Whilst doing my PhD research, I’ve stumbled across notions of fandom. There are varying definitions, and much debate over what actually constitutes fandom itself – a difficulty being that the “distinction between the ‘general audience’ and ‘fandom’ have become increasingly blurred as cult series become franchises.”*
For series like True Blood, this is definitely the case. The world of Sookie and her assorted supernatural crew expands far beyond the weekly episodes we get around this time of year. HBO’s website is constantly pumping out merchandise (which I’m reminded of, frequently, with emails) and there are a number of realistic websites related to the elements of the show itself (such as the Fellowship of the Sun site, or the American Vampire League).
The viewer can continue to interact with the fantasy world long after the credits have rolled. The very nature of watching has changed – we now have a multitude of ways to consume these texts, and weirdly, it seems to have unified the viewers. There are no limitations on watching – you can download, stream, or watch live – and this ensures no one misses out.
But enough of that – my main thought, or question, rather, is why the vampire in particular attracts such an ardent fan-base? It’s not just True Blood, but an ever-increasing number of other texts that we devour, unseemingly ever sated. Milly Williamson asked this question in The Lure of the Vampire, as did Auerbach in Our Vampires, Ourselves. But arguably, they were written for another generation. Why now, why this resurgence? Why does this generation obsess over fangs and blood? What’s so special? I theorised on that to an extent in a recent guest post on another site. But then, there are fans, and there are viewers. The overwhelming evidence that we’re obsessed with the vampire isn’t difficult to find. The human 2.0 vibe will obviously go some way to explaining it – much in the way that superheroes garner a huge following because they inspire us to dream, reach higher. The vampire, however, in its current incarnation, appears to inspire us to practice the art of self-control. And in our current economic and social climate, I can’t really say that’s such a bad thing…
*Gwenllian-Jones, Quality Popular Television, p163