Well, you know, I guess it’s ‘cause I was sitting in a deli and reading Dorian Gray and a guy comes up to me and asks me about it and… now he’s my husband. (…) What if I’d gone to the movies? What if I had gone somewhere else for lunch? What if I’d gotten there 10 minutes later? It was - it was meant to be.
I really love “The Picture of Dorian Gray” — it’s so tragic for everyone. Like, it’s short and to the point. Nobody means to be a total asshole, but kind of everyone is (except Sibyl maybe). I mean, Basil doesn’t mean to be an asshole — he’s the kind of asshole we can be sometimes to people we love when we’re not honest with them but we still want to be in love with them. He’s not thinking “oh shit this is gonna fuck this person up” but it does. And Henry is a bad influence, but he also doesn’t really intend to like turn Dorian Gray into a self-serving sociopath, y’know??? He’s just being a cynical old man of seriously dodgy morals who likes to tease his shy gay bff Basil about the big gay crush he has.
I actually wrote about whether or not Dorian could be considered a vampire and the idea that he’s turned into a monster by others is sort of a big part of that.
I also love “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Palahniuk. I think a lot of people just take his works for, like, gross-out or for the wildly misinterpreted stuff about masculinity and society in “Fight Club” but I really enjoyed “Invisible Monsters” for having really lovely and sweet and sympathetic monstrous women. Like there’s so much about toxic masculinity and masculinity as a CAGE where MEN DON’T GET TO HAVE REAL FEELINGS.
But femininity and all its trappings are often, like, not explored in that same way. When they are it’s like, shrinking violets or mad women in attics and shit, y’know? It’s not “I intentionally mutilated myself so I wouldn’t have to deal with being sexually desirable to men anymore as a beauty ideal” (and actually both of the twins do that!! The book is like “cishet dudes are so awful you’d be willing to shoot yourself in the face to not have to deal with them/male gaze” and tbh that resonates with me.)
When the major stress of fictional women seem to be “oh no I’m getting OLD and I won’t be PRETTY ANYMORE/I can’t have BABIES” it’s nice to have a book that is like “BEING PRETTY IS NOT WORTH ANYTHING. ESCAPE BEAUTY AT ALL COSTS.”
And despite that, it’s full of wonderful, lush descriptions of makeup and clothes!!!!!! Because all that shit still rocks even though the male gaze is horrible and violent.
I realize there are a lot of non-readers in the Penny Dreadful fandom but I was eager for this show before it aired because I loved the literature the characters came from.
Dorian Gray was a young man who offered up his soul if the painting of him would grow old and ugly while he could remain forever young and beautiful. The painting grows uglier every time he sins. He will remain forever young unless someone destroys the painting. And unlike the League of Extraordinary Gentleman movie he can and does look at his painting often, in fact he feels a compulsion to look at it every so often.
The only way to truly kill him is to destroy the painting. He literally cannot become a vampire. Dorian Gray is an immortal bound to a painting, that is all. His sins are becoming manifest and taking on a life of their own within the painting.
For a well made and decent (though not entirely faithful) film adaptation check out the 2009 version starring Ben Barnes as Dorian. That version is simply called Dorian Gray.
Dorian Gray, even on Penny Dreadful, is not The Devil, or Dracula, or a demon possessing the body while the “real Dorian” is trapped in the painting. Please… Please… Stop with these “Theories.” You know better by now. He even explained it in the show.