Vanessa Van Helsing is a Grey Area Character and Also a Protagonist, Deal With It
Where there’s a female protagonist it’s a guarantee you’ll find much scrutiny. Not to mention the more marginalized a woman is the worse it gets for them. They often get treated worse than male villains and antiheroes. This isn’t to say there aren’t shitty and/or problematic women in shows or movies and to not acknowledge that is pandering to the wrong type of feminist.
In the world of Van Helsing, a dark fantasy/horror show about a post-apocalyptic world overrun by vampires, a person could argue that everyone exists in the grey area. Survival isn’t always pretty in a post-apocalyptic world, after all. Not every character is important for the long-term or as a lead for that matter. Vanessa Van Helsing (Kelly Overton) is a lead character and a protagonist, but she’s not your regular “we-must-do-the-right-thing-all-the-time” protagonist. She’s the type that does what she believes is necessary for herself and those she cares about.
Despite how it seems like she’s destined to simply save the world, there are other options, and as the show progresses it’s less obvious what she’ll choose. Her losses begin to pile up and the more she uncovers about herself, the more she questions her humanity. Without dropping any massive spoilers I’ll say that Vanessa isn’t ordinary. She’s capable of a lot of violence and is overwhelmed with the power of it all. If that isn’t the mark of a grey area character, then I don’t know what is.
Her being a protagonist doesn’t erase the possibilities of making “dark” choices, it just makes for a more interesting character and for realistic storytelling. Especially when Vanessa really starts to spiral, become less rational, and makes decisions that costs her loved ones. It may have less progressive male viewers calling her names, wishing suffering upon her character, or deeming her unlikable to people who prefer a cookie cutter woman. A woman who does what she’s told, needs a man to save her, never gears away from what’s “acceptable,” and doesn’t have moments of weakness. It’s arguable that if she were a white man, she’d be mostly adored instead.
Vanessa’s character will continue to experience suffering and face difficult choices moving forward. That’s the weight that most protagonists carry but the audience’s expectations of her are higher because she’s a woman. The upcoming 4th season will show us more of Vanessa’s journey and I am looking forward to seeing what she experiences next.
Vanessa Maki is a queer writer, artist & other things.
She’s full of black girl magic & has no apologies for that. Her work has appeared in various places like Really System & others. She is also forthcoming in a variety of places. She’s founder/EIC of rose quartz magazine & is involved in other literary spaces as well.