Ready to suck – J.W. Ward on True Blood & riding the vampire wave

If you’re a vampire fan, then you know it’s time to suck again.

True Blood’s fourth season premieres Sunday June 26th at 9 PM on HBO Canada.  Inspired by the bestselling “Southern Vampire Mysteries” series of books by Charlaine Harris, the fourth season is said to be loosely based around the fourth novel, Dead to the World.

The show stars Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse (a porn star name if I ever heard one), a woman with telepathic gifts that walks between the world of vampires and our own, and gets a fair bit of undead action in the process.  The first eight minutes of the fourth season have already found their way online (and can be seen here, here and here thanks to low-quality YouTube uploads) and begins with Sookie in the magical land of the faerie, where all may not be as wonderful as it seems.
Honestly?  I don’t get it.  Not the show, the acting, or its appeal.  But vamps in general?  That’s easy – it’s one of the greatest analogies for sexual discovery and repression that a Christian culture could produce.
Vampires haven’t been with us a long time as we know them today, but the idea goes back hundreds of years to Eastern European folklore about blood-hungry demons and the undead.  Only after John William Polidori released his short story The Vampyre in 1819 and Bram Stoker unleashed the unforgettable Dracula in 1897 was the idea of the modern vampire fully formed – the romantic foreigner that sates his unholy desire by first seducing, then penetrating and draining an unknowing, virginal woman.  It’s up to normal, god-fearing Christian men to defend their women from desires they can’t control (with crosses, to boot), and to eliminate the foreign, non-Christian threat.  
If that’s not about sexual repression, then what is?
After the books came the movies. German director F.W. Murnau gave us an unauthorized Dracula adaptation in 1922’s Nosferatu, followed shortly thereafter by Hollywood’s more official interpretation in 1931’s Dracula starring Bela Lugosi.  It wasn’t long before Europe’s suave bloodsucker found himself slipping into self-parody, meeting Frankenstein’s monster and even Abbott & Costello.
England’s Hammer Films tried to make the vampire something to be feared once again when actor Christopher Lee took on the role for the first of many times in 1958’s Horror of Dracula, and even the recently-passed Ingrid Pitt got to vamp it up for Hammer as the sexy undead in The Vampire Lovers.
The list, as they say, goes on.  The popularity of the vampire comes and goes, ebbs and flows, and we’re in the midst of a vampire peak in prominence.  The early 2000s saw zombies as the go-to supernatural monster once again, giving way to the blood-hungry undead thanks to the success of True Blood and  Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series of books and films. 

If you look closely, both series play with the material from a feminist perspective of female empowerment.  True Blood’s Sookie discovers her sexual self as she discovers the vampire world, while Twilight’s Bella does much of the same (with a bit less graphic sex and nudity).  The female characters are less like their victimized Victorian counterparts, depicting women willingly embracing their “new world”.  While Sookie spends the summer navigating the lands of the faerie and vampire, autumn brings the filmic climax of Bella’s journey with the release of Breaking Dawn Part One on November 18th, 2011, followed by the second part in November of 2012. 

Female empowerment in the face of a vampire’s desire?  I’m all for it.  Hell, I watched Buffy the Vampire SlayerTrue Blood and Twilight?  Sorry, bad acting’s just not my thing.  If it’s yours, enjoy.  You’ve plenty to sink your teeth into over the next few months.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with the classics.
And occasionally this one, too.

Recently it was zombies.  Now it’s vampires.  What do you think is the next big supernatural fad on the horizon?
JW Ward is a Toronto-based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonwardDOTca, through his website at www.jasonward.ca and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop! 

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