Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Cinematic and Televisual Vampire as the Imaginary Racial and Sexual "Other"

The title of this blog post is a topic I am brainstorming on as a potential avenue of exploration for the final paper in my Race, Ethnicity, and Class in the Media course that I am taking this semester with Racquel Gates. This concept is inspired by some of my burgeoning and preliminary thoughts on the blurry and fluctuating metaphor of the vampire as the racially- or sexually-marginalized "Other" on the HBO Original Series True Blood.

My hope is to investigate the use of the vampire as a representative figure for at once gay communities and minority populations both, utilizing discursive analysis of phrases employed on this program such as "coming out of the coffin" - which is easily identified as a signifier for queer culture and the process of "coming out of the closet" - or the term "Vampire Rights Movement," a battle for equality and rights being waged by the vampires of True Blood that was fought by African Americans in this country in the 1960s with the Civil Rights Movement, a struggle for equal representation and opportunities that still continues within the LGBTQ community to this day. In most cases, the vampire takes the place of the discriminated or marginalized Other, especially in the small fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana featured in True Blood; while we are not sure that there was extreme racism against the racial Other - and in Bon Temps, LA, this racial Other is by all accounts a member of the black community - before the vampires came out of the coffin a few years prior to the time period of the first season of the series (roughly present day), it can be certain that all hatred, stereotyping, fear and bigotry that was focused on and around the racial Other in Bon Temps is now directed at the vampires as the new Other. The vampire seems to be a convenient stand-in for a minority, since vampires are purely mythical beings, able to become a location for metaphor, for symbolism, for contextualized signification.

There is a fascinating character on True Blood on whom I would like to focus seeing as he shares almost the same role of the Other as the vampires but without the same of stigmatization: Lafayette Reynolds, a homosexual black short-order cook, public works employee, prostitute and drug dealer. Wearing multiple hats with his myriad professions he is one of the keenest and most strong-willed characters on the show, having connections with the mainstream public in his restaurant job, with the hidden sexual life of some of the high-ranking men in his town through his prostitution and webcam service on his website, as well as with the vampire community as a dealer of "V," or vampire blood, a substance that seems to have similar attributes to ecstasy - or, as an active party or rave subculture would refer to it, "E." He is also the physical personification of what the vampires signify as the Other as a black man and a homosexual man, for at times the vampire can represent both the racial and the sexual Other, never quite committing to one or the other.

So far, I believe I will most likely be referencing the writing of bell hooks, Homi K. Bhabha, and Stuart Hall. As I delve deeper into the semester, I am sure I will find more and more that I can work into this paper. Any suggestions? Please leave them in the comments!

I am also interested in investigating the rumblings I've heard surrounding queer identifications with and sociological analyses of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and other more classic representations of vampires in the cinema and on television. I am not yet sure where the Twilight franchise will fit in to all of this, and I feel I would be remiss in skipping over this phenomenon entirely, but I really, really don't want to read those books.

1 comment:

Myroslaw Бƴtɀ said...

Hey Katharine,

I'm writing a study of increasingly familiar vampires as a media phenomenon foreshadowing humanity's conquest of death. I've gathered tons of resources and will share them with you in Google Docs.