The vampires that populate popular culture, be it Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Sesame Street’s Count von Count, are primarily based on our modern interpretation of the vampire, a derivation of the legendary creatures of Eastern European folklore originating in the 12th century. But that’s not to say that the region where Asia and Europe meet is the only region in the world featuring legendary bloodsuckers.
The vampires that populate popular culture, be it Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Sesame Street‘s Count von Count, are primarily based on our modern interpretation of the vampire, a derivation of the legendary creatures of Eastern European folklore originating in the 12th century. But that’s not to say that the region where Asia and Europe meet is the only region in the world featuring legendary bloodsuckers.
In fact, vampires, or at least creatures of their ilk, have been the stuff of folklore all over the world. From Africa to Asia and even the Americas, bloodsucking ghouls and spirits are familiar players in a cast of international things that go bump in the night.
Regardless, our culture’s obsession with vampires is narrow. We like our vampires like we like our rock stars: with chiseled yet emaciated features, ghostly pale skin, a shock of perfectly disheveled hair and a penchant for hopeless yet eternal romanticism.
So it’s about time there was some sort of vampire-themed fare for those of us who don’t have recently discarded Zac Efron posters stuffed lazily under our bedside tables. That’s where True Blood comes in. Or so I had hoped.
True Blood is the brainchild of Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball. It premiered just last month on HBO, and has already been picked up for a second season. In True Blood, vampires have, with the help of a Japanese-invented synthetic blood, predominantly kicked their nasty blood-drinking habits, while revealing their existence and integrating themselves into society.
So far, so good, right? The premise is damn interesting and the first episode tosses us right into the mix with a young couple showing up in a convenience store looking to purchase some of the aforementioned synthetic blood (Tru Blood).
Soon after, we are introduced to the series protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, an attractive young waitress who loves Jesus and just happens to be telepathic. Sookie, played by Academy Award-winner Anna Paquin, lives in the fictional Louisiana town of Bon Temps, where nary a bloodsucker has set foot in the two years since vampires have “come out of the coffin.”
Enter Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), whose gaunt features and nearly translucent skin are a dead giveaway that nutrition for Bill means chomping on aortas.
True Blood is interesting, sure, but it’s nothing new. There is an opportunity here for an examination of the potential social and political implications that come with integrating creatures into a society populated by walking meals. But True Blood focuses primarily on Sookie’s relationship with Bill and rarely strays from Bon Temps.
Rather than explore the obvious cultural parallel of homosexuality and its acceptance (or lack thereof) in our puritanical society, True Blood sticks with the girl-meets-vampire story that has every teenage girl in the country clamoring for Twilight.
However, I do have to award points for the crazy vampire porno that Sookie’s brother, Jason (Ryan Kwanten), watches with “fang-banger” (one who fucks vampires) Maudette Pickens (Danielle Sapia), before humping her madly. Also the concept of vampire blood as a powerful drug is an interesting element and plays an important role in the first episode.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for an original take on the classic vampire romance story, True Blood delivers, albeit with a main character that has the stupidest name ever and a totally unoriginal setting (Louisiana, thank you Anne Rice).
But the show squanders the opportunity to explore the broader issues and controversies that would hypothetically face a world full of recently exposed vampires, and in that brings a crucial weakness to what could have been an amazingly strong concept.
True BloodHBOSundays, 9 p.m.