Post-broadcast television is a new breed: a genre bending, stereotype breaking, discourse creating television show like True Blood. Designed to be binge watched and hyped up it blurs the lines between the way an audience should interact with a high budget production.
Each HBO program has it’s own style, and set of production elements. But they are all so well produced and highly engaging. It is hard to define exactly what characterizes the ‘binge factor’, but I think that has a large part in making it so addictive in nature.
TV audiences have come a long way since the Trekkie. Transmedia texts and the availability of broadcast programs has both encouraged and allowed audiences to develop closer relations with texts and fandom takes on a new meaning. Being a fan is no longer holds the same level of degradation it once did because the texts are not seen as culturally low-brow. And engagement is important, because these texts offer more then just entertainment, they offer a comment on the issues facing society; creating a discourse.
True Blood is a perfect example. It is not one single genre, it contains elements of horror, drama, romance and fantasy. Set in Southern USA it has a very distinctive feel – one that may turn some viewers away. It does very well at setting up contrasting worlds where vampires live amongst humans. These worlds are at the same time very similar, and different to what we know of society today.
It’s got plenty of the cheesy romance aspects, but the show is very self-aware as playing into the vampire genre and use of popular culture. Just as you’re being sucked in by the slow-track-in shot on to get you gushing for the lead vampire Bill, or the moment the male and female leads lock eyes, the lead character, Sookie (Anna Paquin), pulls out some witty remark about just how gross it is to suck blood out of the handsome vampire (something any twi-hard would jump out of their skin to do).
But True Blood is about more then vampires, it uses the pop-culture phenomenon of vampires to exploit issues around race and cult religion. There are elements of the drama and the unfolding of the narrative that create that fandom aspect and draw the viewer in. But True Blood is not designed for the teen girl who got hooked on Twilight, rather for her mother who wanted to know what all the fuss was about and got a little sucked in too. It’s audience is interested in pop culture and aware of what is popular in society today but they are also concerned with larger political, social and economic issues.
Vampires, and monsters in general have been used across texts as metaphors to enable discourse around issues facing modern societies. Taking place in fantastical worlds things tend to be a little more over-the-top, allowing for issues to be raised in texts that may otherwise be not talked about amongst the audience. The guise of the vampire enables social matters to be explored on screen for people to watch in the comfort of their own home where they can decide their level of engagement.
Vampires tend to be symbolic for death and sex. In True Blood these symbols are prevalent however, the vampire more specifically symbolises the issues of integration that different races have had in Southern America. The vampires represent the African Americans who have been and are unfairly treated. The white supremacist outlook is clearly portrayed by the Humans, especially the Church who are against Vampire integration.
The world created within the TV series is somewhat dystopic yet comments on the political, environmental, social and religious aspects of our human world. In the final moments of the episode Sookie stays with Godric on the roof when he sacrifices himself. This moment represents a union between the two groups, and can be seen as a union between races – they are together, helping each other through difficult times, unified.