After the demise of the Thursday Lost Roundtable, Sally and I decided to open up the floor to our undead friends for a weekly roundtable discussion of Feministe’s vampire show of choice: True Blood.
There is a lot going on, so to do our very best to figure it all out, the vamp-obsessed members of the Feministe team will be having a discussion every week. Sally and I will lay out our analysis and predictions, whatever they may be, and take turns introducing and moderating the discussions.
To recap: The season opener picked up where we left off last year and began several new story lines: The maenad is dead, thus so is the killing and chaos that took over Bon Temps, but Bill has been kidnapped, Sam is off getting in touch with his roots (and his innermost desires?), opportunistic Lettie Mae is manipulating her way back into Tara’s and Lafayette’s lives, and Jason is trying to reform his evil ways.
Before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way. Do you read the Sookie Stackhouse novels or are you just a fan of the show?
LAUREN: I started one of the novels, but found that it fiddled with my enjoyment of the show. I know what the differences are between show and novel, and I’m aware of some of the plot points that may be coming down the pike, but I’ll try not to spoil anything. I’ll just talk dirty about Eric Northman.
SALLY: I have never read any of the books. I know some people who have, and sometimes they’ll mention something from the books and explain it to me – but it’s usually in one ear and out the other. I’m not generally a big vampire fan, and I feel that it’s easier for me to get wrapped up in the show than stay committed to a book.
LAUREN: Yeah, I’m a little flummoxed by the vampire trend that’s happening right now. I wonder if the decadent, sexually-charged vampire thing is a cultural pushback against the conservative Bush years. It’s interesting to me that neither of us are huge vampire fans in general. What’s the appeal, do you think?
SALLY: No clue, really. This is the only vampire-related thing I’m a fan of, so I can’t understand it. I know some people love the sexiness and/or sexual tension in Twilight and the Charlaine Harris books, but there must be more than that, no? Maybe they give off some sort of forbidden love/sex appeal?
LAUREN: I don’t know, but I feel the need to remind readers of prior show-related posts on Feministe, posts that did not rely solely on objectifying fictional vampires (like ERIC EFFING NORTHMAN). Check out this one by Aunt B, who has valid issues with representations of Southernness on the show, and this one by Renee on depictions of femininity, masculinity, vampire sex, and ravishment fantasies in True Blood.
Vampires, werewolves, gratuitous nudity, rampant drug abuse? Oh, True Blood, how we’ve missed you! What did you think of the opening episode?
LAUREN: I think Eric was dressed by Jean Claude Van Damme’s stylist circa 1989.
SALLY: HAHAHA! True as that may be, he certainly was hot! I forgot how entertaining this show is! I thoroughly enjoyed the nudity in the episode…
LAUREN: Yes! Usually I’m annoyed with it, but I love the campy approach the show takes. LIKE THE SCENE BETWEEN BILL AND SAM. Sally, I just want you to know that the water in Arkansas is VERY HARD.
SALLY: That scene was INCREDIBLE! My guy and I were like “what on earth is going on?!” – incredibly intrigued and confused and all sorts of other things at the same time. Great scene, that one! And one that might live in my memory for longer than I’d like to admit…
LAUREN: Word to that. And at risk of over-promoting the show, I do love the queering of the narrative space. It’s been discussed into the ground, and I agree that vampires “coming out of the closet” is a bad analogy to the gay rights movement. But that said, there are enough ways in which sexual attraction is toyed with on the show to end up with mostly queer-friendly camp. What the show usually gets right is the power of desire, the ugliness of intolerance, and the danger of fundamentalism. It’s an imperfect show, sure, but it’s great popcorn TV for absurd, horny feminists. *cough*
Vampire politics took the forefront in this episode. The Queen is responsible for putting V on the black market through Eric and Lafayette, and due to financial issues, wants the V to be sold as soon as possible, despite having the creepy magistrate breathing down her neck. It looks like Pam may break her loyalty and defect from Eric over it, too. This can only mean danger.
SALLY: I thought it was interesting to see Pam push Eric like that – I really liked it. This whole vampires selling V thing creeps me out, but is generally hot-ified whenever the Queen interacts with Eric. The scene last night when their fangs came out and she pushed him up against the wall – Loved! I do have to say, though, that I’m surprised this story line is being set up as one of the prominent story lines of the season. I kind of hoped it’d just go away, but I’m sure they’ll make it work in a way that lessens the creepiness for me.
LAUREN: See, I’m really into this storyline, because it’s all The Thin Blue Line but with vampires, werewolves, and bad Southern accents. Notice how the fundamentalist magistrate got Eric and the Queen both to spout off some shit about the sacredness of vampire blood while obscuring corruption in the vampire Sheriff department, inspiring fear and reverence in the two baddest badasses on this show? Yeah. There’s potential there.
SALLY: True. The potential is definitely there, for pure campy entertainment if nothing else. Can’t wait until the truth comes out and all hell breaks loose.
Poor Tara lost Eggs and isn’t yet aware that her past crush Jason is responsible, or worse, that there is a police cover-up of Eggs’ murder. Her opportunist mother is using this as a way to get to Tara, and Lafayette has too much on his own plate to manage his cousin’s grief. Can Tara handle any more personal tragedy?
SALLY: While I get that she loved him and all of that, I was annoyed by her this episode. It’s fine that she was all “no, he’s not guilty” at first, but then attacking Sookie when she told her what happened, not cool. (Though I did love Lafayette in that scene.) That said, this season is going be hell for her. This cover-up is bound to fail, her mother’s still as screwed up as ever, and she’s lost one of the only people who cared about her. Sadness. =(
LAUREN: This is a hard one because Rutina Wesley is such a great actress who is given such shallow material to work with. How long do you think Tara and Eggs knew each other — like, a month? Six weeks? Tragic, sure, but not something to swallow a bottle of Oxycontin over. I do think the abilities of the actor have surpassed the angry black woman bullshit the writers are heaping on the character — they need to find a way for Tara to express feelings that doesn’t involve telling someone off.
SALLY: That’s the thing, really, is that I guess I get so caught up in her acting that I believe everything she says and does to be completely plausible. In reality, of course, she didn’t really know him that long – a fact I completely forgot until now. I don’t know, maybe it’s supposed to be the last straw kind of thing? Though that wouldn’t make all that much sense either considering all of the other crap she’s been through.
Bill is missing and Sookie needs to find him. Are we on the edge of our seats or are we yawning?
LAUREN: I… don’t care about Bill and Sookie. All TV shows I follow (a number that increasingly embarrasses me) kind of lose me on the primary relationship we’re all supposed to be rooting for, a la Jack/Kate/Sawyer, Susan/Mike, Buffy/Angel/Xander/Spike, Sookie/Bill, etc. When the plot doesn’t allow them to be or do anything else other than love one another or miss hir beloved in hir absence, I stop caring. I liked Sookie until she latched onto Bill exclusively, and now I’m kind of hoping Eric scores a romantic coup.
SALLY: I care about Bill and Sookie, yet I totally didn’t care about them in this episode. I did think she had some of the funniest moments of the episode when she was looking for him, but, yawn. The thing is, I like them as a couple and they’re both good characters so it makes me at least somewhat interested in what happens to them. But the way this episode was trying to draw out the drama just bored me. Usually their relationship-related plot points have some other element to them – they’re tied to other characters (Eric), or have some sort of greater purpose. This one did too, but I guess I would have preferred it if they’d just shown Bill’s side of things rather than Sookie randomly running around town asking “have you seen Bill???” It was sad (in a pathetic – and not boo hoo – way) and boring.
LAUREN: Yeah, the show loses inertia when Sookie and Bill are standing around making moon eyes at each other. I will admit that this is the most badass we’ve seen Bill. Up to date, he’s kind of been the vampire version of The Nice Guy, but here he fucks up The Fuck You Crew (and what was that?!), feeds off some poor woman and then glamours her into forgetting he was there, and wanders around being shirtless and mean somewhere in the rural South. Dude was full-on vampire.
SALLY: I know, I thoroughly enjoy this new side of Bill. Even when dealing with Eric and all of that “oh no don’t steal my girl” stuff, he wasn’t this badass. I like it, Bill, keep it coming!
Hoyt and Jessica, the cutest couple on the show, are having some difficulties. It appears sweet Jessica has a skeleton in her closet, or, uh, a corpse under the floorboards. Any predictions on Hoyt’s and Jessica’s abilities to maintain a cross-species relationship?
SALLY: I really hope these two find each other again and love each other forever and whatnot. They’re ADORABLE! I can’t wait to see how that all plays out; I definitely would not have minded seeing more of Jessica with the dead dude and having Hoyt and her interact some more.
Also, love the haircut, Hoyt!!!
LAUREN: Agreed, it took me a long time to remember where she got the dead guy and how. It’s kind of sad to see Jessica fumble with her vampire abilities while her teacher, Bill, is off having adventures. A metaphor for adolescence? Or are they setting Jessica up for very sensible, valid reasons to reject Bill’s Good Vampire gig?
SALLY: Ooh, I hope it’s the latter! That would certainly make for more interesting television. Somehow, though, I think it’s probably more the former…
SALLY: Werewolves! (Real ones! Did you see the clip after the show about using real wolves? So cool!) Those werewolf dudes were hella weird, I must say, and I can’t help but wonder how many different types we’ll see in the coming weeks – sexy female werewolf, scruffy old werewolf, etc.
LAUREN: Thankfully they’re using real wolves. I can’t stand having the narrative broken by bad CGI *cough* LOST. Regardless it looks like we’re in for some serious vampire versus werewolf action this season.
SALLY: I’m ready for it!
LAUREN: Me too! And it’s going to be a long week, but in the meantime, conscience off, dick on, and everything is going to be all right.
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