Interview with the southern vampire : reviving a haunted history in contemporary film and television



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It is difficult to imagine a time without vampires, a fixture of Western popular culture since the nineteenth century. The vampires of today, however, are a far cry from Bram Stoker's Dracula. Stoker’s creation is a monster, a metaphor for all things feared by Victorian culture. Contemporary vampires, on the other hand, are increasingly depicted as marginalized figures striving for redemption and human connection. Within this shift from monster to social outcast, a peculiar trend has emerged: vampire fiction set in the American South that deliberately addresses the region's haunted history. As mythical beings, vampires often serve as mediators for an era's particular anxieties or fears. So why does current Western society need not just sympathetic vampires but sympathetic Southern ones? What particular concerns do these Southern vampires negotiate? And how does a Southern locale engender this purpose? To answer these questions, I first consider how such media engage with the Southern Gothic. Chapter one focuses on HBO's True Blood (2008-2014), examining how Southern vampire texts negotiate race and class structures and promote the possibility of a modern, integrated Southern society. Chapter two compares Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (Neil Jordan, 1994) and The Originals (The CW, 2013-Present) to explore how Southern vampires mediate feelings of collective guilt and motivate (or avoid) reparation efforts. To understand not only the elements but also the cultural import of this regionalized media trend, I next extend these readings with an examination of audience reception. Chapter three focuses on viewers of The Originals, surveying the diversity of audience engagement with the series as well as identifying recurring trends within that diversity. In combining all three threads of analysis, I conclude that vampire texts set in the American South perform a complex and at times paradoxical function, promoting feelings of nostalgia for an imagined South as well as engendering processes of critical self-reflection.