July 4, 2010

Review: True Blood and Philosophy

I have been fascinated with vampires, werewolves and witches since for as long as I can remember. It used to be that vampires were repulsing creatures who felt no remorse and had no soul. In today's world, becoming a vampire is a romantic notion. I have often wondered why this idea appealed to me and even though I can't quite put my finger on the how or why that I like it, all I know is I've been seduced by the thought of being a supernatural creature.

I have always thought that the big reason we like vampires is the same reason that we would choose the "bad boy" instead of a good one. We are attracted to the idea that we can change someone and we're interested in finding out if someone can change us. Little did I know that there are a lot of reasons that I had never thought of.

This book dives into questions such as "does God hate fangs" and "are all vampires created equal". This was a fun and interesting read. Fans of True Blood don't want to miss this!

Read an excerpt:

Introduction: "If a Tree Falls in the Woods, It's Still a Tree -- Ain't It?"
Edited by George A. Dunn and Rebecca Housel with series editor William Irwin,
Editors of True Blood and Philosophy: We Wanna Think Bad Things with You (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)

When Amy Burley gives Jason Stackhouse a quick tutorial on the "circle of life" (you know, squirrels eating nuts, snakes eating squirrels, and so on), using the decor of Merlotte's as a visual aid, he exclaims, ''Jesus Christ, I want to lick your mind!" Our boy Jason may be better known in Bon Temps for his good looks and "sex abilities," but it's phrases like "lick your mind" that draw fans to True Blood's most earnest, if sometimes tragically misguided, seeker of life's meaning and purpose (or at least his life's meaning and purpose). In fact, "lick your mind" perfectly captures the blend of smarts and sensuality in the brilliant, sexually charged HBO series that inspired us to produce the book you hold in your hands, True Blood and Philosophy.

It all started with Charlaine Harris's Dead until Dark, published in 2001, which launched her series of critically acclaimed, best-selling supernatural mystery novels and introduced the world to a most unlikely sleuth, an attractive Louisiana barmaid and mind reader named Sookie Stackhouse. Harris's work caught the attention of Alan Ball, the award-winning screenwriter and director, who built his reputation on dark and daring works like American Beauty and Six Feet Under. With a healthy dose of edgy humor and deep compassion for his characters' frailties and foibles, Ball made a career of boldly delving into taboo subjects like death and transgressive sexuality, creating works that were brazen both in their unabashed carnality and in raising tough questions about the human condition. True Blood, Ball's adaptation of Harris's Southern Vampire Mystery novels, takes the same mind-licking approach as those earlier works. In the world of True Blood, as in the pages of Harris's novels, we encounter a wonderful array of richly drawn characters struggling to make sense of their bewildering world and their own sometimes equally bewildering desires and hungers. For those of us who hunger for insight and understanding, their stories offer a lavish banquet of philosophical morsels into which we can sink our proverbial fangs and from which we can draw both sustenance and delight.

As it turns out, philosophy has a lot in common with True Blood. Like the vampires, shapeshifters, and other supernatural beings that pass through Bon Temps, philosophers are often regarded as deviant characters due to their habit of overturning expectations and tempting us to think outside conventional boundaries. Like True Blood's mind-reading detective Sookie Stackhouse, philosophers are unafraid to venture into dark corners of the human mind, where they sometimes unearth uncomfortable truths that others prefer to leave buried. And like the indomitable Jason Stackhouse, many philosophers engage in a quest for the meaning of life that often seems quixotic, an interminable pursuit that's been known to lead us down more than a few blind alleys -- as Jason himself can testify. But like True Blood and Harris's novels, the philosophical quest can also be one of life's most delectable pleasures. Don't take our word for it, though. You hold the evidence in your hands.

When you surrender to the lure of True Blood and Philosophy, it won't cost you a drop of blood, but your perception of reality may be expanded and enriched so dramatically that you'll wonder whether you somehow ingested V-Juice. Okay, maybe that's too much to expect. But we are confident that your enjoyment of True Blood will be considerably enhanced by the time you spend with us pondering some of the more perplexing philosophical quandaries raised by the supernatural adventures of Sookie and her paranormal pals. For example, "pro-living" crusaders like the Reverend Steve Newlin denounce vampires as unnatural, but what does that really mean? If it's just another way of saying that vampires are evil, then why does evil exist in the first place? And can vampires -- or any other creatures for that matter -- be considered inherently evil?

Beyond these classic questions about the nature of evil, True Blood offers a fresh spin on the vampire genre that opens a rich vein of new philosophical queries. In the world envisioned by Ball and Harris, those conundrums-on-legs we call vampires have "come out of the coffin" and are attempting to live openly alongside human beings. Given the imbalance of power between human beings and vampires (who, in addition to superhuman strength and speed, also have a troubling knack for "glamouring" humans out of their free will), can humans and vampires belong to the same political community and participate in society as equals? Are the plights of gays and other minorities similar to the situation of True Blood's vampires as they come out of the coffin and claim their place in the sun -- um, better make that in the shade? The perennial evils of hatred, bigotry, and scapegoating -- those not-so-supernatural scourges of our species -- appear in a fresh light when their victims and perpetrators include not only ordinary human beings, but also vampires, shapeshifters, "fang-bangers," fanatical disciples of the Fellowship of the Sun, and, last but not least, a maenad as beguiling as she is depraved.

And let's not forget that the same show that stimulates our thinking with such succulent moral and metaphysical quandaries is also a wickedly sexy romp through the perilous precincts of love and lust. Could True Blood possibly have something to teach us about the paths and impediments to erotic fulfillment? Granted, most of us probably have desires considerably tamer than those of the more colorful denizens of Bon Temps, but still . . .

We don't promise that True Blood and Philosophy will supply the conclusive answers to all of these questions -- or even to Jason's classic mindblower, "If a tree falls in the woods, it's still a tree-ain't it?" Philosophers have been debating questions like these since long before Godric was a twinkle in his maker's eye, and every answer has been shadowed by some doubt. It's the questioning itself that's mind-licking good. So invite us across your threshold. We want to think bad things with you!

The above is an excerpt from the book True Blood and Philosophy: We Wanna Think Bad Things with You (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series) edited by George A. Dunn and Rebecca Housel with series editor William Irwin. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 George A. Dunn and Rebecca Housel with series editor William Irwin, editors of True Blood and Philosophy: We Wanna Think Bad Things with You (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)

Editor Bios
Richard Brian Davis
is an associate professor of philosophy at Tyndale University College and the coeditor of 24 and Philosophy.

William Irwin
is a professor of philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as coeditor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles, including Batman and Philosophy, House and Philosophy, and Watchmen and Philosophy.

The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series:
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and a healthy helping of popular culture clears the cobwebs from Kant. Philosophy has had a public relations problem for a few centuries now. This series aims to change that, showing that philosophy is relevant to your life–and not just for answering the big questions like "To be or not to be?" but for answering the little questions: "To watch or not to watch House?" Thinking deeply about TV, movies, and music doesn't make you a "complete idiot." In fact it might make you a philosopher, someone who believes the unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined cartoon is not worth watching.

To learn more about the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, visit www.andphilosophy.com, and follow the series on Twitter and Facebook.

True Blood and Philosophy
Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
June 1, 2010
256 pages
$17.95 US

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are 100% mine.  If you purchase a book using my Amazon or Barnes and Noble link, I will receive a small portion of the purchase price.

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1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this book! I just finished reading it yesterday and since I'm an uber-huge fan of True Blood I was really excited to find the hidden meanings behind the already elusive southern mysteries!