A few years back I wrote about my obsession with a few TV programs that were particularly known for their relentless portrayal of brutally gruesome violence. I reflected on the idea that these shows’ (FX’s UFC, Showtime’s Dexter, and HBO’s True Blood) over-the-top violence may be a reflection of a larger issue for me personally. In truth, I wasn’t sincerely worried for myself, but was rather using my own contemplations as a consideration of society’s seeming infatuation with death and violence. However, three years later, I am now sincerely concerned with my apparent addiction to the latter of these three shows, True Blood, and not because it has become more violent, but simply because it is so absolutely horrible, and I apparently can’t stop watching it.
I honestly can’t tell you what season the show is in, but at the end of the last two, at least, I have vowed to stop watching. I had grown sick of the predictable plot twists, the ridiculous dialogue, the pathetic acting, the voyeuristic violence, and yes, even the possibility of seeing Sookie naked lost its appeal. For the first few seasons, though, when the summer came and the advertisements appeared, the promos started, and the media clamor for all things True Blood began, I was right in the middle of the commotion for the prospect of vampires, werewolves, fairies, shifters, Maenads, and any other mythical creature having sex, killing each other, and otherwise terrorizing a small Louisiana town. Yet even as my intrigue waned each consecutive season, and I vowed by the inevitably disappointing season finale to stop watching the show altogether, I still continued to tune in. And once again, I have made the mistake of succumbing to the media hoopla and peer pressure and have indulged in the poison that is True Blood by watching its season premiere last week, and as to be expected, I hate myself for it.
I’m not sure when I started hating the show. The first season functioned well as a new-aged gothic tale, using the anti-Vampire sentiments and discrimination as a creative metaphor for racial discrimination that plagued the south for decades and in many cases, still does today. Season Two carried this theme of prejudice into a much more relevant realm of intolerance by addressing the homophobia that pervades America, especially the Bible-thumping South. However, beyond these imaginative components, the show lost its constructive edge around Season Three, and instead started satisfying viewers’ baser desires of excessive sex and violence. For me though, it was less to do with the trivial and tasteless use of nudity and blood and more to do with the extremely flat characters, devoid of any real dynamic personality, not the least of which is the main character, Sookie Stackhouse.
A good show lives and breaths by its main character- Breaking Bad’s Walter White; The Sopranos’ Anthony Soprano; Mad Men’s Don Draper; Justified’s Raylan Givens; The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty- the list can on and on, but without an engaging, relatable, yet singularly unique main character, a TV show, like a good book, cannot flourish or grow. Sookie Stakhouse is as flat as they come. Even a seasoned actress like Anna Paquin, the youngest Oscar winner ever, can’t bring life to this empty vessel. Over the course of the show’s existence, Sookie Stackhouse has ceased to change, adjust, or develop in any significant way. Much like the viewers of True Blood, Sookie is trapped in a pattern of mindless decision making that often only serves her most immediate, simplistic desires.
However, for all of Sookie’s shortcomings as a character, I can’t entirely blame her for all of my loathsome feelings toward True Blood. My own personal expectations for the show are way too high, which is the result of HBO itself. For years now, HBO has prided itself on being something more than TV, producing shows that eclipse the heights of all other programming. With the exception of AMC, no other network has come close to matching the quality of storytelling that HBO has maintained for the past ten years. HBO, though, like regular TV networks, is addicted to high ratings and has dropped shows, both good and bad, when their ratings didn’t justify their costs. And regardless of my personal distaste for the show, True Blood has been HBO’s highest rated show since The Sopranos.
So where does that leave me? Should I simply conform to the rambling horde of diehard fans and indulge in a bit of drivel once a week, or should I stick to my guns, commit to my convictions and boycott the show for the remainder of the season and its existence? The first few seasons of True Blood developed the motif of addiction, specifically to Vampire blood, or “V”, as it is called on the show. Much like its other, more intelligent themes, this motif dwindled and took a back seat to the show’s lesser virtues. In hindsight, the irony is not lost on me that as certain characters became addicted to “V”, I too was becoming addicted to the show, but the difference is the characters realized the dangers of their addiction and overcame it before it was too late. Unfortunately for me, with On Demand and HBOGO, too much time on my hands, and a strong desire to finally see Sookie killed, I think there’s no turning back.