Dracula is a terrible show, and while Sleepy Hollow has great moments, it too is sometimes afflicted by lazy writing–and both shows suffer from Dead Wife Syndrome.
However, they make having a Dead Wife look so good that I almost want a Dead Wife or two myself.Dracula’s Dead Wife is beautiful, and he loved her. That’s really all we know about her,
and those are the only things that matter about her. She’s not a real character, and she’s only important because of her relationship to Dracula. This is about as antifeminist as it gets, folks–a woman is dead, but it’s only important because of how the man feels about it, and what the man is going to do about it.
And it’s great that she’s a Dead Wife, because it means that he doesn’t actually have to work at having a relationship with her, and it certainly means he doesn’t have to listen to her. He doesn’t have any obligations toward her, and can in fact sleep with every woman on the show without feeling guilty, because hey, she’s only a Dead Wife after all.
In short, Dracula’s Dead Wife is just another objectified woman.
And it’s lazy writing, to boot. There’s no need for her to exist, except to create an artificial emotional connection between Dracula and a woman who coincidentally looks a lot like her. A real connection and a real attraction would be better, but hey, writing about that would be work.
The Dead Wife on Sleepy Hollow is even worse in some ways, because while she’s conveniently Dead, she still shows up–but only when she is useful.
Katrina turns up only to save the male protagonist from the threat-o’-the-week, or to dispense massive gobs of exposition, which, by the way, is a sign of sloppy writing. In every case, the writers could have come up with some other way to deliver the same information to the viewers, so this particular Dead Wife is a sort of exposition-o-matic.
Sleepy Hollow at least tried to give its Dead Wife a personality, but so far it hasn’t actually worked. They tried to make her brave by having her talk back to an abusive enemy soldier. They tried to make her principled by having her be a Quaker. But none of her dialogue really made her stand out in any way, and it ended up being pretty empty, especially compared with the two lead characters on the show, both of whom are generally pretty well-written.
And again, of course, she’s a Dead Wife, so the male protagonist doesn’t have to work on any kind of relationship with her or really bother about her much at all. Sure, he says he’s upset that his Dead Wife is trapped in limbo, but he hasn’t tried to do much about it, and he certainly hasn’t tried to chat with her at all on the occasions she shows up.
He hasn’t asked why she lied to him during their marriage or deceived him about critical issues. He hasn’t even asked what she does all day in limbo, or if she’s feeling all right, or what she thinks about modern America. And she never has much to say other than what’s convenient to the plot.
She’s just a Dead Wife, after all, it isn’t as if she’s important or anything. She’s only there to make the male protagonist have feelings, provide exposition or be a deus ex machina.
She’s just a tool.
And I for one would like to see women characters treated better on my television shows, fantasy, scifi or none of the above.
For more information on using dead women as mere plot devices rather than characters, click here.