July 20, 2017
Nosferatu was filmed in 1921 and released in Germany in 1922, directed by F.W Murnau, produced by Enrico Deickmann and Albin Grau, with the screenplay written by Henrik Galeen. This film stars: Max Schreck, Gustav von Wangenheim, Greta Schroder, Alexander Granach, Ruth Landshoff, and Wolfgang Heinz.
This film is set in a fictional town, Wisborg, in Germany in 1838, a time where women came second to most everything. There is a stark contrast between the era in which the film is set and the era in which it was released. Nosferatu encapsulates the mentality that women are frail and weak and need the saving of men, however the roaring twenties were in full affect during its release. The film was released in a time where the new woman was plentiful, women that no longer required men to come to their aid, but instead branched out into an independent world of their making. As women gained the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, they also were on the verge of the greatest occupational switch in America’s history, when their men went into WWII women went into the workforce in droves.
This film though ill received in Germany for its scandalous copyright infringement on Dracula, was received in America as one of the greatest horror films of all time. The Science fiction genre truly began with this film as it delved into folklore and fantasy of vampires and werewolves. Though the story was about a man unknowingly bringing a vampire to his hometown and affectively killing dozens in the process, including his wife, Nosferatu also deals with the stereotyping of women. Women, before the 1920s, were considered frail and dependent upon men for almost everything from monetary security to escaping loneliness. In Celebrity Culture and The American Dream by Karen Sternheimer, she states “In contrast to Victorian ideals of frail, fainting women, by the 1920s more active notions of womanhood became acceptable for those in the middle and upper classes.” Women of the 1920s were not the women of years gone by, they were vivacious and daring and racy, a complete and polar opposite characterization of the women portrayed in Murnau’s Nosferatu.
This change in women was perhaps a starting point to the over sexualization of women in the film and TV industry. Where in Nosferatu it is clear that they wanted to show women as chaste, dressed from neck to ankles, yet in that time period women were actually baring more skin. Kaylee Baum mused in her blog, ‘Another Feminism Post’, “What do they really take from them though? Is it the sex appeal, the fact that they are desired after? Or is it their entrepreneurial ways of making it so far in such a competitive world?” Women were more open with themselves and the world around them during the roaring twenties, and Nosferatu seemed to draw back in time as if to state that women should be ashamed of their new life choices.
Nosferatu was a knock of version of Dracula, and yet it became one of this nations greatest treasures. It developed a new side to film categories that was the horror genre. Nosferatu also made a point to show that a woman who disobeys her husband will end up living a painful life just as Hutter’s wife Ellen when she is killed by the Vampire Count Orlok. Showing women in such a stereotypical light was a blatant stab at the New Woman of the 1920s, the creators of this film made no attempt to shroud their sexism in the midst of fantasy and folklore.
Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
Baum, Kaylee. Another Feminism Post. History 110 Blog. Hackintohistory.org.
Another Feminism Post #6