True Blood: The Vampire as a Multiracial Critique on Post-Race Ideology

True Blood: The Vampire as a Multiracial Critique on Post-Race Ideology

Journal of Dracula Studies
Number 12 (2010)
19 pages

Nicole Myoshi Rabin, Instructor of Liberal Arts & Interdisciplinary Studies
Emerson College, Boston. Massachusetts

In the Western consciousness there has been a long tradition of the associations between race and evil.  According to Celia R. Daileader, in her Introduction to Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth: Inter-racial Couples from Shakespeare to Spike Lee, “Before black men were lynched for alleged sex with white women, white women were burned alive for alleged sex with a devil described as black”.  Daileader calls attention to the historical relationship between blackness, sex, and evil that predates the literal transmission of this discourse into “race relations.” Over time this relationship has found its way into many racist fantasies, particularly those manifested within the stories of the horror genre—including vampire tales.  Although race has only begun to be theorized in relation to Dracula, one of the most well known vampire novels published in 1897, there has been some important recent work theorizing the Count within Homi Bhabha’s category of the “not quite/not white” (Daileader 97).  As John Allen Stevenson notes, “the novel [Dracula] insistently—indeed, obsessively—defines the vampire not as a monstrous father but as a foreigner, as someone who threatens and terrifies precisely because he is an outsider” (139).  Dracula, the Romanian Count, is seen in opposition to the rest of the British characters—including the main object of his desire, Mina.  The predatory sexual threat of Dracula is a common racist fantasy where racialized men exude “predatory sexual desire” that “endangers white womanhood and consequently threatens the racial purity of white [American] society” (Hamako).  In most instances, this threat to racial purity manifests itself in the fear of clear racial miscegenation and a necessary drive to eradicate the one attempting to perform this racial contamination—the vampire.

Over the past two years there has been a resurgence of vampire stories in U.S. popular culture. These new vampire stories conveyed on-screen —True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and Twilight—promote specific ideologies about race, class, and gender that are specific to our cultural moment. In “Color Blindness: An Obstacle to Racial Justice?” Charles A. Gallagher states that: “since the mid-1990s there has been a change in the way race, race relations, and racial hierarchy have been depicted in the mass media…the media now provides Americans with an almost endless supply of overt and coded depictions of a multiracial, multicultural society that has finally transcended the problem of race” (109).  As examples of contemporary media, these new vampire shows also promote a society “beyond” race; so, with the historical tradition between race and vampires, what happens when the victims of vampires—in these new vampire tales—are no longer racially homogenous?  Can the vampire still be read as racially other?  I argue that the vampire of these contemporary stories actually becomes a symbol of multiracial identity as it is seen within the multicultural discourse that pervades American popular consciousness.  For the purpose of this paper, I will be focusing specifically on issues of race and sexuality (only as they are concerned with racial purity) in the first season of HBO’s series True Blood—encapsulated within the first two episodes, “Strange Love” and “The First Taste.”  While the series deals with a greater range of issues—gay rights, American slavery, terrorism, war, religion, etc.—these issues remain outside the scope of this particular paper.  I hope that these issues will be theorized in subsequent work on the series, but for this paper I will have to limit my consideration to the ways in which these beginning episodes of True Blood portrays a multicultural society on screen that undercuts the reality of still pervasive racist currents in our own society; how the show creates a multiracial identity that is at once feared and championed within the American society; and, how the show while depicting multiculturalism actually works to subtly critique this ideology…

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