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The first time we meet Laura Hollis is not in her videos, but on Twitter. As I said before, I didn’t start watching Carmilla until after the Christmas Special aired, so I initially missed all of this, and didn’t actually go back to read much for some reason. These early tweets and posts on tumblr give a fascinating insight into Laura and Carmilla’s characters, as well as Silas as an environment. These things aren’t necessarily new information, but it is interesting to read their perspectives on their surroundings in their own words.
The documentation of Laura’s college experience starts on July 9th, 2014, and in her first tweet she laments about how tiny and boring her hometown is, comparing it to the town in Bates Motel, but worse. She then goes on to talk about how her impending departure to Silas University has seemed to exacerbate her dad’s usual overprotective hovering. She takes him out for ice cream and gets a lecture about the choking hazards that eating while walking poses, and he flips his lid and thinks she’s gone missing when she goes to return his library book. Oh, Sherman. Laura then goes on to talk about the books on her reading list—including a book on demon anatomy—and going to buy them from Barnes and Noble. She happily puts off her annual re-read of Dracula in favor of pouring over her new school books, and then proceeds on to a Doctor Who re-watch.
Laura goes on to excitedly talk about how she’s dying to find out who her roommate is, and when she does find out who it is, she's over the moon to find out that it’s Betty Speilsdorf, who seems pretty cool over email. She’s agreed to sneak in the microwave that Sherman won’t allow Laura to have (because microwaves cause cancer, obviously) and agrees with Laura that their curfew is way too early.
Her Twitter feed takes a turn when she details a fight that she had with her dad about her looming departure. She’d snuck out to go swimming, and apparently he’d found out and grounded her for eternity. It had evolved into a fight that essentially boiled down to him being afraid of the fact that he’ll be unable to protect her when she leaves for Silas because she’ll be so far away, which further evolved into the two of them starting to cry, and then putting on Harry Potter.
Still, none of this is new information, but it is interesting nonetheless. In the first two seasons at least, we only hear about Sherman in passing, whenever Laura’s day-of-the-week bear spray comes up, or when Betty refers to “the hamster ball your dad had you living in.” There’s something very interesting about seeing Laura talk about it in “real time.” Also the image of Laura and Sherman, stubborn and teary-eyed, sitting together on the couch watching Harry Potter is very sweet, and a great insight into their relationship.
Carmilla’s introduction to the internet, is, unsurprisingly, her bitching about modern technology and insisting that Twitter can’t possibly be more groundbreaking than the printing press. Which, speaking in terms of history and despite the fact that twitter is great, she has a point. She continues to express her disdain for social media, though she does acknowledge the perks of anonymity online before starting to talk about the reading list for her philosophy courses. Apparently, the reading list has gotten exponentially weaker over the years, and she misses the “blood sport for great minds” that philosophy used to be. Though, apparently going back to Silas for the umpteenth time provided an excuse to bury herself in Camus again. Our lovable, pretentious little asshole.
She mentions briefly that Silas must have a sense of humor because she found herself having to be a Frosh Week Chaperone, and then that she gets stuck in a three-person dorm with two other girls—one who wouldn’t stop crying over an ex-boyfriend, and another who monogrammed everything she could get her hands on, including her underwear. Unsurprisingly, she found particular enjoyment in driving them both up the wall with her usual horribly messy behavior, and spoke briefly about missing servants when she’d come home to their “sour little faces” demanding she clean her part of the room.
Over a few tweets she talked about True Blood and how awful and inaccurate it is, and her terrible attempt to cover her ass with “well, if vampires were real” was nothing short of glorious.
There is something interesting in these early tweets though. Whenever she talks about Silas, or the Dean, or really anything but her philosophy courses and books, it feels like a facade. Sort of the same feeling as a forced laugh. Taking the rest of the series into account, this isn’t surprising because we know that it is a facade. This is genuinely part of her, and the annoyance at her terrible roommates is absolutely real, but it's like she amplifies this one facet of herself to cope, and in an attempt to be as abrasive as possible to run potential victims of the Dean off the campus. Through the series though, we learn that she’s soft, romantic and introspective, and there’s something a bit heartbreaking in this face she puts forward at Silas. You gotta do what you gotta do to cope though, and in the grand scheme of things she could be coping much worse. Thankfully, she doesn’t have to do that for too much longer.
Something else fascinating that comes from these early tweets are more in-depth descriptions of Silas University. Up until season 2, due to the format of the show being indoor-only, we don’t really get a full picture of just how weird and slightly unnerving Silas is outside of throw away comments and and what the characters learn about the library. There’s definitely an atmosphere of weird on screen, but it’s only bolstered in this commentary that mainly Laura provides. I assume Carmilla didn’t talk about it much because she’s either used to it, trying to keep things under wraps, or both.
On move-in day and during Frosh Week, Laura excitedly documents everything she sees. The gates to the Silas campus resemble a sort of spiky coral-like structure, and are engraved with the words “Et devorabit omnia” which, if memory serves, translates from Latin to “it devours all,” and soon after, she talks about how at night, fog rolls in over the campus which makes it look beautiful and all Victorian. This is actually the first time she sees Carmilla. She tweets about not being able to stop seeing the shape of a girl in the fog, which creeps her out and prompts her to shut her curtains. She later tweets that she found out that the shape in the fog was “just some punk chick walking home way late.” Oh honey, if you only knew.
When she starts classes, things get even weirder. According to her Psychology 101 syllabus, “Maze Survival” counts for 70 percent of their final grade, and Laura assumes that this means they’ll be studying rats, which she’s not very happy about. When she asks her professor about this, he just laughs and laughs, and Laura notices his alarming number of teeth. She’s much happier about the professor for her Journalism class, professor Cochrane—she looks to be about 150-years-old, but Laura’s star struck by the fact that professor Cochrane went undercover in an asylum when she was 20. Laura was psyched to join the Voice of Silas newspaper, but decided to pass when she saw that the time commitment requirements spanned years. The version of Beowulf she’s assigned to read for her literature class includes Beowuf eating Grendel.
Jordan Hall, one of the writers, has cited Welcome to Night Vale many times as a source of inspiration for Silas University — the kind of weird that is subtle and just under the surface. Like looking at something quickly, and everything seems normal, but then you do a double take and realize it has too many eyes... Or teeth.
Laura also documents meeting some of her new friends in a few tweets. Lola Perry, her Floor Don, seems tightly would and slightly neurotic, but she made everyone french toast with strawberries one morning, so she’s awesome in Laura’s book. She immediately swoons over her Lit TA Danny, a glorious six-foot redheaded amazon of a woman who loves Pride and Prejudice, and keeps up a play-by-play of her fumbling encounters with her.
Moving on to Carmilla and Laura’s tumblrs—early on, there’s not a ton of plot there, but it does give insight into them as people. Laura’s tumblr is jam packed with pop culture, unsurprisingly. Everything from Doctor Who, to Harry potter, Veronica Mars, Buffy, The X Files, etc.., as well as dorm room and study ideas. There’s also a few posts about historical figures—An Australian journalist named Nancy Wake that rose to the #1 spot on the Gestapo’s wanted list in WWII, and a GNC Victorian couple.
Carmilla’s tumblr in those early days also speaks to who she is and what she’s feeling. Carmilla’s always had a flair for the dramatic, and the melancholic, dark and uncomfortable and extravagant things. Her early tumblr is full of philosophical quotes, photos of abandoned houses and chapels, misty forests and horror film gifs as well as plants, animals, and fashion. The first post on her blog is the quote, “When I speak of darkness, I mean this living,” from the book A Brief History of My Life by Leigh Stein. If that doesn’t scream Carmilla. I could probably go on about what Carmilla’s tumblr says about her (since there is still a lot about her that we don’t know) but I think this post is long enough already. That might be a topic I revisit in the future, though.
Having characters talk and narrate their lives over Twitter and other social media platforms is an incredibly unique, and as far as I’m aware, a very new form of storytelling. It's an engaging way to supplement other content with all the details and quirks of a character or little plot details that you can’t fit on-screen, especially when it comes to stories with a very limited platform like a web-series. When these characters reply to fans, you get an even better understanding of their voice, and who they are as people. This is a little off the topic of pre-season 1 social media, but I remember way back one time, a fan wrote to Carmilla on Tumblr, asking for advice on how to deal with a homophobic situation. It might have been about parents or a school problem, I don’t remember specifically. Carmilla is usually pretty abrasive on Tumblr unless she gets genuinely curious questions, and for good reason. She gets some downright rude asks occasionally, and she is just generally, understandably, exhausted with the human race so that’s perfectly in character, but with this one person, she was soft. She told this fan—and I’m paraphrasing here—to have some chocolate, and that everything would be alright. She was sweet and understanding. And yeah, that was really Ellen Simpson, one of the writers and head of the canon social media accounts, but that was still in Carmilla’s voice, and that interaction was an enlightening look into Carmilla’s character. It shows deeper layers, since we’ve only ever really seen that level of compassion directed at Laura, Mattie, and the memory of Elle.
And, honestly, the fact that I was able to write all this about a handful of tweets and some tumblr posts says so much about the caliber of writing this series has in all of its many forms and facets, and the depth and intricacies of these characters and this world.