Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Biology of Bon Temps

Let's diverge a bit from all the music talk and spend a few moments thinking about television, particularly, that trashy vampire fuckathon soap opera called True Blood. (WARNING: don't read this if you haven't seen any episodes of the show but plan on starting it sometime, ok? Spoilery goodness herein.)

While True Blood started as a fun, trashy, but well-executed supernatural sex romp, it's spent the past three seasons slowly snowballing into a morass of let's-see-what-we-can-get-away-with-next nonsense, from Maryann the maenad feeding Tara and Eggs a human heart in Season 2 (which really was the only point of the entire episode, which led me to yell at the TV, "oh, come on! You're only doing that because it's HBO and you can") to Sookie and Eric hooking up this season for reasons completely unexplained, nonsensical, and contrary to everything we've learned about Sookie for the past three years. (I feel that i should mention that lots of Season 3 represented a delay in this decline into senseless poorly-written absurdity [as opposed to the well-written absurdity of Season 1] thanks to the awesome Russell Edgington and his dearly departed husband Talbot [one of my favorites in the entire series' run; his execution was almost enough to throw me off the bandwagon]). This season in particular has been full of stupid bullshit that no one cares about--does anyone seriously give a wererat's ass what's wrong with Arlene and Terry's baby? Am i the only one who thought Jason's "i'm gonna force Andy to make me a cop" storyline in Season 3 made no sense (and am i the only one tired of every effort to make Jason more interesting than a perpetually humping puppy)?

However, as poorly-executed as the latest developments with the amnesiac (and emasculated) Eric and Sookie have been, they do stem from the one topic being explored in this show that keeps me from completely pulling the plug on my investment in this exasperating soap: the evolving depiction of sex and love in Bon Temps as consciously directed by, and possibly nothing more than, biochemical response.

Supernatural biology as a device for examining the conflation of romantic love with physical sex has been a theme of the show from the start, when Bill uses his blood to heal Sookie after she is attacked by vampires in the first episode of the series. The revelation that vampire blood causes humans to feel bonded to the vamp supplier is used in manipulating fashion by Eric later on when he tricks Sookie into drinking his blood in a plan to make her fall in love with him. And finally, the end of Season 3 goes all-in, establishing Sookie as part faerie and explaining that faerie blood causes all sorts of ooey-blooey sensations in vampires. (Sure, it's never really explained whether or not V users start to have sex dreams about the vamps that the blood came from, but whatever.) The discovery that her blood is vampire crack makes Sookie question whether Bill ever had any true feelings for her, or if he was merely a slave to his own primal, biochemical nature.

More and more it seems like several of the relationships in True Blood either begin or are finished by an inability to separate emotional love from physical obsession, the latest example developing between Hoyt, Jessica and Jason, thanks to Jessica's use of her blood to heal Jason's multiple werepanther-rape wounds (i'm going to confess right here that i'm glad i got the chance to write something like "werepanther rape wounds"). As Jason and Jessica try to make sense of their sudden obsession with each other, poor Hoyt can feel something's up, and the viewing public can't help but be frustrated by the three characters' lack of knowledge of vampire physiology and its affect on humans.

As a frustrated romantic at heart, a lot of this stuff is difficult for me to watch. I roll my eyes at the developing relationship between Sookie and Eric, borne out of mere biochemical impulse, but find myself rooting for Lafayette and Jesus, who, while mystic and wiccan, are both human and represent in the context of this show a relationship born and evolving from commonalities, shared experiences, and good old-fashioned, emotional love.

I'll confess: i felt stung by the show's reveal that Bill and Sookie were drawn together by blood and biology, leaving ambiguous the question as to whether they ever really developed an emotional bond separate from their physical reactions to each other. But i suppose love and sex are generally messy, aren't they?

As True Blood spins into what seems to be an unavoidable death spiral of truly atrocious writing and plot lines that no one cares about, its increasing insistence on mucking up the romance with all kinds of messy, scary bodily fluids and serotonin is the one thing it keeps getting right in a big way. While cynical on the surface, it's also uncomfortably realistic, for a show about vampires, shifters and weres.


  1. i haven't read the books yet, and probably won't until the series is over, because even though they only loosely follow, i don't want to have any inklings of all the fuck-ass crazy places this show keeps going.

    it's one of the most entertaining things i've ever seen, even if some of the storylines aren't as interesting. i love all the characters, even the ones i don't like, so i just enjoy this total reality escape of a show.

  2. I think the blood has to be drunk directly from the vampire for the sex dreams and for the vampire to know if the drinker is in danger, etc.