Carmilla – The Sapphic Vampire Web Series that Could

On Tuesday, the web series Carmilla wrapped its first season, and I’m here to give it a plug and encourage everyone join in the campaign to get a season 2. #SaveCarmilla

From a feminist perspective, there is so much to love about this series. Foremost, it features almost all women, and includes only very extraneous male characters (who are often used to brilliantly comedic effect). Although the primary female characters do not overtly take on sexual identity labels in the first season, they are all ostensibly queer, and the principle narrative tension of the season is the transition from open hostilities between roommates Laura and Carmilla, to a requited romance.

The premise of the series is essentially a modern, college AU of the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s Victorian Gothic novella Carmilla (a precursor to Bram Stokers Dracula); it tells the tale of a young woman, Laura, ‘seduced’ by a predatory female vampire, Carmilla. Without giving too much away, the web series opens with 21st century journalism major Laura – whose video diary is doubling as a class assignment – genially declining an invitation from her current roommate, Betty, to go out to a party. When she wakes up the next day to find Betty missing, a mysterious and deeply suspicious note the only explanation for her disappearance, Laura goes on a crusade to track her down. This is made harder by her replacement roommate, the brooding, eccentric and rather inconsiderate philosophy student Carmilla, who consumes nothing but chocolate and “soy milk” (aka blood) and never gets out of bed before mid-afternoon.

The set up is The Odd Couple mixed with The L Word and a decent dollop of Buffy, and the payoff is divine. It is well written and laugh out-loud funny. Granted, the production quality is very much what you would expect from a series distributed on YouTube. But this does not detract (much) from the overall experience. Indeed, in one hilarious bit, the writers take endearing advantage of their low-tech, minimal production value to stage a puppet-show exposition that winds up being just the right amount of kooky and a surprising amount of poignant. Truly not to be missed.

puppet show

The episodes range for 2 -5 minutes each, and you can blow through them all in about 2 hours. Again, I do not want to give too much away in terms of plot, for this series is best experienced spoiler-free, in my opinion. But I will say, the premise allows for interesting commentary on the experience of young girls in college, who must go to great lengths to protect themselves, and each other, from being victimized. Although the predator in this case is not the stereotypical frat boy, the mandate to take on the burden of shielding themselves from unknown threats is an experience to which most young women can strongly relate, particularly those who know the staggeringly horrible statistics of women who are regularly victimized on college campuses.

Granted, this dilemma is dealt with in largely irreverent and comedic terms here. But the series updates the classic vampire narrative to say something about the dangers of 21st century living for college girls, and at the same time, upends the notion that same-sex love between women is a threat or a problem (unlike the series’ original source material). These women’s friendships and loves are what aid them and protect them, and the series is a breath of fresh air in a media landscape still often bent on making the queer female love-story a tragedy. (Looking at you, Arrow! Sorry, still not over it)

My one criticism thus far is that all the main female characters are white; the series does lack diversity, which hopefully it will have the chance to rectify in its still unconfirmed season 2. So go forth, future Creampuffs! Watch, Tumbl, Tweet, and help #SaveCarmilla. We all need a little more lady love in our lives and on our watchlists.