Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dear True Blood: So what the fuck, dude?

[A response to:]

I and a number of friends were pretty much irreparably emotionally traumatized by this week's finale of 'True Blood". I actually enjoyed and appreciated this season more than others (compared to last season's attempt to fit 300 different fucking story-lines into one season...good lord). But this last episode threw me through a number of confusion-hoops.

First off, I appreciate the occasional ballsiness of this show. I like it's willingness to show male nudity in mainstream entertainment, which is usually far rarer than female nudity (except when it's for comedic purposes...HAHA LOOK AT THAT TINY CHINAMAN'S PENIS IN THE HANGOVER). I like the violence, as someone who's into horror movies. But most pertinent to this episode, I like that it can kill a character without using a deus ex machina cheat to bring them back. This is also something I REALLY admire about Torchwood...they are fucking ruthless. No main character is safe, except maybe Jack and Gwen. To be fair, True Blood does do the fakeout-death thing a LOT, but the show really is a soap opera when you get down to it.

This is why I can accept Jesus' death, even though it made me simultaneously sad and pissed. I was angry because our only gay character had to lose his first and only healthy relationship on the show. And I was angry because Jesus was the only Latino character. But I can forgive all this based on the fact that I don't think storytellers in film and television NEED to keep a healthy number of minorities represented, and represented as goody-goodies. Audiences are becoming mature enough to understand that a gay character doesn't always have to be bad or good, and can be both like any other character. Many viewers aren't there yet, but we really are moving in that direction and I want honest artists to reflect that fact.

Jen presents an interesting view here. But I don't really agree with the significance of Tara's death as an example of a "sacrificial atheist." There are other atheists on the show, I believe, including vampires who aren't purely evil. (Like I said, the show does a good job with complex, non-binary characters...except maybe Sookie, who pisses me the fuck off anyway.) The second season, I think - the one with the Church of Light, the anti-vampire religious group - does a fantastic job of exploring the religious dimensions of humanity's perspective on vampires and other crazy supernatural beings.

Throughout the show, we get moments when vampires struggle with the idea of whether they're "doomed" by fate or by a god (like baby Jessica early on), and I think most or all of the older ones have come to terms with it by saying "There probably isn't a god, or if there is one, why should I give a shit? He doesn't care about my lot in life or anyone else's." When they admit this, they don't always do it as an excuse for bad behavior; it can just be part of their rationale for not killing themselves, for example.

And, like other people are saying, I was more bothered by the fact that the show basically killed off the ONLY main black female character (who is RELATED to all the others...because all black people are either related or friends or both), who is also queer in some way. The only non-straight human woman no less. Talk about scaling back on diversity, not to mention the loss of Jesus. Tara will probably come back, but I doubt HE will. Regardless: it's a fucking show about Louisiana. How can they think they can get away with having such a dearth of African-American characters? The best we get are little snippets of Tara getting offended by racist statements or actions (and she usually comes off as over-sensitive when she DOES), and yet again another moment with Tara objecting to Bill being a Confederate in the Civil War. Bill does a decent job of defending himself, but isn't this a goddamn PERFECT opportunity to actually explore the racial conflicts inherent in the deep South, ESPECIALLY in Louisiana? I don't know if Alan Ball or Charlaine Harris (the author of the original books) is to blame for that, since the books and show apparently diverge quite a bit.

I can once again reluctantly forgive the show for missing this topic almost entirely...perhaps I'm too forgiving of my guilty (non-guilty?) pleasures...since just because a show is set in a particular location or context, it doesn't HAVE to make that context a main focus. It does a decent job of dealing with the context of Southern culture, creole culture, etc. But it still really bothers me since, historically and even currently, racial tension is a pretty significant part of the culture of the deep South - a part that often gets swept under the carpet by many artists and commentators, and this show seems quite guilty of this gaping omission. I know the defense is that the way it deals with supernatural characters, especially vampires, is all an ANALOGY for civil rights struggles - "God Hates Fangs" and all that. I appreciate that and it's a clever and wonderful artistic choice. But for god's sake, that's no excuse to trim a big fat piece of the world you're representing off just for convenience or out of carelessness.


No comments:

Post a Comment