“A vampire, a werewolf and a ghost live together in a house” is arguably the most compelling premise for a joke about the supernatural. Similarly, the same premise is what got me excited about the BBC program Being Human. Since my cable provider does not carry BBC America, I had to wait until the DVD release to see if it would live up the hype that I created for it. And recently, the waiting stopped.
Alas, Being Human struck out. As much as I wanted to like this show, the elements working against my enjoyment were just too strong. And (surprise, surprise) the problems all stem from how creator Toby Whithouse breaks critical rules of vampire mythology:
- Vampires can eat regular food to stay alive…Strike One!
- Vampires can walk around during the day…Strike Two!
- Sheer will power can subdue the urge for blood…Strike Three!
I don’t call myself an absolute vampire purist. It can be fun when people use creative license to push the boundaries of lore. However, one constant that must be honored is that vampires are undead. Human physiological functions don’t apply to them. For instance, vampires’ digestive system is not designed to process anything other than blood. The first episode of “Being Human” had a scene in which Mitchell (the vampire) and George (the werewolf) are waiting for a pizza delivery…a PIZZA DELIVERY! When I saw Mitchell pick a pepperoni off the pie and eat it, I knew that it was only the beginning of the vampire liberties that I simply wouldn’t be able to accept.
And I was right…because Mitchell day-walks. Yes, he walks around in sunlight. All of the vampires on this show do it. Whithouse tries to hedge this abnormality by making sure the vampires always wear clothing that covers them substantially, but that just doesn’t work for me. Someone could argue that the perpetually overcast Bristol would also protect a vampire from the dangerous sun. To that someone, I’d explain that the toxicity of ultraviolet light for vampires doesn’t waver just because the contact with sunlight isn’t direct. Therefore, Whithouse’s test of the elasticity of vampire lore results a serious fail.
Lastly, the metaphors inherent to the vampire genre are not a foreign concept to smart vampire fans. Still, Whithouse precludes the commonly understood vampire metaphors by equating vampirism to the illness of addiction. Instead of vampiric bloodthirst stemming from a primal need to survive, Whithouse characterizes vampires as junkies who can fight the urge to drink blood by simply denying it. Case in point: Mitchell, in an attempt to fit in with the rest of the world, lives his life “on the wagon” and alienates the other vampires because of it.
Certainly, this new paradigm supports the theme of the show (the struggle to embrace humanity). However, the need convey the message using this supernatural character as a device undermines too many of the constants associated with vampire lore to overlook.
Other works have broken rules in the vampire genre (*cough* Twilight *cough), and I don’t usually like those either.† But I gave Being Human more of a chance than it deserved because I appreciate the actor who plays George (Russell Tovey of The History Boys and Doctor Who) and Lenora Crichlow is just too cute for language. Ultimately, I have to put Being Human in the same category as Twilight (although Twilight still remains in its own class of objectionable). If you can ignore the three bold moves that Whithouse made, as mentioned above, you will be entertained. But if you’re like me, and have certain principles when it comes to vampires, I must suggest that you skip Being Human.