Sunday, July 11, 2010

the burger with AIDS

One of my favourite scenes from Trueblood has a red-neck return his burger to the kitchen because he has caught a glimpse of the black, heavily-made up, camp cook, Lafayette making his food. His reason is that the burger might have AIDS.

It is for scenes like this that I've been meaning to write this blog about Trueblood for a while, and trying to think of how to describe it in a way that will make people look past their misconceptions and watch it. It may have the reputation of being a thinly-veiled porn series with a yet another vampire/human love story, but it is actually one of the most ethical and engrossing things I have ever seen on screen, and important viewing for anyone who ever examined the nature of prejudice, hatred, and outright evil.

I must also say that I don't do series. Brothers and Sisters is contrived; Grey's Anatomy is barely more than a soap opera; Vampire Diaries is like the new (and equally as irritating) OC and although House is one of the better ones because it is clever and funny; it still pulls an American sentimental punch.

There is no place for the sacharrine in Trueblood. When Sookie's grandmother is brutally murdered and she discovers her, there is no soft focus or a series of people with serious faces. Sookie's telepathy means she hears the coroner's comical thoughts. The mourning she does is incredibly practical. She cleans the blood off her house-proud grandmother's kitchen floor.

The opening credits evoke the American south (and conservative, Christian small towns everywhere) perfectly. There are images of blonde children in Klu Klux Klan outfits juxtaposed with images of a stripper dancing in a red-lit bar. A toothless, greasy-haired old man smailes while rocking his rocking chair, and a neon sign lit up with the words "God Hates Fangs" (remember "God Hates Fags"?). A black church sings and prays ecstatically and an evangelical baptism takes place. There are often flashes of naked bodies. The American obsessions with flesh and sex and as well as purity and evangelism is constantly present.

I could go on about the brilliant characterisation and witty, ironic dialogue (Tara, the black woman named after the famous slave plantation in Gone with the Wind is just one example), but what I really want to write about are the main targets of the show: the evangelical Christians and the pleasure-driven hedonists who sacrifice (sometimes literally) to the god of pleasure.

Steve and Sarah Newlin are the married couple who lead the growing Christian church and yet they only use their incredible power (or perhaps it's why they have incredible power) to spread hatred and division by using half-truths.

Marianne is an anti-Christian. She hates their puritan ideals and loves pleasure and gluttony and sensation. She is a supernatural being that inspires a cult-like brainwashing of all the people who follow her, and when they have sex endlessly and party continuously, they take no real pleasure in it as they are unthinking. They end up wanting to sacrifice someone to a pagan-inspired "god who comes" in order to continue their frenzied, selfish bliss.

Rich in detail, drama, satire, comedy, quality acting and note-perfect set designs, costuming and social commentary, True Blood is a must-watch.