True Blood offers a wealth of material for any study on vampires. The series comes up at every conference, and is usually approached with far more enthusiasm than other modern takes on vampires such as Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. Perhaps because the target audience isn’t 14 year old girls. And the series itself deals with a multitude of issues other than teen lust and just exactly how to survive the dreadful period of high school. Race rights and gay rights have been two of the most popular ways of looking at the series. It makes perfect sense: in the series, the vampires are the emergent minority group, struggling for legitimate recognition in a society that doesn’t know where to place them. They are marvelled at, shunned, publicly accepted but privately chastised. What I believe is the strongest element to the show (and of course I’d think this, given my PhD topic..) is the religious aspects of the vampire and the responses from the outsiders.
The vampires in True Blood are divided hierarchically, much like in the Church. There are sheriffs, queens, kings…all forming a chain of command. In series 3, we saw the leader of the AVL (American Vampire League), Russell Edgington, go live on TV and denounce humanity, and claim the superiority of the vampire race. His vitriolic speech was in a sense religious – the TV being the most apt place to reinforce the different between vampires and humans in this day and age, an age where the word of media is verbatim. His accompanying gruesome act of pulling out the spine of the news reader gave visceral proof of the fragile nature of humans. This outburst was in some ways a response to the antagonization from the religious groups in the series who sought to eliminate vampires because of their ungodly nature. The Fellowship of the Sun, which parodies the poisonously ‘happy clappy’ nature of many American churches, trains their recruits in killing vampires, and stages ritualistic sacrifices of vampires. It is also an interesting comment on the nature of extremist religions, and in an interesting twist, puts Christianity at the forefront rather than Islam.
Every episode yields so much material that is impossible to chart it in one blog post. The point being that religion is a strong theme in the series, and the one I find most interesting.
I was getting somewhat disturbed by the faerie storyline in the newest series (for those who haven’t seen…I’m sorry to spoil, but Sookie is a faerie. Faerie blood allows vampires to walk in sunlight for a time, so in short, it is like crack. Much like vampire blood is for humans.) but then I think the series has made a habit of embracing as many supernatural avenues as possible. There are werewolves, shapeshifters, witches, faeries, and vampires. Whilst vampires are the most interesting and still remain the main focus of the show, I do now believe it is somewhat necessary to incorporate all the different forms of supernatural ability. Something-other-than-human is what is the most intriguing aspect. These characters stand out, they provide a contrast from the humans in the show, despite the fact that outwardly, everyone appears human. It shows how easy it is to hide one’s true nature, and how there may be things we don’t yet understand about ourselves yet. The world of True Blood is one we can fully immerse ourselves in, which may explain its popularity. Monsters and variations on humanity are enduringly popular, and in the case of True Blood, the diversity gives us a chance to explore as many issues about humanity as we can.