Vampires, vampires, vampires. They’re all over the place in the media nowadays, with more on the way in the form of upcoming The Vampire Diaries. So how do two of the most popular manifestations, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, which has appeared in the form of book and then movie, and True Blood, the HBO series inspired by Charlaine Harris’ excellent Sookie Stackhouse books, differ? I decided to take a look and list the most important.
1. Sparkliness: Okay, let’s get this one right out of the way. In True Blood, the vampires do not sparkle. In Twilight they do, and I personally find that absolutely ridiculous. To me, the idea of sparkling menace does not work. This is also why, it turns out in Meyer’s universe, vampires avoid sunlight. Because they sparkle unnaturally in it. Serious, this seems mindblowingly stupid to me and I take my hat off to Meyer for managing to get away with it. Now we can move on.
2. True accents: Here it’s a matter of taste. I like the flavor of the speech in True Blood a lot better. There’s something infinitely sexy about the way Bill Compton, as played by Stephen Moyer, says “Sookie,” hissing it out in his intense, tortured manner. Maybe it’s the fact that I live in the vicinity of Forks that makes the accents in Twilight invisible to me, but I’ll take that sultry-flavored drawl anytime.
3. Strong secondary female characters that are alive: True Blood has them, on both sides of hero/villain. Twilight doesn’t seem to and it’s as though Bella can only really relate to dead women. I must confess here that I started this with a strong True Blood bias – I don’t like the messages for young women that Twilight preaches and have written about that here before, and this is one of them that I find puzzling and distasteful.
4. Music: Again, I’m drawn much more to True Blood‘s version, including the kickass opening music by Jace Everett, along with songs from Lucinda Williams, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Allen Touissaint. The music in True Blood sounds more real, less polished, and a whole lot more filled with juicy human goodness.
5. Target audience age and shameless pandering to it: Twilight‘s biggest fans are teenage girls, while True Blood is shooting for a riper demographic. While I admire the way Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward Cullen, looks without a shirt, I also feel a little dirty and pedophiliac about that admiration in a way that doesn’t pop up when I’m ogling Ryan Kwanten, playing Sookie’s lusty brother Jason, strutting about in a pair of tight white briefs.
6. Fangs. Twilight‘s vampires don’t have them, just sharp, strong teeth. Meyer’s discarded a lot of the traditional vampire notions, and that’s fine, but sometimes the substitutions she’s made are a bit unpalatable.
7. Disparate economic classes: True Blood‘s characters are primarily working class: bartenders and drugstore clerks, road workers and waitresses, while Twilight‘s never seem to worry much about the rent. Indeed, in True Blood, the richer you are, the more unsavory you are, like the hypocritical senator or the mysterious Marianne with her palatial living quarters, table full of non-local fruit, and drawer full of money.
8. Universe: In True Blood, Sookie says to Sam, after he’s revealed he’s a shapeshifter (not a werewolf, he’s at pains to mention), “What else is true?” “All of it,” he says, thereby opening up a giddy range of possibilities. In Twilight, we avoid this question even though there’s some werewolves there too, closing the door on a closet full of bogeymen, kelpies, faeries, and sundry yetis. Feh. I like my supernaturalia in mixed flavors.
9. Sexualities: Speaking of mixed flavors, Meyer’s world is pretty vanilla, and strongly against pre-marital sex. One of True Blood‘s best characters is Lafayette. He is a classic, sassy gay male but never cliche, and always wonderful. I’ll let him speak for himself with a clip from Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxSWnNO0m3k
10. Last, but certainly not least, the writing: I know I’m outraging a lot of fans, but the dialogue in True Blood is entertaining and lively in a way that Twilight lacks. Anna Paquin’s soft, earnest drawl speaks words that are wry and sympathetic and real. Unlike Bella, she has no desire to become undead, and perhaps this is why her speech is considerably more vivid and appealing.