Season 1 of the television series Penny Dreadful showcases a Victorian London where monsters are reimagined as part of mainstream society. Much of season 1’s plot centres around an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, complete with a story arc involving a group of men attempting to save Mina Murray from a vampire master. At the end of Dracula, they are able to save Mina from Dracula’s influence and she is restored to a state of purity; however, in Penny Dreadful, Mina and the female characters remain unsaved. This article focuses on Penny Dreadful and the failed restoration of the gender order of Dracula’s society. It specifically emphasizes deeper gender issues present in the show’s adaptation of Victorian London, arguing that by allowing the main characters to be urban monsters, the show provides a non-human lens through which to examine societal constructs of gender in relation to selfhood.
Lauren Rocha is a graduate student. Her research on the Twilight novels (2005–2008) and the female body has been published in the Popular Culture Review and the Journal of International Women’s Studies. Her work on vampire literature has been presented at the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association National Conferences, and she has presented on Emily Dickinson and the monstrous self at the American Literature Association Conference. She is currently working on examining systems of race, gender, and power in the television series The Originals (The CW, 2013–).