When I saw the trailer for First Kill I was very excited. There was going to be a lesbian vampire/hunter romance show on Netflix that I could binge during pride month?! As a sapphic fan of vampires and all things supernatural for that matter, all I could say is, sign me up!
To give you an idea of what First Kill was like First Kill author and screenwriter V.E. Schwab she stated that, ““I think one of the reasons ‘Heartstopper’ is palatable is it’s two white gay men, but also it’s extraordinarily pure, it is stripped of all sexual connotation, and that’s what makes it like almost acceptable. My show is not that.”
Calliope and Juliette’s first kiss is very passionate, and they knock over a jar of cherries, breaking it. This has a pretty clear sexual connotation. There are also spicier scenes further on in the show. This is fairly controversial because the girls are supposed to be teenagers although the actresses are adults. I have somewhat mixed feelings about it because on the one hand, I don’t think teenagers should be sexualized by adult writers, on the other hand, queer relationships rarely get to be sexual onscreen.
The acting and writing was….not great. The dialogue was clunky and inconsistent. Calliope and Juliette didn’t have a lot of chemistry. The plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. For example, Juliette and Calliope know that one of them is a hunter and the other a vampire pretty early on, yet they still choose to be together even though it’s too soon for it to be love.
However, I can set a lot aside when I remember that this is a romance story. Romeo and Juliet fell in love very quickly and choose to be together despite knowing early on that their families were sworn, enemies. And that play is considered a classic. It’s also one of the inspirations for First Kill. As you can see, there is Juliette’s name, and the high school that the girls attend is putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet.
I found myself enjoying the show a lot despite my best efforts to be critical. To start with, I love vampires. Secondly, there isn’t that much sapphic tv show content. Combine vampires and lesbians, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into it (pun intended). First Kill is not the first storyline to include lesbian vampires, that honor goes to Camilla, a novel that predates Dracula, but lesbian vampire content is not the most common. V.E. Scwab also mentions this saying, “I saw these comments that were like, ‘You already have “Carmilla.”’ ‘Carmilla’ is a work of literature that is 150 years old. Can you imagine saying to fans of ‘Twilight,’ ‘Vampire Diaries’ and ‘True Blood’: ‘You already have ‘Dracula,’ why do you want more of this thing?” The critiques come from so many directions, [but] I don’t think the lesbians are the source of the critique.” Sure, there’s also Marceline from Adventure Time and the short film Growing Fangs on Disney+, but not an entire tv series that really focuses on them. Although I would recommend Growing Fangs.
I appreciated many of the same things that fans on social media said they enjoyed, the pastel and neon aesthetic that Juliette and Calliope had, although I will admit some of their fashion choices weren’t the best. For example, I didn’t like Juliette’s khaki skirt and Calliope’s mismatched pajamas.
I also liked that the show gave us multiple characters of color, of course, there’s Calliope, a Black lesbian vampire hunter. But Calliope’s best friend, Ben is also Black and gay. It was really nice to see queer characters having a friendship onscreen, usually when queer characters are friends in shows or movies, they’re destined to become a couple. Also, LGBTQ+ characters are usually relegated to just being a best friend character. Queer friendship is also more realistic to the actual LGBTQ+ experience since in reality, a lot queer people have many other LGBTQ+ friends. We seem to always find each other.
Also, I love Ben. He’s a such a supportive friend. However, we also get glimpses into his life outside of his friendship with Juliette which is so important, especially for characters with marginalized identities. Ben and Juliette had great chemistry as friends as well.
Additionally, I enjoyed the lack of homophobia in the show. V.E. Schwab stated, “it almost always feels like, in order for us to be the main characters, the show has to be about our queerness… and that’s a quietly malicious thing because it essentially tells us that’s the only reason we’re valid as protagonists. So I was like, yeah, I want to write a lesbian story, but I want it to not be about their sexuality.” Juliette and Calliope do briefly talk about coming out to their family members, but that’s only a discussion of their sexualities in the show. There is also a brief mention of Juliette and Ben dating each other before realizing that they’re both gay. Still, the plot of the show is focused on Calliope and Juliette’s star-crossed love story which is affected by their hunter and vampire identities rather than their lesbian identity. It was a breath of fresh air.
In conclusion, I would recommend First Kill if you’re looking for a fun lesbian vampire show. If you’re looking for something a little deeper or with higher production value this might not be the one for you. But all in all, I enjoyed it. I think it’s nice for sapphic people and queer people, in general, to be able to have some cheesy tv shows, as well as some more artistic films. But let’s be honest, I prefer cheesy tv shows because they’re generally happier.