In the summer of 2009, the HBO online store launched the new soft drink Tru Blood, based on the synthetic blood substitute featured in the popular HBO drama True Blood, the substance that allows vampires to “come out of the coffin” and live among humans. On True Blood, this beverage satisfies the vampire’s hunger for human blood, in theory if not always in practice. The description of Tru Blood on the HBO store site (http://store.hbo.com) boasts that the synthetic blood beverage on the show has been “de-fictionalized and emerges into reality as a delicious blood orange carbonated drink.” While the Tru Blood featured on the show attempts to mimic the look, taste, and texture of human blood, the defictionalized Tru Blood wisely resists that mode of imitation, focusing instead on creating an exact replica of the Tru Blood bottle. The conversion of the textual Tru Blood into extratextual Tru Blood replaces substance with style, capitalizing on the fashion for vampires by defining vampirism as fashion.
The HBO store markets a network of fantasies (or fangtasies, to adopt one of the show’s favorite puns), presenting the defictionalized Tru Blood for consumption in venues remote from the show’s fictional location – the seedy, supernatural swamp of Bon Temps. The secular form of transubstantiation offered by the defictionalized Tru Blood will likely be enjoyed most frequently by affluent consumers and devoted fans, consumers who can afford not only to subscribe to HBO but also to buy Tru Blood for $4/bottle plus $8 for shipping, a steep price for a soda.
I selected this commercial for Tru Blood because it points to both the strategic blurring of the fictional and defictionalized versions of the product in HBO’s marketing and the gendering of its consumer public. Most of the commercials produced for Tru Blood explicitly identify a male consumer, and two of them directly recreate the mise-en-scène of the beer commercial. I’m interested in how that consumer focus might connect to Jennifer’s discussion of the gendered profile of the Etsy community and the discussion of “manvertising” on In Media Res several weeks ago.