Champion of the Underdogs By Queenie Thayer
I relate a lot to Vanessa Ives from Penny Dreadful, and I know I am not the only one in the horror fandom who feels this way. Ever since this show first came out, one by one horror fans have flocked to it. It’s just a damn good show—it’s well written, brilliantly acted, the cast is superb and the setting is a Goth kid’s wet dream. I mean, who doesn’t want to see their favorite classic monster stories retold in the dark and gritty world of Victorian London? It’s all just too perfect. Vanessa Ives (played by the very talented Eva Green) is the lead character of the show. All the other characters are connected through her. The show isn’t just a great take on classic Victorian Gothic horror, it’s also a really good story about a woman struggling with her demons. Women are very intimately connected to horror. Even though I am totally in love with every character in the show, especially Victor Frankenstein—I have to admit a fondness for his story—I know that I have my own version of Vanessa Ives deep down inside my secret places where my demons wrestle for control of my soul. Mine came in different forms than hers, but they wear the same face. They might as well be twins. Even from the very start when she first came on screen, I knew she was an archetype I could relate to. I could see myself in Victorian times, walking around in beautiful corsets and petticoats, smoking from little metal tongs and even talking in tongues at parties. I could see myself terrifying the whole gathering, including the lady who was paid to perform a séance that night. We, the broken, fucked up creatures of the night need champions like Vanessa Ives to admire in film. We need this because it’s cathartic. It feels so good to know there is a character out there who you can relate to. As a fan of such shows, that is important. Every fandom does it. Think of the Firefly fandom, and how many Firefly fans can point out which character in the show they relate to most. They will tell you, and they’ve put a lot of thought into it. Everyone has an archetype they connect to when they watch shows like Penny Dreadful. These shows are made for fans and made for a subgroup of a larger whole. They are wonderful because it means something to the fans to have these shows—something personal and sacred. We come to genres that draw us in because of this feeling. It’s a sense of being understood, even if it’s just by a concept. Sometimes we need concepts to help make sense of our lives. Vanessa Ives fucks the devil, wants to put mirrors behind everyone’s eyes, is possessed and can channel. The bitch needs to do drugs because otherwise she’d
probably have killed someone or herself by now. She’s got issues a lot of them—so many beautiful, painful little issues—and I love watching her endure every single, terrible one. She goes through some horrific things and it’s brilliant. She understands what it’s like to be drawn to the deep ocean, to the dark whisper, the mirror behind the glass eyes, to live life to the fullest—she knows this intimately. A demon rides her into this, but she also rides herself into it. She is both in love with the darkness and repelled by it. This makes her an outcast from society, an outlier, a freak and an underdog. She can never live a normal life with something so horrible inside her, something that controls her as it romances her. She could never have a better lover than her demon, but it is also the thing that will destroy her in the end. This show is bittersweet to watch because seeing this tragically beautiful character on screen is so comforting and exciting, but she is also a constant reminder of my own demons. My demon isn’t a monster from a storybook though. No, my monster is much worse—it is my chronic illness, and it tries to stop me from living my life. Because my chronic condition is invisible, they want to lock me up or make me get to a point where I puke blood into a Kleenex before they believe it’s not just in my head, before they realize that like Vanessa, I am being destroyed inside out by it. I hope for both myself and Vanessa that we find a way to defeat our demons because it’s a long hard road out of hell and I’m not going down without a fight. I know Vanessa won’t either. Vanessa is a champion for more than the underdog though. That’s why this show is so great, because everyone from the werewolves with hearts of gold, to the Victor Frankensteins creating monsters, to the Dorian Greys who are lost to their lusts, to even the father who is looking for his Mina play a part in Penny Dreadful. This show is for all of us who love Gothic horror and who feel a little fucked up by life and all its hardships. This is our show and it tells our kind of stories. Now, if you excuse me, I am going to watch Vanessa Ives become possessed again.
Published on May 9, 2015