The Ill Professors Chop Up True Blood

July 21, 2009 by  

lafayetteThe Ill Professors, Randy Bandit and Phill Boogie, advertise themselves as “not your average professors” whose “informal (and often crazy) critiques of film, music, and literature bring freshness to stale discussions.” Ran Walker, aka Randy Bandit, is a 34 year old college professor of English at Hampton in Virginia who uses his summer break to write books. Phill Branch, aka Phill Boogie, is also a college professor at Hampton but is much more mysterious with a locked Facebook page and no further information available on their website. Together these two guys, with very pleasing voices, analyze entertainment arts that are a part of pop culture both by blogging and with podcasts. They have a 3 part series on Michael Jackson as well as an interesting podcast called, “Awww… Sookie, Sookie Now” that is worth a listen.

In “Awww… Sookie, Sookie Now” they discuss the social aspects of True Blood including the religious angle and summarize the overall storyline and characters of the show.  They claim that the only ‘Christians’ in the show are ‘Fellowship of the Sun” members and that Christianity isn’t balanced and this makes people uncomfortable, although they acknowledge that Gran was also Christian.  Here, I disagree with them.  True Blood has shown many, many Christians including sweet Hoyt professing that the Bon Temps Baptist church teaches him to love everyone, Tara‘s mother finding support in the church while recovering from her life long alcoholism and, of course, the whole town meeting at the local church.  They also say that Lafayette is a ‘witch doctor’ with which I totally disagree.  They do go on to say that Lafayette is the most interesting character on the show and say that Nelsan Ellis is ‘lucky’ to play the character.  Again, I do not agree.  I think Alan Ball is lucky to have found Ellis to put life into Lafayette.    Tara on the other hand, is their least favorite character because they feel that she’s too stereotypically black.

They also paint Lafayette as the most “grounded character”, far more worldly and smart than Sookie and Jason.  But they feel that if you’re dressing as differently as Lafayette that you shouldn’t be surprised or angry when folks are rude.  One of the reviewers took a real exception to Lafayette getting angry in the ‘Aides burger’ scene [Editor Note: One of my favorite scenes!] while the other feels that this scene sets up later episodes and Sam‘s acceptance of Lafayette‘s reaction shows that this was not a unique event.  It seemed to me, that much of the objection was because Lafayette’s strength and confrontational behavior doesn’t fit the stereotype of a ‘gay’ man which was interesting considering they had earlier objected to Tara as being too stereotypical of blacks in America.

The duo go on to discuss V and True Blood comparing True Blood to being forced into vegetarianism and debate whether that is ethically right or not. The also dislike the accents on True Blood especially Tara‘s and recommended that Rutina get a voice coach.  It was interesting to me to hear Southerners talk about the accents.  They did like Jason’s accent [Editor’s Note: played by Australian Ryan Kwanten].

In the article, “The Ill Professors: True Blood“, Randy Bandit dissects the show by articulating:

One that is difficult to overlook, however, is the idea of assimilation and what it means to a group that is less than “mainstream.”  All of the members of Sookie’s small town represent the diversity in society, while maintaining their individual senses of self.  In walks Bill, a Vampire who was made during the Civil War, who seeks to assimilate into the community that was his residence long ago.  The duality of being both Vampire and citizen was something never anticipated by W.E.B. DuBois when he wrote about double consciousness in The Souls of Black Folk, but it does raise some interesting issues when one considers being Vampire as a metaphor for being black, immigrant, disabled, or homosexual.

It is a good comparison but the situation in True Blood is even more complex because because while vampires are a minority, it’s not because they are suppressed but because they sit higher on the food chain than humans and must, therefore, be fewer in number by definition.  Further, being the pinnacle of the food chain, they aren’t actually ‘weaker’ in society as most minorities are with their own heirarchy and ‘police’ force as demonstrated by The Magister and the Sheriffs.

Phil Boogie discusses the religious aspect of True Blood saying:

Religion serves as a character in the show and most of the church’s attention is placed on keeping vampires and humans separate. You can’t help but notice the statement being made as the church leaders decry vampires marrying humans. Proposition 8 anyone? Hell, let’s take it back a bit more. It was only in 1967 that the Supreme Court ended all race based legal discrimination on marriage. As you watch the show, you start to wonder how long it will be before the majority loses it’s need to subjugate those who are different.

Here, I totally agree.  True Blood entertains us while showing us “the man in the mirror” and educates us on our own societally created viewpoints which prejudice us and prevent us from seeing the truth, that being ‘different’ is not the same as being worse or more dangerous.  Within each group on the show there are gentle beings and much more violent ones.  Hoyt, Bill, Lafayette and Eric all stand in juxtaposition to Rev. Newlin of The Fellowship of the Sun, Malcom, The Magister, and those idiot rednecks.  The show has Ying and Yang (and Yong) down to an art form.  Looking for a representative of gays? Human, good: Lafayette, Vampire, good: Eddie, Vampire, evil: Malcom, Human, evil: Jerry.  Want to talk about authority? Human, good: Sheriff Bud Dearborn, Human, bad: Andy Bellefleur, Vampire, good: Eric, Vampire, bad: The Magister.  You can find similar comparisons in the views show’s depiction of religion, monsters, etc.

All in all, The Ill Professors are worth a read and listening to.  To see more of their material check out the source link below.

Source: The Ill Professors

(Photo credit: HBO)

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  • GERRYCURLS

    According to the media, gays are the center of the universe.

  • pbartteacher

    Well written article by the Ill Professors. Don’t forget to check out their podcast about True Blood on their website.An even more V detailed discussion about the characters in the show. Their review highly praised the acting of Nelsan Ellis in the character of Lafayette.

    They hit upon the basis for my initial fascination with the show. It’s not a “reality” show but a scripted show. Currently the major networks are only supporting scripted dramas that are about law enforcement and criminal investigations. Not my interest areas.

    True Blood has a plot, in an interesting setting with lots of fun plot lines. It takes the viewer on a ride filled with mystery, drama, emotion and sexuality. I think this why the show has struck such a note with its viewership. As viewers, we are invited into this “vampire world” and can actually use our minds. It does not dumb itself down. That’s what I enjoy about it but it also does not take itself too seriously.

    Folks we are talking about characters who are telepathic, shape shifters, vampires, weres, panthers, maenads and many other supes. The larger themes of acceptance, maninstreaming, drug addiction, gay rights, religious fanaticism and the VRA, rights of the minority are all treated with wit on a weekly basis.

    Keep the intelligent articles coming.