True Blood: Conflict Analysis Part I

Both True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse novels do a wonderful job of presenting very complicated moral situations. Just as in real life, there is no group that is all bad; but unlike real life, there is a group that eats other people. So I really am not sure whether mediation or facilitated negotiation will be enough to resolve the current conflict between vampires and humans.  As Sookie once said to Bill, “I always thought as different as we are, some how we could still be together. And now I don’t know.”  Can there ever be a peaceful coexistence between vampires and humans? I just don’t know anymore.

I am therefore eagerly awaiting tonight’s episode of True Blood. Like many fans, I am curious to find out whether Warlow is really a Faerie Prince Charming or a Big Bad in disguise and whether Eric, Pam, Jessica and Tara will survive Vampire Prison. (I want to know what happens to Sookie too, but she’s probably not going to die…I mean, this isn’t Game of Thrones).

What I am most curious about this season though, is whether vampires and humans really can peacefully coexist. As both a fan of many human-vampire relationships on the show, and as a conflict resolution specialist it seemed obvious that of course these two different cultural groups could peacefully coexist. Sure there was a conflict of interest since humans (and other supernatural creatures) are a food source for vampires, but True Blood beverages provided a wonderfully creative solution to that conflict! And there were still evil vampires who used their power to murder others, but the show (and books) pointed out that humans have their fair share of evil too. (Oh Rene, I was so devastated when I learned your Cajun accent was fake.)

But starting last season I began to wonder if humans in the show who expressed fear of vampires weren’t at least justified, if not morally correct. There were some interesting parallels between vampires and other minority groups, such as the LGBTQ community (like the sign in the opening sequence that says “God hates fangs”) because in the show’s universe, vampires are often disliked and feared for reasons related to religion and sexuality. Many characters in True Blood‘s universe had arbitrary or close-minded reasons for their fear and dislike of vampires, just as many groups in the real world hate others for irrational reasons.

However, there is an important difference between the fictional vampires of True Blood and minority groups in real life; vampires in True Blood‘s universe are an actual threat to human life. As much as I tried to ignore it, lots of the vampire characters I liked and thought of as “good” committed horrible atrocities, both intentionally and unintentionally. Eric has always been that gray-character-waiting-to-be-reformed-by-love so I gave him a pass, and Bill was only trying to not get killed by Russell in the second season so I gave him a pass, and Pam was…well…she had a hard life as human, and she is so witty, so I gave her a pass… and you can see where I’m going. Now, three seasons later, one of my favorite characters, Jessica, murdered three innocent half-faerie girls because she couldn’t control her desire for their blood. I don’t think that makes Jessica evil; it’s not her fault faeries are magically delicious, and she is still a young vampire… but the fact is, even vampires who consider humans to be equals, who have human friends and want to live in peaceful coexistence with them, are a danger to those around them.

That is not to say that the way human society has reacted to that threat is morally justified. Violating the rights of sentient beings because of the actions of a few has never been morally justifiable. I haven’t lost my sympathy for the vampire characters of True Blood, but I do wonder if the power imbalances between the two groups can be reconciled. At an individual level vampires pose a grave threat to the people around them, whether they want to be or not. At a societal level, humans outnumber vampires and are clearly capable of developing technology that helps to undermine the vampires’ supernatural abilities. With such power imbalances, and with trust between the two groups repeatedly undermined since vampires declared their existence, I can understand why both sides think war has become their only option.   Finding a morally correct way to defend against the real (if sometimes accidental and even seriously remorseful) threat of vampires is a pretty big challenge.

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