Homosexuality and Vampirism in True Blood

* looks like we are going to wrap up gay pride month here on a high note; Ladies and Gents, Jeanette Laredo, the one and only Monster Scholar of one of the better horror blogs out there, Monster Land, was kind enough to submit this posting about True Blood and it's ties to modern American Gay Life:

The third season of True Blood is back and burning up the horror blogosphere, and with Pax’s recent posting of Sam and Bill’s nudie dream escapades, it seems only right to explore the homoerotic undertones of everyone’s favorite HBO series. Though True Blood is not the first text to use the vampire as a stand in for homosexuality, it does do some new things to stretch the metaphor and comment on the current state of gay rights in the US.

The use of the vampire as a metaphor for homosexuality is anything but new. John Polidori, author of the first prose work of vampire fiction, wrote his vampire out of his own unrequited passion for Lord Byron, a playboy man of letters who spurned Polidori’s affections. Bram Stoker’s monster was also born out of a frustrated relationship the author had with actor Henry Irving. The description of Dracula as a creature with a high aquiline nose, domed forehead and bushy eyebrows is spot on for a portrait of Irving, and his increasingly outlandish demands on Stoker strained the author’s marriage. So, seeing as it’s been done before, what is so special about homosexuality in True Blood?

True Blood takes the metaphor of the vampire as a homosexual and uses it critique the current gay rights struggle. The vampires of True Blood (especially Bill) are represented as sympathetic sexual others who are persecuted by backwoods rednecks and the religious right. In the opening credits of the series, a lighted billboard can be seen that reads “God Hates Fangs” This indictment of vampires and their supporters is just one letter away away from the infamous religious group which calls themselves “God Hates Fags”

True Blood lampoons the intolerance of the religious right with its portrayal of Fellowship of the Sun and the Light of Day Institute, leaving no fundamental religious organization unscathed. The sexual hypocrisy of the Fellowship of the Sun is showcased with the wife of its leader, Sarah Newlin. Despite their mission to create a sanctified world free of vampires, Sarah doesn’t let her morals stand in the way of giving Jason Stackhouse a handjob in the tub (2:17 Never Let Me Go).

If the vampires of True Blood can be read as homosexual others, (vampires are described at the beginning of the series as having just “come out of the coffin”) then Bill’s efforts to mainstream can be seen as a gay man’s quest for heterosexual normalcy. He begins dating Sookie in an effort to blend in with the locals and abstains from drinking human blood. In one episode Bill nearly snacks on a bare chested man with hepatitis D brought to him by a nest of other vampires, but is warned thanks to Sookie’s mind reading ability. Afterwards Bill tries to make overtures on Sookie, but she refuses. Though Sookie tells Bill she is appalled by the other vampires’ cruelty, it is more likely she is repulsed by her new beau’s same-sex hungers.

True Blood also extends the vampire metaphor to a representation of racial others. The rednecks who kidnap Sookie at the Fellowship of the Sun Church (2:20 Timebomb) refer to the undead as “vamp-irs” with a pronunciation that imitates the common racial slur against black people. Then there is Lafayette, Merlotte’s fabulous fry cook, who encapsulates a racial and sexual threat to the dominant white, heterosexual order. This clash between heterosexual redneck-ery and homosexual/racial otherness can be seen when Layfayette takes on a couple of patrons who complain that their food has AIDS. The patrons are portrayed as stereotypical patriotic, racist rednecks and Layfayette comes out as the victor with the audience cheering for him all the way in a tour de force example of gay empowerment.

HBO’s True Blood breaks ground by using the vampire metaphor to criticize how gays and minorities have been treated for years in the US. Somehow intolerance and racism isn’t as bitter a pill to swallow when it’s masked by the bells and whistles of the immortal undead.


Jack Veasey said...

Very perceptive. The series has given us great political commntary on gay issues since the first opening creidts, which first showcased the brilliant GOD HATES FANGS. (I saw those folks in person once when they picketed my church. Jesus!) It's nice that they're beginning to also include gay relationships in the plot, as well as gay characters.

Lisa/knitnzu said...

LOVE this... I'll watch season 2 (Yes, I'm behind) with a keener eye.

CRwM said...

Strangely, the show's creator disagrees. In 2009, Alan Ball told reporters, "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." He points out the oft overlooked fact that, unlike gays and lesbians, there is a logic reason to fear vampires: "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."

Spike Ghost said...

i can't wait for season 2 to begin here this fall (probably, and personally i love this parallel, on one side it could be really Pro gay, but on the other, it's true that if vampires are a metaphor for gays, then gays are shown to be merciless creatures, and it could be because of the way society perceive homosexuality. I dunno but i like the doubt it leaves.

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