“Byzantium” and leaving the Bechdel Test in the Dust

Catherine Eaton
5 min readMar 3, 2020

*First published in The Stake

Back in the 90s, I was an angry goth teenager, fascinated by vampires long before they were on the CW. I trudged home from the library with folklore books, poring over tales of Romanian vampires while covertly smoking cloves behind the barn. Then, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire hit the screen and suddenly everyone was talking about vampires. Her dark buddy tale of Lestat and Louis introduced a new generation to the drama of gentleman vampires.

Two decades later the director of Interview with a Vampire, Neil Jordon, is back. He’s teamed up with writer Maria Buffini on Byzantium, a film that opens with the blood, gore and stripper clichés we’ve come to expect from vampire flicks but delivers something unexpected. Instead of yet another movie about two male vampires making it in the world, haunted by centuries of memories and surrounded by throw-away women, the film gives us two female vampires and explores the ties that bind them as they struggle to survive through the centuries.

Byzantium touches on a theme that’s rare for the genre: the silent masses of young girls destroyed and decimated by the sex trade. Picked up from the seashore as a naïve fifteen year old girl, Clara Webb is raped and forced into a life of prostitution, told by her abuser Captain Ruthven that she…