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YMMV / Carmilla

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Carmilla: A decadent, parasitic serial killer? Or an example of female empowerment and independence in a male-dominated society? Or just a lonely Vampire looking for Love? Or a decadent, parasitic serial killer who became the mask and was torn between her love for Laura and her hunger for her blood?
    • Laura: Is her affection for Carmilla that of a friend, a lover, or asexually romantic? Is she naturally depressed due to the understandably lonely castle she's lived in all her life? An emotionally and physically repressed teenage girl that clings to any affection she can find? Did Carmilla's death save her, or did she just lose the only friend/lover that might understand her? Was she too traumatized by Carmilla's depredations to fully recover even after Carmilla's death? The ending is bleak enough that it's not out of the question she's quietly crossed the Despair Event Horizon.
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  • Draco in Leather Pants: Carmilla, big time, as her more ardent fans tend to ignore or play down the fact that she murders multiple women during the course of the novel, has almost certainly done so many, many times over the course of her unlife, and has been stalking and physically/sexually assaulting a vulnerable young woman whom she claims to love. It's also strongly implied that Laura's childhood "nightmare" actually happened, which would mean Carmilla's been stalking/preying on Laura since the latter was six years old.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Essential to the genre. With her youthful appearance, healthy complection, lust for Laura, and sensual grace, she's much more intentionally attractive than Dracula.
  • Fair for Its Day: Unlike many, many examples of Gothic literature, the Sapphic subtext here is completely intentional. While the Lesbian Vampire is killed by story's end, she's not entirely evil. She has her own set of morals that boil down to a bleak For Happiness mindset, wasn't made a vampire by choice, questions and tries to justify her existence, and even after she's dead, the protagonist still mourns Carmilla rather than hating her.
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  • Fridge Horror: A vampire's victims almost always become vampires themselves. While it's unclear if Laura counts, Bertha and the peasant women of Styria might be roaming around, perpetuating Carmilla's circle of vampirism.
  • It Was His Sled: Pop-cultural osmosis is the reason that most readers know The Reveal already when they start reading Carmilla. Even without any knowledge of the book, it's still obvious in the first dozen pages that Carmilla's more than a peculiar girl.
  • Les Yay: To the point where it's practically text rather than subtext. At one point, a blushing Carmilla kisses Laura on the mouth and cheeks multiple times while proclaiming that she loves her, to which the narrator feels strangely feverish and lightheaded. Ostensibly it's from loss of blood and the vampiress's presence, but it's a paper thin justification at best for the sake of the time.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The horror is kept at a pretty subtle level, and Le Fanu relies more on building tension than on moments of outright shock, but there are some genuine "don't read this when you're alone at night" moments, most of them involving Carmilla's visits to Laura's room at night. — The perfidy, brashness and manipulative skill with which the vampires gain the trust of their unsuspecting victims instills not a little horror of the psychological kind.
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    • The nobleman who had been Carmilla's lover while she was alive wrote a paper saying that if a vampire is killed, a Fate Worse than Death awaits them. It was one of the main factors that drove him to hide her tomb. The fact that he never elaborates on what he meant by worse than death only makes it worse.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: Nicely averted for a change. Compared with most 19th century Gothic fiction, it doesn't take hundreds of pages to get to the meat of the story, unlike its more famous succesor. While flowery, the prose is a bit more straightforward and the book itself clocks in at less than 200 pages.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Carmilla was intended by the author to be villainous and her attraction to Laura unnatural, modern readers may find her more nuanced and sympathetic due to the various, subsequent interpretations of her character and a more open mindset in regards to homosexuality as a whole.

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