This season, Vampires are clawing their way into every corner of our lives, a kind of “glamour-gore” saturating everything from fashion to film, but rather than bathing in garlic and chaining ourselves with crosses, we welcome their influence onto our high streets (namely from a new TopShop range inspired by the Hammer House of Horror series) and into our homes, willing them to make an impact on us, and boy have they done so. A flurry of recent television programs whose protagonists’ dabble in the supernatural have hit our screens this year, and most recently Alan Ball’s True Blood has aired on terrestrial much to the delight of blood-hungry viewers. But what is so enchanting about a topic already so widely covered by other media genres, and how does it plan to out-do its contenders?
The mention of Twilight, The Vampire Diaries and Buffy The Vampire Slayer is bound to ring at least three bells to fans of all things fangtastic. These are just a few of the Vampire laden shows to have graced the airwaves in recent times, and apparently bucking the trend is True Blood which debut on the 7th October on Channel 4, quite a way after the first season’s climax the previous week on FX.
Ok, so we get it, the public enjoys a good dose of blood and guts, but True Blood delivers something far more intriguing. Its Writer, Alan Ball has a history of successes under his belt that tug on our heart strings, from the highly thought-provoking, disturbing and glossy Oscar winner, American Beauty to the devastatingly touching TV series Six Feet Under which focuses on a family who live in and run a funeral home, Ball has captured the hearts and minds of anyone who dares to brave the longevity needed to withstand the emotional turmoil his genius brings to the table. Luckily for us mere mortals, True Blood runs directly in the same vein.
The story focuses on the innocent and oh-so sweet but gutsy Sookie Stackhouse (played by X-men’s Anna Paquin) a young telepathic waitress born and bred in the fictional town of Bon Temps, a derelict nook in the heart of Louisiana. After nearly meeting her demise in the first episode, Sookie is rescued by the charming Vampire, Bill Compton and the pair immediately have a forbidden, unspoken chemistry.
However, your typical Cinderella story this is not. Their relationship, (which begs to be consummated as the story unfolds) is fraught not only with the series of murders occurring in Bon Temps, but by the townsfolk’s prejudice against those with fangs. Ball is rumoured to have wanted the existence of Vampires to be allegorical of homosexuality, an idea that becomes continually more obvious as the traits of small-town America seep through.
Viewers are invited into Sookie’s world and although she is the focal point holding the characters’ stories together, it is the personalities of her co-stars that stand out more prominently. From the lonely Bar-keep and shape-shifter Sam Merlotte to the gay chef and wash-pot Lafayette, to the sarcastic and obnoxious girl with a heart Tara Thornton, True Blood’s characters simply teem with life, stealing our empathy as we watch.
Ironically, it is the show’s realism that is its main appeal. It deals with love, passion, death, exclusion, loneliness, drugs and betrayal; not to mention plenty of sex. Essentially it is a form of escapism, but why would we want to run to a world that surrounds itself in such intensity? It is simple: These vampires offer a world where anything is possible. Sookie is an impressionable virgin whose deepest passions and sexual fantasies are only met by that of her Vampire. Oh yeah, and she’s totally in love with him – don’t we all want that?
One would expect a story of such magnitude to be set somewhere easily accessible and epic, such as New York City, but the fact that Bon Temps is an anomaly of a town invisible on the map just makes the whole idea more attractive. Add to that the fact that everyone either works in Merlottes café or lives within a mile of it and you’ve got a fabulously spooky, incestuous, carnivorous feast.
True Blood is the best thing on Television since Six Feet Under, and while I’m not in a position to down-talk a cult-inspiring phenomenon such as Twilight or Buffy, these sagas seem to serve their purpose but limit themselves to certain age groups or fans. True Blood reaches out to anyone who believes in something different; something a little bit special and unique, putting it in a class of its own.
So yes, the media has bled dry the supernatural genre in many ways, but when the end product is as good as True Blood, who the hell cares?