Wanted: Hot and Undead
What happens when your worst nightmare saunters up to you in black denim and tells you his name is Bill? The HBO series ‘True Blood’ takes the hardened image of the vampire as a menacing creature that lurks outside of town limits, and brings him right into the bar. He sits down on a stool, orders a synthetically manufactured blood brew, and assures you he is pleased to meet you. So no wonder the resulting three seasons of this show run on the chaos of identity that ensues in a world where the fine line between the normal people and the freaks is as penetrable as skin. ‘True Blood’ creates a world where moral codes are torn and punctured with as much frequency as the characters who try and stand by them, so that by the end of the third season, what they are ‘for’ and what they are ‘against’ is as wonderfully muddled and inconsistent as the one-liners they exchange.
While the winding plot of ‘True Blood’ is ultimately human in its violent search for a bad guy everyone can agree on, it is a worship of personal freedom that makes it a campy, neon-blood spilling crusade of a truly American caliber. The consequences that we may face in our daily lives when attempting to fulfill our deepest desires are in ‘True Blood’ dulled by glam leather and sandpapered southern accents, that assure us that we don’t have to choose between life and death, raunchy sex and the higher ground, the ability to sleep safely at night and the urge to walk on the edge; that instead we can have it all. You don’t have to move to the other side of town to try out the realm of emotionless carnal drives if you don’t want to; you can just visit for a while. (Or you can follow the lead of the show’s main heroin Sookie Stackhouse and vacation with the male vampire of your choice frequently, trusting that you can recoil from him every other episode with the help of some feigned sentimental indignation.)
Yet despite some of its sloppy references to freedom, with a blurred sense of the enemy and the occasional glimpse at the vampire underbelly, this show is most markedly American in the way that it uses a product to harness a population that is feared. The synthetically made vampire beverage, true blood, which looks smells and tastes a lot like blood but didn’t take any veins to make, invites vampires into the towns’ midst where they can masquerade as threatening teachers of the unknown, while sucking on their dark red pacifiers. In this attempt to turn an ominous group into a controlled market there is an element of magic that is perhaps far more appealing than any speed- of- light flips, bondage outfits, or shape shifting bartenders. Instead, the truly intoxicating elixir that ‘True Blood’ offers is a gripping appetite for the forbidden, coupled with a wilder promise that the forbidden, while dangerous, will never actually come right out and kill us.
If you missed a recent cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ let me do the honors of filling you in. Three naked actors, interlaced and adorned in blood, stare directly at you. Beneath the Billboard of their bodies, reads the caption: ‘True Blood: They’re hot, they’re sexy, they’re undead.’ Only Vampire Bill, played by Stephen Moyer, embraces the drama of his butt naked predicament with an ominous look of threatened ownership, squeezing the tit and torso of Anna Paquin from behind, as he scathes you with his looking- up- from- his- meal- of –wolf- meat- stare. Paquin, in contrast, wears her face as noncommittally as her blood, with one hand grasping back for Bill’s thigh and another leg slung up into the suggestive grasp of Bill’s rival, Vampire Eric. Poised between two men, with an expression devoid of character and a body that screams controversy, Paquin floats between the engaged world of the living and the detachment of the dead. Next to her, vampire Eric looks out at us with his bemused Norweigan movie star eyes, as if to say: “Can you believe this?”
If you are a viewer of ‘True Blood,’ then yes, you can believe it, and even for those who are not, who came across last week’s issue of Rolling Stone, the show’s desperate accommodation of gritty gore and seamless glam was made abundantly clear. In the fantastical world of the un-dead, as displayed on this unbelievable cover, you can have it all. Even your blood can be a costume, and you don’t have to have any lasting wounds to wear it. Like this truly shocking image, the appeal of this promise lies somewhere between the grotesque, the hilarious and the fantastic; as does the entire unreality of ‘True Blood’ that has attracted twelve million inhabitants a week who keep coming back to be fed everything they could possibly want- and more.
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