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True Blood title sequence

by Steve Anderson

I continue to be both fascinated and troubled by this title sequence for the HBO series True Blood. One on hand, the title sequence suggests a progressive vision of vampires who are seeking social acceptance in the rural Louisiana town of Bon Temps. The title sequence makes explicit reference to both the gay and civil rights movements with images of civil rights protests, the Ku Klux Klan, a burning cross and a lighted sign that reads "God hates fangs." The show, in turn, focuses on a "mixed" relationship between a white human female and a vampire and their struggles to overcome the bigotry and prejudice of their community. At the same time, this title sequence evokes a number of stereotypes that portray southerners as poor, rural, violent, drunken, religiously fanatic, highly sexualized, etc. It's difficult to see how the perpetuation of these stereotypes serves the progressive political agenda suggested by the civil rights framing of the show. Of course, as is often the case, the title sequence was produced outside of HBO, in this case by the design firm Digital Kitchen, who received an Emmy nomination for their efforts and has gone on to create an inventive, multi-platform advertising campaign that includes numerous True Blood-inspired "viral" videos and cross-product marketing with companies as diverse as Gilette, Harley-Davidson and Geico. Interestingly, the title sequence includes no explicit vampire imagery, although death, predation and rebirth are referenced metaphorically: a bloody opossum in the road; a slow motion rattlesnake strike; a frog being consumed by a venus fly trap; a canine corpse decaying in time lapse and an insect emerging from a cocoon. The ultimate goal of the title design, like the show itself (and indeed to be fair, like all corporate media), is commercial viability, rather than sophistication of political critique. Perhaps the real question to ask is whether we are comfortable with reducing the specific histories of civil rights movements in this country, which are still in contestation, to a narrative trope.

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True Blood title sequence

The opening title sequence for the HBO series True Blood summarizes the show's ambiguous politics.

from True Blood (2009)
Creator: Alan Ball
Distributor: HBO
Posted by Steve Anderson
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