Written by: Beth Woodward, CC2K Books Editor
In honor of the release of Eclipse, the third movie adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster book series, I'm revisiting my 2008 piece comparing the Twilight series to True Blood, the HBO program based on Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries series. At the time, I noted that I wasn't familiar with many other vampire-themed books, movies, or television shows. However, in the two years since then, I've read enough contemporary fantasies to consider myself pretty familiar with them. Twilight uses a lot of the tropes that are common in the genre: the enemity between vampires and shape-shifters, supernaturally gifted being falling in love with an "average" girl, an extended love triange. The similarities between Meyer's series and Harris's especially are a bit much for me to believe that Meyer has as much ignorance of the genre as she has often claimed.
That said, True Blood's path has surprised me. Far from being a simple love story, True Blood has never shied away from the gritty and the gory or from making things complicated for its two leads. Unlike the chaste romance of Twilight, True Blood consistently provides scary, debauch summer fun. And unlike what I once said, it now looks like True Blood may follow the books' direction of splitting up Bill and Sookie.
Of course, there is a love triangle. Shocker.
I’ve started watching the new HBO series True Blood recently. The series, which is based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries book series by Charlaine Harris, focuses on Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress in a small Louisiana town, who falls for a vampire named Bill Compton. As I watched it, I had the strangest sense of déjà-vu, like I had seen the plot before. Then I realized it bore some uncanny similarities to the Twilight series.
Yes, I know: both series focus on vampires, which leads to some inevitable similarities. (After all, a vampire who said, “I don’t really care for blood. It gives me gas,” wouldn’t be much of a vampire!) Still, some of the similarities between True Blood and the Twilight series seem to be outside the normal vampire canon.
I had read all four books in the Twilight series, but I had not read any of the Southern Vampire Mysteries. So this week, I picked up the first book in Harris’ series, Dead Until Dark, and here’s what I discovered:
There are three major similarities between Dead Until Dark and the Twilight series: first, that both involve romantic relationships between human females and vampire males who attempt to live among humans. Second is that they both have telepathic protagonists who cannot hear their romantic partner's thoughts. In Dead Until Dark, Sookie, the human female, is a telepath who cannot hear the thoughts of Bill, her vampire boyfriend; in the Twilight series, Edward, the vampire male, is a telepath who cannot hear the thoughts of Bella, his human girlfriend. Third, both series set up love triangles with a human, a vampire, and a shape-shifter of the canine persuasion. Dead Until Dark gives us a triangle involving Sookie, Bill, and Sookie’s boss Sam Merlotte, a shape shifter who frequently turns into a dog. The Twilight series has Bella, Edward, and Bella’s best friend Jacob Black, a shape shifter who frequently turns into a wolf.
This is where the similarities seem to end. The Twilight series is definitely a romance, and while Dead Until Dark definitely has romantic elements, the focus is more mystery than love. This is confirmed by the fact that later in the series, Sookie breaks up with Bill—after he cheats on her, no less—and dates several other supernatural creatures.
That said, I have the feeling—and keep in mind that this is only speculation here—that True Blood will continue to exploit the Twilight-esque star-crossed lovers angle more than its literary counterpart. Why? Because so far, the series has been predominantly focused on the romance between Sookie and Bill. Sure, the mystery/suspense elements are there, but they have been more of a subplot. Plus, I think television viewers' expectations are a little bit different than book readers'. Television watchers seem to need a couple to cling to, one to become attached to and root for, a couple that will—hopefully—get together at the end and defy expectations. Couples may break up all the time in the real world, but on television we expect everyone to live happily ever after in the end.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t done much reading in the vampire genre. Before Twilight, my sole familiarity with vampires was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show (which also featured a vampire guy/human girl couple, so maybe this isn’t as unusual as I thought!). So what do you think? Do these similarities only seem so odd due to my vampire virginity (pun definitely intended)? Or are they just a strange coincidence.