6.23.2009

Television: True Blood & the Vampire Craze

by Jordan Coughenour
Special to iVoryTowerz

I never thought the day would come when I would see an ad for specialized vampire dental care shown before a movie. But there it was; between the slides pitching Ray’s Ribs and all too obvious movie trivia, a nauseatingly blue screen promising perfect discretion to the office’s fanged clientele. A few years ago, this would have been more than cause for a double take, but now barely warrants a raised eyebrow.

It was, of course one of the more clever covert ads for the second season of HBO’s wildly popular True Blood. (The second season began on June 14.) The dental ad was only one of many witty placements the show has used in its promotions, with others including TV commercials for vampire dating services, vampire electric razors and preachy infomercials from the anti-vampire Fellowship of the Sun. As is the scenario within the fictional world of True Blood, in the past years, vampires have truly "come out of the coffin."

Speaking to my grandmother about the obsession today’s youth have with these fanged creatures, she expressed confusion, and even concern that with the tweeny-bopper Twilight series at such popularity, the line between good and evil was being continually blurred. Now, I have many gripes (as do others) with the Twilight series: endless adverbs, weak female characters and poorly written, for a start. But this was not one that had originally occurred to me. The American public has always clung to our dark anti-heroes; we’ve gone through obsessions with Italian mobsters, bankrobbers, and hitmen — so why is the new vampire obsession creating such a dividing line in our popular culture?

Possibly because; more than our love affairs with the dark and daring figures in the past, this movement speaks to a younger generation. (Though there are exceptions; I for one can attest that at the ripe age of 12 I was already reaching unhealthy levels of fascination with the gangsters of The Sopranos) The romantic and eternal adolescence can appeal to any kid with fears of what comes next, but who is too jaded to believe in the magic of a figure like Peter Pan. While the one-dimensional Twilight uses this enduring and dark love as its main appeal, the prevalence of this mythic monster figure is also giving rise to an ability to build upon the traditional mythology, and create something entirely new.

HBO’s True Blood doesn’t bother to catch up its audience with a primer on vampirism, but rather throws them into a society full of metaphor and depth. While the seemingly mandatory human/vamp/human love triangle does frequently take center stage, aspects of vampirism; the condition itself, the euphoria inducing qualities of the creatures’ blood on humans, and the bizarre and dangerous sexual practices of the vamps, all act as analogies for racism, drug addiction and carnal fetishes in Southern society.

So for all the griping that anti-fangophiles and Twi-hard haters commit, it is possible to look beyond a one or two misery inducing interpretations of this classic monster, with the hopes that its newfound prevalence will lead to more daring imaginings. Without the sulking Cullen Clan of Twilight, the empowering figure of True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse may never have hit the small screen. And this vampire obsession doesn’t look to be headed away anytime soon. There are rumors of rebooting the Buffy series (please, God, no), and the next film adaption of Twilight already looks to make a fortune in box office receipts. So no matter your opinions on these nocturnal creatures of the night, it’s high time for you to retract your fangs and smile for the possibilities in their newfound resurgence.

(The promotional graphic is from HBO's True Blood. To see a trailer for the second season of the series, please check below.)












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