Unlike our previous series of articles on HBO’s Game of Thrones, the pay cable network’s True Blood is based upon a series of novels (Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries) of which I have only read the first. So, as you can imagine, our look at True Blood will be somewhat less involved with back-story and have more to do with visceral, exploitative action – which is kind of the show’s modus operandi anyway. That said, if you’ve read any of the Southern Vampire Mysteries books, please feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the comments section.
As soon as we learned that Anna Paquin’s Sookie Stackhouse had been gone from Bon Temps for over a year, we knew that True Blood’s fourth season premiere was going to have some surprises in store for us. Several of these were shocking, but one of the most interesting was the transformation of Rutina Wesley’s Tara Thronton.
When we pick up with Tara, we learn that not only is she in a same-sex relationship but that she’s become a mixed martial artist at what appears to be an all-female (presumably lesbian) club that hosts regular cagefights. And if the sexual undertones of two fit, beautiful women hitting one another inside a cage while hundreds of other women cheer them on weren’t strong enough for you, Tara’s new girlfriend also happens to be the woman she was fighting.
After what Tara went through last season, being abducted, raped and emotionally abused by British vampire Franklin Mott, it isn’t surprising, or even out of character that Tara would be looking to reinvent herself. But while Tara experimenting with a same-sex relationship is a reasonable (albeit a bit hackneyed) development, it’s her new hobby/profession that really gives us pause.
At first glance, it seems cartoonish and stereotypically butch that Tara would not only settle down with another woman, but also start beating up that same woman in an organized setting. But on the other hand, cagefighting would certainly fit in with the rage issues that have plagued Tara throughout the show’s three seasons. For my money, there are two things that nudge the development over from “interesting, organic character growth” to “exploitative caricature,” however.
First, is that Tara’s girlfriend is the woman she’s fighting, which to me, over-sexualizes her new hobby. While it’s possible that the show could get deeper into how Tara’s urges for sex and violence overlap with one another, we haven’t seen any of that yet, and it seems a little, well…academic for True Blood. The other thing is the fact that the audience at the cagefight is made up exclusively of other women, which it’s fair to assume, are probably meant to be lesbians. That there are so many other women cheering them on definitely moves this scene into Caged Heat women’s prison movie territory.
What do you think? Is Tara’s new identity as a cagefighting lesbian (or bisexual…) too exploitive and stereotypical? Or is it simply an extension of the over-the-top mix of sex and violence that we’ve come to expect from True Blood?
Watch True Blood, along with us on Sunday nights at 9pm on HBO, and then join us here on Wednesdays to let us know what you think.