As I’ve grown older, I have to increasingly come to appreciate the ways in which I have managed to pursue an academic discipline that affords me the ability to watch copious amounts of television. Who would have thought that I could go to school to watch vampires on TV? And yet here I am.
But as much as I watch television for fun, I also constantly find myself turning a critical eye to the subject at hand. A long-time fan of mythology and the power of narrative, I often think about how characters and tropes in television shows reflect, articulate, and create new aspects of culture. Very much in alignment with Stuart Hall’s notion of decoding/encoding, I believe that television is dissected by viewers and the pieces are shuffled around to enact new forms of meaning.
As such, I’m quite intrigued by the viewers of shows like True Blood (HBO, 2008-present). Over the years, vampires have been theorized to embody issues of gender (e.g., Nina Auerbach’s Our Vampires, Ourselves), sexuality (Camilla and the lesbian vampire or James Twitchell’s work on the fears of male heterosexuality), and medicine and the body (Ludmilla Jordanova’s Sexual Visions: Images of Gender and Medicine and Science between the Eighteenth and Twentieth Centuries). And while these themes are still relevant to contemporary culture, I think that it would be interesting to investigate issues of authenticity and representation in a show like True Blood.
Although this past season featured a number of references to illusion, appearance, and authenticity (ranging from introduction of faeries—long known to be notorious visual tricksters—to politicians and amnesia), the series itself has also wrestled with “realness” over its run. Whether it is vampires struggling with their “true nature,” the duplicity of organized religion, or relationships wherein one is cruel to be kind, I’m curious to examine how viewers interpret themes of authenticity and employ these incidents as references or models of behavior. How, for example, do viewers navigate the multiple layers of reality that exist on the show? How do stereotypes (i.e., “this is what you say I am) meld with religious themes (with an underlying current of “this body/life is not all that I am) and the lingering accusation of “Are you now or have you ever been a vampire?” Are the contemporary interpretations of vampires consistent with previous ways of thinking? Who watches the show and with whom? Do viewers watch a show multiple times (and does their understanding of the show evolve)?
Admittedly, one might be able to develop a rich body of work as a result of conducting a media ethnography on a show like True Blood but one should also be mindful of who is left out of this type of investigation, namely that one might miss the effects that a particular program has outside of its primary viewership. Obviously researchers must eventually decide who to examine in the process of ethnography as resources are not unlimited; this reality does not, however, excuse researchers from clearly labeling the bounds of their inquiry and articulating the limitations of their work. But, if we follow the argument that media can constitute culture, we can see how individuals may interact with a particular property at the level of culture without ever viewing the source material.
Take, for example, the Sesame Street short “True Mud,” which is roughly based on HBO’s True Blood. Here we see the potential for a wonderfully rich and complex set of meanings as Sesame Street appropriates a popular (and very adult) television show in order to wink at parents who might have seen True Blood. Although a portion of parents watching the “True Mud” skit might think back to an episode of True Blood, there are also assuredly parents who understand the reference but have never seen the show or parents who have no idea that “True Mud” is a parody of anything. These parents would most likely not consider themselves viewers of True Blood but their voices might tell researchers something about how True Blood fits into a larger media ecology.
Watching the clip, one immediately begins to develop a host of questions. What is the importance of the Southern setting and what does such an environment evoke for viewers of “True Mud” and True Blood? How does this contrast in setting relate to the environment of Sesame Street, which is urban? What is the demographic makeup of audiences for “True Mud” and True Blood and how does this constitution affect the way that the South is understood in relation to the property? How and why does the concept of a vampire map onto a grouch from Sesame Street? How does this presentation of a grouch differ from Oscar?
Ultimately, interviewing viewers of a property allows researchers to develop a complex understanding of the ways in which a piece of media might influence individuals but we must also recognize that the impact of media does not just stop with those who watch it directly. References made in pop culture, interpersonal interactions, or even children’s shows indicate that media can exhibit echoes as it permeates our lives.
 As a side note, this theme has been something that has been building up steam for a couple of years as I am curious about the seeming need for characters who can see through the veil or otherwise ascertain a measure of “objective” truth. We’ve seen shows like The Mentalist and Psych that feature incredibly observant individuals; Lie to Me, which concerned itself with Paul Ekman’s micro-expressions and truth telling, Ringer and The Vampire Diaries, which both feature doppelgängers, and Once Upon a Time and Grimm that both prominently feature a character who can see things that others can’t.
The sun wasn’t doing anything to help things. Sweat began to pool under my collar, causing an unbearable urge to scratch—made worse by the fact that I couldn’t move a muscle. I stamped my foot in frustration as the word escaped my lips.
To be honest, it was the first thing that I thought of. I stood there, watching my classmate crumple in front of me as tears began to well in her eyes. This, I think, was when I committed my first hate crime.
I was seven.
I’m neither particularly proud of this moment nor ashamed of what happened. I don’t view myself as exceptionally racist, but I recognize my biases. This story is important to me because it reminds me that we are all capable of committing hate crimes—these are not things that are just perpetuated by other people. I can recall the way that I felt on that day in second grade and I realize that people engaging in these heinous acts must feel something similar. This is not to say that any amount of prejudice is acceptable, but I think that it is important to be just as hard on ourselves as we are on others.
In my last post, I talked a bit about power and I think that some of the same ideas apply to this week. This time, however, it’s personal. How do we react to our perceived loss of power? What do we do when we’re up against a wall? When we’re strung out and broken? When we think that there’s a demon inside of us? What do we look like when we’re grasping at straws? We’ll use anything, and everything, that we can to try get back to where we once were. Calling to mind scenes from True Blood, it’s Tara throwing things off of the mantle to make herself feel better, it’s Jason willing to dance on a webcam, it’s Lettie Mae pulling her cards out left and right. There’s so much in the show about possession, and drawing lines, and standing your ground. Who has the power? Who wants it? Who needs it? Who doesn’t have it? Who merely feels like he doesn’t have it?
Recall the idea of “the Other,” as well: power is all about the “haves” and the “have nots.” It’s about the fear that stems from feeling powerless and misusing power. It’s personifying the fear that we have into characters that we can relate to, and, more importantly, name.
Shows like this, or Battlestar Gallactica, are interesting in our post-9/11 world because they are so much about the powerless striking out in fear against those who they think can harm them. It’s weird to me, because I don’t think people become terrorists (or individuals who commit hate crimes) unless they feel like they are backed against a wall and don’t have much to lose. Terrorism is the language of the oppressed, of the beaten down, and of the people who are desperate to regain a semblance of power and control. Our fear of those who we perceive as more powerful is one of those dirty things that we don’t like to think about because I think it makes us too similar to “terrorists.” There’s certainly the whole X-Men/mutant thing where we see people with powers vs. people without them but it’s the same story over and over with different characters and us playing different roles. It’s no wonder that we respond to these sorts of stories when so much of our history has been a power struggle over various things—perhaps we’ve been programmed to identify with this concept.
In a flash of light it happens.
It makes sense that Sookie’s faerie powers help to set Eric right, for his reclaimed memory is conveyed through a set of remembered images. Faeries, as masters of light and image, allow us to realize what has been in front of us but just out of sight. And, what does it mean that the show conflates Wicca and witchcraft? Is magic grounded in Nature and, if so, what does it mean to break that spell?
Nan, with her head in the game, reminds us that image is all important.
In so many ways, this episode is about collapsing the structures that we have erected around us: physical, ideological, and of course those associated with personal identity. (It’s a more direct way to show that everyone’s starting to wake up from their various dreams.) Tommy, who gave up on himself a long time ago, killing himself time and time again as he became anything he could to escape, finally finds release.
And as heartbreaking as Tommy is, we have Marnie who becomes grosser (and more dangerous) than we could for she is the kid who’s so beaten down by the world that she has become vengeful. She will bring the world down just to see the pain end. It’s a dangerous proposition at best and one that will only get uglier before it gets better.
Extrication is the name of the game.
What happens when you’re in over your head and up against things that you couldn’t possibly understand? What happens when the adage holds true and “too much of a good thing” becomes your reality? When the thing you wanted becomes the thing you fear?
The only way out isn’t up—the only way out is through. Debbie, Tommy, and Lafayette get it. Jessica’s finally got the tools. Jesus and Jason got it because they’ve lived through this before. Eric, Sookie, and Bill will get it in the end.
And Marnie? She’ll get it just before she dies. Again.
It’s hard to come back from an episode that ends with a fade to white and a gasp. Taking a bit of a breather (was there ever any doubt that Jessica was in real danger?), it gives us a chance to reflect on times when the one thing the want—the thing that we burn for—is the very thing that will kill us. This story has been told time and again throughout history, with varying levels of moral shading, but, in some ways, it’s one of the things this show has always been about. It’s really kind of amazing, when you think about it—in this season, there’s the idea that the repressed part of you is going to destroy you, the notion that we will kill ourselves in order to save or protect the ones we love, and this last bit about the death drive.
And maybe this is particular to me, or the way that I see the world, but my favorite episodes with this, Caprica, BSG, or Six Feet Under are always ones where things are crumbling down everywhere you look. I suppose that part of it is that I trust these shows and know that the breakdown is delicious because it helps the characters prioritize and realize what is really important and what is really worth fighting for. I am always interested in the the choice to become hard or to become strong and episodes penned by Alan Ball do that so well.
Knowing, for example, that Eric will eventually get his memory back only makes it sweeter when Sookie allows herself to believe that Eric will never betray her. Sookie being happy and/or in love are somewhat surface issues for me—the real question is how, when, and why we choose to pursue a path that we know is going to come back to bite us in the end. The pain is going to be that much worse for all that we put into it. I don’t think the show comes down on either side but hopefully causes viewers to think about which choice is right in their own lives.
Homeostasis. Nature has a way of correcting itself, resetting the scales and maintaining a kind of chaotic order. Tumbling, turning, Halloween, shifting, and inversion–this season is all about seeing the same old things in the cold grey light of dawn.
Or maybe it’s really just seeing things as they really are (for the first time?). To live in a post-Edgington world is to live in a world that is constantly under surveillance. We work ourselves into a frenzy over issues of privacy and security, not realizing just how hard we have bought into the system. We have, collectively, become Big Brother (something anyone from Gossip Girl could tell you if he or she just thought about it hard enough). Social paranoia is the name of the game as we look for the first thing that’ll confirm our suspicions. We see things, then, not just as they are (to us) but as they have always been–and always will be. We are deaf to protestations, because, after all, that’s exactly what a zombie would say (and we knew it all along, anyway). To live in a post-Edgington world is to live in our world.
Or maybe it’s seeing the evident truths of others long before they do? Our gaze, focused at a distance, loses perspective on who and what is in front of us. We struggle to see what we’ve already lost. Older, wiser, we see the long view and just how far away we are from where we want to go.
Or maybe it’s seeing the truths that are all too evident to us. Driven by the spirit of Mab, we fixate on revenge, redemption, absolution, forgiveness, or our maker. We cling, we claw, and we scrape by because, for us, there’s only one way out, one way forward, one way through.
Sight. Seeing. Being seen. It’s what a part of this season is all about.
In different ways, we deal with the fracture of our selves, forgetting that we, as creatures of Nature, will also be set right by the cold grey light of dawn.
As children, we are taught that we can be anything we want to be, whether it be a President, an astronaut, or a firefighter. We can become, it seems, anything–as long as that thing is not ourselves.
We become the thing we hate because the thing we love is too much to bear; it’s too raw and too real, too fragile to survive. Defeated, we strive to be our worst, confident that, if nothing else, we can be that. Despite our best intentions, we become the person that we swore we’d never be, finding out that everything is just a matter of perspective once it’s too late. In order to protect the parts of ourselves we hold most sacred, we offer up our best parts of ourselves; in order to become who we want to be, we give up who we are.
We become the thing we love because the thing we hate is too much to bear; cobbled together with spent wishes and worn-out prayers, we cling to the thing we hope to be because it beats the hell out of who we really are. We focus on who we can be–who we could be–or who we were because who we are is too much and never enough. A shine, a sheen, a glamour–one day we’ll forget that we’ve slipped into another skin and it’ll all be for real.
We are, in some ways, still reeling from changes wrought by Romanticism. Children paying for the sins of their fathers, pushed so far until they snap back. Killing the previous generation in order to come into our own, we are fated to take the place of elders. And so it begins again. Taken one way, we are free–we’ve escaped the chains–but, from another view, we are more enmeshed than ever as we become part of the system.
Or maybe we, like Arlene, attempt to expunge the evil from our midst (which only ever results in our house burning down). Fire burns in our eyes while fire burns our soul. We go to extremes, ready to be taken over or completely unwilling to acknowledge the impulse. Mab is polarizing, as always. The thing we hide–the thing we deny and the thing we run away from–is the one thing that will make us whole. Looking at Lettie Mae is like looking into our futures–she was there long before we ever even knew that there was a split.
A scene that has always stuck with me, from my early days in Fantasy/SF, was a bit about a man who extracted information from a robot without her consent. Her response was that he had raped her and, afterward, was trying to convince her to be okay with it. There’s no direct analog (and rape itself is tricky, as is violation), but it’s sort of like this True Blood situation.
From what I can gather–and obviously this is not to diminish the significance of rape, what with Tara and Holly and all–there does seem to be this sad moment when you know the end is coming and that you can go back to being “normal,” but you can never go back to being yourself. In the best version, the new self is better in ways that you never anticipated…but it’s never the same.
The thing this show does well–does better than most–is that it lays down variations on a theme and, if you’re paying attention, asks you to articulate how and why one situation differs from another. In previous seasons, it was redemption or family; this season, we’re exposed to transcendence and limitation. Freedom and bondage.
Freedom is Eric high on faerie blood, drunk and childlike. Bondage is Eric teased with something that was once his but can never be again.
Bondage is Jason tied to a bed, forced to service the women of Hotshot. Freedom is knowing the violation was never really about you in the first place. This, of course, doesn’t lessen the severity of the incident (or should ever suggest that it’s “okay”) but contrast this with the violation that Tara and Hoyt experienced: their episodes were entirely about them. And, for that matter, Hoyt and Jason sort of breakdown Tara’s in the most beautiful way (i.e., which type of violation–physical or mental–is worse) while adding an additional perspective. Your instinct is to side with Jason, but Hoyt’s situation will blow up in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet. Variations on a theme.
Freedom is being able to walk in the sun, but bondage is knowing that a part of you will always live in Eric Northman’s basement.
Or maybe freedom is thinking, for just one second, that you made something of yourself (hell, you even learned to read!) while bondage is the realization that the world hasn’t changed with you.
Bondage is being bound to a stake or being bound to your body (who’s worse off?). Again, we see physical versus mental cast in an entirely different form. Echoes, perhaps, of the mind/body duality but, then again, so much more.
In which everyone becomes a victim. In some ways a state of mind, in some ways a state of being.
If there’s one thing this show does best, it’s to feed you something and then turn it on its end in the most spectacular way. And, as it seems, inversion/duality is the name of the game this season.
The flip side, of course, of fighting over nothing is waging war on two fronts at once: ownership is, in some ways, a state of being but also, in some ways, a state of mind. Sookie’s predicament takes the concept of Bella and redresses it in a way that is simultaneously more real and more powerful: if you’re not somebody’s, you won’t be anybody. Ownership is not just about identity or relationships, it’s about your very existence. It’s what every vampire in Bon Temps gets and Sookie does not.
The flip side is Bill, who’s in deeper than we could have ever imagined: as if being at war with himself wasn’t enough, Bill is playing the Authority against the AVL (against whatever feelings he still has left for Sookie). War is a series of ever-shifting alliances that causes you to forget where you end and where the ideology begins.
The flip side is Jason, struggling to escape Hotshot, literally and figuratively. It’s about extracting ourselves from the consequences of bad decisions (made worse by good intentions!) and the bondage that results.
The flip side is Jess and Hoyt, fighting to maintain the veneer of domestic life as it cracks and fades. The opposite of Sookie and Eric, their fight is the fight that everyone has when you’re not speaking the same language, fighting two entirely different wars. Or worse, it’s being Sophie Anne and fighting in a war whose factions you can’t even comprehend.
All of this seems to be introducing the idea that ultimately, in some way, we are at war with ourselves as we fight the war abroad and the war at home.
If Clarice only had one wish, it was this: to transcend time and space, not just becoming one with God, but becoming God herself. Apotheosis was supposed to be the key–a idyllic heaven and haven for the righteous. Of course, like all utopias, it was destined to fail, but at least we dared to dream.
If Mab ony had one wish, it was this: to take the thing that drives you and to make it all that you are (which is quite often also the thing we fear). Curse her, love her, pray to her–Mab is nothing more than us, flickering in the shifting light.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on court’sies straight,
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O’er ladies ‘ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as a’ lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again.
Underneath the surface, things are as they ever were: barren, decaying, and dark. Sookie, for all her faults, is the first to see it for she saw it once before in Bill. She sees beyond the pale but, being human, can only ever comprehend one side at a time because both/and is light years away from either/or.
This episode is, for me, so much about sketching out innermost drives and the public faces that we put on to hide them from the world.
If Tara only had one wish, it would be to escape her rage or become it completely. Bill, Jason, Sookie, Andy, Eric (and soon, Pam)–each of these people is driven in ways that they can’t fully control. Propelled, we end up arguing over anything and everything because we’ve long since forgotten what we’re even fighting about; we fight to prove we’re right, or, worse, to prove that the other is wrong, forgetting that it’s not a zero-sum game and we can both be right and still both be a little bit wrong. We, like Hoyt and Jess, go down a path we never meant to tread and the result of it all is egg on our faces. We can’t live in fear–such fights are an inevitability–but instead must be primed to call ourselves out before others do, because failing to name the thing that drives us only ever leads to us getting hit over the head and locked in a freezer.
There’s undoubtedly more to all of this that I’m missing, but I’m particularly interested in the developing themes of image, authenticity, and reputation this season—the show seems to have introduced a number of binaries, with the real/ugly truth hiding beneath a glossy exterior. There are echoes of this idea in the appearance of politics on the show, the faerie kingdom not being all it’s cracked up to be, and the banality of domestic life—I think about how vampires have, since the 1970s, struggled with their “true selves,” but now we see characters on the show struggling to articulate/see the true self. And then we get into issues of authentic self—do we cling to Greek notions of authenticity or embrace Goffman, who suggested that we can alter our presentation depending on our audience? Given that this is an election year, I’m curious to see how the show explores the manufacture and selling of reputation/image (and if it’s critical of this process).
I’m definitely curious to see how this season of True Blood progresses—at present, two vampires are launching competing PR campaigns to win back support after a rather violent/graphic incident with a vampire played out on national TV and this has obvious resonance with the current state of affairs. But I’m in love with the concept of the faerie as the perfect supernatural creature to bring this idea to the forefront (my primary research focus is in Gothic horror with tangents in mythology, folklore, fantasy, and science fiction) as they are creatures whose entire existence is defined by their manipulation of image. Above and beyond your garden variety “trickster,” faeries are liminal beings who play with light and cause us to question if what we are seeing is real. The fae are sort of the original spin doctors, never lying but always twisting their words in ways that humans had not anticipated. The leap from this to a cynical view of politicians seems natural.
Moreover, in contrast to vampires and werewolves (including the historical antecedent of Jekyll/Hyde), who also embody a sense of duality, faeries do not seem to struggle with their natures–they are what they are–but they sow confusion for others. In a sense, this sort of makes me wonder if faeries can be considered authentic: if your nature is to deceive and you own up to that, aren’t you being true to yourself? Is it really their fault that we don’t fully understand just how dangerous/powerful they are?
Life has changed since Sherry Turkle published Life on the Screen: modern American society has not only increased its awareness of avatars (helped perhaps by James Cameron) but is also seeing the emergence of adults who have interacted with avatars for most of their lives. This shift in technology has allowed for the experimentation in, and decentralization of, culture, identity, and the self by permitting the expression of multiple selves in digital environments.
Turkle depicts various stories of experimentation with gender identity throughout the chapter, focusing on the cognitive experience of users as they don various guises. Individuals imbue these digital representations with particular attributes and meanings, which in turn allows users to assert and practice acts of identity. The relative freedom of online environments permits users to work through various behavioral and emotional scripts while maintaining a sense of security—individuals instinctually that they can simply quit if things become uncomfortable.
In addition, the ability of users to develop multiple avatars presents some interesting opportunities as individuals can compartmentalize identity into discrete units (e.g., one avatar is aggressive, another excels at martial arts, and a third simply lurks). These expressions of identity may represent salient qualities of users but might equally result from aspirational thinking.
As Americans, we are still struggling to reconcile these manifestations of ourselves into a united whole; our Facebook presence clashes with our work lives and Twitter confounds the development of intimacy. Working with high school juniors and seniors, I see some of these identity crises as students transition to college, but I also recognize representations of our fight through popular culture. Shows like Battlestar Galactica and True Blood reflect the complicated and nuanced layers of identity that we negotiate on a daily basis.
 The show asks audiences to consider how humans have to forge a new identity for themselves in the aftermath of a terrorist attack (and attempted genocide), how particular characters have to renegotiate their positions in society due to changes in their surroundings, or how the Cylons see individuality emerge out of a collectivist society.
 Characters negotiate their ideas of who they are in light of stereotypes (i.e., “This is who you say I am”), religion (i.e., “This is not all that I am”), and stigma (i.e., “Are you now or have you ever been?”)
Why wouldn’t it go away?
Something beneath my skin burned just out of reach, itching and raw. Without thought, my jaw clenched as I reached down; I squeezed with everything that I had, staring as the blood began to stain my once-white finger. Almost as an afterthought, I placed the wounded digit into my mouth and sucked hard. The salty, coppery, taste spread out over my tongue and down my throat—the liquid was never something that I craved, but was never entirely unpleasant.
This image played in my mind as I sat down to watch the first season of True Blood. I’ve always had an interesting relationship with blood, never particularly unnerved by the substance except for when it mingled with sex.
Needless to say, a show featuring intercourse with vampires was going to push me a bit.
Starting a new television series—a good one, anyway—is a lot like Dorothy being dropped into
Munchkin Little Person Country. I’m always disoriented for a second, but deep down I know that I’ve entered a new world that resembles my own and yet operates independently; an alien setting that invariably comments on my own.
Absorbed, I drunk deeply. As an outsider, both to Bon Temps and to the Southern ideals that it represented, I gazed at the scene unfolding in front of me with unwavering eyes. “This town, this place, was perfect,” I thought, “Here, people actually acknowledged the unseen forces that caused their worlds to shift: stereotypes, religion, mysticism, and the monsters in the swamp mist. All of it was real, all of it was felt, and all of it mattered.”
I had gone with my friend Kim to a concert the night before and it had been a long evening. I will be the first to admit that I usually stay up late, but getting out of a venue after six hours of hearing sets from Snow Patrol, The Killers, and Death Cab for Cutie, would be draining for anyone. Kim and I had both refrained from calling in sick to work and were now commiserating with each other.
“It was raining on the freeway this morning,” Kim lamented via e-mail.
“I have to navigate the treacherous waters of the office holiday party,” I countered. “It’s like Buffy having to live on Earth after glimpsing heaven.”
To be honest, it wasn’t much different from any other day but it was in the wake of one of the best shows of my life and the relative low could not be avoided. Being surprised by Kanye West’s performance was enough to push me over the edge and I would be in the relative doldrums for a few days.
I sat at my desk contemplating the message that I had just crafted. Had I just made a Buffy reference? Sure, I’m not the biggest fan of the show, but, like with the Facts of Life, you take the both the good and the bad (aspects of pop culture). The merits of Buffy itself are another discussion entirely, but one of the things that always struck me about this series was the way that it incorporated sex. Thankfully, although a show containing teenaged characters, the show itself transcended the issues that make up the typical high school fare. In the run of the show, audiences were exposed to Warren, a guy so desperate for a girlfriend that he created a robot (go back and check out the allusions to sexual gratification); Oz giving into his animalistic nature and cheating on Willow; and Buffy engaging in loathsome sex (her internal judgment, not mine) while the walls were literally and figuratively coming down around her. But, of all of the issues surrounding sex and sexuality on the show, the one that continually got to me was the recurring theme of sex and death.
These two things are of course linked: one brings you into this world (usually) and one takes you out of it. We can get philosophical and mention the cycle of life or our subconscious desire to cheat death by having children, but I find it fascinating to examine how these two forces affect our daily lives—we seem to have a bit of trouble with both in America, don’t we?
Americans are complex beings and our psyches often do not make a whole lot of sense. We have trouble dealing with death and sex but we are ready to accept sensual vampires—Twilight, True Blood, Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m looking at you. Vampires are an incarnation of death (fine, the undead) whose act of feeding involves the intimate placement of a mouth on a neck and live only by seeing others die. Not to mention that the process of siring involves killing and birthing in the very same act!
I firmly believe that both events are natural (although they definitely have unnatural manifestations at times) and that neither should be feared. Yet, while I have my personal opinions on this subject (and there’s enough material to write a moderate essay), what’s more important for me is that you ask your own questions and find your own answers. When you have a second, think about how you relate to sex and how you relate to death: these two things will, in part, tell you how you relate to life. From le petite mort, to necrophilia, to autoerotic asphyxiation and the reduction of blood flow, the connections are there, if we choose to see them.