Advertising is a form of communication intended to persuade an audience (viewers, readers or listeners) to purchase or take some action upon products, ideas, or services – advertisers want, and expect, the public to buy into an idea. Adverts can also be an artistic reflection of their context – of the social construct in which they were created. Adverts tell us a good deal about society.
When affronted by the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Friends” advert for Tru Blood, I was delivered a mental slap in the face by what has become the ‘great vampire metaphor’. The ad refers to the synthetic blood nourishment beverage, given the ironic name ‘Tru Blood’, which is the brain child of author Charlaine Harris and has achieved stardom with the help of creator/producer Alan Ball. Harris’s ‘Southern Vampire mysteries’, whilst serving as a soap operatic excuse for a love triangle and not unpleasant (porno)graphic sex, successfully reflect some sharp, satirical commentary that Harris has incorporated into the mythology of the tale.
Why is the vampire metaphor so ‘great’? Because the word ‘Vampire’ has given birth to the adjective ‘vampiric’, which refers, not only to its blood-sucking namesake, but poignantly ascribes meaning to the act of extortion, which runs rampant in today’s world. A being, vampire or mere mortal, described as vampiric is a being who preys ruthlessly upon others. One can coerce emotion, intellect or physicality from another, in as violent or non-violent manner as it takes to claim what belongs to another.
A vampire’s vampirism is usually excused because the creature’s vampiric tendencies are part of its nature. A vampire is kept ‘alive’ by bleeding others, and the literal essence of the act is often translated into a philosophical manner of existence – or so the many vampire stories that have populated the market over centuries tell us. Conversely, it is not the nature of humans, assuming one subscribes to an optimistic vision of mankind, to subscribe to the quality of vampirism. In the human world, extortion, in whatever form, is considered harmful and often unforgivable. We are often like leeches; proactive in using our proverbial fangs to suck the life out of one another.
The advert promoting Tru Blood is rendered ambiguous by the metaphor that comes attached to anything vampiric. The advert encourages vampires to deny their nature and ‘drink responsibly’ by replacing human blood with Tru Blood, and also places the onus on the vampire to encouraging their friends to do so. The advert tries to make the vampire, a creature characteristically selfish and exclusive in nature, unnaturally responsible for others.
The flippant tome of the ad is reminiscent of the confrontational nature of Charlaine Harris’s vampire chronicles, which pose the question: who are we to deny our nature? And stemming from that question is ‘what if our nature is bad’? Do the boundaries of social structure then compel us deny that which is inexcusable? And, if certain behaviour is intrinsic to our composition, why then should we be compelled to bury that behaviour? The behemoth of all questions follows suit: who decides what is ‘bad’ – where is the line drawn? The vampires in Harris’s novels are a representation of any minority group that has been suppressed and burdened by prejudice. The author challenges morality and poses no answers.
But, metaphorically speaking, the ad is more than an impudent warning to the vamps and their mates. It is a warning to another kind of vampire – the human kind. It addresses those who do not have the excuse of ‘natural vampirism’. Not only does the ad warn against extortion but it makes people responsible for the behaviour of others.
Society is becoming less and less inclined to take responsibility for its actions – there is always someone or something else to blame. The ad appeals to our companionship as human beings – we are all ‘friends’ – not literally but because we are made up of the same emotional, intellectual and physical essence. If we are all ‘friends’, in a philosophical sense, surely it’s okay to look out for one another and to call each other out on our mistakes. Is that judgement poking its ugly head around the corner? The biblical connotations of ‘to judge’ have blacklisted the poor word, and upon its mere mention people seem to freak out and run a mile. But it isn’t about ‘judging’. It’s about being accountable for our acctions, and depending on one another to do so. Let’s not suck our friends dry!
Utopia right? Perhaps we should buy in.