(Crossposted from posts on this thread; somewhat adapted into this video. Note that this specifically refers to the film.)
Okay, first of all, Eli is not a girl. This kind of puts a damper on analysis of hir as a female main character. The only female characters besides Eli I can think of are the mom and the teacher, both minor (I was reminded of Victoria later and included her at the end). Neither are very effectual in the narrative… but then neither are the male adults. When it comes right down to it, the film is really about a boy and his vampire, so any analysis of gender portrayal would have to be about the two main characters: Oskar and Eli.
Now, while Eli does not assert a female gender identity, ze does present as female for the most part. So, while ze can’t be considered female, Eli is definitely feminine. The portrayal of the feminine, as well as the portrayal of the masculine, is what we can analyze.
Eli’s portrayal is quite feminist in my eyes. Ze is a strong vampire who can act realistically like a young girl with an inner beast. (It’s those little growls that make it.) Hir femininity is not a hindrance at all. It doesn’t make hir weaker in any way. It’s just some aspect of hir character that makes hir more interesting. Neither is hir femininity used as a weapon.
Female vampires are often associated with misogynistic ideas. The social function of some folklore such as about Lilith, a vampire in some stories, is to reinforce ideas about women’s place in a patriarchal society such as medieval Israel (where Lilith stories flourished). Lilith represents evils of femininity: seducing men, killing newborns, and forsaking God by refusing to submit to her man. Many fictional female vampires of modern times are based off of this folklore, which can be problematic in a contemporary context. Not Eli, though. Eli is a monster the way male vampires are. It’s respectful.
Oskar’s masculinity can also be analyzed. He’s a sympathetic protagonist who we feel for because of the way he’s tormented. He has a bit of a violent personality but this is only due to the hostile environment in which he lives. He is contrasted with Eli, who is extremely violent out of necessity. After witnessing true violence when he helps Eli kill a guy, he throws down his knife as if to say “no, that’s not for me”. His feelings toward violence are never associated with his masculinity but are treated as an individual characteristic of his personality. Oskar treats Eli pretty well too. When he encourages hir to come in without an invite, there is no indication of a gender dominance thing, but rather a human testing the limits of a vampire—and teasing the otherwise vastly superior vampire.
Virginia, despite being fairly prominent, doesn't really do very much. Eli bites her and doesn't finish the job, so she becomes a vampire. She suffers a bit as a vampire, shows us that sunlight burns, gets attacked by cats, and gets strapped to a hospital bed. Lacke tries to comfort her, but she sinks into depression and commits suicide by sunlight. Her death is used as a catalyst for Lacke to start seriously hunting down Eli, and she is only used to add to his character. This fits in with the 'women in refrigerators' plot device.