Penny Dreadful- Episode 5

“Closer Than Sisters”

The pace slowed down considerably with this episode. 

The entirety of the episode takes place in flashbacks to Vanessa’s childhood. The ENTIRETY. For a show with as large a main cast as Penny Dreadful has this is quite bizarre. No monsters. No vampires, no werewolves. No love triangles. No Dorian Gray.

Which means that I have to wait and see what happens with Dorian and Ethan. This show has sucked my in. As soon as I watch; I want more. This show is typically intense with multiple plotlines and motivations intermingling.

So this Vanessa-centric, nostalgic exposition was… different.

Vanessa and Mina were neighbors who grew up separated by only an open gate and a hedge maze. We see them first as children imagining who they will marry, frolicking on the coastline and brushing each other’s hair. Vanessa’s crush on Peter. Until one fateful night. The young Vanessa was out in the hedge maze and she caught her mother having sex with Mina’s father, Sir Malcolm. This breech of her innocence causes her to act out in other ways, stealing and other instances of “girlish mischief.” 

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As they grow older Mina meets the kind of man that they dreamed of growing up while Vanessa’s budding relationship never blooms. He tells Vanessa he is going off to Africa. Vanessa knows he’s too weak, but she loves him for his weakness. Peter pushes her away. Just before Mina and her officer with the grand mustache are to be married, Vanessa encounters him in the halls and they flirt over taxidermy. Then they have sex. Mina finds the pair while her soon to be husband is pounding away at her BFF and she casts both of them out of her life. 

Vanessa confronts her mother about her infidelity with Sir Malcolm but when Vanessa gets to Mina’s yard she is faced with Sir Malcolm. He doesn’t let her pass and slams the gate. Vanessa collapses.

She treated first for what appears to be epilepsy and then she is taken in for psychiatric treatment for psychosexual fits. Treatments like ice baths and heavy narcotics… but nothing seems to work. The possession continues. Her mother finds her humping the air (Vanessa envisions Sir Malcolm) and faints. Peter comes to visit just before a trip to Africa and Vanessa predicts his death. 

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Years later, Vanessa is visited by Mina on a beach. Mina says that she forgives Vanessa saying that her suffering has been penance enough. Mina tells Vanessa about her new husband, Jonathan Harker. But once she lets it slip that Vanessa saw her father being unfaithful, Mina reveals that the Master has told her a lot. And then Vanessa visits Sir malcolm and tells him what Mina has revealed to her.

So let’s talk about it: Women’s sexuality demonized. Literally.

The loss of Vanessa’s innocence leads to her morality spiraling down the drain. Which isn’t supernatural mumbo jumbo. The young Vanessa sees that the adults around her are hypocritical in their religious and pious appearance, that they are sinning and she youthfully acts out. But then as an adult she is jealous of her friend and so she seduces her fiance. This act leaves her open for demonic possession. 

Slut shaming at it’s finest that Vanessa’s betrayal leaves her the property of Satan.

Other than that? 

I’m glad I have incorrectly assumed that Sir Malcolm raped Mina. It appears as though at the seance it was a young Mina’s essence who inhabited Vanessa (or possibly still Peter) but that the “her” was Vanessa’s mother. I hope. Possession is very confusing. 

This episode was comparatively slower to all the other episodes thus far, but it was so bizarre and captivating that it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of it. Eva Green can easily carry a scene and I have to give her props for some of the insane things that she pulled off there. 

I am concerned.

What I am concerned about is this:

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Now, I wouldn’t be bothered if Vanessa’s love for Mina is romantic more than platonic. But I will be bothered if Vanessa had sex with Mina’s fiance not because Vanessa was jealous of Mina for having what she envisioned but that she was jealous because she wanted Mina. I don’t need a “conniving lesbian homewrecker” plot. It’s preposterous.Hopefully I am just being paranoid. Tropes make me suspicious. Also, I hate to say it -because I don’t mind a “strong female character would do anything for true love” plot, which this would be if Vanessa had an interest in Mina that was romantic, but can girls just be down for their friends sometimes? I hope.

Penny Dreadful- episode 3

So pumped to figure out why that Creature climbed through Proteus last episode.

But we flashback to Vic’s childhood. His dog died, Victor found him with maggots crawling out of hollowed out eyes.his mother comforts him then suddenly falls ill, choking on blood and spattering it onto him. Hauntingly soft and white he agrees, “Death is not serene.” His mother dies soon after.

Then we appear in the moment that ended last weeks episode. Most this week’s episode centered around Victor Frankenstein and his first creation, Callaban. When the Creature came to life, Frankenstein was scared and left his monster all alone. The Creature was terrified and in agony. Slowly, he watched out the window at home humans interacted and concluded that he was less than, that he was an animal. We get a slowpaced story (recounted while Callaban threatens Victor and they’re both covered in blood, this show is so committed to atmosphere).

Brona and Ethan are having sex, and we get to see as much of his bare ass as we do hers (thanks Showtime!) It was sort of sweet and sexy. Maybe just for me. I’ve crushed on Hartnett for a while. There’s this moment when she almost pushes him away from kissing her (because she has consumption) but he kisses her anyway, choosing to be close with her instead. When she gets out of bed she’s coughing and he asks if she has any medicine, she replies, “Who has money for that when there’s eating to be done, lad.” and smiles it off. But he doesn’t. And he goes to see Sir Malcolm and Vanessa and join in for the monster hunting again.

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They at first believe that he intends to take this job so he can travel back home, but Vanessa finds out that this is about a woman. It doesn’t really matter, of course, because they are desperate. They think that they have found where “The Master” maybe and that Mina might be there as well. They’re rather desperate for the help. Which is great, since Ethan is more desperate for the money. 

Meanwhile we get to the heat of it that Callaban’s angry at Frankenstein for creating and then abandoning him, and vows to see that Victor ends up as alone as he has been… unless Victor makes him a wife doomed to the same misery he is.

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Out with Sir Malcolm, Vanessa and Ethan they encounter some wolves, which I thought for sure would be werewolves, but they don’t appear to be or reveal themselves to be anyway. I’m not committed to them being regular wolves yet. -More on that later.

Ethan lets the aforementioned wolves sniff his hand and they retreat. Vanessa and Sir Malcolm share a look that clearly says *what the hell was that about* and moments after they find a young vampire chewing on some raw flesh. He tries to attack Vanessa, They wind up chaining him up, Sir Malcolm beats him while shouting ‘where is your Master?” and asking Victor over to concoct a treatment. Ethan remarks that the vampire is still a child and that torturing and experimenting on children isn’t something he wants to be party to.

Victor says “Oh, killing Redskins and wiping an entire race into oblivion is more your style.” Ethan doesn’t deny and says “How did you know I was in the Indian Wars?” and Victor gives him a *haha tricked you* I didn’t. Which would have made the Englishmen there seem morally superior IF they didn’t have an African servant who doesn’t speak or contribute to the story in any manner leaving the audience to conclude that when he isn’t waiting on Sir Malcolm he’s doing nothing of his own. 

Vanessa finds that Sir Malcolm used her as bait, he knew Mina had been moved but he wanted to draw out the Master and isn’t entirely pissed off enough. At some point, Vanessa had also counted to Ethan that Mina was supposed to marry Jonathan Harker but that she took up with “another man, if he is a man at all.” You know he’s not. You know he’s a vampire… why would you say that? But it has me wondering if Van Helsing will cross paths with them at some point.

So now here are my predictions: (and unfortunately- I don’t like some of them) Ethan has some weird mojo with wildlife and/or is a werewolf. I think it is more likely to be the former than the latter, I think that it will tie in to some Native American friends he made after some convoluted story that has him riding the redemption train for his misdeeds against the Native Americans. Also, that Brona is going to be near death from consumption soon and that Victor will resurrect her to be Callaban’s wife. I would put money on both of those. 

Penny Dreadful- Episode 2

Seance.

Ethan wakes up (under a pier in the dirt), heads to the nearest bar and gets right to the sauce, he’s well in his cups when Billie Piper- I mean Brona enters. She’s Irish and recently came to London after her position in a factory was eliminated by machines, while she finds London to have the same issues, she says: “There’s always a way to make a living when you’ve got a bit of flesh isn’t there?” Ethan: “I can’t say.” Brona: “I bet you can.” (recurring theme over here, but many occupations involve “selling your body” or “degrading yourself” and sex work is just work) “I’m off to look for work that a machine can’t do. Yet. Anyway.”

Victor Frankenstein, who has taught his creature to eat helps him choose a name. Proteus. Then he goes off to see Sir Malcolm and Vanessa and the mummy. Universal monsters everywhere.

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Brona’s job search leads her to the decadent residence of Dorian Gray -a character created by Oscar Wilde who owns a painting that gets uglier everytime he sins who sold his soul for eternal youth. He asks Brona to undress and she coughs up blood. She expects to be sent out, but Gray approaches her. He undresses as well and they have sex standing up while someone photographs, “I never fucked I dying creature before. Do you feel things more deeply, do you feel pain?” Startled, she asks him, “Do you?” and she tears into her back with fingernails.

Brona suffering from consumption references early vampire mythos.

In Dr. Frank’s basement, Proteus cries for the whale in a book. Frankenstein hypothesizes that Proteus had been a whaler and sets to find out who he is. 

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Gray attends a party that the Egyptologist Niles is hosting where Vanessa is a guest as well. He profiles Vanessa concluding that she thought it would be a wasted frivolous evening, and that she is not a frivolous person. He grabs her hand and acknowledges that she is the only ungloved woman and that she wants to touch while her head wants to appraise. For some reason this is romantic? They almost kiss. It seems out of character for the reserved and BUSY Vanessa (and Dorian is supposed to be gay). They are moved to another room and Madame Kali enters, Vanessa say skeptically “I believe we’re about to convene with a spirit” -really? that blase about it? You have telekinetic powers and hunt vampires. Madame Kali starts the ritual and Vanessa reaches for Gray’s hand. She channels a young child and at times seems mocking, telling of how he went on an adventure with father (Sir Malcolm is impacted by the rant, apparently this was his son) and got dysentery. Sir Malcolm starts crying. Then Vanessa lets her hair down. Cracks the table and says cunt a lot. Basically. Sir Malcolm’s son caught him having sex with Mina in the hallway and Vanessa says “When did you know you wanted to fuck her?” And then bends herself like the Last Exorcism 2.

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Then she has sex with a man in the street. While Malcolm sits at the cracked table, shaken.

The next morning Brona and Ethan are inside the same bar again. She tells him that now she’s a model. “For the calendars and such?” he asks. She replies, “If you keep your calendar in a whorehouse.” He offers to buy her a proper breakfast, when she declines he asks for dinner. She questions his motives “You like things back alley?” and he replies, “I like things to be what they are.” Normally, I’d be annoyed at the stereotype that a sex worker (particularly one as frank as Brona) must see herself as less than, but since the day before she’d been referred to as “a creature” by someone who had the power to dictate whether or not she would have money for food -I’ll allow it. Ethan’s no peach either, he’s an alcoholic and a fugitive. He’s a fuck up with questionable employment.

Niles is mad his party was ruined. His wife was mortified. 

But none the less he translates the hieroglyphs for Sir Malcolm. He references the hidden goddess with a monster within her. And then decides “You must forget you ever saw it.” Perpetual life by feeding on the souls of others. Amunet and Amun-Ra conjoined means the annihilation of man and coming of the Beast. 

Victor takes Proteus outside. He gets overwhelmed at first, but as they journey the fear turns to amazement. They see Brona and Ethan on the street and Proteus is taken with Brona, he offers her a chestnut and they introduce rather awkwardly. Later Victor explains “friends” and Proteus decides he will have many friends WHEN SOMETHING CLIMBS OUT OF HIS BODY HOLY WHAT?! With a “Your first born has returned, father.”

Well that’s baffling.

My favorite parts of this episode had nothing to do with the supernatural happenings. Weird. I like Brona and I like her portrayal. I like her with Ethan. I like them as equals. 

There is a lot going on.

If Sir Malcolm molested his daughter Mina, if it wasn’t the ramblings of a demon… it would be insanely irresponsible to make him a sympathetic character. That’s fucking gross. No wonder she ran off with Dracula. I don’t care how much I love 007 and Timothy Dalton, axe him. Sir Malcolm Murray is not the good guy.

I want to like this show… and I do… but there’s so much happening and getting the ball rolling on all at once is… a little much. I think that’s why I liked Ethan and Brona’s less intense plotline. Her tie in with Dorian was wonderful, while Vanessa’s was a little much. And why a mummy? There are Catholic elements: demonic possession and a deal with the devil. There are vampires. Reanimated corpses. Jack the Ripper. If you think that there’s any reason to have a Egyptian mythos thrown in along with that other than “to hit a Universal Monsters trifecta” I would love to hear it. Why not a fucking swamp monster at that point?

Not that there’s not time for that.

31 Horrifying Day- Day 10: Nosferatu (1922)

Remember when vampires were scary?

If you were born after Lost Boys (1987) came out… probably not. Aside from a sprinkling here and there: Recently, vampires are tortured love interests (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, Twilight, “TrueBlood”), action heroes (Blade, Underworld) or humans with strange dietary preferences (again “TrueBlood”, NBC’s recently cancelled “Dracula”), or as victims of a mutation (“V Wars”) with a political agenda (again “TrueBlood”). I miss vampires being ugly as sin, the most recent noteworthy example of vampires done ghoulishly in 30 Days of Night. 

The reason I bring up 2007’s 30 Days of Night, is because it really added something to the vampire lore as a whole. Southern Vampires make no sense. They didn’t make sense when Anne Rice did it, they did’t make sense when Charlaine Harris did it, they don’t make sense when Laurell K Hamilton does it, they don’t make sense in Forsaken. #1, It’s hot. You have corpses in the sun. #2, the days are too short. 30 Days of Night has vampires taking over an Alaskan town where they will rain terror down on anyone who didn’t get out of there for a damn month without needing to go hide in their coffins. Steve Niles wrote the original comic book miniseries that they movie was based off of and the illustration by Ben Templesmith, the movie stayed true in style to the original source.

Nosferatu is an adaptation of the novel Dracula. A wealthy castle owner is looking to move from Transylvania and needs a man to help with his affairs. The man slowly realizes that something is amiss but not before his wife becomes captivated by the creature of darkness and a chaotic whirlwind of death starts spreading. I know what you’re thinking, “If I’ve seen this done before -AND seen it with special effects, gore, good looking actors and WORDS- why should I see Nosferatu?” 

Vampire legends were created to explain mysterious plagues that cropped up in Europe and the US (actually, the states tended to blame witches, but that’s a whole ‘nother article). Nosferatu/Graf Orlok slowly affects his victims, causing delirium and malaise before fully consuming his victims. There are many references to plagues in this film, and Orlok travelled to Germany with coffins full of grave dirt, he drew strength from the cursed soil that he had been buried in. That makes far more sense than “modern” style vampires who choose to sleep in coffins. But adding to the plague references, Orlock’s coffins, when opened by the sailors who are transporting them to Germany, also unleash a swarm of rats. It really ramps up the creep factor, add that in that rats are known plague carriers who are inhabiting cursed soil? It’s clever. Of course most vampire films don’t reference the plague folklore any longer and instead the take on more current phenomena and explain violent unsolved murders; NBC’s “Dracula” and the brand new “Penny Dreadful” both reference Jack the Ripper, or STDs; Forsaken. 

But I like the grave dirt as a source of strength. I like the swarms of bugs and rats. I like that Orlok’s very shadow is menacing. 

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I love this movie. The acting is very theatrical. Movements are exaggerated because they had to be in the silent era. Max Shreck as Orlok is creepy, motions exaggeratedly stiff (like a corpse in rigor mortis), pointed ears and claws, wild facial expressions, because subtlety wouldn’t have shown through on film with the available resources of the era. Director FW Murnau made menace out of lights, shadows and small animals that most directors can’t replicate with CGI, expensive materials and modern camera techniques. Orlok appearing from out of shadows, while those around him fall ill and lose their wits is fascinating.

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And I love it. #ResurrectUglyVampires

Was it scary? Let’s face it. It’s based on Dracula, which wasn’t scary. But it was written to be captivating, which this film is. But it’s based on Dracula and we have all been down this road before. So, no, it’s not *scary*.

But I give it 5/5

Penny Dreadful- Episode 1

The cast list reads like a who’s who in the action and/or horror and/or fantasy TV and cinema realm. Former Bond Timothy Dalton, former Bond girl (much later) Eva Green (also coming soon in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) my longtime crush Josh Hartnett (Sin City, Black Dahlia, 30 days of Night), Billie Piper (“Doctor Who”), Rory Kinnear (plays the Creature, also Bond alumni circa Blonde Bond).

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The set design, costumes and cinematography is lush… and set in victorian London. I’m concerned already since a production in the same genre set in the same atmosphere with less (but substantial) star power just got cancelled. I’m talking about NBC’s “Dracula”, new of it’s cancellation was announced yesterday. 

This show is expensive. But I’m not sure they are paying for new ideas… 

Josh Hartnett plays an alcoholic gunslinger who despite the trembling in his hand is seen fit by Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) to take on monsters that are terrorizing London. Even though he’s crashed and burned and is putting on a travelling side show. Vanessa and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) bring Hartnett’s Ethan Chandler to the vampires’ nest. After some struggle, the vamps are defeated (we get a glimpse of Vanessa’s telekinetic powers, Ethan’s skill and Sir Malcolm’s bravado) and they bring a carcass to a scientific type (Frankenstein) played by Harry Treadaway (Cockneys versus Zombies, Lone Ranger)

The next day, Ethan is to meet Sir Malcolm at his home. A Black servant answers the door. WTF TV execs?Think we can suspend disbelief for vampires, but believe that we cannot stretch our imaginations that black people could be anything more than servants on these shows?.  

“Who the fuck are you people?”

Sir Malcolm’s daughter has been taken by a “creature” and Vanessa’s reasons for pursuing the monsters are “her own.” Secretive. Grizzly crime scenes are popping up all around, people are whispering about Jack the Ripper (likening this series again to “Dracula” AND to “Ripper Street”) Ethan wants to bail. He’s in over his head. Performing isn’t so bad. It’s better than messing with creatures of the night. But he is intrigued. And he interlopes on the investigation of a disgusting murder of a family.

Mina pays a visit to Sir Malcolm. Mina Harker, that’s right. Although these vampires bear a stronger resemblance to Nosferatu than any version of Dracula. sir Malcolm says that he will find her, Vanessa goes to pray, but candles levitate and bad omens present themselves in interesting and stunning ways.

It’s the small touches, Dr. Frankenstein asking Ethan about advancements in electric power in America, crosses turning upside down and exploding with arachnids and full frontal nudity that make this for me. Maybe Shotime can pull off what NBC could not, maybe a subscription channel can carry the weight of all these actors and scenarios.

At the end of the episode Victor Frankenstein accidentally reanimates “the Creature” and they have a touching and bizarre encounter. 

I am optimistic about this series. But the budget must be immense: it’s gorgeous. Mishmash of big name monsters also reminds me of “Hemlock Grove” (although this makes more sense already). Timothy Dalton is pulling his best (also former Bond) Sean Connery in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and my gosh, is it good to see Josh Hartnett taking on vamps again.

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But there’s not much to add, elements of plot are emergent but there’s not much to speculate over all about the dynamics of characters in upcoming episodes.

Nightcrawler #1

I don’t much care about Nightcrawler. Never did. But… Chris Claremont. 

Chris Claremont has written huge X-Men storylines. The source material that inspired both The Wolverine and the upcoming Days of Future Past. He’s a ridiculously big deal in the comic book world. He co-created pretty much all my faves (most of the major players in Brian Woods “all girl” X-Men) Kitty Pryde, Psylocke, Rogue, Rachel Summers, Madelyne Pryor (not my fave, but she notably recently resurfaced as a villain), and Jubilee. 

So I figured I would overlook the fact that Nightcrawler is “not my favorite” (and I know Dr. Chris is going to come over here and tell me about the time Nightcrawler fought Dracula, and how he was better at it than Wolverine because Nightcrawler is a man of faith even though he’s a weird looking dude. I know. Still not my fave.) Nightcrawler is not a Claremont creation, he’s the brainchild of Dave Cockrum who conceived the blue teleporting mutant while he was on a Navy ship in Guam.

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The start of the story really drew me in. The recently resurrected Nightcrawler is fighting Wolverine. Wolverine has recently lost his healing power and they’re testing out a new armor suit. Logan’s as fast as ever, Nightcrawler has trouble teleporting away, in fact. So Nightcrawler ramps up. And Wolverine busts out the claws. Without his healing factor this is especially painful and dangerous and Nightcrawler backs off, but Storm has to break up the fight. She then has a heart to heart with Nightcrawler about how things change and people have to decide what they are made of. Face who they are and deal with the consequences. 

Nightcrawler walks around the halls of the Jean Grey School, remembering how they lost Jean Grey and Thunderbird. And some X-kids and Professors wave “hello” (Quentin Quire, Cessily, a flirty? Rachel Grey …that might just be the art style).But then he goes to see Amanda and mini-Nightcrawler Bamfs. They are interrupted by an unknown assailant in a robot suit. Curiously, it becomes clear that he is after Amanda (who has magic powers, not mutant powers) the adorable Bamfs help save the day and Nightcrawler throws the attacker through a wall. And he vanishes. 

And Amanda decides that the creep might be after her fam. She declines calling in the X-Men and they go in pursuit at the close of the issue. 

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Amanda = Magik II/Daytripper (not art from this comic)

Regardless of the fact that the second half of the book was a random mystery to me, I enjoyed this. It was very apparent that Claremont was nostalgically writing Wolverine and it was somewhat overpowering Nightcrawler. Which I was okay with. Write what you know, and all that. But the end of the issue takes Nightcrawler out of his (and my) X-Men comfort zone. 

Todd Nauck’s art is very crisp, the fight scenes were dramatic and easy to follow, the Bamfs were adorbz, all the ladies have big eyes, long lashes and pouty lips. It’s very playful and certainly added to the somewhat surreal vision that Nightcrawler is walking around with while he’s just getting back to his life.

I will be reading.

Fantastic Female Friday: Lily Munster

Lily (Dracula) Munster, Countess of Shroudshire, is the matriarch of the Munster family. Unlike many of her 1960’s TV contemporaries; Lucy Ricardo, Samantha from Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie; Lily was more likely to be playing responsible adult while the antics of her husband, Herman, got them embroiled in zany schemes.

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While technically Lily Munster is a “sandwich maker”

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The outspoken Lily is very protective of her family -even defending the house with cannons after Grandpa accidentally sells it to a demolition crew intent on turning their haunted mansion into a parking lot. She never forgot where she came from, doing charity work collecting donations for her home country of Transylvania. The (usually) Stay at Home Mom is very involved in the lives of her son, Eddie, and her “hideous” niece, Marilyn.

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Sultry and always confident, Lily tells Marilyn of the importance of being self assured and ambitious. While Lily usually ruled the roost at 1313 Mockingbird Lane she also had several jobs during the series: a welder, a palm reader, a model, she even notably opened a salon with Marilyn which went under after she gave everyone monster makeovers. Like I said, the uberconfident Lily sees herself as the ideal of beauty, who wouldn’t want to look like this:

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When neighbors or fellow country club members behave rudely towards the Munsters she takes offense but she never wavers in her belief that it’s their problem and not hers. She’s always eager to socialize and is polite even if she doesn’t understand their taste in fashion. While the other Munsters take it more personally when people don’t like them she assumes that it’s their problem and they are snobs. She’ll do anything to spare her sensitive husband from criticism from rude people. Don’t knock housewives, and never mind that on top of wrangling a coming of age woman, a young boy, a stuck in his ways father and an accident prone husband she also has a science lab in her basement and a monster under her stairs.

She’s the daughter of Sam Dracula, married to a Frankenstein’s monster, sister and mother of a werewolf.. I’m not entirely sure how genetics work on this show… Funfact: Lily’s claims dress is lined with pure unborn centipede.

Here’s Yvonne De Carlo as Lily singing “Look Away”