Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia Is TV’s Best Gothic Female Character

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Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia Is TV’s Best Gothic Female Character

When Kirsten Dunst stomped onto the screen as unsettling baby vampire Claudia in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire, I assumed we’d seen all there was to offer with the character. But then AMC’s TV adaptation debuted in 2022, and the series very quickly proved me wrong.

Bailey Bass’ giddy turn as the character in Season 1 of Interview with the Vampire injected new life into the child vampire, and introduced a whole new generation of fang lovers to this gloriously wicked ball of anger. Claudia stands out from the stereotypical female characters that have populated vampire stories of yore, and what truly sets her apart is her unbridled rage. Claudia is saved from a fire by Louis de Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) and she emerges from the flames a monster raised to embrace her monstrosity. As a vampire, she is allowed to indulge in the most forbidden of her desires and extreme of her emotions, and it is gratifying to see a female character not only bask in her rage, but act upon it. Claudia does not allow her maker, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid), to walk all over her, but rather stabs and burns his mistress and poisons him for treating her and Louis (Jacob Anderson) so poorly. Her ferocious appetite for revenge is made even more unsettling by the image of a permanent teenager committing these vicious crimes, making for a truly horrifying—and arguably iconic—Gothic image. 

There’s an element of tragedy that is inextricable from the character. Turned into a vampire against her will and cursed to live an eternity in the mind of a woman but the body of a teenager, Claudia embodies the monstrous feminine, a woman stolen of choice railing against the forces that oppress her. Her turning point comes with the death of her first love, a young boy who Claudia accidentally drains in a moment of passion. Realising that he is dying, Claudia quickly takes his body to Lestat and demands he turn him for her, upon which we discover that she has tried and failed to make herself a companion on multiple occasions. Rather than offer her comfort in this moment of utter despair, Lestat decides to turn this into a lesson, forcing her to watch as they engulf the boy’s body in flames. Her first experience of a broken heart is turned into a ritual of humiliation by her father, and her uncontrollable appetite—a consequence of her creation—is treated as nothing more than a reckless choice.

Reeling from heartbreak, she vows to embrace her vampirism with ferocity, and for Claudia, just as with Lestat, violence is a spectacle. Killing becomes a performance through which she can channel her rage whilst also satisfying that unquenchable thirst for blood. She keeps bloodied body parts as mementos of her kills and documents each victim’s dying words in a diary, or, as journalist Daniel Molloy (Eric Bogosian) describes it, “a kill list, in a teenager’s handwriting.” For all intents and purposes, Claudia is the perfect Gothic monster who is unafraid to be monstrous, but in the theatre of Claudia’s violence, we can see the broken pieces of a woman frozen in youthful rage. Her recklessness often reveals a much more sombre desire for companionship. As Delainey Hayles, the actress who so deftly took over the role of Claudia in Season 2, recently put it, beneath the hardened shell of a ruthless killer lies “the loneliest girl ever.”

It makes sense, then, that in Season 2, Claudia finds companionship in fellow outsider Madeleine Eparvier (Roxane Duran), a dressmaker ostracised from French society for her dalliances with German soldiers during World War II. But even this is cut short by the coven of vampires who have sentenced Claudia to death for the crime of Lestat’s apparent murder. Claudia is a caged bird whose freedom is always extinguished by someone clipping her wings moments before she finds escape. That universal experience of trying to navigate the world as a young woman shackled by society’s neverending dangers is amplified tenfold by Claudia’s attempts to find freedom but instead being trapped and sexually abused by a vampire who hunts her down like prey. At the heart of it, Claudia is just a girl trying to find her place in the world and constantly coming up against the violence of it all, and so she reflects that violence right back. But then, what can you expect from a girl who has never been shown true love?

Lestat admits that he is cursed with his father’s temper, and the same could be said about Claudia; like a sculptor whose hand can always be identified in their creation, the traces of Lestat’s brutality will always be found in his daughter. His anger was passed onto Claudia like a family curse, but if Claudia is sentenced to a life of monstrosity, she will use that monstrosity to free herself and Louis, and she will bear no remorse for it. She remains defiant even in death—her final promise comes in the form of a threat: facing the theatre goers complicit in her execution, Claudia promises to “come back and f—king kill [them] all.” Her death may be out of her hands, but the words she chooses in her final moments are entirely her own. Under the full force of the sun, and with the ashes of her companion at her feet, Claudia desperately turns to Lestat, who is unable to look away from the sight of his flaying daughter. With this final heartbreaking image, Claudia completes her fate to become a revenant sketched by his own design, a ghost destined to haunt Lestat’s memory as a constant reminder of his every mistake.

There’s a passage in The Vampire Lestat, the second instalment of Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, where Lestat eulogises Claudia’s memory, admitting that “Claudia was my dark child, my love, evil of my evil. Claudia broke my heart.” He wasn’t the only one to be unexpectedly moved by the introduction of a reckless fledgling to this dysfunctional family—as it turns out, Claudia broke my heart, too. Watching Delainey Hayles deliver her final lines as the formidable vampire, I found myself yearning for the minutes to stretch on so that our time with the character wouldn’t end. Claudia was always doomed by the narrative, but Hayles’ performance has established her as one of the most iconic Gothic female characters on TV, and cemented her place in the hearts of Interview with the Vampire fans worldwide. 

Nadira Begum is a freelance film critic and culture writer based in the UK. To see her talk endlessly about film, TV, and her love of vampires, you can follow her on Twitter (@nadirawrites) or Instagram (@iamnadirabegum).

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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