1Running Head: FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOOD FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOOD Joshua Mann George Mason University Communication 300-004 December 9, 2011
2 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOODAbstract In this criticism, I am using Fantasy Theme Analysis to analyze the television show TrueBlood. As someone who watches True Blood, I have noticed recurring messages, or themes, thatcan be found within the show that have recently emerged from society. I plan to discuss howthere are specific messages in society that can be found within television shows, such as TrueBlood, and how the audience can learn from them.
3 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOODI. Background Information a. Vampire sensation b. The back story of Sookie StackhouseII. Social Convergence Can Be Found Within True Blood a. Dramatizing from society b. Understanding of gay rights c. Understanding of civil rights d. Understanding of ChristianityIII. Rhetorical Vision a. The theme of religious fanaticism b. The theme of forgiveness c. The theme of acceptance d. The theme of female empowermentIV. Concluding Analysis a. The effect of True Blood on society b. The lessons to be learned from True Blood
4 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOODBackground Information Based on The Southern Vampire Mystery series by Charlaine Harris, True Blood is ashow that will leave Twilight fans thinking twice before dating a vampire. Filled with gore,violence, and sex, True Blood is the essence of vampire culture. It is how vampires wereperceived to be before Twilight existed. With one Golden Globe, one Emmy, and more than fourmillion viewers each week, True Blood is a vampire sensation that will not go away anytimesoon. True Blood is set in the town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, where mythical creatures, such asvampires, werewolves and fairies, exist alongside humans. The series is centered on an ordinarywaitress named Sookie Stackhouse, who viewers later find out is not so normal. Sookie‟s lifegets a bit more interesting once she meets Bill Compton, a 173-year-old vampire. AlongsideBill, other mythical creatures, and even a few humans, Sookie‟s life is much more difficult tohandle than that of Bella and Edward in Twilight. Although True Blood may not be appropriatefor all ages, there are lessons that can learned from it. In this criticism, I plan to analyze the components of True Blood using Ernest G.Bormann‟s Fantasy Theme Analysis. First, I will analyze how there is a social convergence ofmessages in society that have been dramatized into True Blood. I will then move on to analyzingthe different set of themes that can be found within True Blood. Lastly, I will analyze whatlessons can be taken from True Blood. In this criticism, I plan to answer the following question:How are syndicated television programs used to spread recurring messages throughout society?
5 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOODSocial Convergence Can Be Found Within True Blood In society, there have been continuing struggles for gay rights. There have beencontinuing struggles for civil rights. There has also been continuing struggles involving thechurch versus state: Should the values of the church be integrated into the values of the 50states? There is an understanding in society that there needs to be a change in the way peopleview certain issues, which is considered dramatizing. This understanding has then been agreedupon and the word has been spread. As a result, these understandings, or messages, can be foundwithin all areas of society, including television. In True Blood, there are several references tosome of these different struggles that have been taken place in the real world. During the opening credits of every season, there is a picture of a sign that reads: “Godhates fangs.” If the letter „n‟ is taken out in „fangs,‟ then it would read: “God hates fags.” Thisis, of course, is referring to the struggle that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT)community has been going through to obtain equal rights. In season 2, episode 3, Bill‟s “daughter,” Jessica, meets a guy in a bar who is not aware atfirst that she is a vampire. They go back to Bill‟s home, and start making out. After a fewseconds, her fangs pop out. Jessica tries to hide her fangs from him, but he tells her not to hidethem from him because it is natural. This can go along with the argument regarding whetherpeople are born gay or rather they choose to be this gay. Is it natural people for people to be gay,or do people choose to be gay? In season 2, episode 12, when Bill proposes to Sookie, he suggests they go to Vermont,which happens to be the first place that allowed same-sex couples to legally marry in the UnitedStates.
6 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOOD True Blood has also made references that could be compared to the Civil RightsMovement. In season 3, episode 10, Russell Edgington, the king vampire of Mississippi, killed anewscaster on live television and ultimately declared war on the human race. Afterwards, atBill‟s house, a group of protesters threw a brick through the window and told them to “go backto hell.” When Jessica goes to confront them, there is a cross set on fire in the front yard.Burning crosses can be traced back to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), who used to do the same thingto African Americans. In addition, as stated before, it is illegal for humans to legally marry vampires, or anyother mythical creatures. This can be compared to interracial marriages. During a big part ofAmerican history, it was illegal for a black person to marry a white person. In Bon Temps, it isnot illegal for a black person to marry a white person, but it is illegal for a vampire to marry ahuman. Lastly, there are several references that exemplify society‟s viewpoints towardChristianity. On more than one occasion during the entire four seasons, the Christians on TrueBlood have not been kind to vampires. During the season two arc, Sookie was fighting againstthe Fellowship of the Sun, which was a church that can be compared to the Westboro BaptistChurch. At one point, the pastor of Fellowship of the Sun, Steve Newlin, kidnapped Sookiebecause he thought she was a vampire. After Sookie escaped with the help of two vampires, EricNorthman and Godric, Steve attempted to chain down Eric to a table with silver, which is aweakness for vampires, where he then planned to execute Eric at dawn. Again, these were the
7 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOODactions of a spiritual leader in a “Christian” church, who is doing all of this in the name of God.When putting Christian in such an extreme light, such as those of the Westboro BaptistChurch, some people would consider Christians as nothing but hate-spreading, hypocriticalbigots.Rhetorical Vision Throughout the series, there is a unified set of themes that can be found, even within thetitle sequence. During the title sequence, viewers will see images displaying a balance of sex,death, and religion. This was intended to show how people who are religious fanatics and peoplewho are not religious fanatics could corrupt humans, and make them animalistic. This was alsointended to show the pairings of religious and sexual themes with implied violence. Theintended point of view was not that of a religious fanatic individual, or that opposite of areligious fanatic but rather that of a “supernatural, predatory creature observing human beingsfrom the shadows.” In society, people tend to not have the greatest opinion of other people who are religiousfanatics. An example of religious fanatics would be the Westboro Baptist Church, whichbelieves that “God hates fags above all other sinners.” They also believe Catholic priests arevampires who suck the semen out of male children, and Barrack Obama is the Anti-Christ who isin an allegiance with Pope Benedict XVI, who is the false prophet (JTA). Another theme of True Blood is forgiveness. One of the characters, Godric, can becompared to Jesus Christ of the Christian religion. In season two, episode 12, when Eric isattempting to kill Russell, Godric appears to Eric to tell him to “forgive him. Forgiveness islove. Love is all. Only peace follows death,” which is similar to a verse in the bible of what
8 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOODJesus would have said. Ironically, Russell could be said to be akin to a modern Judas Iscariot inrelation to Godric. In society, the saying is: Forgive and forget. If one does not forgive, then they cannotmove on with their life. In the Christian religion, one of the overall themes of the bible isforgiveness. Christians are supposed to forgive people in order to truly be with Jesus.Forgiveness is not about the other person, but rather forgiveness is about letting go of anyresentment that one may hold for the other person. Not forgiving someone hinders a person frommoving on with his or her life and it hinders him or her from living the life that Jesus would lovefor them to live. Another theme of True Blood is acceptance, or rather acceptance of others. Vampires areconsidered outsiders who only want to do harm to humans. For the most part, they are only seenas undead creatures that only want one thing from the human world: To drink blood. Thisconcept can be applied to the “outsiders” of society, such as homosexuals, illegal immigrants,foreigners, Goths, and so forth. But then again, what is normal? What does it mean to benormal? According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, normal is conforming to a type, standard, orregular pattern. In other words, to be normal is to do as everyone else does. This is the same asfollowing a tradition, or a religion. Everyone is expected to follow a certain standard of living,and those who do not follow it are put on the outskirts of society. They are seen as different, andthey are seen as freaks who do not know any better. However, it is people like Sookie Stackhouse, Bill Compton, Eric Northman, and Godricwho are the ones to show, and to prove, that there is nothing wrong with being different from
9 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOODeverybody else. They understand this because they are different. They are on the outskirts ofsociety. Overall, the show displays what it truly means to love people for who they are, despitethe kind of life they life. The truth of the matter is that like all of the fish in an aquarium, peopleare diverse, and people are distinct from one another. This is an emerging message that can befound within society: The message of acceptance. The emerging message is to accept people forwho they are, not what they do, or how they live their life. Author Charlaine was quoted as saying: When I began framing how I was going to represent vampires, it suddenly occurred to me that it would be interesting if they were a minority that was trying to get equal rights. It just seemed to fit with what was happening in the world right then (Charlaine Harris, February 2009, n. p.). Another emerging theme that can be found within True Blood is the message of femaleempowerment. Throughout most of the first and second season, whenever Sookie is in danger,she would scream and yell for help. However, by the end of the second season, when she findsherself in danger yet again instead of screaming, she pulls out a shotgun and takes care of thesituation herself. One of the best examples of female empowerment throughout True Blood would beSookie‟s best friend, Tara Thornton. Throughout the series, Tara is the one girl that everyoneknows not to mess with. She has such a powerful, forceful, and demanding attitude thatwhenever Tara has something to say, everyone else has no choice but to listen. She is theembodiment of feminine power.
10 FANTASY THEME ANALYSIS OF TRUE BLOOD In society, during recent years, there has been a movement of women to change fromtheir traditional roles as housewives. Instead of maintaining the home, women are encouragedthat they can do the same thing as men. They are encouraged to have their own careers, and notto depend on men to support them. Women are also encouraged to stop allowing men to runtheir life. Instead, they should run their own life. On some level, True Blood has become an example of what women can become insociety. Women can become strong, independent, and feared just as the female leads in theshow. Instead of waiting for a man to “come to their rescue,” women should try to helpthemselves first. This is not to say that women should completely abandon men, but womenshould not be as dependent on men as they have been in the past.Concluding Analysis In closing, within the television programs that millions of people watch on a weeklybasis, messages and themes from society can be found dramatized within them. Within TrueBlood, viewers will learn of acceptance, forgiveness, and empowerment. Although True Bloodis filled with sex, violence, and blood, there are lessons that can be learned from it. So the oldsaying may not be true: “Television will rot your brain.” If there are lessons that can be learnedfrom television, then how is it rotting your brain? In the end, television could be the platformthat could be used to teach the next generation of children how to behave in society. Moreimportantly, television could teach the next generation of children how to accept people for whothey are instead of what they do.
11 ReferencesDoing baptism, bars, and bloodlust. September 2008. RedOrbit. Retrieved from: http://www.redorbit.com/news/entertainment/1550089/doing_baptisms_bars_and_bloodl ust/index.htmlFeature: DK‟s True Blood – the making of. Creative League News. Retrieved from: http://news.creativeleague.com/feature-dks-true-blood-the-making-ofFlesh & „Blood.‟ June 2009. New York Post. Retrieved from: http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/tv/item_WKvyfOFvvONjfWj5S1xa8N;jsessioni d=59C33DF7E8E28F2D254BDFE4A7879466Militant anti-gay church turns its sight to Jews. JTA. Retrieved from: http://www.jta.org/news/article/2009/05/12/1005095/militant-anti-gay-church-turns-its- sights-on-jewsTrue Blood. True-Blood.tv. Retrieved from: http://true-blood.tv/About/.True Blood. Wikia Entertainment. Retrieved from: http://trueblood.wikia.com/wiki/True_Blood_Wiki