Hey there, and welcome back to our continuing look at sex and gender issues in HBO’s True Blood. If you missed the first couple weeks, make sure to check out our previous entries, where we discussed both the transition of Tara into a cagefighting lesbian as well as Sookie’s dual nature.
From the very beginning of True Blood, the show’s creators have made frequent efforts to have the vampires’ struggle for equal rights mirror that of gay people in the real world. In fact, every episode of the show features at least one link, in the form of the sign seen in the opening credits sequence that states, “GOD HATES FANGS.” This is, of course, a reference to Fred Phelps and his disgustingly anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.
But though the show contains countless examples of how vampiredom might be considered representative of the gay community, True Blood has, as of now, failed to say anything new, interesting or profound about the struggle of homosexuals. Instead of using the metaphor as an opportunity to add thematic weight to the material, True Blood seems content to simply toss out references and parallels.
Just this past week, Bill Compton, the vampire King of Louisiana, was forced to deal with a vampire who was recorded on tape while feeding on a human — a serious violation in the vampire community. After Bill announced the vampire’s punishment (the “true death”), the transgressor accused his King of trying to send them “back into the coffin,” to which Bill replied that the murderous, insane former King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington, had already done that.
It seems fairly obvious that “back into the coffin,” is a clear reference to the proverbial “closet.” But beyond using a similar phrase, what exactly is the connection between the vampire struggle and the real world struggle of the gay and lesbian community? One could possibly make the argument that this is an example of how some minority groups punish those within for stepping out of approved roles, but it would require a lot of squinting and even then would still feel like a stretch.
This example is fairly indicative to True Blood’s approach to the gay-vampire connection: Make an evocative reference (like angry, religious protesters outside a vampire club) to get the emotional hit and hint at profundity, but back off before making any kind of cogent statement. Not every piece of entertainment needs to stake out an ideological platform for itself, but when a show like True Blood makes such a clear effort to draw parallels with what is still an extremely topical and hot button issue, it does itself a disservice by not fully engaging the metaphor it has teased.
Do you think that True Blood should do a better job developing their blatant metaphor and finding something to say about it? Is that expecting too much from what is ultimately a sensationalistic genre program? Or, do you think that we’re reading too much into the parallels contained within the series?
Watch True Blood with us on Sunday nights at 9pm on HBO, and then make sure to join us back here on Monday to talk about the show.