Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mutilated Women as Entertainment or Why I am Over True Blood

First things first, I apologize that some comments got stuck in the queue for a really long time. I usually just publish them directly from my Gmail account but I must have missed some and I saw them on the blogger homepage waiting to be read today. So if your comment got stuck, it wasn't because I don't like you!

Speaking of comments, I have gotten some really awful ones lately. I haven't posted in so long I really don't know how these people are finding me and feeling the need to attack me using viciously misogynistic rhetoric but they are and, I admit, it really got me down for a few weeks.

Unfortunately, the world does not stop being a woman-hating sort of place just because I don't feel up to blogging.

Which brings me to today's topic. I am deeply disappointed and, frankly, disgusted with True Blood. I watched and enjoyed the first season. I found the portrayal of the innocent, blonde virgin waiting to be taken by the scary dark vampire to be problematic but I was willing to wait it out because the writing was pretty good and I got sucked in (no pun intended).

The second season dragged a little but it was not necessarily anti-feminist. In fact, I really liked the Maryann character because she kicked so much ass. She was, by far, the most powerful character on the show at that point and she was unapologetic about it. Sadly, she was killed off. I held out hope upon realization that the leader of all vampires was a queen. I also, really like that two of the main characters are women. And of course Lafayette is endlessly amusing.

There is a lot to like about the show. It is complex and unafraid to delve into social issues.

Lately, though, there has also been a lot to dislike. I went in to the third season very hopeful because the second had culminated so dramatically. All of the season's loose ends were tied up and a few new cliff hangers were introduced. The introduction of werewolves this season has brought with it an astonishing amount of sexual violence. Perhaps the increased ratings, the increased need to titillate, to top the previous over-the-top seasons, has caused writers and producers to find sexual violence to be a vital plot device but it is finally getting to be too much for this feminist.

The second episode of the third season ended with a brutal rape scene between Bill and his maker Lorena. The opening if the third episode leads viewers to believe that Lorena actually quite enjoyed the brutal rape, which included Bill twisting her head all the way around. (You can see it here if you are so inclined but please do not take my serious trigger warning lightly.) If she were human he would surely have broken her neck. I get the feeling that if they were human in the show, this would never have been allowed to air. Bill would have raped the woman to death and I can only hope that we are still in a place were that isn't considered great television. Since they are vampires and she supposedly likes it, it not only airs, but is critically acclaimed!

I stopped watching after that episode but I was goaded by friends to give it another chance, I was assured that it got better. So finally last night I endeavored to watch more of the third season. I was rewarded with another scene of brutal sexual assault and more violence than I personally care to see. The werewolf bar scene featured a young woman having her clothing ripped off and then her flesh torn open (I looked away at that point so I am not quite sure what happened next, but it was bloody). Again, this is called sexy by many viewers and television critics.

Another great example of how sexy = sexual violence on True Blood is the fact that the redheaded baby vampire, Jessica, is a perpetual virgin and experiences pain and injury every single time she has sex.

Sex with vampires on this show is always a mix of pain and pleasure, as if pain is essential to pleasure. The person in pain is usually a woman and there is NOTHING revolutionary or edgy about that. I don't know how often I have to say it.

I think my friend David says it pretty well:

"I've been saying this since I was halfway through season 1....everybody hates me for it. By the finale of season 2, I've come to this conclusion: men are murdered because they're threats...women because they're expendable.... I refuse to watch season 3."

And in case you are thinking that sexual violence isn't intended to be taken as a joke, remember that producer Alan Ball calls all of this "fun." He wanted to do something light after Six Feet Under. I wish he hadn't. I enjoyed Six Feet Under a lot, this is just blatant violence against women as entertainment wrapped in a 'sexy' vampire shell.

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