True Blood turns 10 years old this week, and although the HBO series ended over four years ago, and overstayed its welcome by a couple of seasons, it was a show that paved the way for a lot of modern TV. Alan Ball’s series was part supernatural murder mystery, vampire soap opera, shock value guilty pleasure, and occasionally a great allegory about bigotry against minorities in America, even amidst all the bloody ridiculousness.
The series, which was all about the vampires and other supernatural creatures who lived in the Southern town of Bon Temps, Lousiana, struck a chord with viewers. Everyone was on board for the “will they/won’t they” of human waitress Sookie Stackhouse ( Anna Paquin) and good guy vamp Bill Compton ( Stephen Moyer), the sexy antics of Eric Northman ( Alexander Skarsgård), and the deliciously bitchy one-liners from vampire Pam and cook Lafayette Reynolds (the late Nelsan Ellis.) In recognition of the show’s cultural impact ten years down the road, here are 7 ways True Blood proved to be ahead of its time.
It Brought Horror/Fantasy Into The Era Of “Prestige TV”
Before True Blood, “prestige” shows on big premium cable channels were almost never in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre. Even basic cable, with the exception of Syfy Channel, never really featured shows that dabbled in genre. But True Blood was unapologetically fantasy/horror, and was as much of a hit on HBO as Six Feet Under and The Sopranos were years before.
With True Blood, HBO saw how fans of genre material were deeply passionate about their show of choice in ways that people weren’t for their other series. Without True Blood’s runaway success, it’s highly doubtful HBO would have ever greenlit Game of Thrones, or Westworld. And it’s doubtful that shows like American Horror Story or The Walking Dead would have happened either.
It Never Shied Away From LGBTQ Characters And Stories
There were several complex LGBTQ-minded shows on TV before True Blood, with Buffy the Vampire Slayer instantly springing to mind. But most of these shows kept the sexuality of their queer characters much more chaste than their straight counterparts. When Buffy finally had their two lesbian witch characters Willow and Tara kiss, it had taken almost two whole seasons to get there! But True Blood, especially with the characters of Lafayette and and Vampire Pam, laid out their LGBTQ characters’ sexuality right up front.
It Wrapped Civil Rights In A Fantasy Metaphor
Author Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries book series, which inspired True Blood, originated the concept of vampires as a new minority group in America struggling for acceptance. But True Blood was the first television series to really push that concept in any live-action presentation. For its first few seasons at least, True Blood really found a way to tackle discrimination wrapped in a potent fantasy metaphor.
The show also openly portrayed the backlash of fundamentalist religious organizations against the “vampire lifestyle,” and the vampire community’s attempts to obtain full rights as American citizens (only dead ones). True Blood also did not shy away from tackling all the radicalized groups who committed hate crimes against vampires, something that was sadly prescient about how America would still be a decade down the road.
It Brought Back Water Cooler TV
Part of the appeal of True Blood, especially in its first few seasons, was its over-the-top shock value, often bloody and sexual in nature. These big “shock moments” contributed to the show’s water cooler effect: people would be talking about things like that vampire neck-twisting sex and other craziness at work on Monday, or lighting up their social media. The show’s wtf moments was likely another reason HBO went with Game of Thrones, another series filled with shocking moments that gets everyone talking.
It Gave Us Old School Vampires In The Age of Twilight
2008 was the year that True Blood premiered, but it was also the same year that Twilight hit movie theaters. And while the vampires in that series were wildly popular, it nearly tainted the very concept of vampires for a whole generation. Suddenly, vampires didn’t burn up in the sun, they sparkled, and they didn’t bite people because they were “veggie” bloodsuckers. And they mostly liked to play baseball.
Thankfully, True Blood’s vampires were Vampires with a capital V. They loved to bite people (substitute bottled blood notwithstanding), and were all about the sex. Because let’s be honest, vampires have always been about sex, not celibacy. The creators of the show totally understand what people love about vampire fiction, and luckily proved an appropriate antidote to Twilight mania.
They Knew How To Work A Comic-Con
TV shows had been at Comic-Con for many years before True Blood, but they were always outshined by big blockbuster movies. But with True Blood, that all changed. Fans lined up all day to see the actors who portrayed their favorite vamps and fangbangers take to the stage. It paved the way for shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead to be as big as any movie at Comic-Con, and it’s still that way today.
It Introduced Alexander Skarsgård
What else needs to be said here?