How “True Blood” Saved My Life

August 19, 2009 by  


If you are on then most likely you are more than just a casual viewer of HBO’s “True Blood“.  You have probably discovered that, more than any other television program, it occupies your thoughts when it’s not on, like that cute new co-worker you inappropriately daydream about or that ex-boyfriend you stalk (although you don’t call it stalking).  Maybe you’ve even had similar feelings for other shows and the worlds they create, like “Star Trek“, “Star Wars“, or even “Battlestar Galactica” (which is the one I so don’t get… but whatever).  For me, no work of television fiction has ever quite taken hold of my soul like “True Blood“.  It’s an entirely new experience for me.  Sure, I like my “Trek”, my “Dexter” and “Dateline”, even a few reality show guilty pleasures.  For me though, “True Blood” has morphed into not just a fantastic entertainment experience or a fun diversion before the work week… oh no.  For me, “True Blood” has become my obsession, my code and my secret society.

It seemed to sneak up on me, stealthily, like a Were-panther, when I was going through a very tough time in my personal life.  Having never been enamored with the vampire genre, I begrudgingly bought the first season on Apple TV because of a good friend’s fervent recommendations.  As I watched the entire season in 3 days with my husband, I didn’t notice it slowly grasping hold and taking control of the pleasure center in my brain… not unlike Maryann’s Hunter’s Souffle.

Initially, “True Blood” hooked me with its point of view and (having always been a fan of his) its Alan Ball distinct sensibility.  I was intrigued with this world that was created; it was a world not unlike our own, but one that had the added ingredients of a supernatural society complete with its own cast system, laws and mores newly existing within a more historically-recent construct of a “civilization” that was forced to accept it. Then there’s the theme that runs parallel to modern day America, one that puts the subjugated vampires in the same category as the gay and lesbian community, suffering the same discriminatory political challenges. I loved it. Immediately, that interest generated into a love of the characters and then a particular fondness for Stephen Moyer’s Bill Compton character and the strained luminescence with which he played the lonely vampire and his courtship of Sookie… or as Bill says it:  “Sookeh“.  I was hooked to say the least.

Now, I’m afraid, it’s a full-blown, category five, stage four, code red mental illness that should probably qualify as a new diagnosis in any psychiatrist’s favorite reference book, “The Diagnosis and Statistics Manual (DSM V)”.  In fact, every Sunday night, I half expect guys in white HAZMAT suits to enter my home and take me away to quarantine, but not before giving me a thorough “Silkwood” shower, while my husband looks on in rueful acquiescence because he’s “doing it for her own good”. BASTARD!  Doesn’t he know they don’t get HBO in the psych ward?!

However, I’ve come to understand that this obsession is not necessarily a bad thing.  My addiction to anything “True Blood” related, and the universe it inhabits, has become an emotional barometer for me, of sorts.  In fact, I recently found it to be a very timely and useful new part of my psyche’s coping mechanism during rough times of late.

Now, before you read on, let me preface this next part by telling you that I am a happily married, well-educated, 40 year-old woman.  I am a small-business owner and I occupy normal relationships with my clients, my loved ones and within society.  I pay my taxes, I obey the law, I don’t drink or take illegal drugs and I have never been arrested or had any major psychological issues that couldn’t be cured with a little Ativan.  I am, at heart, a well-adjusted, amiable and pragmatic person and rather nonplussed with anything Hollywood doles out, as I have worked in that industry for over 20 years.

Got it?  I’m as normal as a potato pancake.

So, it came as a surprise when, in addition to watching the HBO show, I put down my regular, non-fiction reading material and started reading the Charlaine Harris southern vampire anthology.  I hadn’t read fiction in years.  I finished all nine books and the short stories in two weeks.  When those were finished, I found I was like a drug addict without a fix.  I became manic, jonesing for the next “True Blood” or Bill Compton fix – searching the web for fan sites to get any tidbits of news about the show, it’s upcoming plot and to see if there were others that felt as hopelessly addicted as I did.  Well, I found plenty.  When that information highway was exhausted, I moved on to the fan forums, “True Blood” Wiki, Podcasts, YouTube tribute videos and finally – a place where many the middle-aged fear to tread –TWITTER.

Oh Twitter, how I love thee.  The “True Blood” tweeters were my salvation, my rabbi, my priest, my best friend and my main confidant.  Discovering my new community on Twitter was like sleeping with Diprovan and waking up to Stephen Moyer. Heaven.

Once I had created a “True Blood“-centric name (BillComptonFan) and joined in the fun, I found that all the Twitterers were not only welcoming but encouraging me to participate.  Whether it was role-playing (RP) or out of character (OOC), I was greeted with open arms. These were nice people! And they understood me!

Twitter is inherently anonymous so I never gave much thought to the demographics that made up my favorite new hangout.  It was a warm, friendly place where all was right with the world.  Everyone got along, no one complained about anything more intense than Monday “True Blood” withdrawal or Twitter going offline.  I started out slow.  First, I had a hearty laugh with @BubbaLives, then discussed the uneven amount of “Bill Worship” vs. “Eric Worship” with @BillComptonsPet and eventually shared “True Blood” news with @Exsanguinates. Gradually, I progressed to watching the “True Blood” Comic-Con Conference on a live feed while tweeting with my new comrades, and I was elated when I seemed to break the Anna Paquin/Stephen Moyer engagement news on Twitter.  That in itself gave me more pleasure than it warranted.  I should have known then that this was getting out of hand.  Twitter was like a “True Blood” Disneyland of sorts and I was the 40 year-old idiot in the Mickey Mouse shirt and mouse ears jumping up and down waiting for the park to open at dawn.

As things got worse and more challenging in my life, the more time I would spend on “True Blood“.  Researching, watching, reading and tweeting – anything I could legally do, find or watch – I was on it like white on rice.  The highlight and apex of this single-minded quest had made its way to the recently abandoned “Bill’s House” stage which I was able to tour (legally by the way – I was invited by a friend connected with the show).  Afterwards, I was high as a kite, feeling like I had taken something special away with me.  I had been in Bill’s living room!  I had sat by the fireplace, touched the piano, and even knocked on the hidey-hole door!  I had been where Bill and Sookie had been; there were a finite number of people who could say that and I was one of them!  I was special!  Wheeee!  I hadn’t felt such unexpurgated joy since I did the “Star Trek Experience” in Las Vegas when it opened (did I just say that out loud?).  In the back of my mind I knew this was, at the very least, pathetic.  And that’s where I decided to keep it:  in the BACK of my mind.

I rushed back to my new community and started tweeting about my privileged experience.  They were all so excited and supportive of my adventure and understood the trepidation I felt about admitting how euphoric it made me – like I just got asked out to the prom by the cool guy at school, I was elated and full of confidence-driven adrenaline.  I was like a teenager.  In fact, if I wasn’t living with someone that would mercilessly make fun of me every waking minute of the day, I feared I would paper my house with “True Blood” posters.  That, of course, would inevitably generate into other “True Blood” collectibles like paper dolls (yes, those exist), cardboard standees (these do not, but should), Fangtasia glasses, Merlotte’s T-shirts, coasters, magnets, license plate frames, jewelry, homemade Etsy cell phone charms and “Bill Compton” emblazoned soap… anything that was available to support my new addiction and regression into this faux teenage daydream. Where would it stop?  Would it stop? I was seriously in need of a “True Blood” intervention.  Doesn’t Bravo have a new show for that?

Then, one day, while tweeting with one of my “Trubie” friends, I lightheartedly joked that I was “a happily married, 40 year-old woman with a full life, yet, obsessed with Bill Compton; True Blood. Should I be worried about my mental state?”  LOL *wink* ;D #TrueBlood.

Now here’s the kicker…

“No way man! I’m 16 and single and I’m sooo obsessed too!” she tweeted back.  We had been tweeting for weeks about how life was “True Blood” Sundays and everything in-between was filler – in addition to talking about Bill’s bangs and, of course, what’s going to happen next week, etc.  Who do you think grabbed Barry the BellboyLorenaStan The Vampire Queen?  Did you get a load of @HoytsCell, @EricsBlackAMEX and @BillsRobe going to a “True Blood”, Inanimate Objects, role-playing Twitter wedding?  Oy vey (but kinda cool).

I might as well be commiserating with a local teenager that my parents wouldn’t let me go to the Jonas Brothers concert either and it was so unfair!  God!  I hate them!”

That did it for me.

A proverbial bucket of cold water just splashed in my face.  Wide-eyed, I slowly sat back, signed off and went outside for a rare cigarette.  What was happening to me?  Like Lettie Mae’s demon, I had been taken over by the intoxicating and seductive nature of “True Blood” and the “Sookieverse”.  Had I unknowingly been glamoured? Bewitched?  Made into a Maenad’s progeny?

No.  I had just let my love for a great show morph into an inappropriate obsession and diversion and now it was time to step back to a more appropriate reaction to my favorite series, a normal appreciation that could be gratified by a weekly new episode and light tweeting.  Gone are the days of compulsive web searches for spoilers, news, photos, YouTube tribute videos or merchandise (although I do have my “True Blood” drink coming in September).  I was now ready to admit I had a problem and enter a self-imposed “True Blood Anonymous Program” of my own making. I would become an average, well-adjusted fan with boundaries and limits:  read other books, watch other shows, leave my house, etc.

In reflection, I can’t help but be thankful for my temporary “True BloodMaenad Madness.  I had overcome the turbulence in my life with the help of HBO, Charlaine Harris and my friends in Bon Temps and, at the end of the day, isn’t that what television is for? An escape from reality for a short period of time?  A respite from the stressors and duties of being a responsible adult, spouse, friend and citizen?

In fact, isn’t that when, through the context of our creativity, art becomes a healing force in human existence?

Isn’t this why we go to museums, attend the symphony, or watch an exquisite ballet?

Isn’t this why we plead and petition for the government to allot more funds to support the arts in this country?

Isn’t it true that, without art, the human race could never understand itself completely and would be doomed to a future of ignorance amid rampant indifference?

Probably not, but it sounds good.

And it makes me feel better, so I’m sticking to it.

(Photo credit: HBO)