Netflix’s CASTLEVANIA and outsider status [Video Essay]


Hey folks before we get into this I just
wanted to say that Castlevania is a pretty violent show and while I have
tried to limit to the amount of violence ing clips that I use, some of these clips
do have some blood and guts so if that bothers you, you might want to skip this
video. Thanks. So, uh, you come here often?
Oh sorry I didn’t see you there. Hi, I’m Wright N Desk, and Netflix
Castlevania is kind of… gay, right? [Castlevania theme music] Look, I’m not just saying that because
Alucard, Sypha, and Trevor are totally in a bisexual throuple or because Trevor is
100% my anime boyfriend. Baby, I promise, he means nothing to me. those are just headcanons, now that’s just that’s just for funsies…
Don’t, don’t at me, okay? Don’t, don’t at me about that. The gay quality that I am
talking about that sort of permeates the whole show doesn’t actually have
anything to do with shipping and it doesn’t really have anything to do with
queerbaiting either. I’d say check out the video that I did about queerbaiting
in Batman Beyond but that got universally blocked because I used a
clip from the Mike snow music video for Genghis Khan in it and you know that’s,
that’s fine. It’s fine, it’s fine, I’m fine It’s fine.
Wasn’t even the best video anyways. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m FINE. I’m fine. It’s
FINE. It’s fine. Okay so if you didn’t get to see that video and you don’t know
what queerbaiting is here’s like a little really quick definition. So
queerbaiting is when the people behind a show keep getting all these little winks
and nudges to the fan base about how two characters are totally super have
awesome great chemistry and you know, hey, maybe, wink-wink, they might be gay, there
might be something going on there, and they really play this up because they
know that it appeals to an LGBT fan base, but nothing actually comes of it in the
show itself. There’s no actual gay content in the show. It’s giving LGBT
fans who are very hungry for representation a way to at least sort of
see themselves on screen, but without actually having to, like, commit to actual
gay representation and therefore appeasing a wider, usually more
conservative, fan base. As far as Castlevania goes
Alucard and Trevor do have some really excellent rivalry shipping
chemistry going on there, but at no point have I actually seen the showrunners
play that up as part of the marketing. Now that could just be because I haven’t
taken a super close look into the actual marketing but most of the stuff that I
see is mostly playing up their friendship and their frenemies sort of
feeling and not actually like hey, shippers, this might be kinda gay. And you
know it’s okay, straight men can have good chemistry together, that is fine.
That is not a problem with a series. The only way that it
becomes a problem is if it’s a way to bait LGBT fans into watching your
program because they’re hoping maybe someday they can see two boys kiss. Or
two girls kiss. Or that maybe that guy that you put in a dress as a gag is
actually trans woman. And so on and so forth. Okay, so, before we actually get
into the discussion of what makes Castlevania kinda gay, we’re first going
to have to talk about what Castlevania is. So, Castlevania is a 12-episode
animated series on Netflix that is based off of a video game by Konami. I have
never played the video games, I am NOT a gamer, we’re not touching the video games
for this, we are just treating Castlevania the show as its own separate
little entity. So what is the show actually about? So, season one. A woman
named Lisa shows up at Dracula’s castle she demands to be let in, she goes inside,
she kind of backtalks him, she kind of sasses him, and she demands that he teach
her how to be a doctor. She doesn’t want to be a… you know, a healer, or a magician,
she wants to learn science. Dracula is impressed by her tenacity and he agrees
to teach her how to be a doctor and along the way they fall in love. It’s kind of got a little bit of a Beauty and the Beast vibe to it, if the Beasts liked getting pegged. Like…
seriously, that is the face of a man who is totally down to get pegged. Nineteen
years pass and Lisa is arrested and burned at the stake for witchcraft by
the Catholic Church. When Dracula finds out about this he is none too pleased. He
tells the people of Wallachia which is now modern-day Romania that they have
one year to completely remove all traces of humanity from the country otherwise
he will wipe them off the face of the Earth.
Adrian Tepes, Dracula and Lisa’s half-vampire son tries to stop Dracula
from doing this and in the process he is grievously wounded and he has to go into
a restorative slumber. Cut to one year later and Dracula’s army has started to
try to wipe out Wallachia and we are introduced to Trevor Belmont, a washed-up
alcoholic son of the Belmont warrior dynasty that was all but wiped out. The
Belmonts are known for hunting down and killing vampires and other monsters and
that is what Trevor has been raised for since childhood, however, after his family
was wiped out he has pretty much just gone back wandering the country getting
drunk. He is convinced by a group of Speakers, which are a group of nomadic
scholars and magicians, to find one of their missing members, a woman named
Sypha. After Trevor finds Sypha, she convinces him to help her find the
sleeping saviour, someone who it is foretold will help turn the tide against
Dracula’s forces. When they find this sleeping Savior surprise surprise it is
actually Adrian Tepes who’s now going by the name
Alucard, as in the opposite of Dracula. After a brief fight with Alucard and
Trevor, Alucard realizes that the prophecy where
he was foretold to be able to stop Dracula, he was joined by a magician and
a hunter – Sypha and Trevor fill out those roles so obviously they are going to help him
defeat his father. They call truce between themselves and they decide
to get to work. Season two. Alucard, Sypha, and Trevor travel to the ancestral
Belmont home in search of a way to defeat Dracula. Meanwhile, Dracula, along
with his vampire generals and two human forge masters (which are basically
necromancers) continues to wage war on humans. But at this point, he has decided
he is not just going to wipe out Wallachia, he is going to wipe out all human
life on Earth. And, because he will be wiping out humans as well, he will also
be wiping out vampires. Alucard, Sypha, and Trevor spend most of
the season in the library underneath the Belmont home, trying to figure out a way
to defeat Dracula, while Dracula’s army experiences some
drama within the court as Carmilla, one of the vampire Lords, tries to manipulate
the situation and take control of what’s going on. This of course leads to a big
epic battle between the trio and Dracula’s forces. So, what am I getting at
with the whole gay thing? I just realized I say ‘so’ a whole lot
when I’m beginning sentences in these videos? Hmm. Anyways, Castlevania is not
the only vampire show to play around with the themes of LGBTQ struggles.
Vampires in general are a way to explore an outsider status. You can see this in
films like Only Lovers Left Alive, Let The Right One In, even Twilight to an
extent… actually you really see this a lot in Twilight. Twilight is all
about the outsider status and you know, Twilight doesn’t get enough credit. It’s
actually not that bad. Hot take! Some notable examples when we are talking
about vampire stories dealing with LGBTQ struggles are one, True Blood. True Blood
specifically points out that vampires are trying to gain rights in a human
world it even goes so far as to have the vampires be called ‘Fangs’.
‘Faaaaaannnngggss’. Get it? But otherwise True Blood is Super Hetero. So hetero. The
other big example that I can think of is Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, which
involves two characters, Lestat and Louie who are basically life partners and even
adopt a child together, but Anne Rice is kind of famously homophobic and
litigious, so that’s about as far down that particular road as I’m going to go
with that. Just know, vampires and LGBT theming and gay coding – it’s not new. It’s
been around forever. However I do think that Castlevania is handling it in a way
that I haven’t seen before, that we’re now going to get into. The thing that
sets Castlevania apart is that it’s not necessarily the vampires that have this
outsider status, it’s actually the human characters that have the outsider status.
In fact, the vampire society actually seems to be pretty well established. They
have their own hierarchy and they’ve got their own society and none of them
really seem to feel any angst about being vampires, in fact all of them seem
to be pretty happy with what they are, they don’t seem to mind that they are
not part of human society. Likewise, Alucard’s angst doesn’t come from the fact
that he is half vampire. He doesn’t seem to care that he is between these two
worlds. The thing that is most upsetting to him is the fact that his
mother is dead and his father’s trying to destroy the world. Dracula does have
some of the most interesting stuff going on as far as his outsider status goes
and his gay coding goes, even though, yes, he is hetero. As far as we know. Yes, I
know, but I’m getting there. Dracula does actually have some of this
outsider status in a roundabout way mostly through his reaction to his
wife’s death at the hand of the church. This is something that a lot of LGBT
people can feel a lot of sympathy for and we will get to that later. Let’s just
focus on the human characters right now. The humans in this story deal a lot with outsider status. Basically every major human
character is an outsider. They are someone who feels some sort of
oppression by the society that they live in. Lisa of course is persecuted by the
church for trying to be a scientist, and we will get again to Lisa and Dracula
and the thing with the church in a little bit. Let’s talk about some of the
other characters, though. Trevor. Trevor’s family was excommunicated and basically
driven out of their ancestral home basically killed off because they were
different. They were outsiders and they are not accepted. Trevor’s introduction
is especially poignant to me as an LGBT person, because I feel like every member
of the L, G, B, and T has had that moment when they are sitting out in a public place,
and suddenly they overhear someone saying something about gay people. And
they have that moment of fear where they are wondering: ‘am I actually safe
here? Is that person over there talking about how terrible gay people are, and
how gay people are a sin and horrible and don’t deserve rights – if they see me,
are they going to hurt me? Can they tell that I am gay or bi or trans just by
looking at me? Maybe I should sort of hide that trans pride pin, or maybe I
shouldn’t have dyed my hair this particular color and had this
particular style, because they can tell what I am and I now need to figure out
how to get out of this place without drawing attention to myself.’ The Belmonts… We shoulda killed all the Belmonts. Shit. Likewise, Sypha and her people, the
Speakers, are seen as heretics and they are blamed for the hordes of demons. And
Sypha herself seems to be an atheist and understands that she is not necessarily
welcome in wider society. Anyone can see that we are not responsible for what befalls Gresit. We are here to help that’s all. Speakers don’t help. Speakers
are tainted, you attract evil and you and yours were told to be out of Gresit by
sunset This of course echoes fundamentalist
blaming natural disasters on “the gays.” Of course it also ties in to historically
marginalized and nomadic peoples such as the Roma. But since we are just talking
about a queer reading of Castlevania we’re just going to stick to the
similarities to LGBT people. I do understand that there are multiple
things going on with this particular set of characters. As far as the villain goes
depending on how you interpret the line when Isaac is being beaten in a
flashback… You actually wanted to learn so you could help me do my work? Why? Because… please, don’t be angry with me anymore… Just tell me, Isaac, it’s alright. Because I love you. You could easily read
Isaac as the only openly gay character in the series, which I choose to do. I
don’t really see how else this line is supposed to be taken. Likewise, a lot of
Isaac’s feelings towards Dracula do come off as loving in a somewhat more than
platonic way. And finally, there is Hector who was hated by his family because of
an innate part of himself that he cannot change. I never wanted you, Hector. You sicken me. Do you understand? The moment you came out of me I knew you were wrong. Okay, now that we’ve talked about the human characters and how they
can be seen as being somewhat LGBTQ coded, let’s go back to Dracula. As I said
we were going to, and let’s talk about the thing that first made me interested
in Castlevania and was the thing that planted the seed of this video in my
head, and that is his reaction to Lisa’s death. I think that most people can
sympathize with Dracula losing the love of his life, especially in such a brutal
way, but her death comes at the hands of the church which at the time was both a
religious and a political power and it’s especially poignant to LGBTQ people
especially since even today there are many religious organizations that do not
recognize our love and who do not want to see us have rights. This of course is
not the first time that a villain of a series has been gay coded, even when
they are nominally straight. That is in fact a very, very old trope one, that I
talked about with Batman Beyond but of course that video got taken down – it’s.
Fine. Usually this trope is one that is used
by writers to signal that a villain is deviant or that they’re unfit for
society or that they are a sexual menace to the characters. The example that I
used in my Batman Beyond video was of Silva from… that one… James Bond movie. I
didn’t actually put this in the script I wasn’t going to originally reference him
so I completely forgot the name of that one I’ll put it editing me we’ll put it
somewhere down here. (Skyfall, 2012) But the thing that I find so interesting about Dracula in
comparison to all of these gay coded villains is that he isn’t actually
presented as any of those things. He is not presented as being deviant or being
a sexual menace. He is presented as a loving, devoted husband who’s driven to
madness by the extreme brutality that is done to his wife. Even though he is
trying to do one of the most horrible things that anyone can do… you
know… the g-word I- I don’t- I already know that I am like walking a fine line with
this video and I don’t want to get to taken down, so.
Even though Dracula’s trying to remove all life on Earth it’s still
super easy to relate to him. In fact, most LGBT people I have talked
to who have watched this series have said sort of the same thing about
Dracula which is that, yeah, they can see why he would do it. Now, of course they
don’t agree with wiping out the whole world that is generally where they draw
the line, but they can understand why he would want to wipe out at least the
whole village or the whole church or someone that took his love from him in
such a horrible way. And that is because LGBT people know what it feels like to
have our love condemned and how much having that love condemned can make you
hate all of humanity. Likewise, Hector and Isaac who are technically on the “bad”
side of things aren’t presented as being any more dangerous than any of the other
people on the vampire side, in fact in many cases they’re seen as gentler and
more kind. Like Dracula, they are presented in a sympathetic light – hell,
Hector is even infantilized to a very large degree, being shown as trusting and
naive and ultimately someone who just wants to be left alone because of
something that he cannot change about himself.
Isaac is also shown as being very sympathetic. He’s one of the few
characters – if not the only character – who is 100% completely loyal to Dracula.
His loyalty is shown as a strength of his character, not as a flaw or a
weakness, and this loyalty is strongly implied to be because he is in love with
Dracula, even being willing to die for him. And Dracula in some way reciprocates this loyalty, because he specifically goes out of his way to save Isaac’s life
even though Isaac was 100% willing to die and did not want to be turned away. [Pitter-patter of paws followed by loud crash] My cats always go crazy when I am trying to hit film. And
the thing is, the gay coding themes don’t stop with the villains themselves. As I
said, Trevor and Sypha both have aspects that are very easily relatable as an
LGBT person. They are outsiders trying to find a place in a world that hates them
and ultimately they create their own community and find their own purpose,
something that most LGBT people do out of sheer necessity. Now they do end up
saving the world, even though the world doesn’t really like them or even realize
what they’ve done, but the characters who wanted to the end of the world aren’t
showed as being particularly evil. Everyone’s motivations are treated as
understandable, making for some of the most nuanced TV I have ever seen. What
I’m ultimately getting at is that the series doesn’t use gay coding or LGBT
themes as signs of moral deviance (which is where they’re usually used) but rather
as ways of sympathizing with characters both good and bad. Now I don’t know if
those traits were intentionally put in there as references to the LGBT
community, so if you’re planning on telling me that I am reading way too
much into this, yeah I know. Chill. Yes, these are traits that anyone who is a
minority, who has outsider status has to deal with but I think that’s a good
thing. Ee are reaching a point in media where it is okay to be an outsider. We’re
reaching a point where children’s cartoons feature openly gay characters
as something other than a joke or a Very Special Episode. To see Castlevania give
characters attributes of being outsiders and to make that part of the reason why
we love them, and not the reason why we fear them, is incredibly powerful. It
challenges the status quo and it encourages viewers to be more thoughtful
and more empathetic to others. Castlevania is not gay rep. I am not
saying that it is. But I still see myself in a lot of the characters. And if
someone watching the series can learn to love and accept characters like these
that have these kind of attributes, then they can learn to love and accept someone
like me. Take care of yourselves. I’ll see you next time. Hey folks thanks for
watching this video, sorry that it takes me so long in between videos but things
have been super busy for me I finally got this one out though, this is
something that I have been working on since last Thanksgiving, and I figured
it was spooky season so I just- I had to get it done. So if you like this video
please be sure to like, comment, subscribe, and share this video because YouTube
likes to hide things that have anything related to LGBT content. So it’d really
mean a lot to me if you could help share this video around and in case anyone’s
wondering yes I’m working on another Batman Beyond video I will get to it
eventually. Kay. Bye!

2 thoughts on “Netflix’s CASTLEVANIA and outsider status [Video Essay]

  1. OOF you put into words what i've been trying to say forever. This show just has such a strong lgbt vibe to it, in so many subtle and fantastic ways aaagh!! Great video man

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