Being Human: Monstrous Humans and Human Vampires in Dracula, True Blood and the Stookie Stackhouse Novels

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Promotional Poster for Season 2 of “True Blood” – Lisenced under Fair Use

Claudia Bubke

The vampire’s iconic status in modern popular culture remains the cause for the many debates about vampire fiction, such as the ‘domestication’ of the vampire’[1] or the ‘interlaced relationship’ of vampire literature and other mass media,[2]reaching into literary, cultural and media studies. Ever since Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer’s essays dealing with the ‘Culture Industry,’[3] the term “popular culture” evokes notions of mass manipulation and homogenisation through repetition, which has been aptly debated and criticised in the context of popular fiction, while the constantly refreshed vampire and his popularity in various media have been referred to by many authors.[4] This paper compares two popular vampire novels and a TV series to analyse how common, reconstructed vampire features are presented in different media forms and how they were imitated or transformed, challenging debates related to culture-industrial production. In this context, the paper will work with concepts of mirroring and thresholds in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Charlaine Harris’ novels Dead until Dark and Dead to the World, to compare them to the adaptation True Blood. The aim is to set them in an intermedial [5] context and show how the meaning of these motifs changed.

Regarding the synonymy of Dracula and the vampire, Bill Hughes, following Ken Gelder, summarised that ‘the glib insistence […] that the vampire and Count Dracula have become effectively synonymous has seriously inhibited the debate on the portrayal and signification of the un-dead in Gothic fiction. [Dracula] has become the reference point to which the characteristics of other vampires are judged to have adhered, or to have departed from’.[6] The many recent films, TV series and novels referencing Dracula are undeniable: In True Blood, Jason Stackhouse says: ‘I don’t know who Lazarus was, but he sure as hell wasn’t the first vampire. Everybody knows it was Dracula’[7], while Kim Newman rewrote Stoker’s origin with his Anno Dracula series[8] and in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Count Dracula is set up as her enemy.[9] In line with this tradition, Dracula is treated as the textual root of more recent vampire protagonists in this article. Present works however, are particularly interesting as the popularity of vampire fiction reached a new level with the advent of Twilight and its tamed, ‘domesticated’ vampires.[10] The comparisons specifically focus on the contrast between the violent, but sexy True Blood vampires and the romanticised ones, both popular in current vampire fiction.

Discussions of popular culture are often concerned with a fear of mass manipulation,[11] this paper will therefore show that the implications of these different vampire portrayals challenge reader-viewer expectations of what a vampire is and how they behave, which then leads them to question these expectations. This article deals with the way in which the audience’s understanding of the term human and its implied values is challenged via the humanisation of the formerly monstrous vampire, forcing them to critically question their own opinions on issues such as sexuality, religion and morality by transferring the knowledge gained from their own reactions to the presented narratives into their own lives. To begin with, the intermediality of vampire fiction, Lindsey Scott argues that ‘[a]ll vampire texts are recycled texts, consciously or unconsciously borrowing from earlier plotlines and prototypes’,[12] since folktales and fiction reproduced vampires long before Stoker published his novel. The idea of a recycled text in the sense of recurring characters, motifs and themes, or so-called textual markers,[13] connects the different texts analysed in this paper. Along these lines, the results of such recycled texts or adaptations [14] include various forms of hybridisation and thus reconstruction. Consequently, repetition and transformation become part of the broader concept of meaning (re-)construction.[15] Producers of adaptations reconstruct an original by reinterpreting it, but also by cross-referencing known images and notions to make their adaptation more accessible to the audience.[16]

Moreover, narrative is the largest common denominator between novel and film.[17] Although theories of transmedia storytelling as a form of intermediality clearly set themselves apart from definitions of adaptation, they confirm the idea of conveying a narrative across different media platforms. In a very concise description, Henry Jenkins defines transmedia storytelling as ‘stories that unfold across multiple media platforms, with each medium making distinctive contributions to our understanding of the world’.[18] The image of whole universes, such as the Buffyverse or the Marvel Universe, is thereby always understood as a creatively constructive process rather than a simple repetition of contents.[19] Within the described terms, the various forms of the vampire presented in literature, film, games and other popular genres add up to one large transmedia universe. In a broader sense, the vampire theme is thus an ongoing narrative connected by intertextual and intermedial references, e.g. mirrors, thresholds and crucifixes. It is an endless story that jumps between and across different media forms, each telling individual vampire tales, which together assist their audiences to comprehend individual parts.

At this point, this intermediality of vampire fiction becomes significant with respect to the act of reading or viewing vampire fiction, as ‘a transmedia story unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole.’[20] In contrast to single-platform stories, the impact of narratives told across and between media is greater, due to their wider distribution and appeal to different consumer preferences, potentially reaching a greater number of participants. Moreover, the ‘valuable contributions’ are based on the creative processes involved in transforming and extending a narrative into the specific aesthetic language or tonality[21] of another platform. These creative processes also offer readers and viewers new visual perspectives, i.e. in film, clarifying information, e.g. through an added storyline, or even ideological viewpoints, e.g. via a changed narrator, and many other information with which they create meaning on their own. Additionally, the metaphorical dialogue between the referencing and referenced texts also invokes a desire within the reader and viewer to learn more, to be able to completely follow and understand the conversation.[22] They actively and sometimes critically engage with these texts, e.g. looking up encyclopaedic information referred to in the texts[23] to give them a meaning on their own.[24]

Here, the boundaries between genre[25] and transmedia universes dissolve, an issue discussed by Emma Beddows in her essay ‘Buffy the transmedia Hero.’[26] She concludes that although genre and transmedia storytelling are connected by their repetitive use of characters and motifs as well as their archival and context creating nature, ‘transmedia storytelling is better understood according to the principles of archontic literature: literature which is open to expansion and enlargement across multiple platforms by multiple people.’[27]

Connections can then be drawn between intermediality, popular culture and mechanisms of reproduction. In ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’ Adorno and Horkheimer describe the culture industry as a production and media machinery, which manufactures, reproduces and distributes cultural goods on a large scale via technology: ‘Culture today is infecting everything with sameness. Film, radio, and magazines form a system [confronting] human beings with a model of their culture: the false identity of universal and particular’.[28] Due to technological reproduction, a constant, eternal reuse of stylistic means and references is possible. Moreover, not only are the same old contents, motifs or narrative styles rebranded and marketed in a new design, but nearly never-ending worlds within a limited fictional universe are created, such as book series and their respective transformation into films. Adorno further calls the methods of the Culture Industry ‘dehumanised,’[29] because they merely aim at mechanically reproducing economically successful contents, thereby creating vicarious satisfactions for consumers. Consequently, the purpose is not to enlighten the masses, but to propagate ignorant and uncritical attitudes.[30] Adorno and Horkheimer clearly understand popular culture as a form of mass manipulation.[31] Mass Culture is, according to Adorno, a precondition for controlling people’s mindsets.[32] Although, over the years, Adorno felt less strongly about this idea, he never neglected it completely.

Following this argument, the aforementioned intermedial transpositions and adaptations thus use mass media, such as film and TV, supposedly to reach a greater audience and increase their commercial impact by reproducing certain narratives, motifs or concepts, i.e. the generic roots, from a literary text and consequently manipulate the public. Intermediality is therefore, arguably, part of the same pop-cultural mechanisms of (re-)production Adorno criticises. Twilight, True Blood, The Mortal Instruments, Anno Dracula and Being Human are few among a plethora of films, TV series and novels directly or indirectly referencing Dracula. Describing the transformation of vampires through time, Lindsey Scott provides an overview on the debate regarding Dracula and ‘rewriting the vampire’ in film. She raises questions about the audience’s attitude towards vampires, arguing that ‘we turn[ed] from vampire stakers to vampire stalkers.’[33] She further shows a shift in the representation of vampires from inhuman outsider to humane insider, giving the example of the famous actor Brad Pitt playing Louis in Neil Jordan’s Interview with the Vampire: ‘Attractive, compassionate and ultimately a victim of his own kind, Pitt’s Louis is a vampire who incites our pity and excites our pulses.’[34] This also links to Adorno and his definition of the Culture Industry as a ‘star system [which] propagates supposedly great personalities and operates with heart-throbs’[35] to provide their audience with a person to sympathise with, be attracted to or at least recognise. Moreover, such novels as Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire and Lestat shifted the narrative perspectives. Louis and Lestat are the narrators of their own stories. They seem intelligent and appear to have kept some interesting human characteristics, feeling guilt and love. They are ‘good people,’ whose only flaw is that they drink blood and occasionally kill people. Exactly this personal point of view distinguishes them from Dracula, who is denied his own voice in Stoker’s epistolary novel.[36] All his appearances are presented by Johnathan, Mina, Dr Seward or Lucy, and by a selection of mass media references, such as newspaper clippings, positioning him outside of the human group.

Like Stephenie Meyer, Charlaine Harris shifted the perspective yet again, giving the vampire’s girlfriend the narrating voice in her Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Bella and Sookie – put very simply – are female first-person narrators who are attracted to vampires. This stands in opposition to Dracula, in which the voice of the female main character Mina merely supports the male protagonists. Their active female voices also contrast with such male first-person narrators as the vampires Louis and Lestat. These shifted views provide insights into the origins of individual vampires, their stories and reasons for certain reactions or behavioural patterns – they become empathically accessible to the human audience. Although Sookie’s limited subjective perspective does not have access to every thought, experience or mysterious way of her vampire partners, the vampires tell her a lot about themselves and reveal important vampire secrets, such as their hierarchical system including their kings and queens[37]. Her seemingly authentic point of view conveys an aura of trust, shortening the distance between her and the vampire, inviting the reader to feel sympathy for the vampires through empathically understanding them just like she does. Readers are more inclined to identify with her as a human than with a vampire narrator, whereby Sookie bridges the gap between them.

Consequently, the vampire image became increasingly (sexually) attractive from Dracula to True Blood, and from novel to screen. The (here male) predator becomes desirable rather than threatening to his (female) prey due to his appearance and character. In contrast, Dracula and his vampires had a different, more superficially alluring effect, which Jonathan describes when he meets the vampire sisters:

All three had brilliant white teeth that shone like pearls against the ruby of their       voluptuous lips. There was something about them that made me uneasy, some longing and at the same time some deadly fear. I felt in my heart a wicked, burning desire that they would kiss me with those red lips.[38]

While the attraction to the vampires in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels and True Blood is presented positively and reflects open-minded attitudes about various kinds of sexual relationships,[39] the female vampires in Dracula are dangerously attractive. Apart from Jonathan’s description, which portrays them as wicked and fearful, the reader learns nothing about their characters. Predominantly defined by their seductiveness, the vampire women try to lure the married Jonathan into a form of sexual intimacy reserved for his wife Mina, corrupting his marriage and staining his character. Dracula, too, has his ways of influencing humans, e.g. Renfield and Lucy. Several obstacles which Stoker put in the Count’s way, protect the human characters from such seductions and other threats:

He may not enter anywhere at the first, unless there be some one of the household who bid him to come, though afterwards he can come as he please […] Only at certain times can he have limited freedom […] Then there are things which so afflict him that he has no power, as the garlic that we know of, and as for things sacred, as this symbol, my crucifix […] to them he is nothing, but in their presence he take [sic] his place far off and silent with respect.[40]

These obstacles protect humans from vampires and remained popular features of the undead until today. Supernatural solutions are necessary to at least stand a chance against a supernatural being with superhuman abilities. Van Helsing’s account lists the most well-known weaknesses of vampires. Many of them are referred to in the Sookie Stackhouse Novels and True Blood, such as the significance of thresholds. Still, the threshold and reflection-motifs are transformed instead of simply repeated, underlining the multiple evolutionary character developments, of the vampires especially, with complex and profound synchronic and diachronic references. They are not the intrusive foreigners positioned outside of society like Dracula.[41] Neither are they the guilt-ridden vampires like Rice’s Louis, regretting their killer instincts,[42] nor the kind of vampires only Buffy the Vampire Slayer can defeat. In short, Harris’ and Ball’s vampires contradict the assumption that they are representatives of dark fears, uncontrollable instincts and forbidden desires from which the threshold used to protect us, separating humans from monsters by keeping the vampires out. Instead, these vampires, if they are friendly, protect their human colleagues, neighbours, families, lovers and friends from harm, be it vampire, human or any other species.[43] They are as diverse as the human species, but not necessarily something to be afraid of, which is why the threshold becomes dispensable:

‘“Come on in,” I invited, and he came up the steps, looking around.’[44] With this gesture, Sookie asks Bill to enter her home in Dead until Dark for the first time. The moment assumes that the threshold-myth is public knowledge, based on former intertextual references, rendering further explanation unnecessary. Furthermore, in offering the vampire the same invitation as any other human person, he is equated with human beings. Vampire or not, thresholds may prevent unwanted guests from entering. In vampire fiction, it signifies an insurmountable protection against the physical violence the dangerous predators can inflict – a protective shield, breachable only by seducing the supposed victim into letting the vampire in. Sookie voluntarily invites Bill, indicating that she is not afraid of the much stronger vampire.

True Blood equally alludes to the myth, albeit with a ridiculing undertone:

Sookie: ‘What’s wrong?’

Bill: ‘You have to invite me in. Otherwise it is physically impossible for me to go into a

mortal’s home.’

Sookie: ‘Seriously? That is so weird. Come on, try!’

Bill: ‘I can’t even try.’

Sookie: ‘Can I retrieve my invitation?’[45]

Apparently, Bill must explain some commonly known vampire characteristics to Sookie. Her ignorance of this famous myth has a rather comic effect, questioning the function of the threshold-obstacle in general. Sookie, however, ensures that she can rescind her invitation before letting the vampire into her house. Later in the series, Sookie rescinds an invitation given to the vampire Eric, using it to avoid dealing with an unpleasant situation, in this case her former boyfriend, rather than protecting herself from the vampire. What began as a serious moment ends in Eric’s body forcing itself to walk out of the door backwards, creating a contrasting, humorous moment.[46] The concept of rescinding invitations also occurs in other vampire fictions, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries, where spells can reinstate the protective threshold. Likewise, The Sookie Stackhouse Novels and True Blood challenge the symbolism of the threshold as an indispensable shield against vampires. Through their different use of the protective threshold they offer the human protagonists a chance to gain control and decide on their own whether they need protective help.

Yet, the threshold-obstacle remains part of the vampire myth, indicating that every undead figure is not completely trustworthy. The threshold still protects humans from those vampires who want to harm or kill them. The notion of protection is also very strong in recent American vampire fiction. In the Vampire Diaries,[47] the vampires Stephan and Damon repeatedly fight off enemy vampires, witches and werewolves to defend Elena’s life, while Vlad Dracul in the film Dracula Untold[48] tries to save his wife and son, as well as his people, from the Turks by becoming a vampire. The vampire is turned into a guardian figure, protecting his loved ones against natural and supernatural events. As these examples show, humans are often protected by their friends and vampire lovers. ‘You are only human, after all,’[49] says Edward to Bella implying that she is a fragile mortal. While this portrayal of female humans as damsels in distress is primarily painted by Meyer,[50] True Blood shows similar tendencies in the relationships between Sookie, Bill and Eric. When the witch Marnie, who holds Sookie hostage, offers Bill and Eric to spare Sookie, if they commit suicide, both accept without hesitation.[51]   45a In her novels, Harris depicts Sookie as rather helpless, although she equipped her with telepathy and fairy powers, these skills only help her to escape rather than defeat her enemies. Sookie is violently kicked and punched several times in the series[52]. Additionally, Harris repeatedly emphasises Sookie’s simple mindedness and her self-perception as a freak,[53] while the vampires are often portrayed as strong, beautiful, intelligent and most important of all, functioning members of society.[54] Consequently, although True Blood and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels reimagined the vampire and therefore the vampire-human relationships, they still play with patriarchal roles indicating that fragile, female humans can only be saved from harm by (super) naturally stronger, male vampires.

 At the same time, human characters often find themselves in dangerous situations due to their romantic attachment to vampires: In the final episode of True Blood season 3, Eric tells Sookie that Bill allowed a vicious couple to batter Sookie so that he could offer her his blood and link her to him, when they first met.[55] The human enters a dangerous situation by associating with a vampire who promises to protect her from the very threat they pose. In the post-9/11 environment, it becomes apparent that the victim-guardian-dichotomy mirrors popular public reactions towards terror: Security ensures freedom. Increased surveillance, restricted rights and closed borders are part of such security packages, which in turn limit the same freedom that supposedly needs to be protected. Moreover, the dichotomy implicitly argues that said freedom was endangered by those who are now in charge of protecting it, manipulating others into trusting the necessity of limiting certain rights for the sake of security. True Blood draws on daily affairs, paving the way for political statements and identificatory concerns. ‘Both Reverend Newlin and the intellectual lightweight Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) use polarising language to describe the perceived threat of vampires – “You’re either with us or against us” – recalling President George Bush’s similar phrasing after the 11 September attacks 2001: ‘Either you are with us. Or you are with the terrorist.’[56] Another example is provided in the opening title sequence of True Blood: A church sign reads ‘God hates fangs’, referring to the infamous motto of the Westboro Baptist Church stating that ‘God hates fags’ in reaction to the LGBT movement. As a result, the sequence likens vampires to these minorities and addresses issues of discriminations in the US and American South by referencing publicly known texts.

Transferring this inhumane behaviour onto vampires, who are as diverse a group as human beings, the presented narratives challenge the assumption that vampires are fixed in their identity as monstrous enemies of human kind. In engaging with reality via such references, these examples of vampire fiction create familiarity, because the audience will likely know about the source of the respective reference. They thereby invite their audience to transfer the homophobic, racist and anti-feminist injustices as well as other inequalities presented to them in the novels and TV series and reflect on their own reality.

On a similar note, Harris’ novels provide an alternative perspective whereby vampires become the hunted and tortured victims. In Altogether Dead, many vampires are burned to death by a group of religious fanatics. The TV series takes the hunting theme even further when a fundamentalist group captures vampires to torture and experiment on them, infecting them with a lethal virus. Here, vampires need protection from humans and find themselves on the other side of the threshold, i.e. as the vulnerable – and thus human. In contrast, Christian leaders, who should embody moral standards of compassion, goodness and humanitarian values, display heinous and inhumane characteristics through their efficient cold-hearted killing methods, reaching a new level of brutality and affective capacity.

Alternatively, the idea of mainstreaming vampires, looking like humans and living out in the open also crosses a threshold. So far, vampires had to live in hiding from the human world, existing in a liminal, supernatural realm, as is the case in Dracula, Interview with the Vampire and Buffy. In Dead until Dark several other thresholds are crossed when Sookie loses her virginity; physically, sexually and emotionally: from outside into the home, from sexual innocence to experience, from two separate people to one emotional memory possibly connecting them forever. In terms of seduction, it is most interesting that – opposed to Dracula – Harris’ vampires cannot manipulate Sookie into certain actions by using their supernatural glamouring powers. Therefore, Sookie mostly decides out of her own free will. Decisions of a sexual and emotional nature are in her case often based on sympathy for her lovers.

In general, the book and TV series address sexual issues very openly. Within the various subplots, Sookie thus moves from Bill to Eric to other vampire, werewolf and shifter lovers. Considering that sexual behaviour is often a crucial, social identifier, Sookie’s sexuality also defines her character: Contemporary vampire fictions are culturally located in a moment in which marriage does not contain sex – even Sookie’s traditional grandmother does not oppose pre-marital sex. Sookie is able to be highly sexual – proclaiming that sex with Bill is near transcendental – without compromising any of her small-town goodness and likeability.[57] However, due to her telepathic ability, Sookie can hear other people’s offensive judgements about her, questioning her own moral standards now and then. Despite these judgements, her sexual self-confidence and (subordinate) belief in gender equality never really falter. It could be said that, despite her naivety, Sookie represents modern female standards by living the life she wants to live, without explicitly fighting for her rights as a woman. Yet, the representation of gender related issues in Harris’ and Ball’s works indicates that even in the gothic realm, where inexplicable incidents and the unknown are widely accepted, female sexuality remains the focus of attention. If we accept these narratives as a critical mirror of our society, they confirm the notorious and still unsolved debates on a woman’s morality and sexual behaviour. For, even if we agree with Smith that Sookie does not compromise ‘any of her small-town goodness and likeability’, her identity is influenced by self-doubts stemming from the evaluations of her character. The protagonists may cross the common thresholds of sexual inequality a few times, but they do not manage to render these thresholds insignificant.

Similar to the altered symbolism of the threshold, the function of the mirror was also changed. In renouncing the famous mirror-motif by giving vampires a mirror-refection, True Blood and Harris’ novels challenge assumptions about the meaning of the soul as a distinguishing factor between good and evil, humans and monsters. Along with vampires’ distaste for crucifixes, garlic and thresholds, the lack of mirror-reflections is probably the most popular vampire mark in fiction. At Castle Dracula, Jonathan Harker observes something uncanny: ‘there was no reflection of [Dracula] in the mirror! The whole room behind me was displayed, but there was no sign of a man in it, except myself’.[58] Yet, these features were forced into the background in the True Blood series:

Sookie: ‘I thought you were supposed to be invisible in the mirror.’

Bill: ‘We started most of the myths about ourselves many centuries ago. If humans thought we were invisible in the mirror, it was another way to prove that we weren’t vampires. We could stay hidden.’

Sookie: ‘So what about holy water?’

Bill: ‘It’s just water.’ Sookie: ‘Crucifixes?’

Bill: ‘Geometry.’

Sookie: ‘Garlic?’

Bill: ‘It’s irritating, but that’s pretty much it.’[59]

In Dead to the World the mirror myth is dealt with similarly: ‘I smiled at the effect in my reflection in the mirror over the mantel. I could see Eric in the reflection, too. I have no idea why the story went around that vampires can’t be seen in mirrors. There was certainly plenty of Eric to see, because he was so tall and he hadn’t wrapped the robe very tightly.’[60] Both examples dismantle the same myth in a similar humoristic way, referring to the scene from Dracula. Nevertheless, they differ in narrative perspective, mis-en-scène and thus effect. While Harris’ novels are told from Sookie’s subjective point of view only, Ball invites us to follow the individual characters, using a rather omniscient perspective, enabling us to see Bill who looks in the mirror while supposedly seeing himself and Sookie’s reflection in there.

Vampire fiction used to force the vampire monsters to the margins, keeping them within the liminal spheres of chaos and illogicality. As ‘monstrous, evil and other’[61] they remained outside of the familiar human world and embodied ‘what we cannot face, purge, fight, accept or acknowledge; in effect, it is the very core of the “other’/’Not I” – acting out our worst imaginings so we may safely divorce monstrosity from ourselves.’[62] In contrast, the turn of the vampire from an object of fear to a focalised, desirable subject with an in-depth story and personal identity further adds to the humanisation of the vampire. Considering how the True Blood scene referenced above was shot, it brings the vampire to the centre of attention and underlines the importance of the dialogue between the protagonists by use of a special camera angle on the situation: The viewer watches the couple from the other side of the mirror, looking Bill in the face and hence not actually seeing whether Bill has a reflection. The dialogue, i.e. the verbal representation of the situation, is not confirmed by the representation in pictures. Consequently, the mirror myth is reintroduced by Ball, alluding to the gothic genre and its invisible spaces. This difference between the two narratives is not just due to different perspectives, but mostly to the media and technology used to present them. In her paper ‘He make in the mirror no reflect’, Sam George deals with the origins of the ‘non-reflection motif’.[63] Many religions and superstitions believe that pieces of the soul are stolen when a picture is taken. Stoker’s protagonists are convinced Dracula lacks a soul, believing him to be a monster – thus there is no reflection in the mirror or on camera. George also connects technological mechanisms of reproduction with vampire reflections, saying that

[t]he vampire’s lack of a reflection or image in a photograph is symbolic of a tension whereby premodern worldviews collide with contemporary modes of production in the novel, and, as Wicke points out, the ‘snapshot camera so many people were wielding at the time is really also a celluloid analog of vampirism in action, the extraction out of an essence in an act of consumption’.[64]

Extending the interpretations of the mirror-motif to photography, George and Wicke link vampire fiction to technological development and criticisms connected with it. If we apply this link to modern technology and its influence on present-day life, the following argument can be made: The digital revolution and consequent widespread internet use has even furthered mass reproduction and sharing of contents. Regardless of quality, intention or privacy, many narratives, news, opinions, pictures or films are available to a large group of people whereas decades earlier access was very limited. Supposedly, everything becomes more efficient, faster and time-saving, simultaneously reducing social interactions and quality of conversations, dispersing the focus. Technology heightened the fear of losses of humanity and tendencies towards acting as desensitised, emotionless beings, which ties into Adorno and Horkheimer’s arguments that the dehumanised mass-reproduction of goods and contents satisfies consumer needs created by the dehumanised Culture Industry. Regarding vampire fiction and the above-mentioned representation of technology, their thesis that consuming culture-industrial products keeps the masses ignorant and numb, can be extended, arguing that the detachment from core human values by means of technological immersion has pushed human characters into the realm once reserved for sinister monsters and vampires. True Blood, for instance, addresses the alienation effect commenced by the smartphone-boom openly in a scene following the imprisonment of Bill and Eric by the Vampire Authority who forces them to wear the “I-Stake”, a harness that is held together by a silver crucifix in front of each of the vampires’ chests.

Molly: ‘One click, and this little sucker pierces your heart faster than a bullet. Pinches a little, I know. Just imagine it’s a training bra.’

Eric: ‘It’s been a long time since I’ve worn one.’

Bill: ‘How do you trigger these devices?’

Molly: ‘There’s an app for that.’

Bill: ‘You’re joking.’

Molly: ‘No. So, if you try to do something stupid, like, attack me or try and run away or whatever: click and splat.’

Bill: ‘Efficient.’[65]

Here, True Blood’s appeal to its audience via including familiar mass media, such as the Iphone, becomes visible: Ordinary technology which is used to efficiently organise, communicate, entertain, consume and educate by a large part of the world population, is used by the vampires in a similarly efficient way, indicating that humans are not unlike the very monsters they fear. It only takes the push of a button in a software application to end lives. Personal interactions are unnecessary as execution is removed from the sensual impacts that occur when one sees, hears, smells or feels someone else die. Guilt is consequently removed from the conscience.

Yet, returning to the mirror, vampires are portrayed more human than they used to be, having – like us – a reflection. Edward and his siblings try to blend in to the teenage society of Forks in Twilight and some of the characters from Sookie’s universe try to mainstream, i.e. live alongside humans instead of consuming them. The mirror-motif thus holds the metaphorical mirror up in front of ourselves, reflecting on modern culture, as George concludes,[66] opening the way for interpretations of the mirror-motif along these lines of multiculturalism, gender equality, the rise of capitalist consumerism, the emphasis on technology or the seeming decline of Christian religions:

In True Blood, religious symbols […] hold no power over vampires, while non-religious folklore remains effective: vampires must be invited into a human home, silver will pin a vampire down and cause excruciating pain, exposure to sunlight will gradually kill, and a stake through the heart will instantly reduce a vampire to a mess of sticky ooze. The total loss of religion’s power against the vampire dispenses with a need for faith in a God to ensure protections and reflects a diminishing belief in Christianity that has its roots in an increasing secularism, fostered originally by the Enlightenment.[67]

Smith’s summary that changing beliefs and moral standards still transform and influence contemporary vampire fiction ties into Nina Auerbach’s notion: ‘What vampires are in any given generation, is a part of what I am and what my times have become’.[68]

At first glance, little has changed in terms the of intertextual and transmedial processes regarding the threshold- and mirror-motifs of vampire fiction. Yet, after reviewing, a division between two very contrasting standpoints within the different works is obvious. Antithetical oppositions, such as good and evil, innocence and guilt or religion and enlightenment, are attempted to be resolved or reinstated in diverse ways. As postmodern[69] vampire stories, both True Blood versions establish a more diverse and cotemporary value-system for social behaviour and categorising someone as human or monstrous, setting the vampire up as a model-species undermining the established religious and anthropological evaluative categories, such as pious and guilty, philanthropic and greedy, good and evil. Apart from the vampire’s ambiguity, human behaviour has also been accepted as multifaceted, changing the view of the world from the black-and-white-diversion into a lot of grey zones. Postmodern vampire stories appear to take different factors, such as socialisation, demographic influences, uncontrollable incidents and other circumstances, into account regarding their vampire’s moral values. For example, True Blood, as Smith emphasises,

does not present a vampire’s acts of violence and murder as innate evil (an essentialist fixed identity), but as the product of life experience and environment. Jessica’s earlier innocence and struggles to control her new vampire impulses, Bill’s violent creation by Lorena […] during the Civil War, and Eric’s battlefield choice to survive as a vampire rather than die of his injuries make it harder to fix identities as pure evil.[70]

Attempting to explain criminal behaviour or evil itself and making it more comprehensible to the readers and viewers, Harris and Ball put them into a position where they need to decide if feeling any form of empathy is acceptable.

Not only does the migration of the vampire from one medium to another offer different constructions of the vampire itself, due to each medium’s particular representation techniques, but they also add layers to the already existing pop-cultural discourse of vampire fiction and increase its ambiguity despite their dependence on commercial markets. Going against Adorno and Horkheimer’s fear that popular culture is ‘infecting everything with sameness’[71], that it preserves rather than creates, topical vampire stories such as True Blood became hybrid, emancipating themselves from Dracula and the Sookie Stackhouse Novels: A highly critical adaptation, addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality and many more, drawing on stereotypes and their transformations in different, independent ways. They do, however, often hit certain pop-cultural trends and further the commercial success of vampire products, but the connection between textual motifs and commercial success does not entail a manipulation of consumers into adopting dictated ideologies per se, but instead shows their recipients alternatives to stereotypical characteristics. As a result, this adds to the common prerequisites of knowledge about vampires, so that the option for retrospective changes of reception is given. Readings of Dracula are then obviously also tied into a dialogue or network with each other, which is also due to its mentioned synonymy with the vampire figure itself. Within this intermedial network, the already immortal vampire is again immortalised, creating a dilemma regarding ‘sameness’ and change. Nevertheless, while immortality is identified with constant repetition, the vampire’s eternal life offers boundless opportunities to rewrite it, paving the way for creative processes of aesthetically translating it into other texts and media as well as to create an awareness for potential influences in order for individuals to realise their responsibility to act on that awareness.

[1] See Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger, ‘Introduction: The Shape of Vampires’, in Blood Reads: The vampire as a metaphor in contemporary culture, ed. by Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).

[2] See Lorna Piatti-Farnell, The Vampire in Contemporary Popular Literature (New York: Routledge, 2014), p.2.

[3] See Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, ‘Dialektik der Aufklärung’, in Theodor W. Adorno: Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 3, ed. by Rolf Tiedemann (Darmstadt: Wiss. Buchgesellschaft, 1984).

[4] See Ken Gelder, Reading the Vampire (London: Routledge, 1994).; Nina Auerbach, Our Vampires, Ourselves (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).;

[5] As a useful tool to examine reconstructed motifs and compare different texts with each other, and with their respective variations, discourse on culture-industrial production and popular culture often include intermedial approaches. The umbrella term intermediality describes distinguished relations and transformative processes between and of media. Also, the ‘intermedial quality’ depends on the ‘meaning-constitutional strategies that contribute to the media product’s overall signification: the media product uses its own media-specific means, either to refer to a specific, individual work produced in another medium [i.e. ‘individual reference’] or to refer to a specific medial subsystem (such as a certain film genre) or to another medium qua system [i.e. ‘system reference’]. The given product thus constitutes itself partly or wholly in relation to the work, system, or subsystem to which it refers’. Irina O. Rajewsky, ‘Intermediality, Intertextuality, and Remediation: A Literary Perspective on Intermediality’, Intermédialités: Histoire et théorie des arts, des lettres et des techniques, 6 (2005), pp. 51-52, 54-55.

[7] True Blood: Shake and Fingerpop (Michael Lehmann, HBO, 2009).

[8] See: Kim Newman, Anno Dracula (London: Titan Books, 2011).; Newman, Anno Dracula: The Bloody Red Baron (London: Titan Books, 2012) and others.

[9] Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy vs. Dracula (David Solomon, 20th Century Fox Television, 2005).

[10]See Pramod Nayar, ‘How to Domesticate a Vampire: Gender, Blood Relations and Sexuality in Stepheny Meyer’s Twilight’, Nebula, 7.3 (2010), 60-76.

[11] See Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, pp. 141-42.; John Storey, Inventing Popular Culture: From Folklore to Globalization (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), pp. ix-xi, 51-62, 109-12.; also Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction (London: Routledge, 2015).; Dominic, Strinati, An Introduction to Theories of Popular Culture (London & New York: Routledge, 2004).

[12] Lindsey Scott, ‘Crossing Oceans of Time: Stoker, Coppolla and the “new vampire” film’, in Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day, ed. by Sam George and Bill Hughes (Manchester/New York: Manchester University Press, 2013), p.118.

[13] Rajewsky, p. 55.

[14] Recent adaptation research also assumes multiple sources for any kind of adaptation, while the adapted concepts and motifs move within the endless dialogical space of intertextual references. See True to the Spirit. Film Adaptation and the Question of Fidelity, ed. by Collin MacCabe and others (Oxford: University Press, 2011).

[15] See also: Irina O. Rajewsky, ‘Intermedialität, remediation, Multimedia’, in Handbuch der Wissenschaft, ed. by Jens Schröter (Stuttgart/Weimar: J.B. Metzler, 2014), pp. 197-199.; And: Jay D. Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation. Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000).

[16] For means of comparison, this paper understands film adaptation in the sense of cinema- and TV-productions.

[17] Brian McFarlane, ‘Reading Film and Literature’, in Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen, ed. by Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan (Cambridge: University Press, 2007), p. 19.

[18] Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (New York: University Press, 2006), p. 334.

[19] However, transmedia storytelling has been criticised for focussing on ‘media consumers rather than [asking] how media institutions and consumption […] matter within a robust, complex and contradictory sense of the current historical conjuncture’. James Hay and Nick Couldry, ‘Rethinking Convergence/Culture: An introduction’, Cultural Studies, 25 (2011), p. 481.

[20] Jenkins, p. 96.

[21] For more on tonality see Emma Beddows, ‘Buffy the Transmedia Hero’, COLLOQUY text theory critique, 24 (2012), pp. 145-150.

[22] Henry Jenkins, henryjenkins.org, 2007 <http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html&gt; [accessed 5 April 2017].

[23] Jenkins, henryjenkins.org.

[24] This ties into Ken Gelder’s notion that ‘Dracula has become a highly productive piece of writing; or rather, it has become productive through its consumption. To read this novel is to consume the object itself, Dracula, and at the same time, to produce new knowledges, interpretations, different Draculas’. Gelder, p. 65.

[25] For an overview on the debate regarding genre see Daniel Chandler, ‘An Introduction to Genre Theory’, http://visual-memory.co.uk, 2014 < http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/integre/integre.html> [accessed 30 March 2017].

[26] Beddows, pp. 150-51.

[27] Beddows, pp. 150-51. See also Abigail Derecho, ‘Archontic Literature: A Definition, a History, and Several Theories of Fan Fiction’, in Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet: New Essays, ed. by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse (North Carolina: McFarland & Company Publishers, 2006), 61-85.

[28] Adorno and Horkheimer, pp. 141-42.

[29] Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Culture Industry Reconsidered’, trans. by Anson G. Rabinbach. New German Critique, 6 (1975), p. 14.

[30] Adorno, p.17.

[31] See also Adorno, p.13.

[32] In his essay ‘Culture Industry Reconsidered’, Adorno attacks the meek attempts to defend mass produced culture, accusing them of ‘ironic toleration’. He further states: ‘To take the culture industry as seriously as its unquestioned role demands, means to take it seriously critically, and not to cower in the face of its monopolistic character’. Adorno, p. 15.

[33] Scott, p. 115

[34] Scott, p.114.

[35] Adorno, p.14.

[36] see also: Auerbach, p. 82.

[37] Charlaine Harris, Club Dead (New York: Ace Books, 2003), pp. 264- 265.

[38] Bram Stoker, Dracula (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008), p. 37.

[39] See Michelle J. Smith, ‘The Postmodern Vampire in “post-race” America: HBO’s True Blood’, in Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day, ed. by Sam George and Bill Hughes (Manchester/New York: Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 203-206.

[40] Stoker, p. 240.

[41] See Gelder, pp.13-17.

[42] See Scott, p.120.

[43] See True Blood: Jesus gonna be here (Stephen Moyer, HBO, 2014).

[44] Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark (New York: Ace Books, 2001), p. 45.

[45] True Blood: The first taste (Scott Winant, HBO, 2008).

[46] True Blood: Who are you really? (Stephen Moyer, HBO, 2014).

[47] E.g. The Vampire Diaries: Masquerade (Charles Beeson, WB Television, 2010.); Rose (Liz Friedlander, WB Television, 2010).; Haunted (Ernest R. Dickerson, WB Television, 2009).

[48] Dracula Untold (Gary Shore, Universal Pictures, 2014).

[49] Stephenie Meyer, Twilight (London: Atom, Little, Brown Book Group, 2005), p. 248.

[50] See Danielle N. Borgia, ‘Twilight: The Glamorization of Abuse, Codependency, and White Privilege’, The Journal of Popular Culture, 47 (2014), 153-173.

[51] True Blood: Soul of fire (Michael Lehmann, HBO, 2012).

[52] For example: Harris, Dead Until Dark, p. 320.; Dead and Gone (London: Gollancz, 2009), p. 193; Club Dead, pp. 264- 265.

[53] For example: Harris, Dead Until Dark, pp. 68, 243; From Dead to Worse (London: Gollancz,2008) p. 49., All Together Dead (London: Gollancz, 2007), p.137.

[54] The notion of vampires as functioning citizens is clearly expressed by the vampire and political rights advocate Nan Flanagan: ‘We’re citizens. We pay taxes. We deserve basic civil rights like everyone else.’ True Blood: Strange Love (Allan Ball, HBO, 2008).

[55] True Blood: Evil is going on (Anthony Hemingway, HBO, 2011).

[56] Smith, p. 198.

[57] Smith, p. 206.

[58] Stoker, p. 25.

[59] True Blood: Burning house of love (Marcos Siega, HBO, 2008).

[60] Charlaine Harris, Dead to the World (New York: Ace Books, 2005), p. 34.

[61] Punter, David and Glennis Byron, The Gothic (Malden and Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), p. 270.

[62] Ní Fhlainn, Sorcha. ‘Introduction’. Our Monstrous (S)kin: Blurring the Boundaries Between Monsters and Humanity. ed. by Sorcha Ni Fhlainn (Freeland: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2010), p. 1.

[63] See Sam George, ‘“He make in the mirror no reflect”: undead aesthetics and mechanical reproduction – Dorian Gray, Dracula and David Reed’svampire painting”’ in Open Graves, Open Minds: Representations of Vampires and the Undead from the Enlightenment to the Present Day, ed. by Sam George and Bill Hughes (Manchester/New York: Manchester University Press, 2013), pp. 56-78.

[64] George, p. 61.

[65] True Blood: Whatever I am, you made me’ (David Petrarca, HBO, 2013).

[66] George, p. 73.

[67] Smith, p. 197.

[68] Auerbach, p. 1.

[69] Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), p. xxiv.

[70] Smith, p. 197.

[71] Adorno and Horkheimer, pp. 141-42.

 

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