I can’t speak for all guys, but I know that many of you are like me when it comes to the whole Twilight/vampire romance phenomenon that has been crazy successful in all forms of media lately: we put up with it because our wives/girlfriends love it and that’s about it. We smile and nod and then roll our eyes when they aren’t looking as they talk about the various benefits of having a vampire boyfriend over a werewolf (you know, “werewolves would obviously shed all over your couch,” that sort of thing). My wife loves Twilight. She loves The Vampire Diaries. She’s been a self-confessed vampire junkie all her life. They’re just a subject that’s always interested her. I’ve always liked vampires, too, but a different kind of vampire – for example, Christopher Lee’s Dracula was much cooler than Gary Oldman’s in my opinion. Why? Because Christopher Lee’s Dracula wasn’t a romantic, he was usually just hungry. Same goes for other versions of vampires: I’ve always preferred Nosferatu over Lestat, 30 Days of Night over The Lost Boys (but I’ll admit The Lost Boys was still pretty cool and had a huge impact when I was young “Try Holy Water, Death Breath!”).
And yet … I find myself loving HBO’s vampire romance, True Blood. Sure, some of the vampires on True Blood are kinky and cruel, but the main vampires – Bill and Eric – are romantic figures, not your typical horrific creatures of the night. Why do I enjoy this silly paranormal soap opera so much? I’ve never been the kind of guy to look forward to slipping into some cozy sweatpants, eat bonbons, and watch my stories before, but now the discs of True Blood are clogging my Netflix cue.
So, what makes True Blood different? A few things:
1) A real sense of humor. True Blood is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are lots of little comedic subplots and various touches that add a silly satiric depth to the show. The news reports and fake talk shows talking about Vampire Rights in the background are often very entertaining in and of themselves. This is a show that understands exactly how ridiculous it is, and the way it embraces its own ridiculousness helps it transcend its genre. The world in and around Bon Temps is surreal and silly. The few episodes of Vampire Diaries I’ve watched and the first Twilight movie were sadly lacking any sense of humor. They took themselves far too seriously. I get at least a couple laughs out of each episode of True Blood.
2) Characters. Yes, the main thrust of the show is about Sookie and her relationships. Yet, it is more than that. There are many subplots and fully realized characters in this show. These complex characters – like Tara, Jason, and Sam – have their own stories, their own problems, their own flaws. Their flaws make them interesting. Even the main characters like Sookie and Bill are flawed and imperfect. Flaws, to me, are important. They creates more realistic and compelling characters than those encountered in the first Twilight movie, for example (Edward and Jacob are perfect guys constantly devoted to rescuing their girl without any purpose or lives of their own it seems). Most guys find the perfection of the vampires in so many paranormal romances a little grating. Wish-fulfillment for women, yes, but completely unrealistic. Guys sometimes don’t want to just sit around and look at their women all passionately and pouty. Sometimes we don’t want to lay in the grass and stare at clouds and be all glittery. Sometimes we’d rather sit around and drink beer and watch college football. Sometimes we want to do our own thing. Our lives don’t always revolve around our women any more than a woman’s world revolves around men. And you know what? This is okay. A guy’s primary objective in life should not have to be constantly rescuing our women.
3) Speaking of rescuing women … Sookie can kick some ass. In the beginning of the series, Sookie rescues Bill! How awesome is that! This goes against everything I’ve witnessed in most other vampire romances. Most vampire romances I’ve come across have some measure of wish-fulfillment for young women (a strange take on that whole knight-in-shining-armor thing). True Blood, on the other hand, has a message for girls: Save yourselves! Be your own woman! Good stuff, I think. While there’s nothing wrong with being chivalrous and using the Southern manners your momma taught you (I tend to be an old-fashioned guy in some ways – I always open the door for women, that sort of thing), most guys don’t want a girl they have to save time and time again. Most guys in the modern world are more than okay with having a partner who is exactly that – A partner! This is why my wife and I work so well and are still happy together after almost 10 years of marriage. We see each other as equal partners. We work together. We live together. Who wants a helpless whiny mate who always needs to be rescued? That would get old quickly. Very quickly.
4) Obviously, perhaps most of all, I love True Blood because it is Southern Fried Weirdness. Yes, it is! I love the setting. Swampy and sweaty. Just like home!