True Blood, My True Shame

I think that True Blood may be one of the cheesiest, most terrible shows ever, and yet, I love it.  I have completely succumbed.  Tonight, I even have a reminder that I set yesterday on my TV and it set up to record, even though it will be on On Demand tomorrow.

My biggest complaint is that I’m still not sure if anyone involved with that show–from the writers on down to the actors–has actually ever been to the South.  So some things that have happened, I’m not sure if they’re on purpose or if there’s just no one who knows.

Take Bill Compton’s ridiculous assertion last season that he did not own slaves, though his father did.  Now, we have seen Bill Compton’s family–his wife and son–standing in front of the very house he now lives in.  That house, in that time, meant slaves.  You could not have run a house that size without them, let alone farm the amount of land a house that size would indicate ownership of.

So, I, of course, assumed that Bill was lying, either he had owned slaves or, I don’t know, maybe his dad was still alive and lived with them and so he thought he could fudge a little–they weren’t technically his slaves. But I thought, hmm, what a strange thing to lie about, but now we know he lies.

But then, nothing really came of it.  And I’m still not sure if the writing in True Blood is good enough that we’re supposed to get that he was lying or if the writers just really didn’t want to have to go there, because then you end up with this situation where the main protagonist, Sookie, is knowingly and willingly dating a guy who kept enslaved people like her best friend and that’s not really something your sweet, perky protagonist can do and still easily be the “good guy” or if they just didn’t understand what a house that big actually means.

And don’t even get me started on that thing that was supposed to be a pecan pie but looked like some kind of… I don’t even know.  But not a pecan pie, that’s for sure.

The thing I love most about the show, though, is the character of Eric.  Not just because he’s the kind of guy who can scare the crap out of you while wearing flip flops and foils in his hair, but because I don’t think I have ever watched a TV show with a character like him before.

Plenty of TV shows have featured a “Mary Sue” a character who seems to be the stand-in for the writer, having the adventures and solving all the problems on the show and being so widely loved in the way the writer would of course do and be, if only she or he were able to really be there.  It’s like the writer wanting so badly to break the fourth wall and climb into the story.

Eric seems almost to work the other way.  Eric would, I think, gladly crawl out of the story and sit down on the couch with you and make snarky comments about the other characters, if he could.  And the way the actor plays him, if you watch the show, he has this way of making those aforementioned snarky comments or doing obnoxiously hilarious things (like getting Sookie to drink his blood) and then looking at the person he’s talking to in the scene but also seeming to almost look directly at the camera.

So, you often have this feeling when he’s on camera, that he is aware of you, as the audience, watching and that he’s aware that no one else is aware of you and he’d rather them not become aware of the audience.  So, he can’t address you directly, but he is performing for you, a little kind of in-joke between you and him.

I get the biggest kick out of it, feeling like one of the characters senses that he’s a character and enjoys it.  Some day he’s going to look directly at the camera and wink and I am going to squeal like a little girl.

So, it’s terrible.  But I love it.  And I can’t wait for tonight.


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23 Responses to True Blood, My True Shame

  1. Lauren says:

    I remember reading that Sam Trammell was from the South, and confirmed it here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Trammell

    He was born in New Orleans and moved to West Virginia as a teenager. There’s one Southern actor!

  2. Lauren says:

    The accents still kill me (SOOKEH!). Alan Ball has said that he grew up in Georgia and didn’t want to create another stereotypical Southern experience on-screen, but everything from the wardrobe choices (Sookie’s in particular) to the opening sequence strikes me as a hipster’s reimagining of a New Southern gothic. I think the actor that plays Sam is one of the only truly Southern characters, though Rutina Wesley went to school in Evansville, Indiana, and if you are familiar with Indiana you know Evansville has more in common with Kentucky/Appalachia culture than the Rust Belt.

    And I get what you’re saying about Eric. Something with the writing and his character is very meta.

  3. Lauren says:

    I think the actor that plays Sam is one of the only truly Southern characters

    REVISE! I’m still drinking my coffee. I meant to say that he’s one of the only main actors on the show that is actually from the South. Louisiana, I believe.

  4. Aunt B says:

    Suuuckie kills me. Why could they not have sat that dude down with an iPod filled only with Dwight Yoakum doing “Fast as You” until he learned to say “Sookie” in a way that sounds sexy and tender and slightly menacing? (Or maybe that’s just how Dwight Yoakum comes across to me.)

  5. Susan says:

    If you’re in as much “squee” with Eric as I am, I’d recommend following @EricNorthman on twitter. He’s part of a group of very dedicated and very good tweeters who role play as characters of True Blood. And it’s all actually sanctioned by the show and HBO.

    Eric makes me drool a little. It’s wonderful.

  6. Lauren says:

    Oh crap, two Laurens on a True Blood thread. This is going to get confusing.

    Looks like Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette) also lived in the deep South briefly. Also, Renee’s post from earlier this summer fed my dislike of Stephen Moyer. Personal politics and bad word choice aside (not to mention that I think he fundamentally misunderstands what makes Sookie an interesting female character, re: her control of her own sexuality and self-discovery), I think he’s a flat actor.

    I should say, though, along the lines of your shame in loving the show, I don’t look for any great social commentary and choose to see it as a good, escapist story. Season One didn’t help with their clumsy allusions to vampires and their “coming out of the casket” as similar to the gay rights movement, and I’m glad they have largely abandoned this POV in Season Two.

    But then again, when I take a step back and look at the show critically there are some really problematic elements to the race and gender themes on the show. Tara pining over Eggs? There had better be some supernatural element at work in their mutual attraction than just LURVE, not to mention that there seems to be a real dearth of black people in Bon Temps that aren’t immedidately related to Tara. Maryann as the sexually rapturous evil female narcissist? I choose to see it as a condemnation of religious fervor, lest I get angry. Etc, etc.

  7. atlasien says:

    SUCKY IS MAHN!

    Most of the accents on the true are truly atrocious.

    My favorite character by far is Jason Stackhouse. Every episode he’s in, he has at least one line that’s totally golden and has me laughing on the floor. This last episode, he had two:

    Andy: …and women do just throw themselves at you. You don’t even have to do anything.
    Jason: Actually I do. I work out like a motherf**ker and I watch a lot of porn to learn stuff.

    Sam: You can’t shoot anyone else. These are our friends. This is our town.
    Jason: Sometimes you need to destroy something to save it. That’s in the Bible… or the Constitution.

  8. Aunt B says:

    A couple of my friends and I who watch it were dying when it first became obvious that there was just one black family in town. I think it’s gotten a little better this season in at least implying that there are other black people, just not on our screen.

    I think Renee is spot-on about Sookie and that you’re right that Moyer so fundamentally misunderstands… I don’t know… everything about what’s happening in the show and what the characters are doing that it’s pretty mind-boggling.

    But I think that it’s because it is just escapist fantasy that isn’t trying very hard that it’s so interesting that the women are strong and sexual. Of all the stuff it gets wrong, it’s interesting to me that women having sexual desires is not uniformly bad. Progress maybe?

    And I love Jason Stackhouse, too. I do think there’s something in the way he’s written that is exactly small town right. I could tell you the names of the two guys I went to high school with that he seems like a mix of.

  9. yogagrrl says:

    I think for whatever reason, the show just didn’t hire dialect coaches because almost all of the accents are uniformly terrible.

    As to the slavery thing, I think the writers were lazy and just wanted to make Bill likeable so if they say it, it’s true. ;)

  10. Nia says:

    Being Deep South born and raised myself, those accents are beyond cringe-worthy, but I’m in the same, obsessed boat as others. I will say that Sookie’s (or SOOKEH’S, as was so perfectly stated by one of the Laurens above) wardrobe resonates well with what poor Southern young women who buy their clothes at Wal-Mart would wear. Regardless of if I like it, I buy it.

    I would disagree that the allusion between Vampire and Gay rights has been particularly toned down in Season 2, particularly with the fundamentalist Light of Day Institute and Luke’s declaration about unforgivable sex acts:


    Luke: Sex outside of marriage is a sin.
    Jason: You really believe that?
    Luke: It ain’t what I believe, it’s what God believes. But, uh, some sins are bigger than others.
    Jason: Like what?
    Luke: Well, let’s say you’re gonna do it outta wedlock, gotta make sure the girl you do it to ain’t married either.
    Jason: Right. ‘Cause adultery’s bad.
    Luke: One of the worst, right up there with incest and bestiality.
    Jason: The f…
    Luke: But all of ’em put together ain’t half as bad as if you do it to a vampire. Or to a dude. Or to a vampire dude. That’s like the cream de la cream [sic] of sin. There ain’t no repentance for that!

    A bit heavy handed, perhaps.

  11. Marissa says:

    The Eric character reminds me a great deal of Spike from Buffy, only I’d have to side with Spike in terms of amusement factor. Although as for the show’s few benefits, I think it might actually pass the Bechdel test.

  12. Lauren says:

    I love Jason Stackhouse, too. I do think there’s something in the way he’s written that is exactly small town right. I could tell you the names of the two guys I went to high school with that he seems like a mix of.

    That’s my thought when it comes to Kenny Powers, personally (wrong show). :D Regardless, the combination of Jason and Andy and their Rambo/A-Team thing this season, and what you were saying about winky Eric earlier, it’s so popcorn TV. Love it.

    I will say that Sookie’s (or SOOKEH’S, as was so perfectly stated by one of the Laurens above) wardrobe resonates well with what poor Southern young women who buy their clothes at Wal-Mart would wear.

    You think? Because I’m dying for her to just throw on a t-shirt and jeans somewhere outside of Merlotte’s. All the petite dresses with the prints and the smocking smack of Good Girl to me, and Sookie, while “good”, is not a Good Girl in Bon Temps. Perhaps I’m being nitpicky.

    I would disagree that the allusion between Vampire and Gay rights has been particularly toned down in Season 2, particularly with the fundamentalist Light of Day Institute and Luke’s declaration about unforgivable sex acts

    Loved that scene. I guess I think Season One was really heavy-handed with it and Season Two is a bit more realistic. A reactionary religious movement against pretend mainstreaming vampires makes sense if we are to suspend reality and accept the premise, but a reactionary religious movement against vampires and other supernatural shit doesn’t have to be parallel to a very real gay rights movement. Plus, it bothers me that there were so many parallels the writers tried to draw between (real) gay rights and (pretend) vampire rights. Vampires are predators, gay people are not. The whole premise is really problematic.

  13. Vampires are predators, gay people are not. The whole premise is really problematic.

    The gay metaphors don’t work. The vampires come off as generally assholish. True Blood works best as a campy comedy/soap opera. It is funny because the premise is as silly as Lost or that vampire detective show (forget the name.)

    The vampires are stupid and immature. They are immortal arrested development. The vampire queen obsessed with yahtzee was hysterical. (True Blood needs more of Evan Rachel Wood.) The humans are more interesting than the vampires. Being a guy, I don’t have the Eric obsession. Although, I like Alexander Skarsgård as an actor. He was better in Generation Kill.

    Anna Paquin is playing her Rogue character from the X Men movies. Same accent and new super power. I’m amazed she won all these best actress awards for the role.

  14. Pingback: Newscoma » Blog Archive » Our Fascination With Vampires

  15. Roxie says:

    I don’t this show is terrible at all. I mean, have you ever seen a rerun of “My Wife & Kids”?

    It’s kind of hard to talk about the show w/o talking about the books.
    Some notable changes:
    1. There are less black ppl. Tara is white & Lafayette dies in the first book. He isn’t as awesome, either.

    In the book, Bill says that he did have a “mammie”…I don’t think (correct me if I’m wrong) he owned slaves & he talks about the war being a “rich man’s war”, which leads me to believe that by the time he came of age, he didn’t have the money to own slaves. I was more upset by Sookie’s reaction to Tara’s question–as if it was rude of her to ask!

    I’ve lived in GA all of my life & I’m not really bothered by Bill’s accent (especially when there’s Tara’s & Sookie’s to distract me). Jason’s accent is actually quite good & I loved Renee’s sexy cajun accent. I really don’t get why they get someone to help out Tara & Sookie’s accents!

    One thing the books have done that the series has yet to (although you can find some of this on the extras on the dvd also in the extras on youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/BloodCopyCom) is show the variation of personalities in vamps. Many, like Pam & Eric totally enjoy it. Others, like Bill are trying to mainstream & all in between.

    Check out those youtube extras. They’re quite good!

  16. Lauren says:

    Hm. Well, the finale sucked.

  17. Aunt B says:

    But the end of Maryanne was awesome!

    Otherwise, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Andy drives a death car.

    I think they should have flipped how the season went. Killed Maryanne about when they killed Godric and let Godric’s death be the season finale.

  18. Raksha says:

    Someone on a message board I go to said that when she watches this show, her husband mocks Bill’s accent by doing a Foghorn Leghorn impression (“SOOKAY! Ah say, Ah say, SOOKAY!”). Now I can’t un-hear it! Hee!

  19. Thom says:

    I didn’t think it sucked… but it felt like the main story ended at about 24 minutes and we got another 36 that was people just talking about what “happened” but little developement. So I thought it started with a bang and then whimpered its way out the door.

    The setups for Sam and Bill are intriguing (though I suspect I know whose gloved hands those were).

  20. Thom says:

    “I think it’s gotten a little better this season in at least implying that there are other black people, just not on our screen.”

    Yeah, I seem to recall Tara’s mom showing up with another woman by her side who was one of her church friends. And then there was the sham “Priestess”. But outside of Tara’s family, it seems people of color do not last long in Bon Tempe.

  21. t says:

    The bill slave thing…most likely it was cutting hairs – but in those days – his father as the head of the house would have owned everything. And bill’s family would have lived with his dad – think of it as extended family living. One of the reasons they needed such big homes. It’s a given though that bill benefited from it – but so did others of that time. Even though i detest the character of Bill- i don’t add that as a tick mark as to why. It’s in the past. If we hold him responsible for his family owning slaves – we would have to look closely at what Eric was before he was turned. Eric was a Viking – that means – raping, pillaging, looting, killing and vikings even stole women as breeders/slaves. It is just what they did. Same as better off (money wise) peeps in this country in that given time frame.

    I am a prolific reader – and have never really seen a character come to life on screen (big or little) as Eric does in True Blood. Alex S is Eric. I think that is what is driving me crazy cause he could so do the Eric in the book with all those awesome scenes…but instead we get Alan Ball’s version of St Bill. I so get what you about him pulling you in and it’s like he is doing it for you.

    We need more pam.

  22. Roxie says:

    T, Pam’s actress says that on the season 2 blu-ray DVD there’s like, a Pam Special where she just talks about everyone in town. She said it was like 34 pages long.

    NOTHING has ever made me want to get a blu-ray before.

  23. brista says:

    Man, I love this show. I think it needs less Evan Rachel Woods and more Pam with her great pumps.

    And Bill’s, well, Bill. SUCKAH!!!! MY LOUD YELLING WILL PROTECT YOU!!

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