The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

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.

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