Monday, July 12, 2010

True Blood: Crimes

I normally do a synopsis of what happened in each episode, but I thought that this week we would just focus on a few highlights because of a re-occurring theme of violence against women.

What stood out in last nights episode of  "True Blood," was the violence against women and I think that this is continuing to be an issue. When Bill punches Lorena square in the face, which catapults her body out of the room, we are meant to see this as acceptable because Lorena is physically stronger than Bill and he believes that she is responsible for the demise of his relationship with Sookie.  I know that we are dealing with supernatural creatures, and that Lorena was not hurt by Bills actions --  in fact, she referred to last weeks rape seen as making love -- but I am beginning to be disturbed by the cavalier way in which Ball is directing this violence.  It seems to always be men hitting women, with the exception of when Tara punched out the men in Merlotts parking lot a few episodes ago, furthermore; there always seems to be some justification regarding why this violence is acceptable. While I believe we should always take into consideration the genre we are dealing with, one cannot simply ignore the fact that it is still product of a culture that does not find male violence to be unacceptable and inherently wrong.  Rather than speaking to vampire nature, these scenes speak to the way in which female bodies are often used as receptacles for male rage.

We also have the issue of poor Tara who is under Franklin's spell so to speak.  When he bites her viciously against her will, it  rises to the level of extreme violation.  In the books, Tara does have an extremely problematic relationship with Mott, but the visceral nature of last nights scene falls in line with Balls desire to continually highlight violence against women without consequence.  The fact that Tara is a Black woman and the body that Franklin inhabits is white and male makes this scene problematic in terms of race and gender.  Throughout his interactions with her, Franklin speaks to Tara like she is a possession of his, and when we consider that White men have always been able to assert ownership over Black female bodies, as well as the fact that Ball has not presented a positive image of people of colour, we can only infer that Tara is little more than surplus population to be used as a plot device. 

Considering that Tara is being held captive by a clearly dangerous vampire, her question of, "what do you want with Sookie?"  is certainly inappropriate, and it is Franklin that must remind her that she must be concerned about herself.  This is typical of the way that Black female characters are written - self sacrificing and concerned with safety of the benefit of the White female protagonist.  Sookie functions as a modern day Missy Anne when it relates to Tara. It is beginning to feel that Tara's race has been changed to Black so that Ball can engage in tropes that are harmful to Black women, rather than a progressive attempt to include more people of colour in "True Blood".

Pam is continually given some of the best lines to say in the series, but when she is held captive after fangtasia is raided, it once again serves as yet another opportunity to present male violence against women.  Ball could have done this scene by having the inquisitor question and intimidate Pam, but instead he had her tied spread eagle while he ran silver down her body, which burned her flesh.  Though Pam has always been in servitude to Eric because she is his child, the fact that she is singled out for punishment by by the inquisitor is problematic.  When he confronts Eric, he references the Salem Witch trials whose sole purpose was to control female sexuality and power.  Once again, a man is given permission to sit in judgment of women and punish if he finds them wanting or faulty is some manner. His role as inquisitor legitimates his behavior, though it is clearly heinous.

The branding of Debbie Pelt is also an issue, even though the other weres have the same mark.  We could have learned  that Debbie took the mark in various ways, and though she willfully submitted to the branding, watching as a man burned her flesh simply fell in line with the horrendous treatment of women throughout the entire episode.

In the final scene we are treated death of a sex worker. When Bill asks her, what her name is, she provides a fake one and he compels her to tell the truth. He asks, "what does your husband think about your profession?"  Of course it would be a concern to man, because a woman once married is a possession -- and the question further highlights a heterosexist take on relationships.  When Bill learns that she has no family connections he decides that this makes her the perfect victim.  This is but one of the reasons that sex workers often become victims; they are considered disposable and without value. The fact that there is no evidence to counter this portrayal, only serves to confirm the social understanding that sex workers exist to be abused.

Bill was clearly asked by Russell, the King of Louisiana to provide a meal, but he made no specification as to what gender this person should belong to.  The fact that the victim was once again female, matched Balls message of violence against women being acceptable.  In this scene, we learn that if you are female and provide sexual entertainment for money, your person-hood can easily be discarded.  We could look at the scene and see it as the last vestige of Bill's pretense of human morality, but I think that it better highlights that in the "True Blood" universe women are to be consumed, and abused at the will of men.

I know that I had many negative things to say about last nights episode, but that is not to say that it did not have some really enjoyable moments.  I loved watching Eric swoop in when Lafayette was being attacked, though it did smack of White men to the rescue. Even his lecture of Lafayette in the car read more like "White man's burden", than a conversation between business partners.

I particularly loved when Sookie lost the blond princess look to go to Lou Pine's with Alcide.  I think that the dark hair really works for her and it surprised me. Even though the way that Sams family is being treated in the series is a complete turn around from the books, I really like the fact that he is going to try and help them.  Gotta say that I loved watching Jessica glamor the man from her past.

Finally, my favourite scene of the night was the Sookie and Eric fantasy, though every time I see something like that it makes me want to jump right into my television scene and push Sookie out of the way.  Can Skaarsgard possibly get any hotter?

You'll notice that I didn't mention Jason and Andy.  That is because I sincerely wish those to characters would go away.   Enough said on that.

Line of the night goes to Eric, "No, I think I'll kill all of your brother cousins first."

What were your thoughts on last nights episode?