The Human Factor
When the heroes (antiheroes, protagonists and so forth) of a show are almost all supernatural, where do the humans fit in?
I’ve been thinking about that lately in urban fantasy in general, but the latest season of True Blood has brought the question to the fore. To say that the supernatural characters outnumber the pure humans in that show is to drastically understate the situation. Excluding antagonists and villains, the number of unadulterated human characters remaining can be counted on one hand (with a finger or two left over if you only count characters who have been around more than one season) and are outnumbered some three or four to one by the supernaturals.
This issue gets tied into the story through a plot line set up last season (and partially during the season before) – the humans are fighting back. Humans, through the government, have all but declared open warfare on vampires (the only form of supernatural they officially know about). The Louisiana governor has instituted vampire curfews, assigned a SWAT-level task force, broadly expanded police powers, and set up illegal vampire research facilities that include scientific tests to determine the best ways to protect humans and kill vast numbers of vampires.
The show clearly wants viewers to root for the vampire characters they have presumably grown to love over the previous seasons against the evil (and more than a touch illegal) oppression of the nasty governor.
But should we be rooting against the human race?
I’ll grant that some of the vampire characters are fun and likeable, at least most of the time. We know them. We can sympathize with their struggles. But at the end of the day, they are still predators who prey on humans. Even the best of them have killed humans and will do so again. They kill each other’s human servants, they kill to protect secrets, they kill to send messages, they kill when overcome with hunger, et cetera. And of course they kill humans. Let us not forget that these things are undead monsters that continue their existence by feeding on the life essence of human beings.*
The plot and its details reflect the way humans have treated humans, and I think the viewer is supposed to see the vampires as an oppressed minority, perhaps as a political statement about real-world human interactions. But there’s a problem with this: vampires are freaking undead monsters that drink our blood. This isn’t a difference of skin color, religion, politics, national origin, or sexual orientation. This is a question of species survival. But can’t we live in peace with vampires? No, because even the weakest vampire can control the mind of any human in the space of a heartbeat. How can you trust a creature that could make you trust it? Heck, baby vampire Jessica all but destroyed the mind of the love of her unlife through repeated mesmerism, and she didn’t want to hurt him.
The humans involved in battling vampires all come across as evil, so it’s easy to root against those individuals. But if the climax of the season puts me in a position where I have to choose between humans and vampires, I choose humans. Every time.
What about you? Do you feel any species loyalty to the human race, or are characters more important?
*In theory they can survive on Tru Blood, but not one vampire has ever said anything positive about Tru Blood. At best they tolerate it, which means it couldn’t possibly be a long-term solution to their preferred diet.