I've been loving True Blood so far this season. It's doing what it does best, being a ridiculous show that I still find myself looking forward to as if it's awesome. I saw an interesting comment on this week's show that made me think about what seems to link back to the ongoing discussion of fandom about storytelling vs. being responsible. I'll put it under a cut for spoilers for the lastest ep, "If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin?" The comment involves the folks in Hot Shot and potentially offensive portrayals thereof...

In a review of the ep a reviewer loved the parts of the ep involving the vampires, (I agree--I'm loving King Bill and Jess and Erik is a revelation in this new form. The actor must be having so much fun.) But she also said, concerning Crystal and her family: "Once again it struck me what a terrible job that Alan Ball has done with this community. In the books, the people of Hot Shot were poor, but they were no where near the terrible classist characterization that Ball has drawn. We were meant to see these people as feral and subhuman last night, and this in turn was used to justify Crystal's rape of Jason. In every other instance of violence that I can remember in True Blood, power featured heavily into the narrative, but in the case of Jason and Crystal, it was about inbreeding, poverty and a lack of humanity. Alan Ball did survivors and the poor no favours with last night's script."

Reading this I thought...hmm, why didn't I watch those scenes and think it was a classist characterization that was poorly done? It's not because I don't see how it's obviously classist to link poor people with inbreeding and savagery. It's more that it never occurred to me that it was saying anything about poor people any more than their turning into panthers did. To me it was about the familiar horror trope. The folks in Hot Shot are more related to the Leatherface family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Peacocks from Home on TXF than the characters in Winter's Bone. The trope isn't about poor people being icky but in stepping off the grid of civilization. (I believe that this type of trope is actually one of the earliest recognizable themes in American literature, in fact.)

This often gets linked to certain classes of people, though again I don't think the point is usually that their lack of money makes them savage. The werepanthers on TB tell their own creation story in the ep, and true to form it's a story about being associated with "the old ways" and rejecting modern society possibly in response to being left behind by it. City builders are developing the land in Deliverance, slaughter houses stopped using sledgehammers in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In those movies the locals take out their anger on outsiders. Here the were panthers use Jason for their own survival when their fertility becomes a problem. Inbreeding, yes, is a real joke used against real people, but it's also a popular Gothic trope. The crumbling family in the crumbling house, turning in on itself.

And I realized when imagining a better version of the Hot Shot werepanthers that I like Alan Ball going for the horror trope just because, well, I like horror. The trappings of the horror genre are everywhere these days, especially in dark fantasy and supernatural romance. And while I always feel positively about supernatural monsters in any form, I much prefer the horror version to the dark fantasy or romance. I can't say I like the TV version of these guys better than the book since I've never read the books, but it doesn't seem like the books are horror and I like it when TB dips into actual horror. Jason's current predicament seems like the closest the show's ever come to it. 'Bout time we got some monsters that aren't sexier humans! And where feasting on human flesh isn't a new form of sex but just cannibalism. Yeah, I basically loved them sitting around the campfire chewing on human remains.

And I'm sure many would say that these horror tropes in themselves are offensive, but that's where it gets into that conflict about responsibility in stories. And of course when it comes to that conflict horror, except for some exceptions where the tale seems to have an overtly moral lesson, usually winds up being seen as irresponsible. (And the type of horror with very overt, comforting moral lessons are less common today.) So if you're a horror fan you've always got to lean towards story over avoiding offense.

That said, Alan Ball did apparently say something about the episode that's completely nuts, in that Jason is getting his "comeuppance" in this ep for benefitting from his looks and enjoying sex for so long. Um...what? Slut shaming doesn't make any more sense when it's a guy, AB. The only way it would even be a little logical to say Jason's getting "comeuppance" here would be if he were a rapist himself. Jason's an innocent victim here. Makes me want to sit him down and walk him through exactly why he thinks Jason has asked for this any more than, say, Tara did when both of them seemed guilty only of wanting a loving relationship (and not having Sookie's fairy luck in that area).

From: [identity profile] seven31.livejournal.com

Ball's comments are disgusting and even more so because they're public and thus further contributing to the rape culture, blaming the victim for the obvious rape and in Jason's case the implied gang rape to follow.

HBO did not give the show an RP rating. Because you know, men can't be raped.
ext_6866: (Moon magic)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com

I didn't know that about the rating. That's...incredibly screwed up. If people can actually say that *this* isn't rape...then clearly no man can be raped ever by a woman.

From: [identity profile] swan-bite.livejournal.com


the show is fun, the books are offensive. the end. :D

also? LALALALALALALA over what Allan Ball said. seriously. don't wanna hear it. anyway, the author is dead. so there xP
ext_6866: (And a magpie in a plum tree)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com

LOL! I will follow this warning! I honestly know very little about the actual books. The only thing I usually know is how they deviate from the show because people say that.

I'm also following your advice on Alan Ball...

From: [identity profile] swan-bite.livejournal.com

yeah, despite what you read below (and i agree with ginzai) for some odd reason --and perhaps this is why i warned you off the books while others might look at the books as a more benign form of all the -isms -- i give TV shows (it's not TV it's blah blah) a bit more leeway on "slut shaming," faily takes on PoC characters and harsh judgment on ALL women other than the protagonist than i do lit. and since the books are riddled with these issues like cheese is riddled with yummy bacteria (imo & YMMV yadda yadda yadda) then i say watch the show, avoid the novels.

but it's an interesting contrast, where the books fail and the show succeeds and then where the novels succeed and she show fails. some people might just be more permissive or differently selective of where they allow for the quota of fail. for me, books and films? fail-free. tv? bring on the fail, as long as it's sandwiched with awesome. but that's another convo altogether. ;D

From: [identity profile] ginzai.livejournal.com

Book spoilers included

What happened with Jason definitely felt like horror to me. On that level, I didn't mind it. They're making some huge breaks with the books this season, in a lot of ways trampling over major book plot points and characterizations.

Feel free to skip this, but this plot line in the books was very dissimilar to what happened in the show. Jason was kidnapped by Krystal's insane older brother, but it had nothing to do with inbreeding and the rest of the town was very much not in on it. Hot Shot in the books was down on it's luck and isolated, but the incest wasn't nearly so blatant and Jason certainly wasn't a leader figure for them. His kidnapping had nothing to do with his looks or for enjoying sex except possibly in how Krystal's brother didn't like him hanging around his sister. Even then, he was clearly and explicitly in the wrong. The author wasn't giving interviews saying that he'd deserved it. I actually feel dirty now for knowing what Alan Ball said. I wasn't aware of it before. Ugh.

Likewise, Claudette, Sookie's fairy godmother? She plays a major role in the books and is actually pretty powerful. She doesn't get killed by Eric. Claudette is Sookie's link to the fairy political drama. Killing her off feels like kicking that entire plotline into the dirt. (To be honest, though, I really disliked that plotline and don't really mind seeing it go. I'm just uncomfortable with how it happened.)

Actually, Claudette's removal bothers me on another level as well. In the books, Bill isn't King of anything. He's pretty much written out for several books after his betrayal of Sookie becomes apparent. (He also tries to rape her in the books while out of his mind from blood starvation - it's one of the major reasons why they break up.) Instead we have the Queen of Louisiana who remains a strong and powerful figure throughout the entire series. I haven't read the most recent novels, but last I knew, she was still alive and still canny, political, wary, powerful, and incredibly dangerous.

So that's two powerful women who have been killed off and their storylines either removed or given to other characters and in two episodes. And IIRC, it's been a while since I read the book, the witch who gave the extra boost of power to the amnesia spell against Eric was either originally Tara or Sookie's cousin, neither of whom seem to be playing a role along those lines in the TV show. I wouldn't give up Lafayette for anything, I love him and I love his storyline, but the erasure of female characters is an issue.

I don't like that, not at all. There's a lot of victimization in True Blood, but while no one really escapes it, we don't have many women in positions of actual power. Claudette and the Queen were two of them in the books and they acted as a good balance to the power held by Eric and other male figures.

To go back on topic, I can easily see why people read a classist into how Hot Shot was handled. They slotted into the "poor but noble and proud" archetype in the books and seeing them as amoral, cannibalistic, incestuous drug dealing murderers in the show is uncomfortable. I can see why you'd like it, especially if you didn't know the books, but knowing what they were and what they've been changed into makes it much more problematic for me, especially knowing how many other storylines have been similarly twisted in the show.
ext_6866: (Hadn't thought of that)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com

Re: Book spoilers included

I hadn't thought of that in terms of female characters but I can definitely see what you mean. Men get killed on the show too, but there definitely seem to be more males who retain their positions of power etc. It'll be interested to see if anyone comes out of this coven that's mostly female--though the one who cast the spell doesn't seem like she's going down a smart path right now...

From: [identity profile] lilacsigil.livejournal.com

Alan Ball said that? After clearly showing Jason as someone who takes a great deal of care to have only consensual sex (and considering how much thought Jason puts into just about everything else, that's pretty amazing)? Horrible.
ext_6866: (WTF?)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com

Exactly! I'm still kind of reeling that he'd say something so offbase. I was racking my brain to think of some time when Jason was even out of line sexually that way. But no, it seems like straight out slut shaming, or like because Jason has enjoyed the fruits of being a good-looking guy, this is comeuppance!

From: [identity profile] caesia390.livejournal.com

late late late reply

I only ever watched the first season of True Blood. I enjoyed it, but the end really annoyed me. Of course the killer couldn't be the obvious choice, but for it to be who it was and with those reasons / that method a) seemed incredibly far-fetched, b) killed off one of my favorite characters.

This just reminds me, again, of why I don't watch much/any television. It's inevitable that over the course of a TV series, particularly in order to add drama and increase ratings, a show is going to screw up. Badly. This is why I prefer mini-series. Long enough for character development and complex stories, but still with a pre-determined beginning, middle, and end.

However, this brings me to the main point of this comment, which is that now I want to read some commentary on Daria! That show has been in my head a lot recently. I haven't watched it in years, but it's maybe the one TV show I can't remember it ever really pissing me off. I got sick of it at times, but it always seemed to stay true to itself and its characters while giving them space to develop. It could just be nostalgia talking, but I hope that it really was that solid of a show.
ext_6866: (Two for joy of talking)

From: [identity profile] sistermagpie.livejournal.com

Re: late late late reply

Remy just showed up for a moment in the last ep iirc. Although now I can't completely remember what he did. He was a ghost, though.

I totally agree about mini series. It's probably a good thing that with cable etc. they're coming back. For a while there, like in the 80s, people seemed to consider something a miniseries when it was a 2-part movie, which isn't the same thing. There's something nice about watching a story that plays out over a long time but still has an end point and a development that's not intended to be open-ended so isn't always making decisions based on ways to keep it more open.


sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)

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