Arlene Fowler, Femme Fatal(no e)

May 18, 2009 by  

Sassy.  Cheeky.  Obnoxious.  Funny.  These are just some of the adjectives one could use to describe the character of Arlene Fowler of HBO’s runaway hit, “True Blood“.   Interestingly enough, the actress who plays Fowler, Carrie Preston, owns her own production company and has worked on Broadway, placing her at the opposite end of the spectrum from her more modest role as Fowler on the show.
Personally, I was shocked the first time I saw Preston in real life, not dressed up as Arlene.  As she noted in the group interview at PaleyFest, she was very fortunate that Alan Ball was willing to allow her to transform herself into Arlene with the use of a red wig, long fake eyelashes/fingernails, and the fake tan.  It’s to Ball’s credit that he was able to get an actress of her caliber to agree to play what is essentially a much smaller role than Preston may be used to in her other projects.   And kudos to Preston for playing Arlene to the hilt, with the requisite “short shorts”, high heels, and southern sass.

How to describe Preston’s character, Arlene Fowler?  Well, older readers may remember “Flo” from the 70’s sitcom Alice?  Think of Arlene as only a slightly less caffeinated version of the same, and substitute alcoholic drinks and rednecks in place of the mostly sedate and well behaved patrons that Mel’s diner attracted.  Fowler thrives in the hustle and bustle of Sam’s bar & grill, and truly enjoys her friendship with her coworkers and even the eclectic crowd that gathers there.   Preston, one of the few Americans on the show much less authentic southerners, is able to draw on her roots as a Georgia native to produce her authentic accent and down home charm to add a touch of  credibility of the show.

Arlene is strident in her belief that vampires and humans should not interact or date.  As one of Sookie Stackhouse’s friends on the show, she has voiced her concern over Sookie befriending Bill, let alone bedding him.  Arlene really grounds the show and reminds us that accepting all these bizarre people and events just isn’t natural.  She provides the mirror which shocks us back to reality after we’ve slipped so carelessly into complacency regarding this group of monsters and murderers.

Of course, it’s not as if Arlene has made great decisions when it comes to men, either.  Her character on the show has been married four times, resulting in two children, so her own choice of lovers has certainly proven to be fallible and misguided.   Her last partner, Rene Lenier, was last seen chasing Sookie from her home to Bon Temps busy cemetery in last year’s finale.  Stopped only by a fatal shovel blow to the head, Rene would surely have added Sookie to his ever-growing list of murder victims.  The irony of Arlene’s contempt for vampires while dating a mass murder was both poignant and thought provoking. Currently, Arlene is flirting with a dalliance with Terry Bellefleur, True Blood‘s PTSD plagued Iraq war veteran.   Can this relationship possibly work or is she destined to experience yet another ill fated romance in Season 2?

Whatever the script calls for, Preston’s Fowler will be ready.  Her unbridled optimism during her engagement to Rene was inspiring, especially given her checkered past.   And Arlene provides a key dimension of humor and comic-relief to this very intense show, as her character often cracks one liners and makes off color comments that might offend some of the other characters.  But Arlene is too  busy or distracted to notice if her comments draw the ire of others, even Sookie, as she is often already on to the next subject by the time someone notices they have been insulted.
As we saw in season one, none of our favorite characters is truly safe.  Having lost Gran, several of Jason‘s girlfriends, and now, perhaps, Lafayette, fans of Arlene Fowler cannot be overly confident that the beautiful and kookie fem fatal (pun intended) will be around at the end of season 2.   With the influx of new characters this season, there are certain to be a few missing by the time the last episode rolls around.  Here’s hoping the charming mother of two and enduring ‘everywoman’ will somehow be spared.   For if Ball even considers eliminating the gossipy, hyperventilating, sexy, funny, sassy, “normal” Merlotte’s waitress he’s sure to be haunted by the voice of Alice’s Flo telling him to ‘Kiss my grits!” recently has the opportunity to speak with Carrie Preston regarding her role of Arlene Fowler on Alan Ball‘s hit TV series True Blood.  To read our wonderful interview with the charismatic Carrie Preston please click the link here.

By Kevin Carlin