A spectator’s aesthetic excuses

Dear readers,

Art is subjective. So how do YOU see the portrait of Dorian Gray?

Well, I’ll tell you so you’ll tell me: I think Dorian is art himself. 

Thanks to the beginning of the book, along with the confession Dorian gets out of Basil, we understand that Basil creates the portrait of Dorian with intention. Basil, as an artist, paints Dorian to capture his ideal of Dorian’s essence which is the beauty of how he remained innocent in mind and body. From there, I see Dorian, as the art, becoming unconsciously aware of the subject and employing it for his advantage so that he may excuse himself. Or even better, so that he may preserve the outer self that everyone else gets to interpret. Power is knowledge and knowledge changes perception…as we know, this doesn’t end up being a good thing for Dorian.

“ The young man was leaning against the mantelshelf, watching him with that strange expression that one sees on the faces of those who are absorbed in a play when some great artist is acting. There was neither real sorrow in it nor real joy. There was simply the passion of the spectator, with perhaps a flicker of triumph in his eyes.” (Chp. 13, pg 149) In this passage, Dorian finally reveals to Basil how demented the portrait has become. What I find creepy is how Dorian is described as if he’s relishing in the sight like a “spectator”; I think this means that Dorian is detached emotionally because he’s decided to stop caring about his sins. But I would also like to postulate that Dorian is “absorbed” in the way he is anticipating Basil’s reaction. 

What’s incredibly interesting is that I see this metaphor of a spectator not only paralleling with Sybil Vane but also appearing throughout the story. In chapter 9, Dorian states that “To become the spectator of one’s own life, as Harry says, is to escape the suffering of life” (pg.107). I believe this connects back to my earlier point where I offer us a way to think about Dorian’s mentality with the immoral acts he’s committing. Half of what makes Dorian an art is the literal portrait that essentially takes the hits for him while the other half is his state of being. What I’m trying to say is that Dorian watches people fall victim to the portrayal of his beauty and finds pleasure in it. *Purrs* Kinkyyyy (no? Too soon?). In all seriousness, Dorian is like a child relying on the privilege of his youthful beauty to get away with anything. He detaches himself as a “spectator” so he doesn’t have to “suffer” with the guilt of his actions. 




Move over Sherlock, here comes THE woman

A hearty hello readers, 

I’ll give it to you straight: I love Sir ACD and Sherlock Holmes. But as much as I love Holmes, I’m not here to talk about him (as if his ego needs any more boosting). I’m here to talk about Irene Adler or THE woman who is just 100 times more intriguing. To do so, I implore the help of another text I read for a different class which is the 2018 scholarly short article “Performative Sherlock Holmes: Male Direction and Female Digression in ‘ A Scandal in Bohemia’ “ by Younghee Kho.   

In her article “Performative Sherlock Holmes: Male Direction and Female Digression in ‘ A Scandal in Bohemia’ “, Younghee Kho asks us to look at how “A Scandal in Bohemia” presents gender performativity as both an example of the identity culture established by Victorian society and a means of overcoming gender expectations. So, how does this story written by a Victorian man do this? 

Put simply, gender performativity is a performance put on by someone who repeatedly behaves in a way that shapes their gender or sexual orientation. Readers, we are being asked to recognize and dissect this theory of gender through the interactions of Holmes, most notably those with Irene Adler, as Holmes is depicted to be the model of masculinity due to his superior intellect and great success as a male detective. In doing so, Kho allows us to acknowledge factors of class, gender stereotypes, and natural instincts that structure gender as a social construct.

Kho first tackles gender performativity in the lens of class by pointing out how the King acts when he explains to Holmes that the compromising photos need to be taken away from Irene Adler. The king is from European society where feudal order of gender and class define status. So in the eyes of the king, Irene Adler having these compromising photos and refusing to hand them over gives her power she shouldn’t have as a woman of lower class standing. Therefore, according to Kho, the king sees this as an undesirable defiance to the order he’s accustomed to and  “attempt(s) to control and regulate Adler’s actions as she does not conform to the feminine gender expectations of society”.

What’s even more interesting is when Holmes orchestrates the fire in Adler’s house. Holmes literally states that women will act on instinct to reach for their most valuable item when there is a fire in their house, stereotyping feminine impulse that is supposed to show less self-control than men. 

Is he proven right? 

Well yeah but also not really…

Is it crazy to propose that Adler takes advantage of this awareness of gender performativity when she cross-dresses as a man to listen to Sherlock planning to approach her after the house fire? 

Lets think about it: Sherlock is under the notion that no one can best him. 

That’s one of the first things any reader lists when asked how to characterize Sherlock. 

More importantly, he has no suspicion that a woman would have the intellectual capacity to think of going as far as cross-dressing. After all, that’s the thought process he used for the house fire. 

So does Irene Adler, the deliciously intelligent woman she is, know Sherlock won’t recognize her for these exact reasons? 

 As we see in Kho’s argument, Adler behaves outside her gender by outperforming Sherlock with her intellect that is supposed to be seen in only men since men were traditionally seen as smarter than women. Interestingly enough, however, both the king and Watson serve as inferiors to Irene Adler when discussing intellect. The reason being is on p.4 of “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Watson admits: “ ‘the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive instance of your reasoning I am baffled, until you explain your process. And yet I believe my eyes are as good as yours.’ “ Here we have a man, Watson, acknowledging he is incapable of the same keen inference and naturalistic observation skills as Sherlock yet here comes Irene Adler who is a woman that can do what no man has: Beating Sherlock at his own game of wit and intellect. 

You go girl! Or should I say, you go THE woman!



Women with desire must die (apparently)

Dear readers,

Welcome back. Today, we will be viewing Bram Stoker’s Dracula through the lens of desire. But this time, I’m going to bring in a secondary source of media called Castlevania. For context, Castlevania is a show on Netflix that’s technically considered an anime and based on the 1990 video game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. It’s also where my name comes from though I’m regretfully not the hot and unrealistically jacked son of Dracula. 

Anyways, it’s really interesting actually how both Lucy from Stoker’s Dracula and Dracula’s wife Lisa from Castlevania are very similar in that both are killed for who they become in the eyes of society and men; Lucy is brutally de-vampirized because the gang in Dracula reasons that Lucy is corrupted now. So they have to take it upon themselves to restore her virginity/innocence. Lucy is indeed fatally beautiful but its more about how her new state of desire as a vampire is taboo in a society where women are expected to be pure, compliant, and essentially the lesser man of the two. 

Meanwhile, Lisa is a stunningly attractive blonde-haired white woman like Lucy (coincidence, I think not) but she isn’t a vampire or even turned into one. She is a mortal woman who has a desire to learn the sciences which she then uses to help teach people about science and heal patients as a doctor. Yeah, she’s pretty badass. However, this desire and occupation is just as illicit and consequential as Lucy’s vampire transformation. The Bishop and the church in this show aren’t happy with this science since it goes against their religious community. They decide Lisa is a witch using black magic on the people and hang her on a stake (sound familiar) where she is burned alive. Shocker, religion and a ruthless killing comes into play here too. It seems society doesn’t want beautiful women to be anything other than two dimensional subservients. 

Though Lucy is a literal maneater and Lisa is a woman of science, I would argue that the archetype of the femme fatale still connects them for the double standards of gender that they break. Let me elaborate. Isn’t it intriguing that the novel and the tv show parallel with self-acclaimed righteous men? Is it too much to state that the men in Dracula and the church in Castlevania act in a way they think is justified because they’ve convinced themselves that its for the good of society, when really, it’s their ego and personal beliefs getting in the way?? But by god, the minute a woman shows up acting the way she wants because she desires something more, men basically throw a tantrum and cry “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” Well I guess in this case, it would be stab her in the heart or burn her alive… ouch. My point is, Lucy and Lisa disrupt the order of society for being the abnormal woman and the result is their coordinated deaths. Justice for Lucy and Lisa. 

Until next time,


What’s more bloofer than disease?

Dear readers, 

Disease is very much present in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But not in the way you think; No one in Dracula is literally sick with an illness but rather, it is the behavior and spread of vampires along with disturbing scenes that is a disease. Readers, you may be asking why this is. As we briefly mentioned in class, you should understand that “Dis-ease” is the sense of uneasiness. Dracula makes us feel uneasy because of the violence, animalistic sexuality, and depictions of corrupted purity it provokes. 

One of the best examples of this unease is Lucy. “She seemed like a nightmare of Lucy as she lay there ; the pointed teeth, the bloodstained, voluptuous mouth – which it made one shudder to see – the whole carnal and unspiritual appearance, seeming like a devilish mockery of Lucy’ s sweet purity.” (Stoker 366 [online version]) While Lucy is described to be this sexual creature, readers must remember that Lucy is, well, dead. It raises questions of foreshadowing and apprehension: To start, why is Lucy’s purity mentioned in conjunction with her new vampire self? And to end with the most disturbing, why is a corpse being viewed with a “voluptuous mouth” in such an attentive sexual matter? 

What’s even more puzzling is Lucy’s feeding habits as a new vampire. Readers, did you notice how she only sucked children’s blood?? I know we read this and think huh thats kind of, just a LITTLE, bit pedophilic. And you’re not wrong. But perhaps this is just because Lucy is what we have coined as a “baby” vampire so she’s only starting off on little kids. But what if there was more to it? What if we’re meant to understand this as Lucy trying to purify herself with children who are the epitome of innocence? Let us delve even deeper into the possibilities. Lucy as a now tainted “virgin”, as Stoker describes her, is now corrupting other innocents. Regardless of what the answer may be, I believe that Lucy and her victims are a metaphor that signifies the spread of infection/disease.