True Blood a Fatal Attraction

April 9, 2009 by  

sookiesavesbillTrue Blood is one new series to sink your teeth into as Suzanne Lazaroo reports on star-ecentral.com presented here in its entirety.

For a few years, my life has been bereft of a vampire series I can sink my teeth into. For seven seasons, Joss Whedon’s creative, imaginative series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS) rocked my world and ruled one day of my life each week.

It explored deeper themes of alienation, loss, gender issues and prejudices without losing its entertainment value or becoming too preachy, and balanced that with rich, lustrous mythical and pop culture references. Since it ended in 2003, no other vampire series has really grabbed my attention.

Angel was lacklustre, confusing and somehow soulless, (much as I watched it out of respect for its predecessor), Moonlight failed to elicit much more than a yawn and don’t even get me started on the dismal semi-B-grade fare Blood Ties (although Kyle Schmid really does make a very pretty vampire boy).

So when all the buzz started about True Blood, I didn’t pay much attention. Just another vamp series focused on the always popular blood and sex themes, I thought. Which just goes to show, I have my prejudices. And really, that’s kind of the point of True Blood. Because (and big hurrah here, because it’s about damn time) the series marks the return of the kind of deeper social and political commentary that drew many of us to BTVS week after week.

Yes, it’s a series about vampires, and other supernatural creatures do get thrown into the mix. But more importantly, it’s a show about the natural prejudices we all have and an exploration of xenophobia, fear, the darkness of the soul and the rights of sentient beings. And love and death and sex, and all that other messy life stuff.
True Blood stars Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin.

Vampires have always been the perfect supernatural creatures to embody alienation, and simultaneously explore the love-hate relationship we have with the Other.

Werewolves can be messy and feral, there was only one Franken­stein monster, and I, for one, have a hard time taking mummies swathed in bandages seriously. Vampires though, can have an elegance and sexuality that works nicely with the violence.

Fantasy series are also most effective when it comes to making us think about social and political norms that may have become hegemonized over the years, regardless of morality or ethics. They juxtapose everyday situations against fantastical settings, and make us see them in a new light. It’s ironic, a vampire series bringing things out into the light.

In True Blood’s pilot, we learn that vampires have just “come out of the coffin” (“mainstreaming” to the vampires), thanks to a Japanese scientist’s invention of a synthetic blood drink – TruBlood.

In the tiny fictional town of Bon Temps, the residents have yet to encounter a real-life vampire – until the night the sexily pale Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) steps broodingly into the local bar, Merlotte’s, and everyone is forced to face their own feelings about nosferatu.

For kooky Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), Compton is just fascinating. Telepathic Stackhouse has spent most of her life trying to shut out other people’s thoughts and not being able to hear Compton’s makes him her own personal oasis.

She’s a heroine to cheer for, real and flawed, with guts of steel and a wide-eyed propensity to do the right thing.

When she realizes that Compton is being attacked, she runs off to save him without a second thought, simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Stackhouse doesn’t have much care for what the world thinks of her (probably because she’s had the entire town thinking she’s crazy for years) and is very much true to herself, which includes a prim dislike for swearing and dirty talk, a tendency to giggle at the most inopportune moments and a general air of being off-kilter.

Compton starts off as the stereotypical brooding, menacing (and all the other stereotypical vampire-ings) creature of the night, but ends up a comically bewildered male in the face of Stackhouse’s utter lack of fear of him and her prim exhortation that “you will talk to me like the lady that I am!”

The chemistry between them still smoulders, but it’s warm and real. It’s the eternal dance of attraction between light and dark, with both sides having both light and shadows within.

And while the pair get to know each other, a serial killer in Bon Temps is picking off the “fangbangers”, women who have been with vampires.

The series is set in Louisiana, in the American South, where civil rights is still a hot issue; the memory of African slaves is not yet in the distant enough past. And the vampires’ fights for equal rights (as they push for the Vampire Rights Amendment, which will give them the same rights as humans) is often none-too-subtly contrasted with the civil rights struggles of African Americans.

Tara (Rutina Wesley), Stackhouse’s best friend, is an African American who believes in civil rights but can’t bring herself to believe that a vampire deserves any.

“Did you hear him earlier,” she asks Stackhouse’s equally distrustful brother Jason (Ryan Kwanten), “He said he owned slaves!” (Actually, Compton had said his father owned two slaves, and spoke of them in fond tones, but Tara’s own distrust colours what she hears.)

Jason is equally mistrustful of a vampire anywhere near his sister, but is also fascinated with the immortals and hooked on the potent (and illegal) V, vampire blood.

There’s also Sam (Sam Trammell), owner of Merlotte’s, who is hopelessly in love with Stackhouse. He is one of the more endearing characters, with a twist in his own tale.

His prejudices stem mainly from a need to keep the woman he not-so-secretly loves safe from anything and anyone that might harm her.

And while (most of) the humans view the vampires with distrust, the vampires, who have their own justice system, are often disdainful of the humans.

Heroes and villains come from both sides, most of whom have so many shades of grey that you can’t initially tell which is which.

True Blood premieres on Max (Astro channel 412) Thursday, April 9, 2009 at 10pm.

A special thank you to “The Star, Malaysia” for giving us permission to reprint the article in its entirety. Please visit their website for the latest news and updates from around the world at http://www.thestar.com.my/

SOURCE: The Star, Malaysia: Fatal Attraction

(Photo credit: HBO Inc.)

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