Monday, September 8, 2008

True love?

My friend Leon once told me that he'd figured out why women like vampires.
"Because of Vampire Weekend?" I asked.
"No," he said. "It's the ultimate inaccessible guy. He literally cannot commit to you. He's dead."

I don't know if this is the reason I like vampires, but I always have. Although as I child I was terrified of almost all mythic beasties (especially aliens), vampires always seemed more sexy than scary, even when I was too little to think something was sexy. Starting around 1998, when I was in eighth grade, my interest in the undead became a bit more prurient. In November of that year I saw John Carpenter's Vampires, a not-good movie I deeply loved and which gave me the gift of the word "polesmoker." On a vacation to England with my family I bought a copy of Poppy Z. Brite's Lost Souls, a book that forever married homoeroticism, New Orleans and vampirism for me (although I am the child of Anne Rice fans and met her at age ten wearing a cape and fangs, I have never really enjoyed her books). Lost Souls is also a pretty handy primer on high eighties goth. It became my gospel insofar as a book in which a fourteen-year-old vampire named Nothing waxes rhapsodic about blowing his dad can be the gospel of a suburban eighth grader. Which is to say, totally. I even underlined my favorite lines of Lost Souls in red lipstick, just as Nothing's doomed mother Jessy does in her copy of Dracula.

Although by this time - the middle of eighth grade - I had created two highly embarassing websites which will apparently stand in perpetuity on the internet, I was not familiar with fan fiction. Wait, actually I'm going to have to revise that, because I had been shown a good deal of tenacious, stomach-turning Hanson slash by a friend. In any case the internet had little to do with my first and last foray (thus far) into the world of serialized play-format fan fiction. The project was called My Life As A Vampire and comprised of escapist fantasies in which my friends and I became vampires endowed with the ability to fly. We started hanging out with other vampires: the members of the Smashing Pumpkins at first, and then basically every actor or musician I ever liked. Together we terrorized my school and enemies, mudered Cameron Diaz (of whom I harbored an intense dislike which has since cooled to disinterest), and flew around dreamily. It was overwritten, embarassingly self-indulgent, the blatant product of early teenage sexual frustration, and I decided to show it to everyone, sending weekly installments to ten or so lucky souls. Around the time I was sixteen I put together a bound edition of My Life As A Vampire that I am still quite proud of, surprisingly well-designed document of my dorkery that it is.

So I guess I came to HBO's True Blood tonight with more than a casual interest in and history with vampires. I haven't read the Charlaine Harris books the series is based on; I've actually never heard of them before now, which is surprising considering that for many years I read almost every piece of vampire lit I could get my hands on (notables include this one, this one, and hey! definitely this one). I think the first episode, "Strange Love," shows a great deal of promise. I presume Alan Ball knows what he's doing with the campier elements of the show, but some of them were unforgiveable, especially [SPOILER WARNING, I guess] that out-of-control vampire sex scene. The whole concept comes with so much great built-in eroticism - there was a good line in the episode about the uses of the artery in the crotch - that it's easy to overdo it. Did you know that vampires are sexy? That they have to lean in close to you and smell your blood and then bite your neck? Which is kind of a sexy place that people like to get bitten anyway? And that maybe the whole thing could be seen as a metaphor, for, I don't know, human sexuality and its implicit dangers and risks?

They've also got to style Anna Paquin a little bit less like Buffy:

And while I like the conceit that Sookie's telepathy is quieted by Bill's presence, they're going to have to give the two leads something to do with each other other than stare meaningfully, because we got a great dose of that in the first episode. The IMDB photoset has no fewer than nine stills posed exactly like this one:

"Should we move yet?"
"Naw, let's just keep arching our backs for a while."

I'll just put it out there that my sister maintained throughout the show that there's something weird going on with Paquin's boobs - they are remarkably high and small and close together. But I'll defer to the Paquin-boob experts on this one, whoever they may be.

What I most like about this show was its handling of its setting, the Louisiana town of Bon Temps. Lots of small details were nailed, especially the socioeconomics - many characters work two jobs and nobody seems to be going anywhere fast. I'll admit to enjoying the juxtaposition of revivalist healings and baptisms with vampire-y sex in the opening credits, although a small voice inside me is complaining loudly about the implicit equation of crazy poor southerners and their crazy religion with creatures who actually, uh, eat people.


Snobber said...

i'm not sure how i feel about this show . . . the vamp looks stupid! are those really teeth? give me a break. much more excited about diablo cody's vampire movie with megan fox.

also, i'm in the midst of a buffy marathon right now so really nothing can compare.

Axel said...

Octavia Butler's last book "Fledgling" was actually a really good vampire story. The book rethinks the whole vampire genre in terms of race, and it succeeds brilliantly. The only bad thing is that it ends on a cliffhanger, so its conclusion is sadly, tragically impossible.

Axel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Axel said...

I just remembered this other vampire novel I read as a young adult, Christopher Pike's "The Last Vampire," which was of interest to me back when because of the way it bizarrely smashes together vampire mythology with the Ramayana. (Uh, for your information, Sita is actually a vampire, and Krishna doubles in his spare time as Van Helsing. What? Yeah.) Kind of badly written and muchly convoluted, but also kind of mesmerizing.