This article ‘Transylvania joining EU could see one million vampires in UK by 2020’ was published on the satirical news site NewsThump. Adding a Gothic twist to Brexit, it exaggerates fears regarding national identity by suggesting that by remaining in the EU, Britain remains open to invasion from foreign blood suckers. Though not directly referred to, the article is based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and its presentation of Transylvania and the vampire mythology. This is particularly interesting given the representation of the foreign Other in this novel. As Stephen Arata argues in ‘The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization’ the novel enacts a fear of the ‘civilised’ world, in this case Britain, being invaded by ‘primitive’ forces, Count Dracula, in much the same way as the British Empire attacked countries and cultures that were perceived to be ‘primitive’. It is this relationship between vampires, ‘foreignness’ and British political xenophobia that the article from NewsThump plays on via the medium of Stoker’s Gothic novel.
However, the mythology of Dracula as the archetypal vampire hailing from Transylvania is made more complex by the knowledge that Stoker’s novel views the Romanian country through the prism of cultural imperialism. His vampire is an Anglo-Irish invention based on the misinterpretation of foreign folklore. In light of Arata’s analysis of Dracula and reverse colonization, the fear of the vampire and its relation to the Romanian population seems even more flawed. It is a circular relationship: the creation of the monstrous foreign Other, such as Count Dracula, and its dissemination in popular culture confirms xenophobic fears and allays imperial guilt. The monster’s traits can then be read back onto the people themselves which is what has happened in regards to fears about immigration within the EU.
What the article doesn’t acknowledge is that Romania is already part of the EU. More problematically the image of vampires was evoked when Romania became part of the EU as British tabloid newspapers framed the arrival of Romanian migrant workers as an invasion threatening to suck the life blood from British labourers. This article from The Sun gives a taste of the xenophobic tone of this ‘journalism’. (Which is acknowledged and interrogated in this article from The Guardian by Stewart Lee). The framing of this piece is a reimagining of Dracula for the twenty-first century but one which has seeped from a fictional text into newspapers. The tone of The Sun’s article has all the markers of, to use Patrick Brantlinger’s term, imperial Gothic yet unlike its counterpart from NewsThump, it is not satire nor fiction. Much of what I have discussed reminded me of the paper given by Dr Duncan Light at the ‘Beliefs and Behaviours in Education and Culture’ conference which Sam and I attended last year. Dr Light has written about the impact of Stoker’s novel in The Dracula Dilemma: Tourism, Identity and the State in Romania but the paper he gave considered more how British culture viewed Romanians due to the lasting influence of Count Dracula.
What my brief discussion has shown, I hope, is the final line between reactionary and revolutionary forces in the Gothic. Whilst I rarely recommend going below the article to the Comments Section, it is interesting to do so here. Some commentators have acknowledged the satirical quality of the article but one person states that they ‘thought they [vampires] were already here cos someone somewhere is sucking the life out of this nation’. The language used here remains within the Gothic and the vampiric but from the point of view that Britain is already a Gothic nightmare colonized by the foreign Other. An article that attempts to attack xenophobic fears and show them to be childish and superstitious is re-interpreted (rather than ‘misinterpreted’) to lend further weight to those fears.