The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

Best Thing EVARRRRR!!!! April 7, 2010

Filed under: Television — imaginaryheroine @ 2:55 pm
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Another non-post. Sorry, sorry, sorry! Big work project. Must keep my nose to the grind stone!

I just had to pass along this gem:

The Cast of Mad Men singing “Bye Bye Birdie”

If you’re going zuh? I will refer you to this side by side of Mad Men season 3 episode 4 “The Arrangements” when Sterling Cooper makes a Pepsi Patio commercial based off the Ann Margaret rendition.

 

My Life in Fiction March 29, 2010

“We see the future, we see something waiting for us even when we don’t feel it inside sometimes.”
– Psychosister23, “The Great Debate” by Rachel Caine from A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins.

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t you…over this whole A New Dawn book review thing yet?! Well, yes, I am. This isn’t really a book review. Just something I was reminded of when I read this bit from Rachel Caine’s essay. It was part of her discussion about Twilight’s positive lessons for young women. Namely, that in encourages them to think about what their adult life could and should be like. Even though they feel like misfits, they can become the heroine in their own story.

This definitely struck a chord with me. I read. A lot. I also watch a lot of movies and TV. I love stories. They give me hope that there is meaning in a really confusing, chaotic world.

This is the origin of this blog. My life has started to feel kind of pointless. I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know how I’m going to get there. I go to work, I come home, I do dishes, I go to bed – what happened to the great life story I was supposed to be the star of? I’m not sure. Maybe that happens later. Maybe this is the great adventure I’m supposed to be having. I’m just too close to see it. Maybe my “post-adolescent idealistic phase” is crashing and burning. In any case, I need a project. I need to feel like there is a point to life, the universe, and everything.

It’s a whole lot easier for me to do that when I’m reading and writing and trying to tease out pearls of meaning from between the lines.

I want to make myself clear. I don’t expect to become a heroine in a fantastical quest against evil. I am fully cognizant of the fact that life is not like a novel or movie. This doesn’t keep me from using narratives to explain the mysteries of life. In fact, the reason we read books and watch TV shows and see movies is because well all do this to some extent. This may be why people my age often go through this kind of disillusionment phase (you know it kills me to admit I’m going through a phase, but I think it’s a pretty well documented fact if it’s being discussed by fifteen year-olds in Clueless).

We’re bombarded with all kinds of stories and meanings in the media we consume. To take a particularly dramatic example, in Brave Heart Young Murron gives Young William Wallace a thistle at his father’s funeral. Years later, when William proposes to Murron, he reveals that he saved the same thistle for years. Seeing the thistle, Murron knows that his affection is sincere and long-standing. She consents to marry him.

In real life, this kind of thing doesn’t happen. Stuff today is pretty disposable. Clothes are mass manufactured for no one in particular and meant to be discarded after a season. Ipods are made to survive about two years, since by that time the next generation will be available. We spend $3.50 on a cardboard cup filled with coffee, neither of which will last beyond an hour or so.

Because the tangible world is so disturbingly fluid – our setting and the objects around us so impermanent – it’s easy to start believing that we live disposable lives in a disposable culture. This may be why we are so charmed with the thistle in Brave Heart, tuppence in Mary Poppins, and Harry Potter’s scar. They’re artifacts that prove the existence of meaning.

How do we know William loves Murron? He kept her thistle. We can see his love right in his hand. The thistle, tuppence, and scar are metaphors for an abstract meaning. The thistle device is used by writers to draw the audience’s attention to central points of meaning in the narrative. They’re shortcuts on the desktop of the mind.

I think maybe the tangibility of these objects sometimes gets in the way  of their significance. The object is not the point – the meaning is the point. But instead of focusing on the meaning of the metaphor, we lock onto the physical presence of the object and become obsessed with finding tangible symbols in our own lives. Why not? That’s how several forms of media have taught us to process meaning.

What I’m endeavoring to teach myself is that even without these tangible artifacts I can still find abstract meaning in my life.

 

The Imaginary Heroine’s Fictional Boyfriends March 25, 2010

As promised, here’s a list of my fictional boyfriends.

Harry Potter, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
I know a bunch of people are going to skeeved out when they read this. Let me just say, I started reading Harry Potter in junior high, when we were about the same age in book time. As the gaps between books widened, I aged faster than Mr. Potter did. All of this is moot though, because Harry’s birthday is July 30, 1980. So, he’s seven years and about a month older than me anyway. So there.

I didn’t really feel romantically attached to Harry until the much-maligned fifth book came out (I was still two months shy of sixteen when it came out in 2003, so I was still in non-creepy territory. Thbt!). A lot of people have complained that they couldn’t stand Harry in book five. He was a whiney pain-in-the-butt, always on about how unfair life was and losing his marbles to the Dark Lord.

Here’s the thing…that was just how I felt too. High school pretty much sucked for me. Like Harry, I spent a lot of time at odds with not only a large number of my closest friends, but also several teachers and my high school. Throw in some metallic maroon combat boots and the inevitable teenage cry of “no one understands meeeee!” and you’ve got the wretched disaster that was sixteen year-old me.

When Harry was shouting down Professor Umbridge in class and forming secret resistance societies, my bolshy (and, yes, whiney, pain-in-the-butt) sixteen year-old self just swooned. When he wasn’t defeating evil, Harry was just trying to get by and do right by people. He also had a mischief streak a mile wide without being an obnoxious “bad boy.” Something that really appealed to this goody-two-shoes. Harry also has great taste in women, as evidenced by his proximity to smart gals like Hermione and Ginny. Add in dark hair and some glasses…I’m sold.

Just like Harry, I ended up dropping out before my senior year and heading off into the world. Sure he went to look for Horcruxes and I went to college, but we can’t all be “the Chosen One.” I will always think of Harry Potter as my partner in crime, my brother in arms, and my only high school boyfriend.

Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, portrayed by David Boreanaz
This one gives me pause now. I used to think Angel was, like, the be all end all of hotness. I definitely blame him for giving me a type: dark eyes, dark hair, straight brow, tan skin, buff shoulders…. Which is basically 7abibi all over, now that I think of it…

Now I realize that it’s pretty creepy for a 240 year-old guy to be sleeping with a seventeen year-old. Even if the 17 year-old in question is a vampire slayer. Plus, all these vampire romances sound good in theory, but the lack of body heat just…ew. Ew. I have a feeling a physical relationship with a vampire would be kind of icky, actually. Who knows what kind of nasty diseases a vampire might have lurking all over their body – they’re basically invincible!

That aside, Angel won my heart and stomped all over it again and again in college. And I loved him for it. It gave me an escape from a crazy class load, 3/4 time job, and roommate angst. Buffy and Angel on DVD definitely helped me survive some grueling semesters.

Yes, he spent some time saving Buffy, but he didn’t mind when Buffy saved him. And she did. Quite a lot, actually. That is what made Angel awesome. He loved a girl who could kick his ass. He even loved her after she killed him, for goodness sake. That is one man who knows the value of a good woman.

I ended up following Angel to his spin-off show and liking him the better for being a bit darker and a bit funnier than he was in BtVS. I have to give the writers and Boreanaz credit, because the Angel/Angelus duality helped me hash out a lot of feelings about good and evil inside myself and finding a moral compass after you realize you aren’t and never will be all good all the time.

Seeley Booth, Bones, portrayed by David Boreanaz
I followed David Boreanez on to his next project, a TV show called Bones. I had never been into a crime drama before, but I was willing to give it chance if it meant I could see his pretty face again. I was prepared to be bored or grossed out, but guess what? Bones kicks all kinds of ass.

Yet again, we see David Boreanaz sharing face time with a kick-ass woman and doing it well. Sometimes he plays the blue-collar, Catholic straight man to her intellectual, atheist jibes. Other times he plays the wise guy and urges her to listen to her heart to find the answers she’s searching for. The show achieves a delicate balance by giving the female lead traits often considered masculine and giving traditionally feminine traits to the male lead. The inversion leads to both humor and illumination as they work together to solve the crime du jour.

I would argue that Boreanaz must be a vampire in real life, because I swear he’s gotten better looking with age. He’s able to carry off both the manly man shell of FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth while staying true to an inner core of intuition, love, and harmony. He’s the thinking woman’s heart-throb.

Ramses Emerson, The Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters
I’ve talked about him before on this blog. Walter Peabody Emerson, a.k.a. the Brother of Demons, a.k.a. Ramses is totally hot.

Ramses is the scholar of the bunch, with several degrees and near perfect fluency in myriad languages, dead and alive. Don’t let that fool you though, because he’s also a master of disguise with a wicked sense of humor and enough mischief to match Fred and George Weasley. Plus he “doesn’t fight like a gentleman” whether he’s faced with drunken British Officers or Turkish spies or his dastardly cousin Percy. He’s not afraid of personal injury if he thinks it’s in the service of good, as evidence by his damaging pacifist cover for an extremely active career as a secret agent. He’s also an unabashedly adoring husband and loving dad. Swoon.

Ramses is another guy who is attracted to smart and determined women. How can he not be with a mom like Amelia Peabody? It’s an aphrodisiac, I swear. Show me a man who loves smart women and I’ll show you a milliondy-twelve women of worth willing to love him back.

Honorable Mention:
Mr. Knightly, Emma by Jane Austen
I sort of surprise myself on this one, since my favorite Austen is definitely Sense and Sensibility. But Edward Ferrars just can’t stand up to Mr. Knightly (or really anyone, come to think of it). Mr. Knightly was always trying to boss Emma around, but still loved her and sought her opinion even when she stood up to him or refused to take his advice. Sure his constant nagging could be interpreted as paternalistic and icky, but I choose to read it otherwise. Emma was written as such a stubborn and self-assured character that she needed a powerful counterpart. Someone who was willing to tell her when she was full of crap or being a bitch to Miss Bates. Someone who urged her to be better, because she could and should. That’s why I would say Mr. Knightly has the edge over everyone’s favorite haughty-to-hottie hero, Mr. Darcy.

I find most of Austen’s heros fairly tame. The guys with real spark end up being huge jerks, like Wickham and Willoughby. What is Austen saying here? Is she pulling a Gottleib and telling us to settle for Mr. Dependable-but-dull? Is she telling us that a happy marriage means turning your back on fun, exciting partners? Although Austen gives her heroines a traditional happy ending, the fact that she herself never married and her quotes on the subject of marriage, spinsterhood, and female worth are indicative of a deep skepticism of marriage and men.

Fred/George Weasley, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
They’re a ton of fun, that’s for sure, and plenty brave. They also seem to be appreciative of powerful women. Fred took the Angelina Johnson to the Yule Ball for cripes sake! Don’t remember her? She was a quidditch chaser who was good enough to make captain and a witch talented enough to try for TriWizard Champion. I hear she married George after the Second Wizarding War! My admiration for the twins is somewhat limited by their secondary (tertiary?) character status. There’s not much to go on here since the Harry Potter series is mostly limited to Harry’s POV. What did they get up to when Harry wasn’t looking? I’m betting they were “up to no good,” of course.

Eric Northman, the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris and True Blood, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård

This is a fairly recent one for me. I just started reading the Sookie Stackhouse books this year. If I talk about why, I’ll be giving up a crapload of spoilers about the book series and possibly the TV show, so I’ll just zip it. He’s definitely got the high mischief factor going on. I can’t like Eric all the way since he’s definitely a selfish jerk. On the other hand, he’ll tell you so up front. Points for honesty? Being a former viking, he definitely goes against my normal physical type. I’ll stay tuned on this one. The jury is still out.

Who are your fictional boyfriends? Have they changed over time? Want to fight to the death over Angel? I’m dying to know!

 

*Everything* is Toasted March 21, 2010

While streaming the disastrous catastrophic demoralizing infuriating basketball game yesterday, I happened to catch a Mercedes-Benz commercial.

“Isn’t that Draper?” says 7abibi, the indifferent victim of second-hand Mad Men viewership.

And so it was!

Apparently, Jon Hamm is the new voice of Mercedes-Benz. Their logic being that Hamm is both extremely popular from Mad Men and his recurring role on 30 Rock, NBC’s Tina Fey vehicle, and because he has a “terrific, very resonant voice with a lot of gravitas to it.”

It’s true that Hamm’s a mega hunk with buckets of talent. I’m glad he’s getting the attention he deserves. I’m just not positive that the commercials are going to have the exact effect Mercedes-Benz is going for.

Sure, talking points about eco-conscious engineering drip like glistening ambrosia from Hamm’s well-molded lips, but all I hear is Don Draper pulling another one over on us, “it’s toasted” style.

Go watch the clip. It’s short and important. Go.

Back? Okay. This is the first episode of Mad Men. How could I not be hooked? For those of you who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, I really do urge you to give it a shot. The sets, costuming, hair, and makeup are outdone only by the superb writing and acting.

The down side to watching Mad Men? Well, you start to feel like EVERYTHING is toasted.

Like Don says, advertising is all about telling the story that affirms the consumer. If an ad can do this well, it generally leads to consumption of the advertised product.

More often than not, the story that we’re being told about one product, is actually just as true for the competition. It’s simply that one company has been more successful in branding.

Sometimes the story being told is true but irrelevant. Like “natural botanicals” in shampoo. Sure they’re in there, but they may be included in such tiny amounts they have no effect whatsoever on your hair. The active ingredients are probably a mix of unappealing things like detergents, preservatives, fragrance, and dye. But, hey, slap in some technically present “tropical essence” and your customer feels like they’re washing their hair with shampoo made from fairy lights and tropical fruit. Don’t even get me started on “chemical free” products. Uh…what is your product made of then? Dark matter?

Think the Lucky Strike ruse is old news? The rebranding is eerily similar to this company’s attempt to change the name of prunes (image: old people with constipation) to dried plums (image: hip foodie in search of exotic delicacies). The product is the same, the words and the story we tell ourselves has radically changed.

As you know, I love stories. I even like to be told stories about a product that someone wants to sell me. Heck, I even tell myself stories about the products I’m buying sometimes. I hunted down the exact brand and shade of red lipstick used on Joan in Mad Men. Why? Because we’re both fair, I love lipstick, and when I wear it I can tell myself that I am a capable and feisty professional woman like Joan.

I use my Imaginary Heroine powers and try to tell myself a story to make me feel differently, act differently. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But other times it does. That little bit of lipstick makes feel just a touch more ready for Monday.

Laura Mercier creme lipstick in Mistress, an office maven's best friend

As immersed as we are in media culture, we need to be hyper-aware that the story we’re told by advertisers (as well as politicians, professors, journalists, novelists, etc) is by no means complete. Mostly because no human is omnipotent or infallible, but also because some humans seek to manipulate others. Sometimes for innocuous reasons and other times for malicious reasons, but almost always for reasons that benefit the teller and not the listener. Not to go all Professor Moody (who had his own agenda, especially whilst being impersonated a murderous Death Eater*), but we need to have constant vigilance on this issue.

Take for instance, the commercial blitz for the 2010 Census. That joyful man in his bathrobe is “being counted!” and in doing so he’s funding after school sports, fixing roads, and saving pregnant ladies in labor.

However, that story ignores some of the more ugly uses of the Census in the past. Like rounding up Japanese Americans for internment in the 1940s or giving information on the concentrations of Arab Americans to the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 and 2003. Not to mention the more recent identity theft that resulted from the Census Bureau misplacing 672 laptops as well as Census workers posting respondents’ data on a public website while testing software. These aren’t fairy tales of civic duty, they’re nightmares of government excesses and ineptitude.

And if you’re thinking of using the above reasons to skip the Census, forget about it. You’re required by law to take part if you’re over 18. The Census Bureau is able to levy fines of $100 per blank answer, $500 per willful wrong answer, and $5,000 for non-compliance. So, fill out your form and hope that Bathrobe Bob is right this time around, okay? If that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, follow-up mailing your letter with a screening of O Brother Where Art Thou and cheer when Little Hogwallop says “I nicked the Census man” and Delmar responds “Now there’s a good boy.”

I guess all we can do is listen to the stories we’re told and try to think critically about our responses. Where does this story come from? Who is telling me this story? What do they want me to take away from this story? What do they want me to do and why? Should I take their advice or should I decide to act differently?

Because if we don’t, we’re all going to end up toasted.

*Ever notice how we all seem to attribute thoughts and actions to Professor Moody that were expressed NOT by Moody, but instead by Barty Crouch, Jr.? Even Ron, Hermione, and Harry, who would have reason to know better, continue to quote Crouch-Moody and take his advice. Weird. I don’t know if this is JKR’s subtle comment on how much people resist the notion of betrayal or if she did such a good job with Crouch-Moody that he hoodwinked not only the Potterverse, but also its fans and author!

 

Sookie is Mahn! March 4, 2010

Filed under: Books,Rants,Television — imaginaryheroine @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

[Spoilers: True Blood Season 1]

I love Anna Paquin. Despite her lean build, she was a good choice to play the quirky and down home Sookie Stackhouse (Book Sookie is a curvy size 8 – 10).

Unfortunately, while re-watching TrueBlood Season 1, I’m more and more struck by how much the writers have dumbed down the series’ heroine.

Sure, Sookie starts out a bit naive. She’s inexperienced with men due to her “disability” and wholly unprepared for how deep the rabbit hole went into the supernatural world.

The Sookie of Charlaine Harris’ addictive Southern Vampire books is a quick-witted spitfire. After growing up hiding her gift, she’s gotten good control over how much she lets people see of her thoughts and emotions. She knows when to talk and when to shut up. She deals with the strange and dangerous with aplomb, waiting until she’s put the fire out and gotten into her favorite Mickey Mouse sleep shirt before she gives herself permission to have a melt down. She knew getting involved with the boss was messy, so she didn’t.

That’s why she’s awesome. She’s kicking @$$, taking names, navigating relationships, and staying on budget to make house repairs.

Sookie in True Blood is disappointingly dim. She babbles. A lot. Usually saying exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time to exactly the wrong person. After she sleeps with Bill, she has a public monologue about how great sex is and how it’s no one’s business…uhm…what? In the season finale, Bill is burning to death in the sun and she just stands there crying while Sam buries him, meaning it was taking longer to cover him up than if two people had been working on it. WTF?

Most obnoxiously, she gets all squishy with Sam and then pushes him away and then takes him back and then pushes him away, because getting involved with the boss is messy and this show is all about every character making exactly the wrong decision every single time. Especially if it involves sex and/or drug use, because those things are supposedly inherently entertaining. Or something.

Book Sookie would smack TV Sookie upside the head and tell her to get it together and grow a brain while she’s at it.

Psst. Hey writers! Sookie is not an adjunct character to the supers. She’s the MAIN character!

I guess what I’m trying to say is…

Get away! Get away, suicidal cellist! Stop following me!

Get away! Get away, you suicidal cellist! Stop following me!

 

Mad About Mad Men…or Maybe Mad *at* Mad Men February 10, 2010

(SPOILERS: Contains info from Mad Men Seasons 1 – 3 and chatter about Season 4)

The nominees for 21st annual GLAAD Awards were announced a few weeks back and AMC’s Mad Men is up for best drama series. Pre-Season 3 Finale, I would have been using this as just more proof of how smart and sexy and awesome this show really is, but now I’m not so sure.

If you haven’t heard of Mad Men yet, it’s your own darn fault. Set in the 1960s, the series revolves around Don Draper, an advertising executive for the big Madison Avenue firm, Sterling Cooper. The set design and wardrobe are gorgeous. The ensemble cast is dense with high-wattage talent. The story lines turn the heroes into villains and back again and weave through plot lines that make you think about racism, consumerism, feminism – all those big, heavy -isms – and makes it a blast.

One of the most beautifully constructed characters is that of Salvatore Romano, played by actor/designer Bryan Batt. As Sterling Cooper’s Art Director, Sal proved himself to be both capable and passionate about his work, which is probably why Sal’s Italian heritage doesn’t seem to be a major issue to the big wigs – he is very good at what he does. Something that would be a big deal to the Powers that Be at Sterling Cooper is that Sal is also a closeted homosexual.

The character is used throughout the show to illustrate the difficulty of leading an alternative lifestyle in post-Korean War, white picket fence America. This is to say, Sal isn’t allowed to lead an alternative lifestyle without destroying his career and social life. Instead he is forced to live a double life, marrying a wife he cares for, but isn’t physically attracted to and playing along with the WASPy Madison Avenue career men.

Sal does have a few romantic story lines. He is propositioned by a client, but turns him down. Later he develops a crush on a coworker. His first real romantic rendezvous is an interrupted make out session with a bell boy. Sadly, nothing really comes to fruition. He is paralyzed by the social climate, unable to create a romantic bond let alone build a functional relationship.

Sal is more the rule than the exception, because on Mad Men everyone is living a lie. Don, Pete, and Roger, also live double lives, playing the married family man, but always searching for a new thrill. Just like no woman can ever look like the pictures in magazines (even the actual women pictured!), no one can lead the life the Mad Men have carefully construct and sold in their advertisements.

Roger and Don’s infidelities are widely known and only served to enhance their reputation. Sal, on the other hand is utterly destroyed not by following his heart or giving in to lust, but because he turned down the aggressive advances of Lee Garner, Jr., heir to the Lucky Strike Cigarettes empire.

Lee Jr. decides to exact revenge and demands Sal be fired. Don obliges, ostensibly in order to save the account and protect the company.

It made complete sense. The Lucky Strike account was huge and losing it could ruin the firm. Don is not in the business of social causes. It’s this same tough-nosed pragmatism that allowed him to promote Peggy. Hiring a skillful woman copy writer would help the firm; firing a gay art director who offended a client would help the firm.

I’m sure you could argue that if Sal had not been a homosexual, Don might have backed him up, but I’m not sure that’s true. Don was pretty hardhearted about an array of personal issues displayed by numerous characters when they got in the way of his work.

When Sal didn’t reappear for a few episodes, I was bummed, but not too worried. Then the Season 3 Finale rolled around and the big hitters of Sterling Cooper peeled away into their own new company: Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Our beloved Joan waltzed through the door after what felt like an age of exile. I thought that maybe, just maybe, Sal would be next.

Even after it was brought to my attention that fledgling SCDP hinged on Lucky Strike, I was sure they would find some other way for Sal to come back. Maybe he wouldn’t work for SCDP. Maybe he would be rehired at the old firm. Maybe he would start up that art-driven ad agency he talked about in an earlier season and compete with SCDP for clients.

It was not to be. Filming for Season 4 begins in March and Bryan Batt will not be on that set. And I am heartbroken all over again for Sal, who was not only shamed and punished for being the victim of sexual harassment, but is then required by our modern writers and producers to vanish into the night without a peep.

This brings me back to the GLAAD awards. These are meant to “recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives”. I would have been rooting Mad Men for the win…Until now.

Sure the writers deserve recognition for giving us a gay character that hasn’t internalized homophobic rhetoric that all gays are sex fiends or have no character attributes beyond their orientation and fab fashion sense. Sal isn’t feminized, flamboyant, or flighty. He is a guy with dreams and thoughts and motivations that hinge on life issues including, but also beyond, his sexual orientation.

And they dumped him!

I’ll freely admit that Sal could never have a happy ending. He’s a gay man in the 60’s, after all, and Mad Men is not in the business of happy endings. One might say that’s kind of the point. Happy endings are sold to us like Lucky Strike cigarettes – they’re toasted…with a side of lung cancer.

But can GLAAD really reward Mad Men after they let Sal drift into oblivion? I wouldn’t.

 

True Blood: Love and Hate at First Bite January 29, 2010

I bought the first of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse books (aka The Southern Vampire Series) in the airport on my way out (boo LAX red eye) and I read it all in one sitting. Since most of the weekend was a bunch of sitting around and being confused and depressed en masse, I went through a lot of books. I went through books 1 – 6, buying a new one each day and finishing it by that night. I’m now finished with all the published books (#9 Dead and Gone was scrumptious) and I can’t wait for #10 Dead in the Family to comeout in May. If you haven’t read them yet, you simply MUST!

Which brings me to last weekend, which I spent doing a data analysis for work. I mean all weekend. I worked in excess of 30 hours in two days with my boss hounding me by phone, text, and email via blackberry every second. Sans over time pay. The joys of being a independent contractor just keep on coming. I started my taxes a couple days ago… Pardon my lolspeak, but FML.

Since inputting data doesn’t really use all of my brain and bored brains make mistakes, I finally got around to watching True Blood Season 1, which I borrowed from my friend KristinV over Christmukkah vacation and hadn’t gotten around to watching yet.

I have to say I’m deeply ambivalent.

Before you think I’m biased by the books, I want say that there are some major differences from the books that I am not only okay with, but actually prefer. I love TV Tara. She is so much better than book Tara, who is white and a somewhat peripheral character. I LOVE that from the looks of IMDB Lafayette is going to be sticking around longer than he did in the books. Jessica is a totally new character and I find her beyond awesome (“You suck… ha ha that’s funny, because you really do suck ha ha”). The opening credits are a thing of beauty.

I love that the show has a life of its own. I stumble through a few scenes that are excitingly familiar, but then I’m left guessing like everyone else.

That said, I HATE all the super nasty sex. I mean, I know – it’s HBO. And I know, there’s some pretty sexy sex in the books. I know. And I don’t object to there being sex. Even fairly dark, sexy sex. It’s a sexy vampire show. I get it. But a lot of it is really violent and what’s more, characters are sort of getting off on the violence.

Violent sex is just something I have trouble dealing with on screen. There were some parts in the book that mixed sex with violence, but they were moments of horror and treated as such.

I also think in print I’m more able to tune things out. I can sort of pan away in my head and imagine only what I can handle. On the screen it’s so much harder. The scene where Jason pretends to attack Dawn was too hard to watch, even though I kind of thought I knew who it was and it turned out to be okay(ish) in the end, since she ended up being turned on and consenting to sex afterward.

Interestingly, I had less of a problem with violence-as-a-turn-on-leading-to-sex situation in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Possibly because neither of the characters was entirely victim or attacker. Both were trained, badass spies. Jane was giving as good as she was getting, not cowering in fear and submitting to a stronger opponent. John wasn’t covering his head and wishing it would all stop. Violence was the medium by which they came to the conclusion that though they weren’t compatible as their alter egos, they were amazingly compatible as their authentic selves.

I also feel like the violent and abusive relationship between Spike and Buffy in Season 6 had elements of this going for it. Both characters were equal attackers, victims, and willing participants. The audience was also supposed to be disgusted. Buffy felt like a lesser version of herself and so she punished herself by giving in to her lust for Spike, wallowing in the degradation. This goes on until Episode 6.19 “Seeing Red,” when Buffy decides to put a stop to her self-destructive habits, including boinking Spike on the sly, and he attempts to rape her. Spike is horrified and ultimately leaves Sunnydale to seek out his redemption through the recovery of his soul. For me the attempted rape is one of the most disturbing scenes of the entire series. Again, I think equal footing and consent is ultimately the issue. Once consent is revoked and terror is used as a tool to coerce carnal access, it’s harder to hold on to elements of the erotic.

I think an integral element of True Blood is supposed to  be the examination of how closely mingled sex and violence can be. So it toes the line between disturbing and erotic, but for me some of it is too far over that line to be enjoyable. I guess in some ways my brain rating is PG-13.

A lighter criticism: Why is Bill being stalked by a depressed cellist? That man needs a more subtle leitmotif STAT!

On balance, there are some bits I’m really in love with. So, I’m still going to watch Season 2 when it comes out on DVD and maybe Season 3, if Season 2 isn’t so rape-fetishy.