Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stephen Moyer on Vampire Sex: Masculinity in True Blood

I was sent the following quote from Cara of Feministe and The Curvature.

Epilogue:  Stephen Moyer, on Vampire Sex:
“The thing about vampirism is that it taps into a female point of view – you have an old-fashioned gentleman with manners who is a fucking killer… it’s an interesting duality, because in our present society it would be an odd thing for a woman to say, ‘I want my man to be physical with me.’ How, as a modern man, can you fucking work that?  It’s one thing to be polite and gentle… But when do you know it’s OK to crawl out of the mud and rape her [as Bill does in one scene]?... It’s difficult stuff for a bloke, but a vampire gets away with it…. I think that’s the attraction of the show – it’s looking back at a romantic time when men were men, but they Oncwere still charming.”

 image How many think that Moyer should stick to acting, rather than attempt a clearly heterosexist, sexist, misogynist breakdown of his character Bill Compton?  We know that Compton is a civil war vampire, however; that time period does not necessarily make him suddenly more respectful of women.   Let us not forget, in the civil war era, women were considered to be the property of their husbands, they could not vote, did not own land and education was a rarity.  We have a tendency to romanticize the past not because it harkens to a time of gentlemanly behaviour but because it normalizes the view that the patriarchal oppression of women is acceptable.

I find his claim that a woman would not tell her lover that she wants “her man to be physical with her,” to be spurious.  This claim suggests that women only desire to participate in one form of sex when they have any desire at all.  He further defines sex as something men do to women, rather than something that two parties actively engage in.  Many women actively enjoy BDSM and are not shy in communicating that to their partners.

image In terms of his commentary regarding rape, I certainly have no recollection of Bill Compton crawling out of the mud and raping Sookie.  One of the things I love about their sex scenes, is that Sookie actively assents to participation and clearly is not shy about enjoying sex.  It is never okay for a man to rape a woman and that he could implicitly state rape is  acceptable, once again displays his desire to privilege masculinity, in his understanding of the relationship between Sookie and Bill.  A woman does not consent to rape ever.  The definition of rape is forcing ones self on another in a sexual manner, therefore; implicitly denying consent.

Of course, Moyer can only see the show broken down to affirm masculinity in all forms because his male privilege blinds him to the ways in which the female characters invoke their agency.  In the very first episode of the show, Tara quits a job rather than deal with a racist and irritating customer.  Tara further initiates a sexual relationship with Sam, after stating implicitly that this is not to involve a romantic relationship. 

image When Sookie and Bill get into a fight, she has no problem revoking his invitation to her home.  Sookie also speaks to Eric in a tone that no one else on the show dares to and she is human.  The power differential between Sookie and Eric never stops her from being upfront about her feelings, as well as slapping him when he crosses the line. 

image We also have Marianne, who is a very powerful being.  She clearly acts of her own accord and controls those around her.  We may not like her as a character but one can be certain, that Marianne does not pander to traditional views regarding femininity and sexuality. 

Let us also not forget, that though we have yet to see what she is capable of, the Queen is a woman and head of all of the vampires.

True Blood works, not because it reminds of us of a time when men were men but because it walks a dangerous line forcing us to confront our own mortality.  We are entranced with the thought that there are beings that might possibly escape the curse of death, that awaits for us all. 

The vampire is a far more complicated creature than Moyer clearly understands.  He does not acknowledge that they come in both male and female, nor does he offer any analysis on power.  We  see the vampire as sexy because it acts with the assurance that it is invincible.  Coercive power is something that have come to socially respect and therefore, the vampire is understood to be seductive when it acts with impunity. 

Vampires have the ability to act in cruel and terrible ways, yet touching characters like Godric, have shown us that there is a tenderness and a real ability to connect with others.  In the end, vampires mystifies us with their difference and touch us with their ability to tap into a softer, more sensitive side of human image nature.   We are lead to believe that it is the human that is overly emotional and  yet the emotions vampires do display, are filled with such passion. It costs them so much to admit their vulnerability, that their tears are made of blood.  Vampires are morally ambiguous and in their imperfection we can see that no matter how much we aim for the greater good, we to are always destined to fall short.