AMC is adding a new original program to its lineup this summer. The show is called Rubicon and it’s about code-breakers at a New York City think tank/privatized intelligence outfit. The show hints at a secret fourth branch of the American government that sounds like it has something to do with the financial system. As two mysterious deaths in the first episode suggest, it will not be revealed easily.
The hero is a genius puzzle-solver named Will Travers, achingly depressed since his wife and child died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Apparently Will was supposed to meet them at the top of one of the towers and was running late. He was getting out of the subway when the first plane struck. This is unsettling. For him, and for viewers.
The thrust of Rubicon is that everything happens for a reason. A man-made reason. This theme coupled with Will’s past creates the concern that when the show’s writers start running low on ideas, they’ll turn to the wheelhouse of 9/11 conspiracy theories. It’s a huge warning sign that Rubicon will someday transition from suspend-your-disbelief entertainment to the creepy-creepy creepiness of 9/11 truthers.
Historical fiction—especially historical science fiction—can be fun. Re-imagining Abraham Lincoln’s modus operandi as a hatred for vampires is awesome, one hundred and fifty years after the tragic Civil War. Even the controversial President Andrew Jackson can now be an affable emo rocker, as he is in Broadway’s hit musical, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. (Though his chest wound was more than just a metaphor for heartbreak; the dude had an actual bullet lodged in there.)
With 9/11, it’s way different—way too soon. Especially when there are people advocating “9/11 was an inside job,” as is shouted on internet message forums, this century’s equivalent of weirdoes in sandwich board signs on crowded street corners.
Overtly politicized scripted entertainment can be quite helpful to the national dialogue. Cable news becomes mind-numbing somewhere around twenty minutes in, so turning to good political fiction can offer the perspective to enlighten on matters America is still in the process of sorting out. Say, for example, equality for gays and lesbians.
This seemed to be the aim as the HBO horror dramedy True Blood premiered in 2008. It was another presidential election year, the marriage-denying Proposition 8 was on the ballot in California, and it looked like gay equality was going to be a big issue in the fall. What “True Blood” showed was how a small, swampy, close-minded Louisiana town reacted to having vampires “come out of the coffin,” so to speak. The vamps were demanding their rights, advocating for equality legislation in Congress to let them live just like every other American (except undead). Voting and property rights and such.
In ways like these, the comparison seems more akin to the movements for racial civil rights, though in that case, the vampires of the South were more associated with the oppressors than the victims. As Time magazine noted in reviewing Seth Grahame-Smith’s blockbuster novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, “Vampirism is a metaphor for slavery: like slave owners, vampires live off the blood of others.” In other words, the comparison is a grave insult.
The creators of True Blood see it differently. In their series, those who reveal themselves as vampires make for a perfect stand-in for the ‘otherness’ staid society fears. A hatred for “fangbangers,” a degrading term for humans who have sex with vamps, was a main theme throughout the first season. One of the main characters, a straight alpha male, spent most of those episodes threatened by the vampires’ virility and sexual openness. A bar called Fangtasia is essentially an S&M club with bite (and suck). A single drop of vampire blood is a drug: part hallucinogenic, mostly sexual supplement.
Get it? They bleed sex.
This is why so many of the show’s humans cannot look at vampires and be able to get past thoughts of sex. It’s the same way many in real life look at gay men demanding equality. They do not see human beings, but carnal beings. As Dan Savage told the New York Times last year, “When you press people on their opposition to gay marriage and gay rights, very often it reverts to anal sex.” Endorsing gay weddings leads to endorsing gay wedding nights.
While the second season of True Blood brought a conservative Christian militia preparing for holy war, it also brought a more vampire tolerant America. As season three gets underway, it’s questionable how much vampire equality will come into play. The fictional world is overtaking the real one, as it seems that werewolves might have to fit into the politics now. Maybe they’re the environmentalists? For one, they’ve got to be against aerial wolf hunting.