Smile Politely


Let’s talk about vampires. I guess I really mean to say, let’s talk about sex.

I am a wanton viewer of any kind of vampire entertainment. Wesley Snipes sealed the deal for me. He narrowly missed out on a Best Actor Oscar as Blade, the half-vampire vampire slayer with a fade in leather and spikes and snarls. Let’s not overlook: John Carpenter’s Vampires (James Woods’ crew has this insane Jeep with a vampire harpoon on the front that cranks the soon-to-be-dead undead out of their lairs to fry in the hot sun … in a word, awesome); From Dusk ‘Til Dawn (if you wrote this one off, just, shhh, watch it again); and Buffy … sigh, Buffy.

Aside from all the gore, vampire rules, nebulous religious and mythological references and general tomfoolery, all vampire entertainment shares one immense, heady, thematic element: getting it on. There’s a vampire-rave-orgy in one of the Blade movies, complete with blood raining down from the ceiling fire sprinklers onto all the ladies in their club clothes. And have you seen Dracula? What with Keanu and Winona and Tom Waits, the sex scenes contain the best acting in the whole movie.

HBO’s True Blood does not disappoint in this otherworldly realm. That might be why it’s my new favorite show, and I’m definitely not recommending it with a straight face. True Blood is not a great show, especially for HBO’s high standards (ahem, The Wire). But it’s damn good vampire entertainment, with, yes, a lot of sex. HBO sex, to boot! Based on the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, the show features Anna Paquin as Sookie, a telepathic waitress living in Bon Temps, Louisiana, where vampires live among us, mainstreaming and drinking synthetic blood that helps them satiate their baser urges. Vampires have their own lobbyists (a nice nod in Sunday’s season finale has Vermont passing a law that legalizes human-vampire marriage), their own bars that human tourists visit as if taking in Amish country and their own drink of choice.

It’s this drink of choice, Tru Blood, which allows vampires the option of not messing with us. Still, humans lust after vampires as much as vampires lust after them. For instance, humans love vampire blood, called “V,” an apparently amazing drug that takes humans on pleasurable, nicely-produced, HBO green-screen trips. So interaction with vampires is not entirely discouraged. Sookie becomes one of these fang-bangers when she meets Bon Temps’ resident dashing vampire, Bill (Stephen Moyer, pictured above with Sookie). But it’s real LOVE in Bill and Sookie’s case, and anyway, Sookie’s got her hands full trying to catch a killer that’s offing all the other eager fang-bangers in Bon Temps, before he gets to her first.

All kinds of marvelous, funny characters are at work here, in particular Jason, Sookie’s dumb-as-Alabama-dirt brother who gets the biggest laughs and the most sex scenes. I love Tara, Sookie’s mean, no-nonsense best friend whose dealings with her extremely alcoholic mother are actually HBO-style heart-wrenching moments. And Lafayette, Tara’s drug-dealing, gay, cook cousin, who will sell just about anything, including himself, to a vampire in exchange for vampire blood.

I suppose we’re all meant to root for Sookie and Bill’s relationship, although she has another love interest in Sam, the shape-shifting owner of Sookie’s bar. (Yes, there are shape-shifters and fairies and please don’t make me explain all the fantastical things in this show — just accept that they exist.) Bill, who was made vampire during the Civil War, is certainly romantic and chivalrous and worth rooting for, but I must admit, I was more into the slapstick, the sex and the gore in True Blood than the love storyline. I am, obviously, the target audience for this show.

Interestingly, Twilight, the movie based on the ridiculously popular series of books by Stephenie Meyer, came out this past weekend, and I, as an educator of future leaders of America who I have personally witnessed devour these books, found myself comparing these versions of vampire entertainment. Twilight is an excellent argument for teen abstinence. The main characters LOVE each other, but he’s a vampire and she’s not, so they spend the entire book NOT getting it on, even though they really, really want to — responsibility, thy name is vampire! I think that might have been Meyer’s ultimate Mormon goal. (But deflating my theory: the girl ends up having a half-vampire baby by the fourth book. Sorry if I just spoiled it for you, but they abstained longer than most teens do!). Mark my words, Twilight is still all about sex, Sookie and Bill style. The promise of, the lack of, the act of. I’m left to wonder how exactly vampire mythology and sex mythology became so tangled up.

I’ll watch, regardless. You should, too. It’s Thanksgiving. Curl up on your couch with your OnDemand and satisfy yourself by feasting on the entire season of True Blood.

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