The sexual and racial metaphors of TV hit “True Blood” makes it a stand-out in the vampire genre.
Halloween is barely on the horizon, but one “monster” is already upstaging the other things that go bump in the night – the vampire.
They occupy the bookshelves at Borders and Barnes & Nobles, and upcoming films, such as films like “Let Me In,” which releases nation-wide on Oct. 1 and is based on the Swedish cult film and novel, “Let the Right One In.” Vampires love sucking our time via television dramas like the CW’s “Vampire Diaries,” which premiered its second season last Thursday.
Although cultural interest over the bloodsucker is nothing new – there’s this little novel many of you may have heard of from the late 19th century called “Dracula” – still, there’s one particular drama that’s got everyone’s attention.
For those of you living under a rock, that show is HBO’s “True Blood.” The HBO drama features Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who gets caught in a love triangle with two really sexy vampires, Stephen Moyer and Alexander Skarsgard. The three actors were recently featured on the Sept. 2 issue of Rolling Stone, posing together naked and caked with blood.
Tru Blood, the drink featured on the show as a blood alternative for vampires, is now a blood orange soda drink found in select retail stores, such as Atomic Comics in South Philadelphia and Hot Topic retail stores.
The show’s ratings are through the roof: When the third season premiered on June 13, it trumped all other Sunday night cable programming with more than 5 million viewers, followed by Disney’s sitcoms, “Sonny with a Chance” and “Good Luck Charlie,” which had about 3.6 million viewers and 3.5 million viewers respectively.
Vampires run rampant in our culture, but why is this particular show so popular? Besides the fact that its competitors are Disney sitcoms, which make “True Blood” the obvious choice over Demi Lovato, the HBO drama is unique for its bloodsucking genre.
Works of art and fiction need to have a really good hook before they can stand out in their genre. Joss Whedon’s 1997 drama “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” lasted for seven years and had its own media cross over for a comic book spin-off because it was different. The characters were relatable, the dialogue was brilliant and the feminist spin by mastermind Whedon all provided for an enthralling TV drama experience.
Ann Rice’s “The Vampire Chronicles” series was, in and of itself, a drastic change of the horrific vampire, to the tortured vampire with whom we all sympathize and fantasize.
“Twilight” is a hit, whether a majority of us – I say “us,” because despite disagreeing with much of their content, I’ve read all four books – find the young-adult series by Stephanie Meyer degrading and a form of backpedaling.
“Twilight,” however, is no “True Blood.” It doesn’t have the raw emotion, the carnage and the portrayal of human nature that “True Blood” has captured for audiences to enjoy for an hour during its usual 12-week season.
People find Paquin, Skarsgard and Moyer irresistible, and it’s not just because of their looks. The three main characters have excellent chemistry, and prove they can adapt to the supernatural beings they’ve played for the past three summers.
Audience members love Lafayette Reynolds (played by Nelsan Ellis), the gay African-American cook at Merlotte’s, the bar and grill setting of the show. Ellis, along with Skarsgard, who recently shared a steamy scene on the show with another male actor, and the many female-loving-female vampires in the series, help to portray the full sexuality spectrum. The show is seemingly an entire metaphor for the gay rights movement, and the struggle of GLBT persons, which is why it has a big following in that community.
In this season’s episode, “I Smell a Rat,” Paquin’s character, Stackhouse, discovers she’s a supernatural being and responds, “I’m a fairy? How f—ing lame.”
Many fans share Stackhouse’s response, and because Alan Ball, the show’s creator, is trying to stay true to the book series the show is based on, he writes that line to show the audience that he is attuned with their thoughts and entertainment needs. In this way, “True Blood” truly speaks to its audience.
The show’s rural Louisiana setting, and the portrayal of southern culture, of American bigotry and violence, through this vampire and overall supernatural metaphor breathes new undead life into a genre that was born a long time ago.
It also doesn’t hurt that this vampire drama is on HBO. “Twilight” would completely dominate the market if the characters could scream profanities and show brief nudity.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.