Photo: Anne Rice
Anne Rice was born Howard Allen France O’Brien in New Orleans, 1941. Her parents were keen that she becomes a woman in control of her destiny, someone who would wield her femininity as a sword rather than a hindrance. Perhaps the gender-bent name was helpful too. She went by Anne colloquially and legally but still managed to embody the bold and fearless nature that her name had promised.
She may have passed this month at 81, but her legacy endures and her everlasting effect on the Gothic genre can still be seen today.
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Anne Rice Redefined the Vampire Trope
Her story begins with a fluke. That’s right – one of the biggest and most successful books in her career was a fluke but perhaps that just contributed to her exceptional writing skills and exuberant life even more. She wrote ‘The Interview with the Vampire’ after she lost her five-year-old daughter to leukemia. She poured her grief into the story, telling a chilling story about blood and complex vampires who were both tragic and terrifying with their opulent and elegant monstrosity.
The humanization of vampires was quick to spark controversy, especially in 1976 which is when the novel was first published. Critics refused to acknowledge the nuances behind the monster, how something so thirsty for blood could be more than that, could possess other, warmer emotions. She turned away from horror because of the criticism but in 1985 she returned with a grand entrance. She wrote ‘The Vampire Chronicles’ and ‘The Vampire Lestat,’ and now the world was ready for her modern take on the creatures and genre.
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The Humanization of Monsters and the Gothic Genre
In many of her books was able to completely expand the vampire myth, creating a human connection between vampire and reader, we empathize with the monster rather than the actual victim. It reminisces of a Mary Shelley Frankenstein, where the loneliness of the creature permeates our fear of him. Like ‘Frankenstein’, they struggle with their magical existence, their immortality, their power. They become a monster and a victim all at once, unsure of who they are meant to be within this society. Most of Rice’s characters are either rejected or rejecting, existing in a multi-layered dimension that was uncharacteristic of “monster” figures at that time.
Sexism Within Literature and Rice’s Rejection of It
Especially because she was one of the only women writing horror in the 1980s, Rice’s legacy is exceptional. She not only created new and diverse perspectives but she created books and characters that channeled the patriarchal tone of the genre. Her vampires were sensual creatures, mysterious and elegant in a way that had never been written before. Many readers, especially young women gravitated towards the redefined Gothic themes and atmospheres and soon Rice became recognizable in every novel and genre.
She wrote for over 40 years, producing 38 novels and many short stories. Four of her books were even adapted into film and television shows. More than anything, she was able to create a vampire and a character trope that readers can identify with and relate to today.
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Anne Rice Embraced The Lack of Gender Roles
Her novels also contributed to the LGBTQ efforts and rights thanks to a large gay fan base that would come to define her legacy. Her son, Christopher Rice, is gay himself and shared the news of his mother passing on her Facebook page. He wrote on her brave branching away from gender norms and boundaries that surrounded her. He said,
“The immensity of our family’s grief cannot be overstated. As my mother, her support for me was unconditional — she taught me to embrace my dreams, reject conformity and challenge the dark voices of fear and self-doubt,” he wrote. “As a writer, she taught me to defy genre boundaries and surrender to my obsessive passions.”
The domestic plotline and erotic dialogue of her novels are part of how she appeals to the queer community, as well as the representation she included in her novels, despite the judgment. In a 2012 interview, she said that her characters Louis and Lestat were the first vampire same-sex parents and that Claudia was inspired by her daughter and Stan was the inspiration for her vampire fathers.
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Anne Rice and Her Son, Christopher, Trade Stories of One Another
In 2017 she spoke with ‘The Daily Beast’ saying that she’s, “always been very much a champion of gay rights, and art produced by gay people. I think I have a gay sensibility and I feel like I’m gay, because I’ve always transcended gender, and I’ve always seen love as transcending gender.”
More than anything she said that she’s worked to transcend gender in her books, creating bonds of love that trumped any other social construct. Her son remarks on how proud he is of her mother, saying that Anne’s love for him didn’t change whatsoever when he came out.
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“People respond in very different ways to what being gay means. And there’s still an enormous amount of fear in America. There are still hate crimes. There is still a lot of consciousness-raising that has to be done — but not with us. I was worried, as anyone would be, that Chris would face obstacles and prejudices. But I did not love him one drop less,” she said.
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Rice left an impact on not only the literary community as a whole but she changed the gothic genre, the Vampire trope, LGBTQ characters, and more. She left behind many novels, but they’re in the works to be published in an effort to leave a posthumous impact too. She collaborated quite often with her son, Christopher, and he has vowed to make sure her stories reach their audiences, no matter what. We honor Rice’s life today and recognize that without her bravery and unique contributions to the literature, many genres and authors wouldn’t be where they are today.
By Mireille Karadanaian
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Mireille Karadanaian is an entertainment journalist, whose passion for reviewing upcoming TV shows and movies has existed since a young age. She writes reviews and feature entertainment stories for The Hollywood Insider’s inclusive and authentic platform, contributing to the important stories being told in media today. Mireille loves discussing the impact today’s media is making on younger generations who emulate what they see on screen and the Internet, a double-edged sword. Her stories often include the importance of creating content that inspires inclusion, positivity, and productive messages to all audiences and generations. Mireille’s love of covering TV shows, movies, and exciting questions that are being asked in the media world is seen in her writing and her ability to not just report facts but also tell a story.