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The Deathly Fear of Miscegenation

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This policing of the human body results in initiatives to prohibit miscegenation, which is perhaps the central theme to all American and world history. The fear of mixing blood pervades until this day, and interracial relationships in films are only slowly losing their taboo-status. John Smith may have exoticized the appeal of ethnically different women—he wrote a similar story about being rescued by a local woman in Hungary after Turks captured him years earlier—but his motivations were always political, and his central characters always ended up leaving the environment of the ‘other’.

Groups in True Blood are also strictly separated along racial lines, and deeply entrenched popular beliefs deprive [both vampires and humans] of any choice in what David Hollinger has termed “ethno-racial affiliation.” The fear of ‘vampirization,’ a word echoing the racist fears of a ‘darkening’ or ‘Africanization’ of America,  is again the central theme to American history, i.e., miscegenation, that manifests itself as crucial in negotiating the relationship between the majority and minorities. Jason actively seeks out women with bite marks to have sexual relations with, in what seems an attempt to repossess lost territory, and religious groups distribute information on how to “protect [one’s] sweet little daughter” from roving vampires (s2e2:37).

What makes the case study of the essentialist exclusion of vampires remarkably interesting on a theoretical level, is that there is no biological reason for their exclusion, as all vampires were humans before they were ‘turned’. They come from the entire spectrum of society, yet are seen as an internally uniform race regardless of their human background. Their status as second-class citizens can thus only be explained by assuming that the dominant accounts of race are discursive and historical productions that produce and enforce difference, as the supposed essence that forms the basis for their discrimination does not exist. As Diane Fuss observed in her book Essentially Speaking “body is ‘always already’ culturally mapped,” imbricated in ideological networks that lend meaning to it, and the unwillingness of Bon Temps’ inhabitants to accept vampires as equals is the result of this social conditioning (6). (Routledge, 1989)

Ball espouses a clear argument on the current state of American society, in which humans emerge as the real monsters. Voluntary affiliations are accepted by vampires—i.e., they gladly initiate humans into their group by turning them—but humans are unable to accept even interracial relationships with vampires, as this would “taint the [human] race.” Nevertheless, they themselves engage in behavior that could be termed that of a monster: all characters carry within them the capacity to transcend social conventions, and murder, torture, and discrimination are even committed by the most devout men and women.  True Blood thus finds common ground for all groups in the South by redefining the term ‘monster’, from that based on outer appearances, to a ‘monstrous’ mental process and attitude.

Even though the announced reboots of X-Men and Spiderman or upcoming films such as Cowboys & Aliens may lead us to believe that the moment of transcending these boundaries is not all that close yet, the shackles will be broken eventually. When John Smith ran out of familiar objects to compare the vast array of novel species he encountered on the American continent—and Dutch explorer Adriaan van der Donck was equally guilty of this—he simply started numbering the fish.

Film directors will have to find an equally logical solution to putting a halt to the constant reproduction of existing plots. This will be the year of the most film and TV sequels, prequels, parts 3 and parts 4 to date. The year 2012 will not be the end of the world, but if the storytelling trend of the alien isn’t reversed, it could very well be the end of original cinematic productions, and the end of originality on TV. It’s time to decolonize film, and it will take an invasion of aliens in Hollywood to do so.

Some cross-species attraction in True Blood

Suzanne Enzerink is an MA student in American Studies at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, and will be a visiting graduate student at Brown University from August-March. She has written extensively on cultural theory and has a particular interest in the American South and film. For her BA thesis, she was able to combine all three, and wrote on the imbrication of race, class, gender and nationality in D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation and Victor Fleming's Gone With The Wind. During a semester at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, she wrote film reviews for The Daily Tar Heel.

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