This Is What A Feminist Looks Like Watching True Blood: Season 6, Episode 1

In case you all haven’t heard: TRUE BLOOD IS BACK! And, like last season, I’ll be watching and blogging about it along with my pal Andie from blue milk. And, this season we’ll also be chatting with Siall, who is adding her thoughts to our True Blood chat-fest. In case you missed our thoughts on season 5, or you need a quick refresher before diving into season 6, you can read back through our posts from last year.

And of course, as always, our chats are spoiler-filled for the show, so proceed with caution.

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Siall: So I’ve watched it (twice; I may be procrastinating). In spite of this, I am struggling to find something to say. It felt tome like a kind of adequate, catch-up episode, with a lot of scenes to remind viewers of the various plots playing out. Because of this I didn’t really engage with any of the stories on an emotional level. It left me cold. Which is disappointing, considering there was at least one decent sex scene! I’m curious to hear your opinions of Alcide’s new challenge, and also the rather interchangeable string of long-haired she-wolves he’s been paired with since the show abruptly (and disappointingly) gave up on the Sookie-Alcide angle.

Andie: I have to admit I didn’t find this episode entirely captivating. I think the thing that first attracted me to True Blood was the Southern Gothic tone and there has been less and less of that these days. This isn’t exactly TB’s fault though, it’s just my preference – I think some people will prefer the sci-fi feel it is developing instead.

Siall: I found myself getting a bit irritated at the high maintenance, glossy locks and gym-perfect bodies, too; as I’ve aged I’ve become less enraged by the emphasis on beauty in television, and learned to enjoy watching pretty people romp around, but a little variety in beauty would be nice, and might help to make the dramas more relatable.There’s something disruptive, to me, in particular about the wolves and with quite a few of the newer elements in the show; like the panther-people (fourth series? I am getting quite confused), they seem like a well-overdue screen representation of poorer Southerners; thepanther-people always seemed a bit too stereotypically backwoods inbred, and I’ve liked seeing Martha Bozeman’s character give some substance to a culture usually reduced to trailer trash in film and television. Martha looks weathered — I think she only looks weathered because she’s surrounded by people made up like models — which fits; the hot-iron curls of the other wolves are a little hard to take,
especially when they’ve just been running through the wilds.

Avital: I agree and had similar thoughts re: body types on the show. I’d even take it one step further… There is very little diversity when it comes to female body types on the show (save for a very small range of pubic hair…ranging from bare to super trimmed). The only departure from this was the Pam flashback when we saw her as a Madam and her “working girls” ranged in both age and body type – which I appreciated. However, I feel like there is more leeway when it comes to the men on the show. For the most part, they’re certainly held up to a specific standard (Hello Alcide’s tush!), but at the same time, there’s still wiggle room in the male bodies shown…i.e. Andy Bellfleur and Hoyt Fortenberry don’t really have that same Adonis physique that Alcide and Eric rock. Yet they still snag stereotypically sexy women (aka the fairy for Andy and Jessica for Hoyt). All that’s to say that I would love some more body diversity, especially of the naked kind.

tumblr_inline_momxi1KszT1qz4rgpAndie: I do like the sexiness of the show but mostly I’m finding myself picky about that too. Is it me or are the sex scenes not all that sexy? I am really just dying to see Sookie and Eric back together so I’m aware that I may be biased here because they’re the only couple that really does it for me. I guess some people are going to love the Alcide threesome scenario in this episode, particularly heterosexual guys, who are well catered for, when are they ever not in TV threesomes?

It’s interesting what they’re doing with Alcide in the show. I understand that as a werewolf packmaster he is supposed to assume all these particular characteristics and one of them is being an alpha male who impregnates a bunch of female weres so his bloodline can dominate, but it is at odds with the strong values he once had as a character around loyalty and fidelity, isn’t it? I mean, part of how we got to know him was through the anguish he was experiencing around his great love cheating on him. Now he’s literally, a dog. Like both of you I find their werewolf sex scenes a bit meh,too. Everybody is generally too beautiful and glossy in these nude scenes to be compelling to me, I agree.

I suspect something odd went on with the story-writing in TB that they set Alcide and Sookie up as a potential couple last season and then almost immediately dropped it. I am guessing it was something to do with Sookie’s real-life pregnancy getting in the road of that arc. It has all been a bit of a tease though for audiences, hasn’t it? And it would have made for an interesting story before she inevitably gets back together with Eric. Having said that, after last season I am in a hurry for Sookie and Eric to finally start circling one another properly again. I’ve waited long enough.

Siall: Good insight into the sudden dropping of the Alcide/Sookie storyline, Andrea!  I like Eric, of course, and welcome opportunities to see him shirtless (I find Alcide’s face just absolutely beautiful but find his bulky body-built muscles a little frightening), but the Alcide angle allowed Sookie to play with going out with an guy who actually treated her well, rather than men whose manipulations are classic tropes of domestic abuse.

Avital: I did think it was nice that within all the chaos of figuring out how to deal with Billith we got to see a tender moment between Pam and Tara. Two, traditionally hard women, showing a little sweetness/tenderness? I dug it. And then of course, Pam didn’t loose her sharp snarkiness with her “sand in my cooch” comment that absolutely slayed me.

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Andie: I think I like where they’re taking Bill this season. Unlike almost every single person who watches TB I still have some time for that character and am interested in seeing him wrestle with his internal conflicts some more while looking moodily at Sookie. I don’t find him that creepy yet as the new Lillith, but hopefully he becomes a bit more unnerving as it unfolds.  do like Warlow though, he has some decent creepiness going on.

Avital: Overall, I think it was a solid start to the season. I found myself getting a bit annoyed with the way last season was progressing – many things/choices felt very out of character for some (Bill in particular), but this 1st episode felt more organic to me – and believable. Although, I still wanted to kick Eric for allowing himself to be banished from Sookie’s life (or at least her house) without putting up much of a fight. I think I recall reading somewhere that this season won’t see Sookie with/pining for anyone in particular and be more about her own internal battles (and, probably, Warlow). As long as we don’t see her getting all mopey over these choices she’s making, I’m fine with Sookie having some “me” time, ha!

Andie: It’s funny how many of the characters are still in the same positions they were several seasons ago, isn’t it? – Jason is still prejudiced towards vampires and somehow under-estimating of their powers, Pam is still mooning after an unavailable Eric, Sookie is still uncomfortable with being different and having her life swept along by vampires, Eric is still removing himself and his love from Sookie’s life for her own good, politicians are still plotting schemes against and with vampires, Arlene is still dealing with babies (though this time it is Andy’s children), Lafayette is still humouring white people, Sam is still in constant danger around his bar.

Siall: Really interesting points, Avital and Andrea.  The things you’ve described capture some of the meh and yes and no responses I’ve had to the episode, and you’ve made me think about what drew me to the show.  In the first season the thing that appealed to me most, moralistic little human that I am, was the way the vampires-among-us device exposes and challenges a lot of prejudices around queer culture, drug culture and even ability politics.  Over the following seasons the vampire-as-other role has expanded to treat issues around religion, which I think is less meaty here than in the southern US, party politics and now the war on terror, and I feel like the costume has gotten a bit baggy.  I have a sense this might be because there aren’t really any “normal” characters left whose dilemmas serve to allow us, as viewers, to relate our own, inevitable, inner conservative impulses to; there’s no opportunity anymore, as there was in the first season, to think “Yes, I would struggle, too, with learning the world isn’t as I imagined, but I can embrace the idea of change.”  I think it’s that shift to a standard sci-fi/fantasy genre you mentioned, Andrea; the rules of the fantasy world are all established, the characters are increasingly comic book, both in terms of their taken-for-granted supernatural abilities and their exaggeratedly developed bodies, and consequently the show has become much less a comment on our world than a fun escape.

Which, frankly, means they should step up the sexiness.  The soft-porn promise of last season’s opener, with Eric and his-sister-whose-name-I-can’t-remember and Sookie and Alcide was sadly not lived up to by the rest of the season, and I agree that the sex scene in this episode fails to be sexy.  Thoughts on why?  It is one of the great and lasting gifts of this program, even after the moral analogy has lost it’s power, that it offers real visual sexual appeal to straight women.  I would love to hear your ideas on what works for you and what doesn’t!

[It was at this point that we decided to table the sex talk for next time, since that convo could go on for a while…]

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Avital: I should mention that like most episodes, Lafayette brought the spark I love with the show. A perfect blend of camp and seriousness – Nelsan Ellis really does some remarkable things with that character. He doesn’t allow Lafayette to turn into a caricature of himself, which he could easily slip into, and for that I’m grateful.

Andie: I feel a little guilty about my complaints about this show in our first discussion back. I’m glad TB is back and I am getting a little frustrated with just how nitpicky TV critics are being these days, like can’t they take the time to let a couple of episodes run before they tear a particular storyline to pieces, and can’t they see the value in some slow episodes in order to build the fast episodes?.. but truth is, TB is probably the weakest television show I am watching. It can be great, I hope we get there this season.

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I want to leave you with a little True Blood gem…. if you aren’t already following Retta on Twitter – go fix that right now! Retta is an actress, currently on Parks & Rec and is just pretty wonderful in general. She also live tweets shows that she watches, and one of them is True Blood. She has some interesting insight couched in comedy. An example:

Retta with the cast of True Blood!!!

Retta with the cast of True Blood!!!

5 thoughts on “This Is What A Feminist Looks Like Watching True Blood: Season 6, Episode 1

  1. Pingback: True Blood Discussion: Season 6, Episode 1 is up | blue milk

  2. The Eric/Nora sex was too soon in the season, IMO. We know nothing of Eric and Nora’s history, so we don’t understand WHY they would be having sex this soon after being reunited. I understand why Eric did it. It’s not that he loves Sookie any LESS than he did before. He’s heartbroken. He’s on the rebound. He is reverting back to his old ways. While I do think Eric and Nora truly love each other, I don’t think Eric loves Nora on the same level or emotional depth as he does with Sookie. What’s between Eric and Sookie is deep…it’s real. Through Sookie’s love, we get to see what’s hidden beneath the layers. All I’m saying is to not hate Eric or Sookie right now. We really don’t know anything. I already feel that Nora is only a temporary diversion and that (hopefully) Eric and Sookie will be reunited by the end of the season.

  3. Pingback: This Is What A Feminist Looks Like…Watching OITNB | The Mamafesto

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