July 9, 2009

“True Blood”: Only Skin Deep

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC & Stake Holder Analyst

Not my type.

Not my type.

I finally got around to watching the first season of “True Blood” on DVD — yeah, I know,  I’m a total TV slacker — but I survived only four episodes.

“True Blood” begins with an intriguing level of satire that quickly devolves into soap operatics and — even worse — boring stereotypes. Creator Alan Ball cleverly uses vampires to symbolize the coming out of the gay community, but his vampires are clichéd, smug and brooding. Rather than being high-minded immortals espousing centuries of amassed wisdom, they’re self-indulgent fetishists living solely for debauchery. Yawn. If vampires are supposed to represent the gay community, Ball is doing the latter a great disservice. Indeed, with the exception of the leading romantic interest, most of the vampires are hyper-violent snobs, so I actually found myself siding with the bigots: uh, yeah, it’s probably not the best idea to mingle with superpowered creatures hell bent on eating you.

Ironically, for all his attempts to promote open-mindedness, Ball gives Southerners a beating. Most are depicted as dumb lecherous alcoholic hicks whose thoughts are malicious or salacious. The main character is telepathic and can read minds, but being a telepath in Alan Ball’s South is like being a literature major trapped in a room with nothing but supermarket tabloids.

The true South has been the source of great literature, music, cuisine, and a few U.S. Presidents. It would be far more interesting to depict the centuries-old vampires as the true preservationists of Southern high culture, its gentility and passion for the arts. You know, kind of like the gay community in New Orleans. Where is the vampire Tennessee Williams?

Or imagine the possibilities of having the series set on the campus of LSU, with the professors as sagacious blood-suckers — “tenure” would have a far different meaning (“Time for your oral dissertation…”). The vampires would then counterbalance the Bible thumping “conservatives” who say they want to preserve Southern values, but are actually destroying it with their hatred and greed.

But, no, “True Blood” comes across like Ball had read all of Ann Rice’s “Lestat” novels and decided to focus on the naughty bits. If the series gets any better, please let me know, but I’m not willing to sit through more episodes to find out. “True Blood” is not the second coming of “Twin Peaks,” David Lynch’s seminal groundbreaking series that was far scarier and sexier. It’s more “Twilight” blended with “X-Men” and a heavy dash of “Southern Comfort.” There are better cocktails out there that deliver a far bigger buzz.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

7 Responses

  1. Great description there at the end. I only watch the show for one reason… to see how much more ridiculous it can get. Im a HUGE vampire fan and I hate all these new “hip” vampire books and movies that are surfacing.

    True Blood is like some kind of twisted circus. It sets place in a small town but in this small town we are supposed to believe there is a serial killer, a girl that can read minds, vampires, shape shifters and werewolves!?? I wonder what Charlaine Harris’s New York looks like??

  2. I like True Blood because I haven’t followed a soap in over ten years and there’s a lot of luscious flesh on that screen.

  3. Shows you how deep I am!

  4. PS: Loved your review.

  5. Too bad Anne Rice had to go get all Christian on us. A TV show would be perfect these days for her vampires, if they’d cast someone better than Tom Cruise as Lestat!

  6. Telling comment from a friend:

    Chris Samples at 3:57pm July 10
    THANK YOU! As a gay southerner, (and fan of Alan Ball via “American Beauty” and “Six Feet Under”) I too have been disappointed by “True Blood”. In season 2, the title sequence is still the most interesting part of the show.

  7. I actually like the show. The first episodes aren’t as great…they get better as the season goes on. Believe me though, you can’t really look at the show as much more than cheesy fun.

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