True Blood

So HBO’s new vampire series, True Blood, premiered last night. You can read friend Erin’s reaction here.

It’s funny, I had the exact opposite reaction to it than she did.

I couldn’t connect or care about any of the characters and the setting did nothing for me. I found the feisty friend to be over the top, and the general scum-baggery nature of almost every single person in the show was a turn off. The script was meh.

The premise of the show is that vampires have been “outed” to the general public. Everyone knows about them. A synthetic blood has been created that is supposed to make them palatable (ahem) to normal human society. Presumably, with this “True Blood” drink, vampires can live among us without the need to consume their still-living neighbors. Even the characters in the show express some doubt at that idea.

To me, the problem with this is that vampires are still monsters. They are unequivocally evil. So the parallel to whatever civil rights movement you might want to allude to kind of falls apart. Furthermore, vampires are seen as desirable and cool.

I watched one of those “behind the scenes” specials just before the show and I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word “metaphor” spoken so many times in 20 minutes. I found this irritating primarily because it’s so obvious; of course monsters are metaphors. They always have been. Whether it’s a giant killer robot, zombies, werewolves, irradiated ants, or alien invaders, they all represent some facet of the human condition. It’s what you do with the metaphor that counts. Vampires are a bit unique in that they are remarkably versatile; immortality, death, hunger, all sorts of potential uses for them. For True Blood, they kept pounding in the idea that vampirism is a metphor for sex.

That’s fine (though I’d say Buffy, which was completely left out of the special’s account of the history of modern vampire myth, already did it years ago, and I’m sure they weren’t the first). The opening hook features a guy getting a handjob in the car when he excitedly notices a passing store sells True Blood. Later we’re introduced to a couple of vampire fetishists and a brutal tape of a vamp having sex. There was no subtlety to it whatsoever.

So given the celebrity status of vampires in the show, am I to conclude that serial rapists and murderers are desirable and cool? I guess there is some potential satire and social commentary there, but that’s been done before, too, and it wasn’t all that interesting then, either.

I wasn’t really seeing any layers beyond those two surface-level items, which is another mark against it.

But, like I said, Erin, who is way more into vampires than I am and probably better versed in the modern vamp mythology, liked it quite a bit. I also only watched half the episode, so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt. But based on what I saw, it’s not a fictional universe in which I’m interested.

3 thoughts on “True Blood”

  1. Well, I would assume that the vampires won’t all be monsters. Some will just be average blokes looking for a home, such as Bill. If they were unilaterally evil (like the non-souled BtVS vamps — Angel, of course, had more shades of gray), it would be a less interesting universe.

    There are other fictional universes that deal with the vampire civil rights/vampires being outted idea. “Dances with Werewolves” by Carole Nelson Douglas has that premise, and Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series portrayed it interestingly in the first few books (before it devolved into an excuse for erotica).

    Perhaps I’m lucky that I didn’t watch the specials, LOL! Ball does seem the type to take himself too seriously. I read some interview quotes from him that turned me off to the series a bit, but decided to check it out anyway and liked it.

  2. I didn’t see the show; didn’t watch it by choice, for the reason Erin mentioned. I tried to get interest in Six Feet Under, another show from Alan Ball (no relation). I gave it up after six or eight episodes, because I found it to be pretentious. Interviews of Ball that I saw, afterward, only confirmed that to me.

  3. I definitely shouldn’t have watched the special, I think it put me halfway to disliking the show before it even started. We were just killing time waiting for the episode to start.

    I’m not familiar with Alan Ball and never saw Six Feet Under. I see he wrote American Beauty, which I liked (though it is basically just a pretentious version of Fight Club. 🙂 )

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