Vampires on the Mississippi: The miscegenation scene in Show Boat | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1750-3159
  • E-ISSN: 1750-3167



The classic American musical Show Boat, by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, holds at its heart an intriguingly gothic scene. When Steve drinks Julie’s blood in the climactic ‘miscegenation scene’, his actions recall that of a vampire – a gothic suggestion that is reinforced in the libretti for the original 1927 production, and can also be found in other moments in the musical. Viewed within the contextual framework of the culturally embedded connotations of the vampire, the socio-historic context of the work itself, and the significant role of the American musical in the formation of national identity, this gothic figure can be seen to encapsulate the profound concerns embedded in the musical, and mediate the era’s cultural climate. Such a context may also suggest a particular resonance for the musical’s Jewish creators. In addition to this, Show Boat’s vampiric suggestion reveals a troubling reflection on cultural appropriation.


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