Sorry, I just couldn't resist that! But anyway, let's talk about Sookie and True Blood and all those luscious vampires and werewolves and faeries, oh my. HBO has been known for some time as the home of cutting-edge TV, but its latest denizen has become quite the pop-culture phenomenon. To such a degree that it already has its own entry in the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series ( read it, it's entertaining and it does kinda make you think in a not-too-hard way ). 'True Blood' is taken from the Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris and features easygoing, attractive, and telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse and a host of supernatural creatures who inhabit the fictional Southern town of Bon Temps alongside her. The resultant TV series is the brainchild of Alan Ball, creator of 'The Sopranos' and 'Six Feet Under', who read the books and was inspired by them to do some very good things as it turns out.
Harris's books are sweet, simply told stories of supernatural adventure, and yet in their very sweetness and simplicity hides a depth and complexity, and a shrewd commentary on life today. Many parallels are being drawn, through the TV adaptation, with what the vampire community 'coming out of the coffin' face by way of prejudice and persecution, with the same things faced for decades by the LGBT community. But these things are also addressed, if with a slightly more Southern subtlety, by Harris in her writing. That she has also created in Sookie perhaps one of the most likeable central characters ever in a series of novels, is a bonus. But Sookie's likeable quality does not make her perfect, far from it, and indeed her very human-ness just makes her even more likeable! She may be blonde and attractive, but she is down-to-earth, she tries not to be prejudice against anyone, she is considerate and accomodating but never anyone's fool, and we love her for it. She tries to be the best person she can be and when she feels that she has failed to be so, she admits her failing. She can have a pragmatic outlook when it is called for, which is just as well since her life has been turned pretty much upside down with the advent of the vampires and all the other weird and wonderful beasties into it. Of her role in the deaths of 'the vampire ho' Lorena and psychotically jealous werewolf Debbie Pelt, she muses, " It's not that I believe in killing, I don't usually, but my God, some people are just begging to put out of their misery, aren't they?" The casting in the role of Sookie of Anna Paquin - hitherto best known for her award-winning child role in 'The Piano' - was as inspired as Harris's creation of the character. Paquin manages to convey all of Sookie's written qualities and also injects a little extra that far from detracting from the character, adds a great deal. Indeed, all of the actors chosen to portray Harris's characters have seemed almost supernatural in their inspiration, bringing Eric, Bill, Pam et al to gorgeous, vibrant life on our screens.
Part of the appeal of 'True Blood' is its ability to reach crossover audiences. Harris and Ball have both described the world portrayed in Bon Temps as a 'soap opera with vampires' and it does indeed have many of the hallmarks of ( exceptionally good ) soap opera, but it is more than just well-formed soapy bubbles. It is drama, and comedy, and horror, and suspense, and fantasy, and yes, it is porn too! In Seasons 1 & 2 most of the latter might have been hetero, but Season 3 seems set to change that up a bit as the ridiculously beautiful Viking vampire Eric Northman sinks fangs and, well, other parts into the boyfriend of Russell Edgington! Who knows, perhaps we will be seeing some girlie action for his lesbian sidekick vampire Pam next?
It won't be Sookie getting it on with another gal, that's for sure, despite actress Anna Paquin's emerging from the closet as bisexual earlier this year. Sookie is straight. Very straight. In the novels, she makes this clear when lesbian vampire Queen Sophie-Anne LeClerq announces that she and Sookie should have sex since Sookie has helped her and it is the done thing ... When Sookie politely declines this offer ( Can I just say here that I would be more than willing to take that one for the team in her place? Please? ) and Sophie-Anne decides then that they should both lie and just say it did happen, Sookie points out that anyone who knows her will know that this just 'isn't her thing' and would never have happened really. She isn't comfortable with either herself or Sophie-Anne telling such an obvious lie and so agrees instead to lie that she had sex with the Queen's odious but male right-hand vampire, even though that thought makes Sookie's skin crawl worse than the thought of having sex with Sophie-Anne, which she doesn't think is an awful proposition per se, it just doesn't do anything for her. It's this straightforward honesty that we like Sookie for. Her rejection of Sophie-Anne's proposal is not based in prejudice or even disgust. Sookie knows herself what it is like to live as a someone that others often consider to be 'different' and therefore a threat of some kind, strange and creepy, and maybe dangerous to have around the kids. Her own mind-reading ability, which she no more asked for than a person does their sexuality or gender identity, has brought her prejudice, even from her own friends, such as fellow waitress Arlene and even best friend Tara Thornton. Sookie therefore tries to keep her own mind open, figuratively if not literally since that tends to mean other people's thoughts come crashing in! It is also one of the major reasons that Sookie is drawn to Vampire Bill the first time she meets him, when she realizes that she can't hear a vampire's thoughts. The silence is bliss for her.
So Eric the Viking might be happily getting it on with a guy, but what of Pam indeed? Her part in the novels is certainly greater than it has been for Seasons 1 & 2 of the TV show. In the novels, she and Sookie even become friends, or as close to friends as Pam is willing to get with a human, even one as, well, not quite human as Sookie! There is, I think, a rather wonderful, hilarious little scene in Season 1 featuring Pam and Sookie. After Bill has dispatched barman Longshadow for trying to kill Sookie, getting blood and gore all over the poor girl in the process, Sookie retreats to the ladies to clean herself up. Pam enters with some fresh clothing for her and first gives her an appreciative look, announcing that she's beginning to see what the fuss might be about. She then reaches a hand toward Sookie and says very politely, " Pardon me. You have vampire in your cleavage" and plucks the offending lump of Longshadow from between Sookie's ample bosom. Sookie just blinks, looks at Pam and then the gore, and opines mildly, " Oh. Eew." It remains to be seen whether Ball will develop any of the book's friendship between Pam and Sookie, but I have heard that he will be giving Pam some other kind of action with another gal.
Well, praise Jesus and pass the Vaseline, as the Newlins may have said!
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Ah, the lovely Pam & Eric!
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And the lovely Sookie & Bill