Vampire Politics in Television

So, I have gotten a ton of requests for a watching list—a set of TV shows that can help people learn how to play the political game that is such a part of Vampire LARP. Well, I decided (just ten minutes before I put pen to paper, even) to write out a list of shows that might illustrate exactly how Kindred politics work in the World of Darkness. Here we go.

Rome – Ventrue – Rome is one of those shows that really takes a bit of effort on the part of the viewer to get into, but boy howdy is it good when you do. There is backstabbing, lying, manipulating, and war all going on in this historical epic. It starts kind of slow, but the politics really get ratcheted up a few episodes in, and then it doesn’t stop. The last season moves really fast, but they learned they were getting cancelled about halfway through writing it and had a bunch more to include.

House of Cards (US version) – Ventrue, Lasombra, Nosferatu – Information is king in this political drama. The story falls Frank Underwood, a whip in the House of Republicans, as he seeks to lead his party to success. While it is open to debate whether Frank himself is a Ventrue, Nosferatu, Lasombra, or even a Malkavian, the protagonist (?) is sure to serve as good inspiration for how to manipulate events and information in your favor.

Game of Thrones – All of Them. Really. – Ah yes, the good old GoT. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it. It’s really good. In my opinion, every Clan is represented in some way in this show.
— The Faceless Men are very much Assamites, who like to sit in judgment of the other parts of the world but still act like common paid assassins if the price is right.
— The Starks are all Brujah (for the most part). They let their passion and their honor guide them, and they hate the Lannisters with the fire of a thousand suns, just as the Brujah hate the Ventrue.
— The Red Priests of the Lord of Light (Melisandre in particular) are very much like the Followers of Set. They have their own viewpoint on how the world came to be and where it is headed, and they don’t ever fail to try and peddle their beliefs where they won’t be persecuted for it. Though, Setites are not always as… devout as the Red Priests can be.
— The Wildlings are very similar to the Gangrel. They don’t care much for your “civilization,” thank you very much, and they are content to hang out where no one else wants to be. That being said, they are not above alliances when it suits them.
— While there isn’t a really close analogue to the Giovanni in the setting, the Iron Bank of Bravos comes the closest. They are very pushy with their business clout, and they don’t tolerate those who cross them. (To be honest, there are better analogues to the Giovanni in other shows.)
— Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger) is a Lasombra if there has ever been one put to screen. He slinks in the shadows and controls the people around him, working his way into power where he can find it. If only he was a cardinal in the church, he would be a four corners match.
— It’s often easy to find Malkavians in fiction; you just look for the crazy one. But it is harder to find one that is politically active and successful. Luckily for us, there’s someone in GoT that fits that description: Ramses Bolton. He is obviously unhinged, but he doesn’t let that stop him from gaining power. In fact, he *leverages* his insanity to get himself an even bigger share. Joffrey (coughLannistercough) Baratheon and Viserys Targaryen are other decent examples, but they were not very good at the politics thing. You could argue that Stannis is also a Malkavian, but that might be pushing it.
— Varys (aka The Spider) is as Nosferatu as Nosferatu get. He is disfigured and secretive and moves on the outskirts of the leadership, but he is too useful (and well-informed) to kill. He’s also a man who has a natural talent for going unnoticed.
— There’s not a good example of the Ravnos in GoT, unfortunately.
— There are loads of good examples of Toreador in action in GoT, most of whom are Tyrells. Margaery Tyrell, Ser Loras (the Knight of Flowers), and even Prince Oberyn are all arguably members of the Clan of Roses, and they all leverage their beauty if not their art to advance their station.
— The Tremere are a difficult one, too, but I think their best analogue is in the Order of Maesters. They are men of learning that dedicate themselves to every noble house, claiming to be above such petty squabbling, yet they advise those same rulers how to advance their stations. It’s not the best fit, but I think it works.
— The Tzimisce are… really freaking weird. Though if you made me pick someone to match them, I would say… the White Walkers? The Tzimisce are very alien, and they don’t tend to want the same things that other vampires even in their own sect want.
— The Lannisters are the Ventrue through and through. They scheme and plot and lead “noble” wars. They are always there to support the winning side in a conflict, but only if it is the winning side. And they get most of their heavy lifting accomplished through coin.

True Blood – Brujah, Toreador, Gangrel, Malkavian, and the Sabbat – First of all, only watch the first three seasons of this show; the rest are difficult to push through. Bill Compton is a wonderful example of a Brujah, where his counterpart Eric Northman is arguably a perfect (elder) Toreador. In season two, you meet Eric’s sire, Godric, who is a good example of a Gangrel (who is on the path to Golconda, no less!). In season three, you meet the best villain of the show, Russell Edgington, the (Malkavian) King of Mississippi. Throughout the show, there are less-civilized vampires about, too, who are decent examples of Sabbat packs.

The Tudors – Toreador – Now, I want you to watch this show not for King Henry, who gets really really annoying about halfway through season one. I want you to watch this show for Anne Boleyn. Not only does her storyline involve one of the hottest sex scenes ever in television, but she is also an excellent example of a Toreador who climbs her way to power. Also, there’s Cromwell, who works his way to power like a good Lasombra.

The Shield – The Camarilla – It’s hard to nail down the characters in the Shield into Clans, since they’re all defy stereotypes so much, but the social structure of the police precinct in the show is representative of a Camarilla city. Aceveda is the Prince, Mackey is the Sheriff, the various detectives are the Primogen Council, etc. All in all, the Shield is a treatise in “how to get away with murder.”

There are lots of other examples, including Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, Borgia (not the Showtime show), and the Sopranos, and I didn’t even list movies like Chinatown, Memento, Hamlet, Lion in Winter, and Only Lovers Left Alive.

What do you think? What are some tv shows and movies that really showcase what it’s like to play politics in Vampire? Why? Let us know in the comments!

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