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A paper written for my Gothic and Sublime Literature class. In this piece, I look at a few of the advertisements that True Blood released a few seasons ago.


In Fritz Leiber’s “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes,” the figure of the vampire finds itself symbolically linked to the American advertising industry. In this short story, the Girl subverts her vampiric identity to enthrall and feed on those individuals unlucky enough to see her in photographic ads “on all the billboards from Times Square to Telegraph Hill” (334). Similarly, product advertisements on billboards, in magazines, etc. hide the true nature of their consumerist ideals in plain sight in order to tempt people into buying the newest, best, and most popular items so that they may keep up with the Joneses. Moreover, advertisers use the power of the product in these ads to mesmerize their customers; this enables them to drain their consumers’ wallets, much like the Girl entices her prey and feeds on their life force. Hence, within the context of Leiber’s short story and the notion of advertising that he portrays, the vampiric Girl comes to allegorically represent advertising and its consumerist nature.

Yet in contemporary American advertising, the figure of the vampire is being embraced more visibly as ads containing sexy “vampires” fill commercial spots, adorn billboards, and appear in other conventional advertising spaces. Furthermore, due to the recent popularity bloom of Twilight, True Blood, and other vampire franchises, ad campaigns supposedly targeting vampires themselves have erupted, even though they entice the mortal populace as well. By examining a group of these advertisements directed at vampires and endorsed by HBO’s True Blood against Leiber’s allegorical short story, the vampiric figure’s connection to advertising evolves from a symbolic one represented by the Girl to a more omnipresent and direct Dracula-like force which attempts to turn the consumers to perpetuate its grand vampiric design and ensure its continual existence.

Throughout Leiber’s short story, the Girl continually subverts her vampiric identity in order to feed on people via the advertisements in which she appears. Early on, the narrator of the story tells the audience that “There are vampires and vampires, and not all of them suck blood,” alluding that the Girl he is about to tell the audience about is inhuman (Leiber 335). By the narrator making this assertion at the beginning of his tale, the image of the Girl that the audience expects and the advertising ideals that she represents become complicated as she looks like a young woman with skinny arms and relatively normal features, besides having “the hungriest eyes in the world” (337). The Girl seemingly embodies an air of innocence and normality that hide her true intentions and motivations, which lie under the surface of her appearance. Though it would seem to most who see her ads that she only works to sell products and to make money, she additionally exudes “a hunger [within her eyes] that’s all sex and something more than sex,” showing a modicum of her internal malevolence and hunger (337). Moreover, with these enticing, sex-filled eyes, the Girl’s “magic [begins] to take hold of the city,” allowing her to bring them “under the spell” and feed on them (342). Thus, by posing as this innocent figure, the vampiric Girl assumes a non-threatening position within the world of advertising that allows her to feed on those individuals who see and become enamored with her.

Consequently, the Girl’s subverted, unassuming nature in the allegory presents what Leiber alludes is the subliminal and manipulative nature of traditional advertising. The way in which the Girl entrances and feeds on her prey essentially reflects and replicates the power Leiber asserts advertising has on the consumers. As many individuals are drawn in by the visually appealing nature of pictographic ads, their desires drain their monetary wealth because they purchase the commercialized products shown. Furthermore, this “modern advertising gets everybody’s mind set in the same direction, wanting the same things, imagining the same things,” thereby potentially turning the consumers into slaves of the trendiest products and services shown in the ads (342). This pattern of viewing, draining, and mesmerizing that advertising places the consumers in parallels the feeding  phenomenon of the Girl but, additionally, details the ways in which Leiber’s story shows advertising functioning, even as its true vampiric nature is hidden like the Girl’s.

Although the vampiric nature of the Girl and advertising are cloaked within Leiber’s tale, contemporary advertisers have teamed up with Hollywood production companies to help push vampires into the light of day, as it were. In a recent ad campaign endorsed by HBO’s True Blood, products varying from Gillette Fusion razors and Harley motorcycles to Monster Job Services and Geico Insurance appear on billboards and magazine ad space in muted colors of reds, blacks, greens, grays, and purples, vampirically identified hues by this association. Further still, these images proudly proclaim that “Vampires Prefer the Fusion Shave” (Gillette Fusion) or that one must “Feel the Wind in [their] Fangs” (Mini-Cooper), which suggests that the one must be the imaginary undead represented in order to fully appreciate the products. Many of these products additionally tell their viewers that the items shown are “Exclusively for Vampires” (Harley, Mini-Cooper, Ecko) or other taglines designed to appeal to their vampire consumers. As a result, the literal physical representations of the vampires within the advertisements cause the vampiric figure to occupy a privileged space of existence over normal humans. By commercializing the undead in this way, the advertisers and product manufacturers not only take advantage of a cultural phenomenon but also expose the vampire and its symbolic nature in a visible way, thereby furthering and changing how Leiber’s concept of vampiric advertising functions.

Furthermore, by these True Blood product ads repositioning this vampiric figure from the symbolic to a more visible / literal focus, the modern figure of vampiric advertising builds upon Leiber’s model of the Girl but adds an additional level to the allegory as a result. In the two True Blood advertisements that most closely resemble those the Girl appears in, male vampires become the subjects or, perhaps more accurately, the objects of the consumers’ attention. One of these ads that promote the Gillette Fusion razor shows an attractive, dark-haired man with pale skin looking off into the distance and stroking his freshly shaven face, which imitates the vogue of many contemporary razor advertisements. However, his fangs peek from his slightly open mouth, revealing the overall gimmick of the “Dead Sexy” campaign slogan (Gillette). The other ad from Ecko cologne shows another attractive male vampire standing behind a semi-nude, heroin-chic female model; further still, he is caressing / sniffing her neck hovering as he is about to bite her, proving that he is able to “Attract a Human” (Ecko). By presenting these hyper-masculine vampiric figures in ways similar to the sensually idealized Girl, the advertisers start to expound upon the foundational text that is Leiber’s story but move the ideology of vampiric advertising forward in an overt and slightly more complicated way.

Although the male vampiric figures’ ads do not directly hypnotize viewers in the way the Girl’s picture does, a similar, sexualized effect corresponding to the successfulness of the advertisements occurs. Because the two True Blood ads show shirtless, rugged males, the effect that the advertisers seem to desire from men is that they aspire to the vampiric figure and buy the product in question to do so. Likewise, the response of those persons sexually attracted to the figures in the ads is that they should want and desire the vampiric figure in such a way that they wish to create in their boyfriends, husbands, etc. an Edward or a Vampire Bill of their own, and thus, they buy the products. In both situations, the consumer becomes enthralled by the “othered” vampiric man in the ads and wants to become him or be with him in some way. Therefore, on one hand, Leiber’s ideology that “modern advertising gets everybody’s mind set in the same direction, wanting the same things, imagining the same things” holds true even in this contemporary, vampire-infused world of advertising (Leiber 342). On the other hand, however, the consumers are getting more from advertising than just the products in question. Those individuals who buy into this glamourized nature of vampirism being sold to them effectively suck the ad-imagined vampiric lifeblood into themselves, thus symbolically transforming them into the progeny of the vampiric figure and advertising. By attempting to live the lifestyle “Exclusively for Vampires” and upholding the vampiric image, these turned individuals become living, fledgling ads that perpetuate the creation of new “vampires” through actions, as they flaunt their newly purchased products (Harley, Mini-Cooper, Ecko).

While Leiber’s tale and the Girl within it exhibit no pretense of knowing where advertising’s vampiric nature could go, the vampiric figures presented in advertisements of True Blood and other contemporary vampire works show the ways in which the vampire and the advertisements  continue to enthrall consumers and sell a materialistic lifestyle to them. Moreover, the movement from the subverted figure of the Girl to the modern ads that openly embrace male vampiric constructs creates an obvious meta-narrative surrounding the vampiric ideal of advertising. As Leiber sought to make his readers aware of the hidden / sinister nature of advertising as he saw it, these contemporary ads with their overtness beg consumers to see that they too extend the ideal of vampiric advertising to themselves. When the consumers shave with the Gillette Fusion or ride their Harley or wear their Ecko cologne that the purported vampires endorse, they continue to perpetuate the vampiric nature of advertising. However, the enthrallment of some individuals still continues as they slightly bend their necks and arch their bodies forward, waiting anxiously with shallow breathing for one or more advertisers to sink their teeth into the exposed plump wallets and feed.

**I thank you for reading and hope that you enjoyed this stuff about vampires. It must be noted that plagiarism of this work is strictly prohibited. Additionally, the works cited page has been omitted to help avoid this temptation. I’m not saying that my ideas are super-fantastic, but I would like to receive appropriate credit for this. Also, a quick side note, if you found this your professor can too. Thanks all! 🙂

I’ve been toying with the idea for a while of creating a new blog for a while that dealt with one of my main literary, film, etc. loves and that is vampires, hence the name. So what you can expect to see here are all the things vampire, all the time. Whether it be Buffy the Vampire Slayer, TrueBlood,or a sundry of other things. I love vampires, and hope that you will too.

By Thecount68 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I chose the name “Vampires in the Mist”  as a play on the film Gorillas in the Mist:The Story of Diane Fossey. This movie details the life of Diane Fossey and her study of the gorillas in Rwanda, including her fight against poaching of the gorillas. This blog will study all things vampire and examine them in a way that illustrates their importance in mainstream culture and in my own personal life. They’re awesome! Here, I hope to create a conversation surrounding vampires that we all can participate in.