction these days; all relationships between men and women are romantic/sexual) and is more or less Jonathan’s equal in their marriage. She’s not, you know, a fully modern, feminist protagonist, but then again neither was Buffy. But Mina Harker is very much an important evolutionary ancestor in how female characters, and action girls especially, are portrayed. No Mina, no Buffy. Or Wynnona Earp.

Mina as portrayed in this film is much less cool.

Firstly, she loses her job. At least, I think she does: I re-watched the movie last night and didn’t catch any reference to Mina working. Granted, Mina’s job wasn’t very important in the original novel, but it did a couple of things: one, it gave her a life outside of Jonathan. Secondly, it gave her a life outside of Lucy: Mina’s job as an assistant schoolmistress puts her firmly outside of Lucy’s privileged world. Mina isn’t quite working class, exactly, but she’s no blue-blood either. It lets her view Lucy’s world critically, but with sympathy too. This is one of the things that I think Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) did (mostly) well. But in this move, Mina comes across as another member of the idle rich.

The second thing they did wrong with Mina was, well, her relationship with Jonathan (called ‘John’ in this version, I’d forgotten that). In the novel, as I mentioned above, Mina was more or less Jonathan’s equal. Not totally equal, sure. But Jonathan listens to Mina, respects Mina, and is supportive of his wife in her career and later in her distress.

Jonathan in Dracula (1931) is kind of a possessive ass. And while that hurts Jonathan’s character, it hurt’s Mina’s too: there’s a scene where, when talking to Lucy, Mina describes Jonathan as, well, a good man. Which he isn’t, really, in this movie. So the audience is left wondering why the heck she stays with the guy? Presumably because the only other option is her metaphorical-rapist, but still…

On the other hand, Mina doesn’t fall in love with Drac (always a plus), don’t combine her with Lucy (definite plus) and her interactions with Jonathan when she’s being vampirized are all kinds of viciously entertaining.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, Dr. Van Helsing himself!

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