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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

True Blood is Right Wing's Worst Nightmare


I have a slight obsession with True Blood. I posted earlier about how vampire series like True Blood (and Buffy and Twilight) represent women's sexuality by featuring very few female vampires. But True Blood quickly has become one of my new favorite shows on television right now (I only discovered it a couple months ago). Because of this, every Monday I look forward to Jezebel's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" feature recapping the previous nights episode; it's always smart and sassy. This week's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" tipped me off to an article on The Daily Beast relating the world of True Blood to the "right wing's worst nightmare about post-gay-liberation America."

Looking beneath the surface of
True Blood, you can see the connections between the vampires in the series and the gay community. The vampires recently "came out" of hiding among humans (aka heterosexuals, for the purposes of this comparison), exposing the number of vampires in society and demanding an equal place in society. A running theme throughout the first season is the vampires fighting for the right to marry humans. Churches claim that vampires are evil and threaten to destroy the very fabric of society.

I had been aware of this social commentary since I started watching the show (which is also much similar to the
X-Men series). But I had never really thought too critically about it because I was too busy enjoying the awesome-ness of the show (ok, so I might be a little biased about the show). So, I have gone over some of the similarities, but there are also some troubling differences...

As the
Daily Beast article points out...

it has troubling implications, because the vampires, political rhetoric aside, aren’t really interested in joining human society. Unlike the misunderstood X-Men heroes, most of the vampires we meet are arrogant, perverse, and cruel—everything the far right believes gays to be.
The article goes on to wonder about the true intentions of the show...

It’s hard to tell what creator Alan Ball, who also made Six Feet Under, is up to here. He’s openly gay, so he could be simply tweaking conservative fears. Or, like Rupert Everett, maybe he’s reacting against the domestication of gay life.
It's hard to say. Even though there are similarities between vampires and the gay community, they are not necessarily painted in a good light. Is this Alan Ball just turning conservative fears on themselves, or is it "reacting against the domestication of gay life"?

Even though
True Blood offers social commentary on the gay rights movement (whether positive or negative, it's still up for debate), I do not think that the show has much to offer feminism and women's rights. The shows main female character, Sookie Stackhouse, is kind of helpless. She constantly needs Bill, her vampire lover, to rescue her, which has caused Eric, a powerful vampire in the region, to take notice of her as well, often treating her as an object. Sure, she does have her psychic capabilities to offer, but it's always the guys (aka vamps) that do the heavy-lifting. In addition to often having to rescue Sookie, Bill is often highly protective of her, not really letting her do a lot for or by herself. Sookie loves how Bill treats her, most of the time. But she always comes back to him in the end after they have a fight about his protective nature or his vamp nature.

I still love the show. I think it has a lot to offer television, even without being feminist.
But encouraging conversation about the treatment of women in the show and the emphasis on sexuality will bring these feminist issues to light.

Further Reading:
True Blood: Pro-gay/Anti-feminist? [Smashing patriarchy daily]
'True Blood' and Female Sexuality [Appetite for Equal Rights]
Rough Sex With Vampires: What Does "True Blood" Tell Us About Women and Sexuality? [AlterNet]

6 comments:

RMJ said...

I actually just started watching Buffy tonight. Amazing!

Laura said...

I'm so glad! It's one of my favorite shows and I only discovered it in February!

Dark Jedi Tallulah Kidd said...

I found Sookie's helpless like character to be irritating at first. However she has proven to be courageous, strong minded, and a fighter. I hope that at one point they will carry out that Independence and stop cutting her glory short with Bill or any other strong male figure in the show saving the day.

While Bill's protective and possessive nature sometimes hits a nerve, it does appear that Sookie loves their relationship and the power exchange within it.

I love the show and I LOVE the insightful blogs about it!

I would love to hear your thoughts on Maryann.

Gnatalby said...

I wrote about the gay vampire stuff too.

My conclusion was that it's best to just take it at a VERY surface level. I'm interested to see what's up with Godric, who claims to be more evolved and also doesn't seem to feed on humans. The only "good" vampires so far seem to be basically ex-gays-- vampires who don't do the vampire thing.

Laura said...

Gnatalby,

I'm really interested to see what happens with Godric too, especially considering the very obvious homo-erotic relationship between him and Eric. I'm interested to see how they are going to handle that.

That's also a really interesting point about the good vamps being the "ex-gays." I never really thought about it that way, but it's so true. The good vampires (Bill, kind of Eric [haven't made up my mind about him] and Godric) are all ones who don't or try not to feed off of humans. In the metaphor for vamps as gay, that would make these good vamps ex-gay...interesting...

Gnatalby said...

Eddie is also a "good" vampire who is mostly non-practicing (except for his exchange arrangement with Lafayette). He's one of the more interesting data points to me as he is both literally gay and metaphorically gay (vampire).

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