“She can suck on sunlight for all I care”

The title of this post is actually a line that a character in True Blood speaks without even a hint of irony. Ooh yes, here we go.

Quickly, for those of you who aren’t connected to reality enough to be affected by the ever so viral marketing campaign, True Blood is a new show on HBO where vampires and humans coexist. In the show, vampires have just recently made themselves public, and the world is trying to figure out what exactly their rights are and if they belong in human society. The show is based on a series of mystery books by Charlaine Harris, who couldn’t look more like a romance novelist if she tried.

The first thing any viewer should know is that this show is about the sexy, misunderstood vampires. Not about the bloodsucking monsters. I realize that vampires and a strange sense of immortal fetishism always kind of go hand in hand, since in the end they usually are giving attractive young people death hickeys, but I never really got the whole “misunderstood” part of it. Maybe I don’t read enough Anne Rice. I don’t know.

In case you haven’t thought it already, it’s immediately obvious that the show is trying to address racism and homophobia through the device of vampires. This is done with absolutely no subtlety. Zeeeero. You will be reminded every couple seconds “oh yeah, they’re in Louisiana and they’re prejudiced… and they’re saying vampire but we know they mean something else subtextually”. The opening credits even have civil rights footage, just in case you didn’t figure it out. Since this is the central idea behind the show, you’d think it would be something that would develop slowly and be respectfully treated by the director. 

The other problem is that for a show that is supposedly addressing racism, the black characters on the show are hopelessly stereotyped. I was convinced early on that Tara was a parody of a sassy black girl. It was later on, when they introduced Tara’s completely over the top alcoholic mother that I realized that parodying sass runs in the family. 

So the show fails as a treatment of racism and homophobia, but that’s not all. The other big draw is the love story between Sookie, the main character, a waitress with telepathic powers, and Bill, a vampire. We quickly find out that Sookie can read everyone’s mind, except Bill’s. In a montage we are shown how Sookie can’t date guys because she can hear their awful thoughts when they’re with her, yet she somehow suppresses her mindreading when around her friends and family. She can’t hear Bill thinking “OMG show me your Rogue boobs Anna Paquin!”, so of course she falls in love with him. Once you remove the lame racism angle of “I’m datin’ a vampiyah and there ain’t nuthin’ you can do about it ma'”, you’re left with an extremely empty love story filled with much inexplicable brooding on both sides. The show also has an annoying habit of having little to no plot forwarding action for a whole episode, only to quickly smash on a lame cliffhanger ending at the end. It also looks like they’re gearing up to throw in werewolves and shapeshifters and all kinds of stuff that they’re going to try and force into the HBO lens of “serious drama”.

One more thing. I don’t really have an ear for accents. I’m generally quite bad at separating individual regions within the umbrella of a larger accent. I’m Canadian, I’ve been told I have the occasional lilt when I say things… some find that endearing. The point is I should have no concept of what a good southern and bad southern accent sound like, but the accents in True Blood are absolutely the worst I’ve ever heard since Keanu in The Devil’s Advocate.

There’s really nothing clever to the writing here. Just because it’s on HBO and people are fucking left and right doesn’t mean it becomes good writing. It’s not funny, it’s not edgy. It’s the stuff of silly romance novels, which are fine by themselves, but here it’s being paraded around with a supposedly serious message attached to it that it just doesn’t have the balls or the skill to pull off.

I was trying to think of a nice pun for a title to this piece other than “True Blood sucks”, which I have seen a few times already. While writing this, it hit me. It’s not clever or witty, and I apologize if it’s pretentious or lame, but it does sum up what I think of True Blood rather well:

True Blood lacks bite.


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October 2008
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