So, another season Of True Blood has started! While I was writing the recap, I had an issue or two with possible plot holes and general wolf weirdness and Luna. Oh, Luna. While I haven’t changed my mind on much, I have on the actions behind how Jason reacted in the opener. Carly Mitchell joins me to discuss the episode before Sunday night.
Ah True Blood. We hate that we love you. This week’s roundtable – featuring Amber Jones, Alea Adigweme, Jordan St.John, myself and Kendra Pettis – had quite a bit to say on the usual suspects. Laffyette’s growing Orientalism and our mistrust of Jesus; more speculation about Tara’s boo thang; a few cackles about poor, paranoid Arlene (who, may in fact be right); and the evolving Jessica-Hoyt saga. But what shocked us all is how much time we spent talking about Sookie – who has recently realized her privileged status is in danger after her year long absence.
Latoya: Let’s focus on Sookie for the second. What themes do we see emerging with her, considering the last few seasons, she had at least some autonomy Alea: I think she’s beginning to realize that her options are few. She’s come back from Faerie Land to find her one refuge gone. She’s fair game now. Latoya: @Alea – It’s interesting how quickly she fell out of favor. Jordan:She seems to be fighting for it more than she ever has but now has even less control between the fairies, bill and eric Alea: @LP: I think people are sick of her shit. Amber: She also doesn’t completely understand what she is or what could be at stake. It seems as if for the first time she’s coming to terms with the fact that she doesn’t know everything.
Sookie’s Blood as Virginity Metaphor
Kendra: re ownership: I was thinking about her ‘light’ from last season, which we now know is her blood. But given the southern metaphors that are popping up, the obvious comparison is towards her virtue/white womanhood like we discussed last week. Alea: Yes! The purity of her blood falls right into that. Latoya: @Kendra – Oooh. So you think she gave away too much of her “virtue”? Amber: That also falls right in line with ownership and protection. Jordan: I find it interesting that for her there is this one drop thing going with her blood… she is a small part fairy but people can tell, it has become the defining thing about her Latoya: But she’s only as valuable as her blood. Amber: Which is apparently extremely valuable. Jordan: That is true… it is her currency. Kendra: Potentially… she’s given up that virtue, and maybe with that the autonomy. Because now the men are buzzing around her to protect/keep what’s left. (Assuming that Alcide will be playing that white knight role) Read the Post “You Smell Like Dinner”…and Sweet White Womanhood: True Blood S4 E2 Roundtable
Hosted by Thea Lim, and featuring Joseph Lamour, Andrea Plaid and Tami Winfrey Harris (Latoya Peterson sadly missed)
Tara: Trauma and Healing
Thea: Ok, so after all the hating on this show’s treatment of Tara – or, as has been argued, heterosexual women in general – there were definitely things that True Blood did this week which I actually liked. For one, I appreciate the way the show is allowing Tara continuous episodes to show grief and trauma over what happened to her. I also like the way Rutina Wesley has been able to (finally! and consistently!) show other sides of Tara. There were multiple quiet and delicate moments this episode and last, where Wesley did an amazing job of communicating, through that quiet, the anguish that Tara was/is feeling. To me those sorts of scenes required much greater acting chops than any of the shrill, yelling stuff that Wesley was given for the first two seasons. So nice to see Wesley finally given the chance to show how great she is.
What did y’all think of the rape survivor group scene? What did you think of Holly’s speech? I was slightly taken aback to see Tara visit a rape survivor group — just because it disturbed me (and we discussed this in detail) how much Franklin’s abduction and rape of Tara was treated as comedy…I questioned at times whether or not the writers even knew they were writing rape scenes. So to see the writers flip that upside down, and validate that this is what the character went through, was surprising to me.
And then, after both Holly’s speech at the rape survivor group and her reproductive choice moment with Arlene, could it be that Holly’s supernatural power is that she’s a…feminist? What’s this week’s verdict on Holly?
Tami: Agreed. I think the aftermath of Tara’s kidnapping, bondage and rape is being handled well by both TB’s writers and actors. In fact, this treatment brings the early poorly-drawn relationship between Tara and Franklin in stark relief. I think the problem lies in what TB did to the character of Franklin. His first interaction with Tara was laden with menace. He was sullen, dark, attracted to violence and clearly a bad man to know. Once the pair arrived in Mississippi, Franklin was drawn as comic relief–a lovesick loon who happens to also be a predator–even as Rutina Wesley continued to portray Tara as a woman in fear for her life. Sunday, menacing Franklin returned. I think this is why, on True Blood threads not located on sites that analyze race and gender, some folks are mourning the death of Franklin, despite his role as the abuser of a main character. True Blood’s portrait of Franklin allowed viewers to be ambivalent about Tara’s abuse.
Andrea: I think that Tara’s kidnapping, bondage, and rape all falls under the umbrella of “abuse,” which is the term we’ve been discussing ever since we saw Franklin go that route in his interactions with Tara after he glamored her into getting into Sookie’s house and getting the information that Sookie was in Mississippi. To that end, we’ve had hearty discussions about Franklin’s abusive behavior and how we weren’t cool with that.
Which brings me to Tara going to the rape survivors’ meeting: I. Loved. This. Scene. It rang true for several reasons: 1) as a Black woman who survived rape and felt a bit goosy about seeing a therapist for a while, I know that I received a lot of support attending such “lay” meetings, where I learned a way to form a vocabulary for what happened to me; 2) yes, I learned that vocabulary from white women because, like Tara, I grew up in a town where the people who were having such discussions and support were white. That doesn’t mean, ergo, that white women are “better” at it than black people or other PoCs. It simply acknowledges a reality that people will seek their healing in imperfect spaces that may not “make sense” racially speaking but makes perfect sense to them…as well as speaking to the simple fact of demographics; 3) it reminds me of the connections I’ve made on- and offline with women, especially women of color, who are surviving abuse and simply seek a voice that resonates with their own. Also, Tara was finally given space to tearfully lay her burden down and not be chastised for not being a Strong Negress, which sometimes happens at these meetings, too. Spot on, TB creatives…whether y’all realize it or not. Read the Post Wooden Bullets, “Exotic” Accents & Human Masculinity: True Blood S03E09
By Thea Lim, Joseph Lamour, Tami Winfrey Harris, Latoya Peterson and Andrea Plaid
The End of Bilkie set to music
Andrea: So….Sookie’s newly found fairy identity leads her to 1) her screaming her ass off (per usual) with the realization that her man’s been using her for her fairy juice and 2) her doing the first mature thing (in my estimation) since this show started: breaking up with the vampire. My question is: Bill is a couple of centuries old. Did he *really* think Sookie wouldn’t get hip to the fact that he’s just no good for her? And that weepy I-nearly-killed-you-but-I-lurve-your-ass-Sookeh speech just gave me bitchlips because of Bill’s (willful) naivete.
Latoya: Seriously. I was so ready for this cycle of dysfunction to end that I had prepared some theme music for the final farewell in the hospital, 1TYM’s “It’s Over”:
(For those of y’all looking for the translation, click here)
I suppose its kind of apropos most of the concert videos push together It’s Over and Put Em Up, following the sad song with the “I will not be defeated” joint.
Thea: I will say that I liked the symbolism of the blood line being broken between them. It looked nice. Yes, I can occasionally be mollified by a nicely shot bit of poetry.
Tami: I would have been more impressed by the breakup if it had lasted more than 24 hours. Yeah, Sookie and Bill’s parting was well acted, but I still cry foul on the reasoning for the split being “Well, we’ll never have picket fences and sunny days together” and not “You nearly killed me. I hear you have some creepy file on my family. My best friend says you left her in a life-threatening situation.” It all came down to Sookie not being able to have her romantic fantasy relationship. Harumph!
Joe: I don’t care what anyone else thinks, I found their break up really well acted and rather touching. The one thing that Oscar winners know how to do best is weep uncontrollably, and boy did Anna Paquin get to show why she has that thing.
Thea: Agreed. Sheepishly.
Andrea: But, Joe, what pushes mere weeping to Oscar-nabbing is what my moms calls The Snot Factor. Anna Paquin and Stephen Mowry didn’t snot; ergo, no awards. When they go home at the end of a day’s shooting they should rent Gladiator. Russell Crowe got that Academy Award on the strength on his nasal stream. Just saying. 😀
Hosted by Thea Lim, featuring Tami Winfrey Harris, Joseph Lamour and Andrea Plaid
The cable gods stopped Latoya from joining us this week, but she promises to rant from the comments section.
Thea: Praise be that this episode was plot heavy, and not as violence-against-women heavy as last episode. I have to say this is the first episode I have enjoyed in a while. Damn you True Blood, for having that once in a while alluring episode that keeps me viewing through the shlock!
Ok, but obviously first things first: dear lord, whose idea was it to have the black woman fleeing a white Southern mansion in a Sojourner Truth outfit then get mauled by a dog (ok it was a werewolf, but it looked like a dog)? Do we buy that that was not a slavery reference – could the writers really be that culturally tone deaf (to their own damn culture!) to not see the significance of that image? And if they did see the significance of that image, why on earth drop it casually into an episode (and show) that has nothing to do with American slavery?
Joe: Ah Thea, you forget, southern black woman running away from an opulent mansion, hungry, barefoot AND bound with rope. Oh yeah, and being chased by animals.
Andrea: And I thought for two seconds that Cooter was going to rape her once he pushed her on the grass. Just. Too. Much.
Joe: Two of my white friends, (one who’s southern by the way) both said to me after the episode “When we saw Tara ‘running for freedom’, we basically did a double take.” Surely Rutina Wesley must of said something. Right? The writers absolutely have to know what that looks like.
Tami: Could be because I’m currently reading Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, about enslaved black women forced into relationships with their southern slave masters, but that was some seriously loaded imagery. I can’t imagine the director and editors of this episode didn’t see what was clear to nearly every commenter in cyberspace.
Tami: Also disturbing was the naked disdain everyone at Chez Edgington had for Tara. I understand that vampires view humans as insignificant, but what was up with that “dusky little blood beast” stuff from Talbot? Again, contrast this treatment to the way Sookie moves in the vamp domain. Yes, she has sometimes been ignored and condescended to, but never spoken to like a dog. “Who’s a pretty girl?”
Andrea: Tami, I wanted to knee-kick Talbot in the chin for mock-cooing at Tara like that. And saying that while Tara was getting tied up by her abuser did not sit well with me at all. But I’m going to give Tara props for the deadly side-eye she gives to Talbot while he came at her like that. I think, if Franklin wasn’t tying her up, Tara would’ve delivered a knee-kick herself, vampire strength or not.
Hosted by Thea Lim, featuring Tami Winfrey Harris, Joseph Lamour, Latoya Peterson, Andrea Plaid
Thea: So to start with the moment that had your faithful Racialicious True Blood team scratching their heads, what was with Franklin telling Tara that she could take being bitten and tied up because “she was tough”? Apart from the fact that that seems like textbook abusive behaviour (abuse, then flatter, or simultaneously abuse and flatter?) telling a black woman that she is “tough” and can take it, falls in step with oh so many bone-wearying stereotypes. Did that line spring out of the racial imagination of the TB writers, or are we reading a racial moment where there isn’t one?
Andrea: For some really strange reason, the abusive behavior isn’t cultivating a racial analysis…yet. Yes, this is a white man abusing a Black woman, but I’m not getting the weight of the white race/white privilege/white supremacy on Franklin and the weight of the Black race/Black oppression on Tara. I’m not jumping up with a “that’s so racist!” because it feels so singular in that it’s Franklin and Tara, and Franklin has proven to terrorize younger women (I’m thinking of the time Franklin freaks out Jessica here). So, my initial thought is, “This is some misogynistic/sexually violent shit!” I think I may have to look at the ep again for a racial reality check.
Joe: The “white” Tara (from the books) went through the same thing that the show Tara is going through so I’m not sure the whole concept of her being in an abusive relationship is racial (I’m hoping that doesn’t give anything away, future book readers) however, after the episode all I could think about is that Sojourner Truth getup Tara is wearing in the preview for next week. (see picture above)
Joe (continued): Does Franklin think he’s dating Celie from The Color Purple? What is with that outfit?!
Latoya: Joe, you wrong! But I have to admit, I thought the same thing when I saw her running across the field. I was on the couch like “run, Tara, run to FREEDOM!”
Andrea: I think Prince sums up my feelings about that outfit…
Joe, I haven’t read the books, so you didn’t ruin a thing for me.:-) But I think you may helped me with my racial analysis regarding Tara/Franklin. It goes back to my question that I asked on the last thread: even those this particular storyline is following the book rather closely (which I find interesting because I wonder how many other storylines are adhering to the book), doesn’t casting a Black actor color (no pun intended) some of what we’re viewing? Example: when Franklin is kidnapping Tara and driving her to Jackson, he tells her that she’s “tough” because he “could taste it in her blood.” If he would have said that to a white woman playing Tara, some white feminists would have been applauding and striking riot-grrl poses and typing riot-grrl posts. But he said it to Tara, played by a dark-skinned Black woman, which would get an “of course” from several white feminists and maybe a mixed reading from feminists of color, from the excoriation of the “Strong Black Woman” stereotype to the rah-rah-ing of same stereotype. And with a white guy saying it, it just falls into that corner of “liberal racism” in which some white people who sleep with PoCs think they can manifest it to us ‘coz consensual sex is, in their heads, license to say all sorts of assy things. Perhaps this is a case where “colorblind” casting goes awry?
Hosted by Thea Lim, featuring Tami Winfrey Harris, Andrea Plaid, and Latoya Peterson
It was bound to happen sooner or later.
We proudly (or shamefully?) present the True Blood roundtable. And don’t worry, if the Racialicious Roundtable hex gets True Blood canceled, we promise to never roundtable another TV show again. And now, let us begin with True Blood Season 3, Episode 2: Beautifully Broken.
Black Family Dynamics
Thea: So the first thing that popped out to me about this episode was Alfre Woddard as Lafayette’s mom…and of course the fourth member of this family would be institutionalised*, homophobic, xenophobic, racist and full of general hatred. Now, I don’t expect some kind of Cosby Show happy black family, but it continues to rankle me that the only family of colour on True Blood is so messed up. Or perhaps it’s not that they’re messed up, but that they’re messed up in a very flat, monochrome way, while the other families (if you think of Eric and Pam, Bill and Jessica, and Sookie and Jason as all families) seem to have much more fleshed out, good-and-bad dynamics.
And sidebar: There’s not much love or compassion for the mad people’s/people with disabilities movement on True Blood either…Lord, I hate it when TV shows use mental health institutions (I officially stopped watching House over their representation of an “asylum”). At least Meadowlands looked like a nice enough place.
Tami: Can we get a functional, true-to-life black person on True Blood? Just one? See here’s my problem with the “diversity” on TB: It’s like Alan Ball realized he had to do better than Charlaine Harris’ whitewashed Sookieverse (Harris wrote the books on which the HBO show is based.), but his solution was just to toss some stereotypical, one-dimensional characters into the town. Sassy, tough-talking, angry black chick? Check. Bible-thumping, “Oh, lawd!” hollering mama? Check. Large, stern black woman in public service profession? Check. Drug-dealing black man who frequently calls women “bitches” and “hookers?” Check. Ex-con who winds up with bullet in his brain. Checkitty check check. You know I love me some Lafayette as much as the next TB fan. His bon mots are my favorite. And I have been thankful that they have allowed him some depth and humanity. Nevertheless, when I look at Lafayette together with all the other black folks in fictional Bon Temps, I get a little queasy at how “typical” and uninspired the show’s portrayal of my people is.
Andrea: ::Stumbles in from watching all of the episodes in a week:: True Blood newbie joining the discussion here. So….those dysfunctional Negroes. I agree with you, Tami with every critique you have about Tara’s family. I also think a far more sinister message is getting played out via Tara’s fam: if Black folks don’t let go of their -isms and -phobias, they will be locked up in sanitariums. Bill having slaves? Groovy, because he’s renounced his evil ways and is trying to mainstream. Eric being a Nazi? Well, Eric *is* a vampire. Jason having all sorts of -isms and -phobias? Well, that’s aight because he’s, well, young, dumb, and full of cum. Arlene? Well, she’s coded as “poor white trash,” and, by extension, not having the educated sophistication to realize how “ignorant” she is. But none of the white characters suffer from debilitating mental illness because they’re holding on to bigoted views. They’re just quirky, lovable them. (/snark)
Latoya: I take a different view on this one . To me, the revelation that Tara’s family has a history of mental illness provided some much needed context and backstory to characters who were in danger of being sidelined. A lot of Tara’s development and characterization have been around how she has coped with her childhood – showing how her family has a history of mental illness provides even more depth to her mother’s struggle with alcohol, Tara’s own struggle, and why she and Lafayette can be so cold and secretive. They are doing it to protect themselves and hide their background. And considering mental illness in the black community gets so little attention (see here for some studies and discussions) I was glad to see it receive a frank discussion. These scenes weren’t played for laughs until Lafayette made that crack about the sexy attendant.
And while I will second Tami’s call for “a functional, true-to-life black person,” I have to say that any remotely functional, clear thinking person would have gotten the hell out of Bon Temps before the end of the first season.
Nazis and Political Subtexts
Thea: So, is True Blood taking inspiration from Twilight? Oh just kidding. Werewolves! Nazi werewolves! If vampire narratives are always about sex, what are werewolf narratives about?