In Which We Make All The Rules

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Vampire Chic

by Alex Carnevale

True Blood

creator Alan Ball

Rules for vampires fascinate me, and all those who believe themselves undead. My dad thinks he’s totally like Bill Compton, and harbors a lurking sympathy for the freak. You see Bob Carnevale swims laps every morning. I know it well, because he dragged me there for some three months. I loved the bracing of the water, and seeing my father all happy and drenched, but honestly I felt like I was in Rudy or something. I’m just not that kind of guy.

Vampires love the water. They need never surface. They have no need to breathe. Sleep is as simple as closing their eyes. Power comes bundled in cold skin. My dad’s never had that. If he thinks he might shiver two weeks from now, he indulges in another layer of garment. I have no idea why my dad thinks he’s Bill Compton. Bill Compton is a bad man. He didn’t own slaves, but his ancestors did. When he came back from the Civil War, nothing awaited him. Perhaps that is the Bill Compton my father sees himself as, because he is always imagining being abandoned by his life. That’s a feeling, a coming dread, I always enjoy seeing elaborated.

To be honest, I am more in like with Sam Merlotte, proprietor of Bon Temps’ familiar speakeasy, and a shapeshifting border collie. In the episode telling some of the shaggy dog’s backstory, we see a young shapeshifter the day after demonstrating his abilities to his family on a full moon, returning to a house completely empty except for his usual poster decorated teenage room. They fled from him, you see, and I can see that sometimes. It’s like being forgotten.

In Sam’s case, he can’t hide. His mistakes can’t be wiped out by everyone who knows them dying their natural death. Valar morghulis, all men must die. Sam’s life as a shapeshifter is a private shame but close ones need not know. You’re fucking a vampire! Sex with Edward Cullen or Bill Compton announces, but a shapeshifter is accorded only the shame he embraces privately. There’s a scene in the fourth Twilight book, Breaking Dawn, where Jacob Black exposes his were-self to Charlie Swan, chief-of-police. Charlie just walks away. They’re always afraid, finally, to look what you are in the eye.

Perhaps Tara realizes all this after she banged Sam and then freaked out on him. How can she be expected to deal with the madness around her? She started by taking a shot at $999 exorcism, and ended it by stabbing a younger version of herself with a knife under the influence of peyote. When she accosts the would-be mystic/scam artist where she clerks in a drugstore, violence towards the scammer turns into self-loathing. At our worst we are Tara, imprisoned in a cell of our own making.

The idea that a blonde can rule the world and be blissfully happy doing so is the gentle fantasy of a nation. A woman caught by her own desires and yet not subsuming them as the culture requires of her, is the second feminist protoheroine, right after a mousy, Fey, Jew. Bon Temps telepath Sookie Stackhouse walks in the steps of the Slayer, and romances an undead who wants her for the sweet taste of her blood during intercourse.

Sookie Stackhouse reads minds at somewhere between the level of What Women Want’s Mel Gibson and a police radio. I often feel that I’m empathetic enough to read thoughts in worried faces, gifted like Simon Baker’s Mentalist. Sookie’s gift is real, and hardly unusual in this joker’s medley of the supernatural, where witch, wolf, and shifter occupy the same social space.

Knowing what others are is a powerful ability to be sure, but it’s more maddening than useful. Sookie as a young babe frightened her mother by betraying secrets and generally not knowing everyone else didn’t think (and receive) the way she did. In the end, we don’t want to know what troubles our friends and enemies. It’s bad enough knowing our own vices and where they rest.

The real Eric the Red piggybacked on other folks’ discovery of Greenland. Is it that much different from attempt to recolonize Anna Paquin after she already belongs to the subordinate Bill Compton?

The sheriff of Area 5 and the proprietor of Fangtasia must subsume his power because of the position he’s in. This is familiar, and the quality of a fine leader. Eric will have his moment, and his vamp phallus inside Ms. Stackhouse before the day comes.

At first it seemed obvious that Lizzy Caplan’s character was going to ruin True Blood, until she began muttering such asides as “my carbon footprint is infinitesimal” and abducting bloodsuckers played by Stephen Root. There’s a place for her, even if she did kinda ruin Cloverfield.

Then there’s Michelle Forbes’ character, perched in front of drunk driving Tara with her trusty razorback by her side. The maenad lives to teach humanity that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Her eventual sex with Sam Merlotte will be spastic and we will be overcome. I sympathize with these manipulative creatures of means, who either buy or trick what they want. She’s basically Omar Minaya and Jesus Christ rolled up into a sexier package.

So it is back to being a vampire. It’s not that bad a world, a place whose only indignity is that we must sleep in the ground during the daytime. This is a small concession to how often we could swim in lap pools if we were a vampire. One vampire swims the English Channel, another laps up the fresh water at the fountain of Stackhouse. All we ask is, why did Gran have to die?

A vampire’s blood, once absorbed, provides incredible vitality and libido. The patient hallucinates and is freed from living in the world he’s in for those brief moments. Credits roll. Anything might happen.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbles here.

“The End of Trying Part I” – Dakota Suite (mp3)

“The End of Trying Part II” – Dakota Suite (mp3)

“The End of Trying Part III” – Dakota Suite (mp3)

“The End of Trying Part IV” – Dakota Suite (mp3)

PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING

We will come to a point.

We can’t overcome that.

This is a bad matchup.


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3 thoughts on “In Which We Make All The Rules

  1. I’m fascinated by the varying rules of the vampire from story to story and what kind of freedom it means in said story. Like with Buffy and… ugh… Riley. Also, I love that a (possibly) related post to this is simply titled, “VAMPIRES AND SEX, WHAT COULD BE BETTER?” Story of my life.

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