The series finale of HBO’s highly rated vampire soap opera, True Blood, concluded with an ostensive picture of Southern Family Values. The show flash forwards several years and the protagonist, the blonde Southern Belle Sookie Stackhouse is pregnant, and her baby daddy—though we do not know see his face—is presumably her husband and appears to be White. Her brother Jason, an incorrigible ladies man, is happily married to a blonde he met a few episodes earlier, and they have a few blond children.
They are hosting a neighborhood dinner outside the family’s ancestral antebellum estate, and Sookie serves her friends and family a home-cooked meal at a picnic table, underneath a Weeping Willow and illuminated by lanterns and the stars.
As Sookie is part fairy, Jason and his wife are the only couple of the opposite sex and same race and species. I may have missed one or two, but the couples include an interracial shape-shifter/human with two mulatto kids; a vampire/human (both children of intolerant parents); a witch/human; fairy/human; and, my favorite, Lafayette—a gay, Black, semi-transgendered witch and his White, vampire boyfriend.
A vampire-human wedding dominates much of the episode, with one character noting that the State of Louisiana bans such weddings. He asks how anyone could deny their love, despite some minor problems: the vampire bride lost control of her urges and killed her groom’s three daughters; the couple cannot reproduce; and the groom will age while the bride maintains eternal youth.
The penultimate scene preceding this display of domestic bliss shows two vampires enslaving and torturing Sarah Newlin, a blonde Christian evangelical leader who has led various anti-vampire crusades. (Viewers are expected to view this scene with schadenfreude rather than pity.)
While conservatives love to hate this show, I have not seen any reaction to the final episode. It may come, but I doubt the final scene will inspire their ire. I looked over the anti-True Blood articles in the two main anti-liberal Hollywood websites—the Media Research Center and Breitbart’s Big Hollywood—to see their complaints: sex and violence, jokes about Republicans and Ted Cruz, hate criminals wearing Obama masks (would they be less upset if they wore Sarah Palin masks?), and other kvetching.
Breitbart.com ran eight separate stories (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) on an episode in which vampires and the Yakuza attack a fundraiser for Ted Cruz and a character used the portmanteau “Republicunt.” The True Blood producers had asked Sarah Palin to guest star in the episode, which she turned down. She told Breitbart, in full self-parody mode,
Nice try HBO. I’d put any mama grizzly in America against a vampire any day; for only one of them actually exists. The left wants to talk about a ‘war on women’? Keep engaging in your misogynist attacks on women you disagree with and we’ll see who wins your self-inflicted war in the court of decent public opinion.
Breitbart and the Media Research Center are correct in one sense: no doubt, True Blood‘s writers and producers vote predominantly for Democrats, and the show takes cheap shots at Republicans and Christians. But such things are superficial and dispensable to the essence series. And characteristically, conservative critics ignore, or are unable to understand, the more fundamental and insidious ways in which Hollywood engages in culture distortion.
True Blood’s premise is that scientists have synthesized human blood into the brand “True Blood”; since vampires no longer need to prey on innocent victims, they are able to “come out of the coffin” and acknowledge their existence to humans. As the show continues, other supernatural beings, including witches, shapeshifters, werewolves, fairies, and even a Maenad, are revealed.
The opening credits feature signs with phrase like “God Hates Fangs” (get it, like “god hates fags”), alongside images of police beating civil rights activists and KKK cross-burnings. The aforementioned Sarah Newlin, along with her husband, the Rev. Steve Newlin (who turns out to be a closeted homosexual), Republican Congressman David Finch (also a closeted homosexual), and Republican Governor Truman Burrell (not a closeted homosexual, but his wife cheated on him with a vampire) all promote various anti-vampire positions ranging from opposing the “vampire rights amendment” to putting vampires in concentration camps to experimenting on them before committing mass genocide.
Though the show portrays hateful Christians negatively, it is not entirely anti-Christian. In one episode in Season 6, Sarah Newlin attempts to massacre a group of vampires in a warehouse by opening the roof and letting the sun in. She tells herself that God wants her to do it. Yet in the same episode, a Black minister gives a sermon about a recently deceased White character. He praises his devotion to God and says that he understands that he violated Christian gospel, because he knew “he was telling the truth.”
The message is clear: Christians are good when they promote love and understanding, even if it involves ignoring the Bible; they are bad when they promote hate.
What should we make of this? Charlene Harris, the author of the show’s source material, The Southern Vampire Mysteries, welcomed the idea that the show promoted gay rights, stating,
When I began framing how I was going to represent the vampires, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be interesting if they were a minority that was trying to get equal rights.
Despite debates about vampire marriage, “coming out of the coffin,” “God hates fangs,” and Harris’s explicit statements, True Blood’s producer Alan Ball (who is gay) insisted that this was not the case. According to Ball,
To look at these vampires on the show as metaphors for gays and lesbians is so simple and so easy, that it’s kind of lazy. . . . If you get really serious about it, well, then the show could be seen to be very homophobic because vampires are dangerous: They kill, they’re amoral.
Even the most noble and good vampires have to restrain their urge to kill humans—and they always slip up. Moreover, while the vampires are publicly demanding equal rights, they have their own secret government and code. When Bill Compton, the most compassionate vampire in the first few seasons of the show kills a vampire who was going to kill a human, he is punished because vampires are never allowed to view a human’s life as equal to that of a vampire’s. The same vampire council that publicly promotes “equal rights” has its own mantra that state, “Humans exist to serve us. That is their only value.” At later points in the series, he plots to destroy the true blood factories to force vampires to feed on humans.
BuzzFeed’s Louis Pietzman noticed the problem.
On True Blood, the larger fears about vampires—that they’re out to kill, corrupt, and ultimately destroy human society—are entirely accurate. The struggle for vampire rights is not the noble fight of the civil rights movement, because it’s not simply about letting vampires live their lives in peace alongside humans: Vampire rights means that innocent people are going to die.
Additionally, many of the vampires do not have politically correct backgrounds to make them ideal victims. Sookie’s love interest, Bill, was a slave-owning Confederate soldier before he was turned, and fan favorite Eric Northman was a Viking before becoming a vampire and served in the SS during World War II.
Yet Pietzman and Ball do not realize the other reason why a civil rights allegory fails. In the words of the Vampire King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, “Why would we seek equal rights? You are not our equals.” By almost every standard, they are superior to humans, and they discuss this amongst themselves. They can fly; they can hypnotize or “glamour” people; they are faster and more seductive; they have eternal life, can survive almost any injury; and their blood serves as a cure-all drug and powerful psychedelic. Edgington tells Northman, “Adolf was right; there is a Master Race . . . it’s just not the human race.”
Similarly, the vampire movie series Underworld treats vampires as evil Southern racists who enslaved and then later oppressed werewolves. (The first movie was about how the daughter of the head vampire needed to mate with a werewolf to save civilization.) While propaganda, it was at least plausible.
In today’s political culture, only the less capable need “civil rights.” Once America lifted legal and social restrictions on Jews, they managed to excel (in fact, they even excelled with these restrictions). For all intensive purposes, Jewish “civil rights” are about punishing criticism (or noticing) of Jewish power. While Asians will often try to gain special privileges, Asian civil rights groups do little more than complain about Stephen Colbert’s “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”
While Asians and Jews may not be as übermenschy as Eric Northman, they have some things going for them, which makes granting them “civil rights” unnecessary. Blacks and Hispanics, in contrast, need “civil rights” in order to achive success as a group at all.
For a supernatural analogy to the beneficiaries of “civil rights,” the zombie show The Walking Dead is a better example. Zombies, or “walkers,” have few instincts beyond killing and eating brains, and destroying everything in their path. In small numbers, they are easily dealt with, but when they gather in herds, they destroy everything in their path.
In the series, there are only two characters who have had any allusions that walkers can be saved or treated as anything other than a scourge that must be eliminated.
In the second season of the show, the protagonists happen upon a rural farm in Georgia. As the apocalypse arrives, the farmer, Hershel Greene, looks to the Biblical story of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus as a way of understanding the chaos. He claims that people are overreacting and considers the zombie problem as something similar to AIDS—walkers can be saved! The protagonists learn that he puts zombies in a barn and feeds them live chickens, hoping for a cure. The notion is obviously inane, and Hershel eventually comes to his senses. But examples of the human willingness to wish or pray away existential threats get much worse. In the fourth season, an 11-year-old girl named Lizzie insists that zombies are just different and can be their friends. She feeds them dead rats and rabbits. She tries to play “tag” with them. She even threatens to kill her adoptive mother-figure, Carol, after she kills a walker. Refusing to believe that the walkers are bad, Lizzie stabs her sister so that she might return undead and harmless to prove the goodness of walkers to Carol.
Carol and Tyrese (the show is fully integrated) discuss the situation. In a different time, they would try to find Lizzie a therapist; but during a zombie apocalypse, they can’t tolerate psychopathic altruism. They kill the child.
It’s hard not to view scenes like this as expressing something about the racial realities of our time: the sentimental, naive, and caring nature of White people, which can be beneficial in certain contexts, disastrous in others.
True Blood might have beeen the ultimate program for postmodern American liberals: on the surface, the show was about “civil rights” and post-White self-righteousness; underneath, it allowed fans to indulge in the fantasy of being part of a sexually liberated, superior elite.
The Walking Dead seems to express something quite different: that it’s time to rebuild communities and put childish things aside.