I have been watching True Blood since it premiered, unlike some of the legions of never-see-come-sees out there and while I have never read a single Charlaine Harris book yet—surprisingly. I have skimmed them in a book store and I do think that I would enjoy them very much. About as much or even more than I enjoy the shows which are very entertaining. I also watched and enjoyed all seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so go figure that I would jump at the creation of a new vampire show.
I may not be at all Gothic and stuff but I do love imaginative story-lines and great characters. Ok, and I might be slightly, admittedly emo too. I’ve come to that realization. In a way that a quirky black West Indian feminist with a bit too much internal angst can be—without the requisite Hot Topic staples, dark clothes and strangulated countenance. Alas, but I do love me some black eyeliner. I know I have too much boobies and ass to be emo, swivel too much when I walk apparently and have an affinity for most variations of hot pink. But the whole emotionality thing? So got that.
Someone in my program is an emerging black science fiction writer who writes science-fiction set the Caribbean (uh-huh, you bes’ believe it!) and she and I were having a short discussion one day about the necessity of such writers. She made a point, to which I whole-heartedly agreed, that if you create an imaginative alternative realm and/or universe and black people are not there, then you are sending a problematic message. So where the heck are we huh? Keeping in mind that half the fun I imagine, of such creative endeavors is that you the writer, has sole autonomy over this world, you create who is in it, of it, how they speak, what they look like, how they communicate etc. The fantastical worlds in which some writers find themselves creating, obviously reflect their own positionality in life. And if they’re white, well…
Increasingly though, I think that it’s necessary for writers to be cognizant of the world and the characters that they are creating, however mythical the range of what said world may be. Even if they don’t, as a reader/follower of their books and/or television programs, it’s interesting to see what the representations of characters say to me or about people that look like me. J.K. Rowling obviously got that memo. Harry Potter is sprinkled with stock characters that reflect a semblance of diversity of characters and this makes sense. Characters like Cho Chung, Angelina Johnson, Lee Jordan, Kingsley Shacklebolt and the Patel sisters do just that. They’re in London for one, quite a diverse European city; all the wizards couldn’t be white (added to the fact that the whole pure-blood and mud-blood angle would have be less effective otherwise and be read as way more problematic).
For sure, these stock characters are not nuanced in any way that makes them particularly remarkable “authentic” representations of people of color (so to speak) but then again, it’s not that kind of book, nor is Rowling seemingly that kind of writer. And we are not provided with any information about these characters’ backgrounds to safely make those assumptions about where their cultural and ethnic allegiances lie, BUT it’s clear that they have been strategically placed to lend a layer of diversity in the wizarding world. I was (and still am) excited that they are at least, there.
Which again, makes sense, mainly because unlike vampires, wizards in Rowling’s world are born and not made. So it’s to be expected that a wide range of persons could conceivably be born with wizarding traits. Bloodsuckers on the other hand pose a different conundrum. I have the same concern with Interview with a Vampire, which I read a long time ago, as well as the film, which is set in an entirely different era which makes the absence of black vampires understandable to a greater extent.
So, while I don’t know who made the first vampire, (literally not like, creatively) though it crossed my mind while writing this piece but generally speaking, it seems like white vampires make other white vampires, so who makes black vampires? In a fantastical world where the undead are running amok, would I be intrinsically safer then, since no one would be clamoring to sink their fangs into a dark chocolate-colored neck? Presuming of course that all the vampires are white. Not vampire violence, I’m wondering, would a white vampire want to make me one of them?
I have no doubt that in such a town, I’d be just as fearful of vampire violence as the blond-haired damsel would. But would I have to worry about becoming one myself? In all of Sunnydale, I never once saw any black vampires battling Buffy in large numbers, least of all independently as a nemesis. I was excited though to see the black slayer Kendra: bad pseudo-West Indian accent and all, appearing in one story-line. So while black characters and any characters of color are great within a certain framework. I think in fantasy, dark fantasy, epic fantasy and sci-fi—all these places are instances where you’d think, it would be really easy to insert some complexity of racial representation. But it doesn’t seem to happen as much as you would think.
On top of which, vampires, especially the 21st century kind ones in True Blood seem to be involved in a kind of selective breeding program. Actually, vampires have always been kind of picky about who they let into the club-house when you think about it. They can be snooty as hell. It’s like an elite club. In “Bon Temps” where True Blood is set, no one’s making you a vampire just because. I mean, Lafayette practically offered himself to Eric on a bloody platter (granted in exchange for his life) and he was refused. Still, Eric is King Snooty and he might have had other concerns (Temporarily damaged leg. Lafayette’s also dealt drugs and presumably done some as well. It can’t be anything else. And no one is too flamboyant to be a vampire. (Don’t buy that).
But I think it’s fascinating that in a southern American town, we have seen no recurring black vampires at Fangtasia or elsewhere. (Something else that’s fascinating about Lafayette are the ways in which his character reinscribes black masculinity and unsettles the very construct at the same time. He’s bad-ass, dark skinned, out, engages in gay sex with white vamps, he will kick yours or anyone else’s ass if necessary, no ifs, ands or buts about it. And he will do so with eye-shadow).
Heaven knows, if I was a bloodsucker, I’d want Lafayette inside my nest with his smart, funny, expertly wearing false-eyelashes self. Interestingly too, mythic literary interpretations of vampires clearly show how even when vampires attack to feed, there is a large component of desirablilty underscoring their choices. Most of all, this is seen in how they strategically decide who they choose to be “maker” of. Vampires will surely attack to kill indiscriminately and this may be coupled with feeding but they can also choose to prey on people who are appealing, or attractive to them for some reason and no other. Thus they kill and change people who look like them or appeal to them, (in personality, virtues or lack thereof, qualities etc.) in order to make them join the community, for a reason. Still, vamps by default are white, even though there are many different kinds of people in the world—all pumped full of blood, ready to be alighted upon.
[And anyway, on a sidenote, reasons black people will make good vampires include: 1. some of us are deathly fearful of the sun anyway and 2. melanin means we age excellently, so imagine what a dose of immortality might add 3. we’d probably be better vampires because of said melanin, as in not exploding into a sun-fueled fireball as quickly or as easily 4. we throw great parties (imagine the fang club now) 5. we’re innovative and resourceful (even with limited resources) and will help vamps to trick out their sleeping lairs like never seen before. No one will have to sleep in a decrepit crypt, devoid of personality anymore.]
So far, in the television series, no one has even tried to seriously turn Tara and she’s a main black character, cavorting all over Bon Temps all hours of the night with all these bloodsuckers all over the town. Keep in mind, I haven’t read the books so I don’t know what’s explored within the books by Harris (who is white) but I think, that maybe a nest of black vampires existing in Bon Temps would have been a fascinating added layer and why not? I know we’re in the south but someone has to have made a black vampire, right? True Blood also has this great way of layering real world issues inside fangtastical ones and parodying them in clever, creative ways which adds to the smartness of the storylines.
Like vampires “coming out the coffin,” with the sexuality issues for the rest of society, or social alienation with depression and other mental health concerns, vampire rights with civil rights, the drug “V” and the fight against the proliferation of highly addictive narcotics. The notion of race in a Southern town, already touched on ever so slightly in parts of the first season, could have added a whole other dimension to a vampiric world, already riddled with outside-world issues. Added to which, vampires have all but solved the nature vs. nurture question which Godric and other conscientious vampires wrestle with constantly. But no one sees race. Are nests just segregated or something?
I am pretty certain that there is no end of black people who are possibly happy that it’s only ‘crazy white people’ running around biting people. And, why is that? Hmmmm. If there’s a fun, dark and creepy, fantasy world being created and I am of this world, then I want to be in that one dammit! Though vampires can beat the odds at life, provided they stay away from wooden stakes, sunlight, silver, fires and rabid members of Fellowship of the Sun church, they clearly haven’t beat the social and racial odds at life. Their community and by extension, the people that they choose to extend invitations to (willingly or otherwise) reflect the real world biases that the undead are yet to transcend. Seriously though, our colors may be different but I’m pretty sure all blood taste the same. Bite that.