July 30, 2011

Wiccans and Vampire Catholics Join the Kooky Crowd at “True Blood”

Posted in Pop Culture at 8:23 pm by chavalah

Religious, cultural and philosophical questions are really just a backdrop to the important story of the love rectangle between The Pretty People. 😛

Oh, what can one say about HBO’s hit urban fantasy series, “True Blood”? The undead have recently “come out of the coffin,” sustained by a synthetic blood energy drink, and the main premise of the show (besides ogling hot, supernatural co-eds) is to equate the civil rights/gay rights struggle to a “vampire rights” struggle.

And it works for awhile—religious extremists can always be made to sound ridiculous, no matter their intended target—until you realize that vampires, in fact, do suck the blood of your children, unlike gay people.

Season four introduces the theme of “witches,” so called by the vampires and the Christian populace of fictional Bon Temps, Louisiana, in actuality a Wiccan prayer group that meets at Moon Goddess Emporium. And uh oh—they’ve just learned necromancy, or how to control the dead! This understandably concerns the vampire community, which had some bad experiences with necromancers during the 16th century, so they send one of their own to break up the group. Except, of course, that these witches are necromancers, so they erase the vamp’s memory. Hey, coulda done much worse. 😛

The Wiccan leader, Marnie, has a bee in her bonnet about the vampires trying to break them up. “We have a right to practice our religion!” this American patriot says. …except, of course, that they don’t have the right to use their faith to literally take away free will. (Which I’m thinking is the argument some atheists use concerning real religious practice.) Just sayin’. Once again, the allegory falls a little short.

The deal with Vampire Catholics is that vampires joined the priesthood and the nunnery in order to have easy access to women to condemn as witches and suck the lives from in secret. (No word, yet, how many, if any of these women were actual witches, I’m not sure the vamps really cared one way or another. 😛 Food is food here.) I have to say…as a Jew, I find this to be bitterly ironic. The Spanish Inquisition, even more than a witch-hunt, was largely an effort to purge “secret Jews” from Catholic Spain, by means of torture and death. To my understanding (and meaning no disrespect to my own paternal Italian Catholic family,) the Catholics were evil bloodsuckers looking to drain Jewish lives and identities from my maternal forebears. I’m speaking of medieval Catholicism, of course. The Church has recently recanted and apologized….after 400 years.  (In all seriousness, a brave and integral move towards reconciliation and religious harmony in the modern day, so kudos.)

Another amusing point is that much of vampire folklore was perpetrated by the Catholic Church and it’s obsession with damnation. What a post-modern conceit, then, to put these demonic creatures inside the very institution that reviled them. I’d be very interested to get a Catholic perception on this twist.

I’d also love to hear from Wiccan practitioners about how they feel their religion is being handled on the show.

All in all, “True Blood” is a show that you have to take with a grain of salt. American minorities do not seek to suck the blood of “majority” children the way that vampires do; religious practitioners do not seek to hurt others or take free will the way these necromancer witches do. It’s a cute story for some romantic escapism, not a serious discussion on philosophy and values.

…with all that being said, this clip from season two (where an elderly vampire decides that it’s his time to go,) may be the most beautiful narrative on faith in G-d and personal salvation that I’ve ever seen on television. Two years later, I remain very moved.

“True Blood,” based on the Sookie Stackhouse book series by Charlaine Harris, airs on HBO at 9 pm Sunday nights.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Last year I explored the shoddiness of the gay rights vs vampire rights allegory, the inflation of Wiccans and story-created witches, vampire Catholics and human extremists, and my favorite of the religious-based storylines—Godric and Sookie discussing faith and forgiveness in season two. On the whole, issues of spiritual identity is something you have to take with a grain of salt on this show, similar to most else that they bring up. This is no less the case now that season five is dealing with a subject that aligns closest to Judaism—that of the character of Lilith. […]


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