Tag Archives: True Blood

“You Smell Like Dinner”…and Sweet White Womanhood: True Blood S4 E2 Roundtable

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.

Oh Sookie!

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)
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TrueBlood Season 4 Episode 1 Roundtable – “She’s Not There”

It’s baaaaaaack!

Racialicious has been obsessed with True Blood since it began, and its teasing around modern politics, civil rights, women’s rights, and queer rights. Our crew is definitely Team Tara, Team Lafayette, and Team Alcide…but is Team Eric ascending? When we last left Bon Temps, Tara was getting the hell out of town after beating Franklin’s head in – unfortunately, that fool was still alive, and it took a wooden bullet from Jason Stackhouse to send him on. Lafayette and Jesus had been on a roller coaster ride to mystical points unknown, Sam reconnected with his dark side, Sookie was so through with vamps that she headed to the land of the Fae, and Russell Edgington pulled out someone’s spine on national television. Let’s just relive that last moment:

The season four opener did not disappoint. The roundtable this week is: Latoya Peterson, Jordan St. John, Amber Jones, Kendra Pettis, and Alea Adigweme.

After the jump – a FULL OF SPOILERS, minute by minute roundtable, plus some random Vampire Diaries and Buffy the Vampire Slayer cross chat…

Warning: We talked for 90 minutes. This is an epically long roundtable. Continue reading

You choose — triggering, tokenism or erasure

By Guest Contributor Tami Winfrey Harris, cross-posted from What Tami Said

I asked my blogging friends to weigh in on a question that is only a little facetious: In your consumption of media, which is better–to be triggered, to be a token or to be erased?

Let me explain.

During the hiatus of HBO’s True Blood, Renee, Paul and I have been exploring other representations of the urban fantasy genre–from book series to the teen angsty CW show Vampire Diaries. In doing so, we have confirmed what we already suspected: That is that the genre is notoriously bad at characterizations that are not of the white, straight, male variety. (Making it much like, y’know, every other genre.)

One sentiment that has come up again and again–mostly after suffering some appalling portrayal of people of color or the GLBT community in some book–is “Y’know, I’d rather [insert author’s name here] would just quit writing about [insert marginalized group here].”

For me, this frustration is usually borne of being othered and disrespected, when I simply aimed to be entertained by a trashy novel or TV show. I dipped into Charlaine Harris’ Aurora Teagarden series, hoping to enjoy the books as I enjoy the TV series based on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. Instead, I got a bunch of thinly-written, triggering stories where all women (but the protagonist) are routinely judged harshly and women like me (black women) are alternately sassy or angry or dead or running from the law, and blackness or Jewishness or gayness or any other “ness” that is not small-town and conservative and Southern and Anglo and Christian is to be frowned at or remarked upon or, best, hidden. And so, instead of enjoying a cozy mystery in my downtime, I wound up feeling uncomfortable and marginalized.

It is times like these when I find myself thinking that it would have been better if black women were absent from the narrative altogether. Sometimes there is comfort in erasure. I mean, even a blandly-drawn token black character, like Bonnie on Vampire Diaries, can be intrusive to my experience. Because I look at her presence in a show that genuflects to the antebellum South and plantation-owning families, while at the same time not mentioning the black community that must still exist in the town, and suspect she is a black-culture-free cypher added simply to be inclusive.

When I, a black woman, am consuming media created by mostly non-black writers, dealing with erasure is sometimes easier that dealing with how a book or film or TV show reflects the dominant culture’s biased views about me.

Media, at its best, is a powerful tool that can change the way groups are perceived by the masses. But media is too rarely at its best. So…

Are bad, biased or token portrayals better than no portrayal at all?

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“Colorblindness,” “Illuminated Individualism,” Poor Whites, and Mad Men: The Tim Wise Interview, Part 2

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Of course, I could talk to author/activist Tim Wise about 5,000 things all day long; he’s a fascinating conversationalist.  I even asked him a question on my mom’s behalf about the Tea Party.  (I relayed his response to her.)  We flowed from the problems of  “colorblind” rhetoric as social/political policy to what we do at the R, pop culture…including the politics of porn.

Cosby Show castAndrea Plaid: Let’s talk about addressing race and racism on TV, with the discussion about Mad Men and how it does or doesn’t do that.  What do you notice about how race and racism is addressed on TV, especially on shows that take place in contemporary times, like The Cosby Show, Friends, and Grey’s Anatomy?

Tim Wise: Mad Men, from what I understand, is a fairly realistic portrayal of that time. The question is, Why do people love [the show] so much, why do they so enjoy a period piece like this one, which portrays a slice of life, and a period where people of color aren’t present? That’s interesting to me sociologically.  But my question is not about Mad Men so much, as it is about other shows like Friends, which is in the contemporary period in New York, and yet there are no people of color around, or Grey’s Anatomy or the Cosby Show, where we can have representations of folks of color, and “race,” but rarely if ever deal with racism per se. So, they can have the occasional, or even central characters of color in the case of Grey’s or Cosby, but it’s as if these people never deal with racism in their lives. It’s not that every episode needs to be about race, but when virtually NO episodes are, that’s unrealistic. I mean, even a show my kids watch, in re-runs, That’s So Raven (with former Cosby star Raven Symone) had an episode about racism: a really good one in fact. If they could do it, why can’t these shows for adults do it?

AP: The flip of that is how working-class and poor whites are portrayed as a group of people others can feel free to turn their noses at due to their outspoken bigotry and/or their impoverished lives.  Latest case in point: Arlene and Sam Merlotte’s family, the Mickens, on True Blood.  Your thoughts?

TW: Well, there’s a long history of portraying bigots as backwoods “trash” or whatever, because it allows the hip, urbane TV viewer to assume an outsider stance, where we can say “oh, thank God I don’t know people like that!” Or, “I’m not like that.” It’s why whenever one of the talk shows, like Jerry Springer or whatever would have on a racist family, it would always be some family from rural Georgia or whatever, missing teeth, mispronouncing words, or whatever. But of course, people can be elites and incredibly racist, without slurs, without bad dentition, without any overt signs of bigotry, because they have the power to do their stuff in private: old boy’s networks for hiring and contracts, zoning laws that restrict where people can live and where they can’t, etc.

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The Racialicious Comic-Con Preview

By Arturo R. García

For the purposes of our site, the big difference between this year’s San Diego Comic-Con and last year’s edition is this: only one panel out of the hundreds being offered will deal specifically with racial issues.

That one panel, by the way, will be Reginald Hudlin’s annual “Black Panel,” scheduled for bright and early Saturday morning. TBP has developed a reputation for being, shall we say, free-wheeling. But the blurb for this year promises, “The focus will be on empowerment, education, real-world networking, and finally but never last, fun.”

And that’s it. Quite the disturbing trend, considering that last year’s con saw two diversity-related panels, featuring the likes of Secret Identities‘ Jeff Yang, Milestone Universe creator Dwayne McDuffie, Star Trek‘s Faran Tahir, among others. There’s also no spotlight for NBC’s new POC spy drama Undercovers. But as you’ll see below, this looks to be a banner year for the LGBT community at the Con.

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“If You Throw a Punch, You’re One of Us”: The True Blood Round Table for Episode 2

Hosted by Latoya Peterson, featuring Tami Winfrey Harris, Andrea Plaid, and special guest Joseph Lamour

Lafayette

Note: Thea’s on vacation this week, so we added in friend of the blog Joseph Lamour to provide a fourth member of the side eye crew. As always, spoilers ahead. – LDP


Okay, first off – where are the rest of the non white folks in the South? So far, we have Tara, Lafayette, one vamp, the fake healer, a few one scene extras, and now a bouncer.

Tami: True Blood suffers from a case of “Hollywood diversity,” where you throw in a few people of color to give the appearance of diversity, but not “too many,” which might turn off mainstream (read: white) audiences whom you assume to be uncomfortable with “the other” (read: non-white people). This is important even if you are portraying a real place (NYC) or a fictional town in a real place (Bon Temps, La.) where there are, in reality, lots of people of color.

Andrea:
I’m guessing that Alan Ball and the other TB creatives figured that they could get away with such a thing because Bon Temps is a fictional place. If we ain’t heard of it, goes the thinking, who’s going to question the racial demographics of the town? (Now, why folks thought that thinking would play in a real-life place like New York City is beyond me, beyond some wish-fulfillment fantasy.) But, to me, Ball and Co. sorta play hide-and-seek with the town’s Black community, specifically: as someone pointed out to me, a larger community was glanced at during a college party in town a couple of seasons back. Also, a Twitter cohort and I, in discussing this very same issue, said another big hint was the church Tara’s mom attended, which my tweetpal said seems to be the church where the elders and the missing Bon Temps Black folks go. Also, the TB creatives forgot one vital clue as to why we even get to ask this question: Tara’s hair. Miss Gurl’s braids are tight every blessed week. She’s getting them done by somebody in that town, amirite?

Joe: At the very least, why isn’t there more diversity in the extras? True Blood does indeed suffer from a white-washed tableau of the modern south, and the most characters of color happen to be related. I bet the bouncer will somehow turn out to be related to Tara and Laffy (a distant cousin, perhaps). Wouldn’t you expect the humans to at least be a little, I don’t know, tan in so southern a place, even if they are white? I mean, Jason works all day in the sun, doesn’t he?

Andrea: Joe, now….that would be too much like right.

Can we talk about Tara for a moment? How does she always manage to sleep with the psychopaths (literally and figuratively)? I know I wasn’t the only one wondering how Tara managed to fight off Maryanne time and time again, yet still fall for this regular ass vampire glamouring….

Tami: My assessment of the Tara/Franklin situation is greatly colored by James Frain’s freaky sexiness. I’m going to enjoy it–weirdness aside. That said, I’d really like Tara to get some normal lovin’ on this show. I think it would be intriguing to re-explore the Sam/Tara relationship. They are both appear to be good people with difficult pasts. The characters/actors have solid chemistry. I doubt this will happen, though. As one of the show’s main male characters, Sam must carry a torch for darling “Sookeh!” like every other heterosexual male in town. Continue reading

“True Blood” race fail: Jezebel rides again

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Ya’ll know I love HBO’s True Blood series like I love my mom’s dressing on Thanksgiving. But the show’s writing team clearly doesn’t know what to do with black folks. For a fictional town in Louisiana, Bon Temps is awfully monochromatic. Though, I guess Alan Ball and co. deserve some “props” for doing better than than the books on which the show is based. Author Charlaine Harris rarely paints a black person that isn’t a stereotype or a cipher. Ball gives us Lafayette (a minor character who dies at the end of book one in Harris’ story ) and Tara (white in the book, new black Tara is essentially a sassy, black sidekick). But even for a less than racially conscious show, the mini-episode above is some hot buttered bullshit.

The scene: Eric, the proprietor of the vamp nightclub Fangtasia, and his henchwoman, Pam. are holding open auditions for new dancers. We’re treated to a parade of stiff, gyrating and inappropriately-dressed yokels, and then Jezebel takes the state–or rather a walking representation of the stereotype. A black woman sans “draws” and bra, breasts peeking from the bottom of her crop top, tongue protruding, sneer fixed, gyrating and shaking ass aggressively, bending over to display her backside, all to a hip hop track.

Consider the portrayals of black women in the True Blood universe. We have Tara, a take no shit Sapphire, and a minor character–Kenya, a full-figured, stern cop. Now, in this very special mini-episode, we get a sexually aggressive video vixen. It seems that the writers of True Blood can only draw black women who are telling folks what’s what, dropping it like it’s hot or standing mutely by in service–how very original.

The other wanna-be dancers in the mini-episode are treated as obvious jokes. There is a fleshy man clad in gold booty shorts and one wearing a cowboy hat and little else. There is a metal chick and a wan-looking woman in a leotard and wrap one might wear to ballet class. None are dancers. They are rhythm-less, stiff and awkward, and that is the joke. It is ridiculous for them to think they might go-go dancers in a popular nightclub. The black woman is a dancer. The joke in her case seems to be simply that she is a black woman. Is there a joke if the dancer, instead of a scantily-clad black woman, is a suggestively gyrating Pamela Anderson type? Think about that and then hold that thought.

It is also interesting to note Eric and Pam’s reactions to the black dancer. Pam, who is a lesbian in Harris’ books and ambiguous in True Blood, is mildly aroused, but the tall, blond Viking, who has become female fan favorite, is unmoved. “Next!” It is okay for Pam to be intrigued by this black woman, but not our hero (or anti-hero, depending how you feel about Eric). In fact, moments later, in slinks a brunette, Russian-accented dancer is a micro-bikini top, tight, spandex pants, sky-high heels and a fur jacket. Her sexuality, though overt, is desirable. Eric and Pam fight over the opportunity to “audition” her alone. We never see her dance. We have no idea if she has any skill. But she is clearly the chosen one.

True Blood’s deft mix of humor and drama and action is one of the reasons I am such a fan of the show. This tired bit that relies on nothing but very old racial stereotype is beneath the show and certainly beneath the black women I know, who deserve a hell of a lot better.