Notes on the Dryad
The following is an excerpt from my graduate qualifying paper, "TRANS(PLANT) ON EARTH: Ecological Crisis, Decolonial Education, and the Rise of the Dryad" on my alter ego, the Dryad.
Before moving deeper into my work, I’d like to discuss the Dryad in more detail, as her appearance, demeanor, and origins are unlike most people’s notion of what a dryad should be. The Dryad (she/they) of course shares a namesake with the fairy-like wood nymphs that are more or less well known from Greek lore and western popular culture; but my (our) Dryad of today is a complete bastardization of that entity. She’s not a serene and dreamy spirit in some distant grove, but is instead more akin to a reanimated corpse, an amalgamation of mud and viscera given form from the bones of the Earth. Where the dryad of yesteryear harkens back to a locus amoenus and upholds the belief that Nature is some Romantic escape away from human activity, the Dryad of today was born directly out of the disorder of an Earth affected by human systems of oppression and exploitation. She represents a conception of Nature that is inclusive of all lifeforms but especially those most vulnerable and marginalized. She rejects the elusive and demands attention. She embodies an Earth that is screaming for a post-colonial and anti-imperial future and will do whatever nasty thing it takes to get there. The Dryad is an Earth queered by its malignment, mistreatment, and violence at the hands of colonial humankind, and her experience of othering informs her attitudes and actions in films, performances, or otherwise.
The Dryad is an extension not only of the Earth, but also me, a queer, trans-femme, Latinx creative worker from a lower-class background. The visual properties of the character are inspired, in part, by my affinity for alternative drag performance, punk rock, and horror and science fiction films, as well as queer-coded villains and monsters; I’ve been particularly inspired by the writing of Octavia E. Butler on the evocative nature of the Oankali’s relationship to humanity and Mary Shelley’s infamously scorned and hated Creature, driven to vengeance borne of misery . The Dryad is representative of the othered and the marginalized, the weird and the maligned.