Blood Thirst and Puberty: Representing Growing Up in FX’s ‘What We Do in the Shadows’

(Note: this piece contains spoilers)

FX’s vampire mockumentary series, What We Do in the Shadows explores traditional vampires, their interactions with the modern world and other supernatural beings. But an aspect of the show created by Jemain Clement that isn’t often discussed is the way it represents teenagehood and growing up as well as the changes this brings. The most prominent example of this is when Jenna (Beanie Feldstein) is first transformed into a vampire in season one.  

In the pilot episode, Jenna, a virgin who Guillermo (Harvey Guillén) laured for the vampires to feast on, gets away from that situation only for the energy vampire, Collin (Mark Proksch), to drain her of her energy from boredom. In the following episode, Greek vampire Nadja (Natasia Demetriou) notices that Jenna is treated poorly by her peers and fellow LARPer players. As a result, Nadja decides to transform her into a vampire, and take her under her (bat) wing to train her.

After being bitten by Nadja, Jenna at first does not realize she has been transformed as she isn’t told. But as she wakes up in her dorm, she notices her skin is getting pale and feels weak, everything she eats comes back up. No matter how many painkillers her friend brings her she still feels unwell. You can clearly see how her transformation mirror is growing and mimicking feelings of puberty. The first feelings being the overall confusion as to why these changes are happening and the panic you feel. 

As the transformation continues, Jenna feels more emotional than she has ever experienced before and there is a lack of understanding as to why. Much like a child enduring puberty, she has strong feelings of not only confusion, but anger and fear as well. As Jenna’s body is undergoing changes, she is feeling uncomfortable about them which is leaving her in this irritated state. Then much like a parent or older sibling, Nadja begins to guide Jenna on how to be a vampire after the transformation, and what these changes mean. She explains the new eating habits, and how to adapt to night life as Jenna begins to explore these new changes. 

Jenna ultimately embraces these changes as she discovers her own unique ability. This reflects the phase of embracing change which we all experience and know is an integral part of growing up. Jenna spends time adapting to these changes, which comes with its downfalls but eventually begins to find enjoyment within her new form. 

Despite the jokes and comedic nature of this show, What We Do in the Shadows gives us a deeper look at what it means to grow up and spread our wings. For a human, that may be getting a job and moving out, but for a vampire that may be more literal. Although this is being presented by a human turned vampire, it does a great job of reflecting the confusion, fear and excitement associated with coming of age, even if it is less conventional.

Watch seasons 1-2 of What We Do in the Shadows on Hulu. Look out for season 3, set to premiere on FX in 2021.

By Charlotte Jett

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