True Blood: Raising the Stakes with Humor

Warning: This article contains depictions and descriptions of blood

True Blood is an American HBO series based off the The Southern Vampire Mysteries books. It aired from 2008 to 2014, receiving critical acclaim and awards over the course of its run. The show follows Sookie Stackhouse, a waitress with telepathic powers as she comes to grips with the supernatural occurrences around her – including the sudden emergence of vampires into the mainstream world.

In the early seasons, the posters portrayed a sense of intrigue. The blood always stands out in a brilliant contrast with the rest of the poster, highlighting the sensual lips of the vampire or the bite wounds on Sookie’s neck. Over all the blood, and by an extension, the vampires are always emphasized most. It should be noted that the early seasons also coincide with the rise of Twilight, and the crazy around vampires as a whole in pop culture.

However, as the seasons progress, we see a shift towards humor in their posters. Every one of the posters above still reference vampires – but they do so in a more indirect, creative way. Each of these posters makes the viewer stop and think. For example, the “Vamp Stamp” is meant to be a bandage to go over a bite mark, but it might take someone a few seconds to realize what it is, particularly if they’re only looking at the picture. The middle poster references “blood suckers”, meaning vampires, but juxtapositions it with mosquitoes. We’re meant to draw a parallel between the two. And even though it’s not as explicit as their early posters, the aesthetic of them remains the same: there is a stark white background, a bright, familiar shade of red, and easily recognizable branding at the bottom that tells the viewer to save the date.

Moving into the last season, the humor continues. Each member of the cast has their own poster, featuring them laying in a coffin. The headline for each character is witty and reflects their individual circumstances (usually with a pun). By now most viewers are invested. They care enough about the individual characters that they are what’s most important. So rather than focusing on vampires in general, the cast feature more heavily in the marketing, but the element of humor stays the same. As time goes on, the show itself becomes less serious, more willing to embrace the ridiculous in its narrative and plots. The posters reflect this progression as they attempt to bring the audience in for one last bite.

 

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