The surge of vampire movies, books, and TV shows can probably be traced back largely to the success of one show. Now 20 years old, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a cult show that is still enjoyed today around the world. Following a high school protagonist who took on the evil of the world with her specially-endowed powers, it was also a coming of age tale and had many serious looks at the important issues of life.
It was such a popular series that it’s no wonder there have been plenty of similarities with shows since then. Many creators have looked to emulate Buffy in search of success, either to push the ratings or because they themselves loved the show.
Enter True Blood, a show about… you guessed it: vampires. Although there are plenty of differences between the shows – one notable example being the fact that vampires are “out of the coffin” in True Blood and trying to peacefully coexist with humans – there are plenty of similarities too.
While a lot of the show may be similar by coincidence, there are some things that are just too close for comfort. Based on a series of books, there are times when it was the author that was responsible – but there are also elements of the show which came from the writers and producers of the episodes instead.
15. Vampires (Duh) And The Other Creatures
Both shows are about vampires, so that’s a given. Fair enough. But they also go on to include a lot of other supernatural species, some of them as friends and some as enemies. These include witches, werewolves and other were-beasts, faeries, shape-shifters, and so on. Now, it’s not so unusual these days for a supernatural show to feature all of the above. But that doesn’t come from vampire lore. Look at the Vampire Chronicles series by Anne Rice, or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Those don’t contain references to other species – just vampires. So it’s clear that this meshing together of many different supernatural entities had to come from somewhere. It was done so skilfully in Buffy, it’s no wonder that pretty much any supernatural show since has wanted to jump on the bandwagon. True Blood is guilty of doing the same. It makes the show more interesting, but it also complicates the lore and the world “rules”.
14. The Big Bad, Glory
Remember the season 5 Buffy villain, Glory? She was an immortal who seemingly just couldn’t be stopped. She wanted to perform a ritual, which of course the protagonist was tasked with stopping. She brainwashed normal people into becoming her minions to help her to prepare, and they helped to build a tower for her. It was essential that she choose someone to sacrifice and for this she chose someone from the protagonist’s own inner circle, raising the stakes even higher.
Oh wait, we made a mistake: that was actually True Blood’s Maryann we were describing. Yes, they seem to have pretty much carbon-copied this storyline. The only subtle difference between them was basically their species. It’s incredible that they got away with this storyline, considering just how close it was to that spectacular season 5 build-up and showdown.
13. Dawn And Jessica
When it comes to making the show a bit more serious, one way to do it is to give a main character more responsibility. A younger, more vulnerable character who needs help. This character also gives the show a way to address teen issues even when the core cast is getting older. In Buffy, this was Dawn. She is created out of nothing in season 5. When Buffy’s mother dies, she ends up becoming the sole caregiver for her little sister. Enter rows about going to school, teenage angst, and plenty more issues. In True Blood, it’s Bill who suddenly needs to take care of Jessica. While their relationships may be different, both dependencies were created by supernatural means. They also both serve as a super useful way to get those teen issues in. It also makes that main character have to grow up a little and take on more responsibilities – and raises the stakes. What will happen to their ward if they die?
12. The Special Girl
This is a big trope, and it’s very obvious in these two shows. The protagonist is a woman who was chosen specially because of her birthright. She knows more about the existence of the supernatural world than most. She leads a fairly normal life until, one day, she finds out about the existence of vampires. Then her world is turned into one long struggle. It’s often felt that she is the only one that can make a difference, even when she has a lot of people helping out. Buffy was the Chosen One, the Slayer, a mantle passed down from woman to woman around the world.
Sookie was born a fairy/telepath, which makes her special right away. There are a few more similarities between these two; both are blonde girls, both work as waitresses at some point but don’t stick with it for the whole show, and Buffy even had telepathic abilities at one point.
11. LGBT Themes
There are strong LGBT themes and storylines in both TV shows. Besides having openly gay characters, the idea of vampires “coming out of the coffin” is very reminiscent of coming out of the closet. A lot of people have pointed out that True Blood’s vampires are based on LGBT people, and their struggles for acceptance – as well as the different attitudes that people have towards them. It’s an important thing to draw attention to, and while it may have been done a little clumsily, it makes sense as a theme.
In Buffy, we also saw a very big struggle for a main character: Willow, who came out as a lesbian and ended up having romance storylines which highlighted her struggle. Her girlfriend, Tara, was even cast out by her family as a result of her magical powers – a strong allegory for her sexuality. Both shows attempt to show us that different sexualities are fine, and that love is beautiful no matter what form it takes.
10. The Vampire Love Triangle
This one is a real classic. We all remember Buffy’s love triangle: she was besotted with Angel, but then he kind of did some bad things and their feelings for one another cooled slightly. In the meantime, Spike was watching from afar, wanting her yet also hating himself for wanting her. She was repulsed by him, but over time, grew to see another side of him that was more enticing.
Now replace Buffy with Sookie, Angel with Bill, and Spike with Eric. Of course, there are different nuances to the love triangles, but it boils down to the choice between the good, hot vampire (who has the potential to be bad) and the bad, hot vampire (who has the potential to be good). And our female lead is stuck right in the middle, with both of them wanting her and waiting for her to make her choice.
9. The Scooby Gang
One of the things we all loved best about Buffy was her Scoobies, the gang of friends who helped her out and battled the forces of darkness at her side. These included her love interest Angel, her best friends Willow and Xander, her frenemy Cordelia, her mentor Giles, her sister Dawn, and a few others that were picked up along the way. She lost friends, gained them, and lost a few more, but the idea of the Scooby gang always having her back was a core theme. Even when they were bewitched into not knowing one another, they would stick together. The core group in True Blood has a similar style. There’s Sookie’s love interest Bill, her brother Jason, her best friend Tara, her mentor/guardian Sam, and so on. Friends come, friends die or leave, friends come again. It’s the same old story. And even though the core group of friends may get into trouble, it’s key to note that they are always saved. That’s because friends always have each other’s backs.
8. The Taras Are Basically The Same
One of the most oddly specific similarities between the two shows is the character called Tara. First, they are both called Tara and are both part of the lead character’s core group of friends, albeit with Buffy’s Tara coming into the show a little bit later on. But it’s what happens to them that makes this so much of a coincidence.
Remember how we pointed out that Glory is more or less the same character as Maryann? Well, both Glory and Maryann target their respective Taras as a victim. Both of them raise the stakes for our heroes, forcing them to take down the big bad so that they can save their friend. Both of them even get shot to death, although True Blood’s Tara is lucky enough to get revived as a vampire, while Buffy’s Tara would probably consider that a fate worse than death. Oh, and they both happen to engage in lesbian relationships.
7. Everyone’s Battling Inner Demons
One of the main themes of both shows is the fact that, whatever monsters they might be battling on the outside, the characters are also all battling their own inner demons. In many ways, this could be considered to be the main point of the shows. Even when you are a specially gifted person with a connection to the supernatural world, you still have to worry about things like college and working and looking after family members. You might get involved with drug use or struggle with your sexuality. And of course, there are always relationship issues to worry about. Through the inner demons that the characters battle, we are introduced to real world issues, things that we can relate to. This is a core part of what made Buffy such a success, and it was also played upon for the duration of True Blood’s run. What both creators understand is that fighting supernatural monsters isn’t enough: the characters have to be human, too.
6. The Core Cast
Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow, and Spike form the core cast for Buffy. They are all present in every single season. With the exception of Spike and Giles, they never even leave the main cast. Even when Buffy leaves or ‘dies’, we usually see either a time-skip or a replacement (hello, Buffy-bot). And when any of them does leave, it’s for a very short period of time.
We can see a similar thing with True Blood. There is a main core of characters who never leave, or at least never leave for very long. Billed as the main cast for the full duration of the show are Sookie, Bill, Eric, Sam, Jason, Tara, Lafayette, Arlene, and Andy. Just like in Buffy, there are also core cast members that start as just recurring and then become main characters later on. It means you can always rely on those same core members to be there. It’s also a pretty impressive achievement, as not many shows can keep a core cast for a sustained period – just look at The Vampire Diaries, a very similar show that lost lead character Elena Gilbert in season six.
5. They Use Many Of The Same Character Names
It’s kind of crazy that two very similar shows would not try harder to avoid using the same names. Of course, most of the names in the True Blood cast are taken from the books that are their source material. However, it’s not like they kept every single detail of the books – there are characters who survive that should be dead, new characters, characters who were left out, and so on. It therefore doesn’t seem too unreasonable to avoid using the same names, which would no doubt invite comparison.
However, for some reason, the producers of the show decided that they would have characters named the same. That’s why we ended up with two Taras, whose storylines seem to be ridiculously similar. We also have two Dawns, although they don’t share as much in common. Some minor character names are the same too, which just seems a bit lazy if you ask us. With millions of names to choose from, something better could have been made up.
4. A Maternal Death
One of the most emotional moments in the whole run of Buffy was the death of her mother, Joyce. While there were plenty of times that it seemed as though Joyce was in danger, she always managed to save her mother at the last minute. Keeping her and her home safe was one of Buffy’s prides. But she couldn’t stop a medical condition taking Joyce’s life, leaving her to discover her death in the traumatic episode “The Body”.
For Sookie, there is also the heart-breaking loss of a maternal figure. Her grandmother, Adele, served as a mother figure for her, but was murdered during the first season. The removal of a mother figure forces the characters to stand on their own, and also teaches the even stronger importance of protecting their siblings and hanging on to their friends. It’s a big growing up moment for both of them, all the more so as it happens while they are becoming adults.
3. Angel vs. Bill
It’s time for creepy boyfriend similarities! Both Sookie and Buffy have a dark, brooding love interest who is introduced early on. They are Bill and Angel, respectively. Both Bill and Angel watch our protagonist from afar for a while before actually meeting each other (the stalker trope is also repeated in The Vampire Diaries and Twilight). Angel actually followed Buffy from LA to Sunnydale, while Bill was sent to watch her by The Queen. They aren’t particularly happy chaps, and they both harbour a strong dislike for the soon-to-be love rivals, Spike and Eric. Angel ends up going off the rails and becoming an antagonist for a while, as does Bill. It would be hard to make them any more similar unless Bill started wearing leather jackets all the time. Wait, hold on… he does wear a leather jacket. Well, we stand corrected. They could not be any more similar.
2. All The Friends Who Become Supernatural Creatures
One thing that happened in Buffy from season one was the idea that Buffy’s friends were not immune to danger. They, too, could be in harm’s way – and nothing was ever more potent than the idea that it could happen to ‘one of us’. The character Oz becomes a werewolf after a scratch from his cousin Jordy, and the gang has to deal with getting over fears about his power and helping him cope with the transformation.
True Blood’s Jason becomes a werepanther. Willow, Tara, Dawn, and Anya all have supernatural abilities or origins. The same is true for Sam, Alcide, Tara, and many others. The only real way to raise the stakes on a show like this is to have more and more of the ordinary humans shed their ‘ordinariness’ to become a supernatural creature themselves. Otherwise, how are they going to survive? Transformation storylines also address the idea of changes, and how someone can be tainted by a change they didn’t necessarily ask for.
1. Supernatural Creatures Seem To Like Small Towns
Finally, let’s look at the setting of these shows. You would think it would make sense for vampires and other beasties to head for a big city. In New York, for example, a few deaths here and there might go unnoticed amongst the larger trends. You might not be thought of as odd if you have to stay in all day and can only venture out at night, or if you look a little different to others. But instead, both of these shows are set in small towns. The protagonist is well-known in their hometown, and many people recognize them. They have a small pool of friends and enemies all based in the same place. Even if more destruction could be wrought elsewhere, bad guys just can’t stop attacking this one small town. Sunnydale and Bon Temps might just be the most dangerous small towns to live in in the US.