Dagnabit Shit Fuck: True Blood Recap S03E11

Hosted by Thea Lim and featuring Joseph Lamour, Tami Winfrey Harris, Latoya Peterson and Andrea Plaid

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Thea: Another sort of lackluster episode, though better than last week’s. Though I have to say this eppy sure had lots of good oneliners:

I used to drink hot sauce straight out of the bottle…that was a good time.

Dagnabit Shit Fuck!

So you turn into a panther! What the hell! That ain’t so bad.

Tami: What no love for Pam calling Bill an “infatuated tween”? That was the quote of the night. It perfectly captured the essence of the Bill and Sookie romance.

Andrea: Oh! My! Gawd! Pam aced the ep with that line. I so heart that vamp (pun intended).

Thea: Well, I didn’t want to steal all the good lines…I wanted to give y’all a chance to list your own fave oneliners :) Also I just read on the internet that Mama Hoyt actually said Dagnabit Shit Fire! I truly hope not, Shit Fuck is just so wonderful.

Thea: But to get down to the really really important business: poll – do we prefer LaLa as a pet name for our favourite, or Laffy? I can’t decide.

Joe: I love it when Ruby calls him Lala, but not when anyone else does. My vote goes for Laffy.

Tami: Co-sign, Joe. I love “Lala,” but it feels like one of those special names within friends or family that only one person is allowed to use. I’m going for Laffy.

Latoya: Team Lala. It makes me squee to think of 6 year old Lafayette. But Laffy works too.

Andrea: Honestly, I like Laffy or even Lafette, which is my fam’s nickname for my uncle, who shares the same name. I’m with Joe: let “Lala” be his mom’s nickname for him. Though, to be honest, I don’t like it coming from her mouth because there’s a homophobic bite to it.

Thea: Hm…that’s an interesting point about Lala having a homophobic bite…especially since every episode since its intro, Laffy has been addressed as such. This week, it was by the religious icons during a bad trip. Aiyeee..but more on that later, of course.

A Black Panther?

Thea: So here, for once, I would like those of you Charlaine Harris fans who’ve been sitting on your hands in the corner for fear of spoiling anything for the rest of us, to step up: is Crystal a black panther in the books, or is that just a choice they made for the visual medium of TV? Actually, wait a sec, are all panthers black? Since this is True Blood, master of dabbling foolishly in serious historical shit, I can’t help but wonder why they would choose a black panther, an animal which is, as professorjawn put it in the comments last week, “a uniquely racialized animal in the US psyche.”

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Joe: Other than the Pink Panther, panthers are all black, otherwise they’re called something else, like jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, and cougars (another loaded word, this day in age.) While reading the book I definitely assumed the (spoiler alert!) Hotshot people were all panthers, and that those panthers were of this variety: and not of the beret-ed variety. Also, to my (cursory, at best) knowledge, a panther is not actually a type of cat like a lion, but it refers to the color. For instance: a black jaguar is a panther, and a black cougar is a panther. There is a such thing as a white panther, but its rare, like a white tiger. Confusing enough? Yes, yes it is.

Interestingly enough, the reason that panther cats of any variety turn out black is because of- take a guess- an abundance of melanin. The writers, and Charlaine for that matter, probably didn’t think too hard about which species of cat to go with. Willful ignorance strikes again, I guess.

Tami: The folks in Hot Shot were panthers in Charlaine’s Harris’ books, though I don’t recall her specifying black panthers. II always assumed they were the sort of panther found in America–the cougar. I think the choice of using a black panther for Crystal was stylistic–they certainly look cool lurking in the shadows. It’s just that given True Blood’s sketchy racial imagery this season, even the most benign choices seem to mean something more sinister.

Sookie & Bill Are Boring; Pam Breaks Our Heart with her Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Thea: So Latoya totally called it last week when she said, “But again, it’s Sookie who gets the creepy chain basement to herself, and she’ll probably be saved in a day or so, so whatever, I can’t drum up any concern.” OMG, try saved in like, fifteen minutes. More and more I am just writing the word “BOOOORING” in my notebook during all the Bill-Sookie scenes.’

Latoya: I hate being right. There isn’t even time to fake concern anymore.

Andrea: LOLOLOL I think we’re supposed to either 1) conveniently ignore that she was rescued or that 2) we’re supposed to get all “yeah girl-power!” that another human–especially a woman–rescued her. I think Ball and Co. wanted us to focus on the fact that she “whupped Pam’s ass” (with said woman’s help) to save her man. What peeved me is Pam’s xenophobic plea regarding Sookie’s sex-worker rescuer, “Don’t leave me here with this idiot immigrant!” The woman response, “I’m a cardiologist!” missed the humor mark because it turns back on her: the stereotyping questions become, “Why is a cardiologist hanging with vampires? Don’t they get good pay in that line of work?” Which can play either way: 1) thoughts about why people go into sex work (basic answer: the reasons are myriad) and 2) the stereotypes of female immigrants as victims of sex trades. Too much hung on that joke, which is why it fell flat for me.

Joe: I think with the cardiologist joke as well, we were supposed to draw from it a sense of surprise, the impetus for that surprise being that she was just another attractive foreigner. Immigrants do in fact find trouble sometimes getting the same type of work here that they had at home, yes, but it just seemed like a tired old convention tossed in there for the joke.

And while Sookie did get captured, yet again, by Russell and Eric during the drive away (I have to say I loved that car effect,) It looks like she’s going to be out of the woods, yet again, during the finale. First Tara’s horrific ordeal, then Sookie’s caper. I think we’re supposed to see these as similar instances, and I suspect the writers are trying to get us to think “The women on this show can’t get a break, can they?” Frankly, the problems are far unequal in severity. For one, Bill and Yvetta (The Estonian Cardiologist Stripper) saved Sookie in this episode, and Tara repeatedly saves herself.

Tami: I thought they were attempting to smash the assumption that Yvetta is a poor, uneducated immigrant with news that, like many immigrants, she is indeed educated and held a professional job in her home country. Eric and Pam have been playing her for a foolish, sex toy, and they clearly underestimated her. Still–the point fell flat.

Latoya: They undercut their own gag by showing Yvetta’s power in the context of a woman scorned.

I am so inured to Sookie’s ineffectual faux girl power moments and spunkiness that I can’t be arsed to cheer for her in these situations. The show has made its hero and heroine so unlikeable that in battles against supposedly villainous characters, you feel the urge to root for the villains. If Russell could have taken Sookie and Bill with him into that good night, I would have been ever so gratetful.

Tara and Sam Go to Humpington

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Thea: What did we think of the (rather graphic, oh my!) Sam and Tara hook up? I sort of sighed a little. I would like to see Tara progressing to new and more interesting places, not simply reanimating scenes from Season 1. The hot sex with sad sack ex boyfriend just seemed to come too soon after her convo with Andy Bellefleur, which I thought was an unusually subtle and thoughtful piece of TV.

Also I am sad to say that my positive interpretation of Sam’s storyline (i.e. my hope that his violent freakout and subsequent downwards spiral were a comment on how the expectations of masculinity harm men) was all too positive…clearly Tami and Andrea, you were more correct when you predicted that the storyline was actually just further entrenching the idea that Being a Man means being violent and brutal. Well, shit.

Andrea: Hate it when I’m right about the wrong things, Thea…but yeah. I guess the new cue about Sam is not only is he re-establshed his hetero manhood by viciousness (albeit drunken, which Tommy called him out on) but now he’s a-(drunk)-fuckin’ that (reforming) hellion Tara. I think we’re supposed to bump chests about this or something. :-P But again, Sam’s display of nasty manliness is coming at a price–Tommy’s about to clean him out, as much as out of vengence as about his being able to survive as a homeless person.

Tara fucking Sam….ya know, I wasn’t too bothered by her wanting to fuck him only because, after the circles of vampire hell she’s gone through, I got the impression that she sexed with him because Sam’s a “safe” sexual partner, which can be quite healing for some rape/abuse survivors. And to do it right after her confrontation with Andy is, I think, supposed to show how far she’s coming along with healing from not only her rape/abuse but also her mourning Eggs. The sequence of events felt quick, but I can understand it.

Latoya: Word. I was yelling at the screen when Tara and Sam headed toward the inevitable, but I can see that as well. All things considered, asshole Sam is a pretty safe bet.

Andrea: My hat’s off to Andy: that had to be one of the top 10 best apologies ever witnessed in a public space. No defensiveness, no “my intentions” double-talk, no bullshit–racial or otherwise. He knew he did wrong–and got his new position due to that wrong–and he was contrite to Tara. All the lawmakers apologizing for slavery and atrocities some white people heaped on Indigenous peoples should take notes on that scene.

Tami: Agreed, Andrea. The scene between Tara and Andy Bellefleur was well-played and incredibly nuanced for True Blood. And I thought we were going to get a similarly nuanced scene between Tara and Sam. I liked them drinking and commiserating. I have always said that these characters are a lot alike and seem to understand each other. In season one, I felt like it made much more sense for Sam to be interested in Tara than Sookie, who barely gave two shits about him. But Tara was second choice then and I’m not sure much has changed.

I am not saying that all sex has to be romantic and that aggression doesn’t have its place, but it is worth noting that Tara always gets the dirty hookup, while Sookie gets the love connection. Even at that moment, when Sam and Tara are both hurting, they offer each other more brutality than tenderness. I have a hard time believing that Alan Ball would ever have Sookie Stackhouse respond positively to “Would you like to come over to my nasty ass trailer?”

The A Word (“Abortion,” not “Arlene”), Biology and Bad Logic

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Thea: Can we talk about the weird-ass abortion storyline? Three thoughts: 1. It’s funny that even on a show that is as sexually transgressive as True Blood, they still can’t bring themselves to use the “A” word. 2. I actually don’t really see the point of this storyline. Arlene is a fairly minor character and apart from the fact that I like that Terry gets more screentime because of it, I don’t care too much what happens. 3. It’s all well and good that True Blood is bigging up women doing it for themselves and finding herbal remedies to lady issues, but it really annoys me that the reason why Arlene wants the abortion – when she thinks abortion is evil and bad and she would never do it – is because she thinks that Rene’s evil genes will be passed on to the baby.

The fact that no one is questioning Arlene’s line of logic suggests that the show thinks the line of logic is well, logical. WHICH IT ISN’T! And I’ll tell you why such a line of logic annoys me: I just hate it when people suggest that bad behaviour is caused solely by biology. For example, that study that tried to prove (I’m sure with good intentions) that racism is a mental illness — no way, I say! Racism is not an illness because racism is a choice. You can’t choose not to be sick. You can choose not to be racist. So when people say “Hitler was crazy” – that’s essentially saying that what he did was not his fault.

There is also something distantly ableist in said line of logic — that someone did such and such a thing because they were crazy, or because “evil runs in the family” — because it suggests that people who struggle with mental health conditions cannot ever control or manage their behaviour, that they have no agency, or that something as abominable as the Nazi Holocaust happened solely because of a mental health issue. It’s just such a ludicrous way to speak about both why people do terrible things, and how mental health impacts behaviour.

All of this is to say: I do not like that such redonculous logic is being conflated with an abortion storyline and a (sort of) pro-choice one at that. Ok. Now I’m done.

Joe: I tend to agree with you, Thea. I want to shake Arlene. What she tried to do this episode is just, well, a Wiccan abortion, and not a spell that will “cast out the evil.” Frankly, if she were really as anti-abortion as she purports herself to be, she would have the sense to have the baby and make sure that all of her kids end up virtuous. Nurture, not nature. ALSO. Rene had a sister (his first victim,) and she definitely wasn’t a murderer, so Arlene’s logic is flawed in so many ways it makes your head spin.

Latoya:
Agreed. I’m surprised they didn’t say shmashmortion. Also, it’s interesting how these plots tend to decenter the woman’s own choice – despite her best intentions, she’s still pregnant.

Andrea: Arlene’s cast as the town’s bigot, who tend to be stereotyped as uneducated, which is read as “ignorant” and “stupid.” So, by this characterization, her logic is supposed to be twisted: she can justify a herbal abortion whereas she draws her anti-choice as a surgical abortion due to her “poor reasoning skills.” The more “informed” viewers would say, “She’s so ignorant that she can’t see an abortion is an abortion or how genes and biology are supposed to work. Ha ha stupid Arlene.” The fact that the herbal abortion didn’t work is a joke on her and her desperation-driven, ableist-infused logic. To me, there’s almost a weird anti-choice message with Arlene’s attempt to end her pregnancy, that women are only allowed to pursue the “right” kinds of abortion.

At the same time, I found her statement when she talked with her moms was interesting (and I’m paraphrasing): that even though she was against abortion, she did what she felt needed to be done. Even with the fucked-up ableist reasoning, Arlene voiced a sentiment that quite a few people who hold anti-choice stances share. For them, getting an abortion doesn’t move them to a progressive political consciousness–they would flatly refuse to donate to Planned Parenthood after using their services, let alone organize a reproductive-justice march–but is a means to a practical end. I’ve met women like Arlene in the abortion clinics I’ve worked. And I also met a white woman at one of the abortion clinics who held a bachelor’s degree and considered herself politically progressive and attempted an herbal abortion. (She was very much into “natural” health and against “Western medicine.”) When it didn’t work, the woman came to the clinic for a first-trimester procedure. Just saying: verities in gestation-ending choices.

Tami: I don’t understand the need for the clunky “my baby might inherit evilness” storyline. Would we really judge a woman for not wanting to carry the child of a serial killer? Does her reason have to be more sinister and mysterious than not wanting to have Rene’s baby?

Okay, I know some people would judge Arlene,. But still, this is a show where favored characters sell and take drugs and the town nice guy was just revealed to have murdered two people in cold blood. And yet we can’t see a woman exercise her right to choose?

I think the whole herbal abortion thing is a cheat–a contrivance designed to avoid showing a pregnant woman deciding that she does not want to have a baby and going to the clinic to end the pregnancy. We are, inexplicably, at a place where a perfectly legal medical procedure is whispered about on television. Even “edgy” shows and movies can’t bring themselves to talk openly about abortion. Instead we get cutesy euphemisms like “smashmortion” and creative uses of tea and Wiccan prayer. We’ve lost a lot of ground since Bea Arthur considered abortion on “Maude” some 40 years ago.

Jesus and Laffy’s Excellent Adventure: Laffy’s Solo

Thea: And now it’s time for our weekly, “are you worried about where they are taking this Jesus and Lafayette plus black and brown religions storyline?” The answer for me this week is of course, yes, yes I am. I also wanted to draw mention to the fact that, because Lafayette is killed off in the books very early on (I am correct in that yes, resident Charlaine Harris experts?), any current Lafayette storyline is totally the invention of Alan Ball. Le sigh.

In other news, wow, V is some serious gateway drug, or something. Jesus has gone from “drugs are bad! baad!” to “gimmegimme more” in like three hours. Eh, I’m just not that hot on Kevin Alejandro, sorry to say. Not feeling his acting chops.

Tami: Yes and yes. Whatever this developing story is, it is all Ball. And, yeah, I’m worried about where they’re going for all the reasons I’ve outlined before. Plus, those talking dolls/fetishes were silly.

Andrea: My gripe is why did Wicca get this really respectful treatment by the writers (though I’m going to defer to our readers who practice Wicca in regards to how respectful the ritual scene was) in comparison to Laffy getting greeted by monkey screeches, jungle drums, fright-voiced voodoo dolls to signify his ancestral indigenous religions? I half-expected Dr. Facilier to sing and dance his way into the menagerie.

Latoya: Right? Also, the explanations are far different. For example, they vocally identify what the Wiccans are using, but there is no explanation to many of the other objects being used. Like the mask that Lala spots/imagines on Jesus – is it a lucha libre mask? Or something else? I feel like I’ve seen that mask before but out of context (don’t ask) so I don’t know what it means. And Ball & Co. are not going to tell me.

Tami: Andrea, I’m going to guess because the Wiccan elements of the story came from the books, while the elements of African and Latin indigenous religions were pulled from Alan Ball’s ass.

Andrea: ::spittake:: Gurl, you owe me a new netbook.

Joe: Arlene and the baby, Jessica and Hoyt, Sam’s issues, and Jesus and Lafayette are all story lines that all are concoctions of Mr. Ball. There’s more, but that’s like most of the hour, at this point. But, to focus in on Jesus, as I mentioned last week, something about how his opinion of drugs (or one, at least so far) changed so rapidly it makes you wonder if he even was against them in the first place.

And Some Scattered Thoughts

Thea: Did anyone notice how casually Bill kicked Pam in the face in the opening scene? And he’s supposed to be our romantic hero?? Why can’t Pam be our romantic hero. Hmph.

Andrea: But Theeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaahhhhh, he was a-fightin’ for his woman. You ain’t all rooting for that white hetero cis ish–I mean, lurve? That’s just plain…right on, sister! ::fist pump::

Joe: Why can’t anyone else be the romantic hero. I’d even take Andy at this point.

Thea: How awful was the characterisation of Kitch’s girlfriend? Talk about caricature. Also, WHY DOESN’T SOOKIE USE HER BALL OF FIRE?? And by ball of fire, I mean her actual ball of fire, not her, uh, irresistible lady parts.

Andrea: ‘Cause I’ve just about had it with Sookie and her “irresistible” lady parts.

Joe: That actually made me wheeze with laughter, Thea. :-) Now, this is pure conjecture, but Sookie has said that she doesn’t know where the bursts come from, so maybe next season we’ll see her learn to control it. Very X-Men. I want to fast forward through her life some to get to the interesting stuff.

Thea: In any case, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when the show ends next episode. I mean, I’ll find other things to watch, but what am I going to do without my True Blood Roundtable buddies plus commenters?? Can we just get together once a week anyway, and just roundtable about our mothers or something?

Andrea: Awww, see. ::tear up:: I’m sure, pop culture being what it is, there’ll be some TV show ready to be sliced, diced, and julienned by us. We’ll reconvene very soon.

Joe: We should start a coffee talk. Thea as Linda Richman?