True Blood - Southern Gothic on a Whole New Level

Posted by Miss Ess, May 5, 2010 05:06pm | Post a Comment

These days, my latest crush is on True Blood. At the urging of friends, I began with Season One a few weeks ago and am almost the whole way through it now. Seeing as I am starting at the very beginning here and the show's third season begins in a few weeks on HBO, I know I am kind of late to the game on this, but this whole vampire obsession thing that's been going on these days has had me pretty baffled and disinterested up till now, I must admit. Is it that since it feels like our world is going to hell and a handbasket, more and more people are turning to fantasy worlds, however they can get em, something they can really sink their teeth into? I'm not sure.

I do feel quite sure that the vampire trend in particular is not going anywhere anytime soon, and I do know that in particular I love watching True Blood for the same reason I love watching a show like Mad Men: its world is so incredibly detailed and mesmerizing that I find myself lost in it. Total escapism. So for me in this case, that fantasy theory holds, I guess. I just never was into the whole vampire scene really before. I still don't really think I am, actually, I just like this show.

Mostly what I love about True Blood is the incredible intricacy written into both the characters and the scenery they play in. The show brings new meaning to the term Southern Gothic -- and the setting, Bon Temps, Louisiana, is so fully realized that I had a hard time believing the show is shot in the other LA, Los Angeles. Moss hangs heavily from trees and the air always is choked with the sounds of various bugs buzzing. The houses, restaurants, trailers, graveyard, everything about this town and its residents is carefully and lovingly rendered. Bon Temps' locals are for the most part the kind of people who think a hot time would be going to see an Oak Ridge Boys cover band in the next town over.

Then there's Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin). Because Sookie has always been telepathic, she knows what the townspeople are all about and doesn't take too kindly to most. For two years, vampires have been "mainstreaming" into the regular world and are no longer hidden, and mortal relationships with vampires are still somewhat taboo in Bon Temps. When Sookie meets vampire Bill (Stephen Moyer) and can't hear his thoughts, she's intrigued.

If you haven't checked it out yet, just to show you how very steeped in Southern-ness this program is, watch the opening credits to give yourself a little taste:

And I haven't even mentioned Tara (Rutina Wesley), Sam (Sam Trammell) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) yet! I think I actually like these "side" characters better than the main two! All the characters -- the humans, anyway, even with their fantastical powers -- feel real. Sam is Sookie's long suffering boss at the road house where she waitresses, who of course is in love with her and also may have some kind of mystical powers going on himself. Tara has been Sookie's best friend since they were kids. I have never seen a better depiction on TV of a child dealing with an addict parent. And then there's Lafayette, who totally steals every scene he is in. He's Tara's cousin and a cook at the road house as well. He also works with Sookie's brother Jason doing construction type work. Oh yeah, and he sells drugs too, on the side. Anyway, check out his particular brand of flawlessness here:

True Blood has all the gratuitous sex and violence of any HBO show these days, yet because its characters are all outsiders in their own way, it maintains a critical outsider's view of the world at large that makes this series particularly amusing and gratifying. (I especially enjoy the spot-on idiot jock depictions -- puka shell necklaces and all!) Basically, everyone who makes TB is whip smart and it shows. Enough chatter; if you haven't seen True Blood yet, get yourself some shrimp and grits and let the vampires in Bon Temps show you a good time!

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