Friday Hoyden: Sookie Stackhouse

It’s a while since we’ve done a fictional hoyden, and I’m enjoying the series Trueblood, in which Sookie is the primary character, so far (Episode 4 of Season 1, based on the Southern Vampire series of novels by Charlaine Harris). Firstly, here is an author-approved fanlisting‘s title artwork, which sums up the basics about Sookie:

Sookie Stackhouse fan logo

Aiming for a spoiler free discussion here (whatever you do, if you want to remain unspoiled, do not read the Wikipedia articles on this character), so I’ll only mention a few things that are obvious within the first half hour of the first episode. Vampires are out in the open after centuries hidden in the shadows, because of the invention of a synthetic blood on which they can survive without victimising living people. Society (both the living and the undead) is still reeling from this and adjusting rather unevenly.

Yep, telepaths and vampires. And more besides. I like the way they deal with telepathy, that perceiving the thoughts of others is a terribly intrusive burden and that all Sookie wants to do most of the time is just block it all out, and allowing herself the intimacy of a boyfriend is out of the question. Until…(no spoilers!)

I’m finding Sookie immensely appealing so far, and her best friend Tara kicks arse. Two smart women without the benefit of a formal education who refuse to be pushed around. I really hope neither of them become wet and drippy as the series progresses.

Another side of the series is that there is a lot of sexay sashaying around the Louisiana bayou. Sookie and Tara both make their compromises with sexual objectification in order to be employed obviously resented without being horridly bitter about it, and issues of racism and class are explored as well. These layers of characterisation of Sookie and the supporting characters (including dead or alcoholic parents, drug addiction, prostitution, the alluring perils of vampire sex, rampant promiscuity in general and dire Southern poverty) are obviously what appealed to producer/adapter/director Alan Ball:

Ball was looking to produce “lighter” fare after the life-and-death introspection of critically acclaimed “Six Feet Under.”

“Charlaine has just created this amazing world that’s funny and vibrant and scary and also a sort of social treatise, you know what I mean?” Ball says.

“The books are violent and that’s part of the appeal,” he says. “It’s visceral and predatory and unapologetically sexual. And it’s unapologetically romantic in the sense of an old-fashioned romance novel.”

The centuries-old vampire metaphor is “also about the terrors of intimacy, and about any kind of misunderstood, hated, feared minority — homosexuals, other cultures,” Ball says. “When I first pitched ‘True Blood’ to HBO, I called it ‘popcorn TV for smart people.’ “

It is more than a little popcorny. But I really hope I continue to enjoy it as much as I have so far.



Categories: arts & entertainment, violence

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20 replies

  1. I’ve watched all of season 1, and I can confirm that neither become drippy as it goes along.
    I am a huge, huge fan of the series, popcorn and all. The scene in which we meet Tara is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time.

  2. Hm, verb agreement fail. That should probably be ‘becomes’. Chalk it up to my blog comment phobia.

  3. Don’t worry Alice, even the most scrupulous grammar pedant makes the occasional slip up. For unscrupulous* people like me, commenting is like walking across a highly polished floor covered in banana peels with buttered feet.
    Grammar snark is the lowest form of snark.
    Content matters, your content rocks.
    *snark bait

  4. Banana peel with buttered feet too. Golly.

  5. su, your comment made my day!

  6. I’m nearly at the end of this series, and agree with the popcorn for smart people characterisation. Lots of rockin’ women characters, both the female and male characters cross spectrums of gender presentation without resorting (much) to lazy stereotyping, and there’s some keen screen exploration of issues of prejudice and exclusion to boot. I’m looking forward to the final 3 eps (our weekend treat!).
    Nice to see that Season 2 is coming in May (US release). Anyone read the books? I am planning to and was hoping it won’t be disappointing….

  7. I love Tara, and (if this is non spoilery?), she doesn’t fall into the stereotype trap that looms a little in the first episode. The series also looks at homophobia, along with race/class/sex work/etc.
    The credits are worth a look. I was going to put them up in a separate fluff post on favourite TV credits, but I think they belong here too. NSFW.
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/vxINMuOgAu8?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent

  8. One of the few places where television actually beats the original text in terms of female characters. (The books are fun, but I could live without the typical tropes, and Sookie’s issues around gender roles are discomfiting.)

  9. I first heard of this show right around the time the dreadful Twilight deal was painfully in my face, and was worried that it was more of the same dribble. If I can find a way to watch it here I think I am going to have to check it out.
    OuyangDan’s last blog post..Vampire myth debunked!

  10. Seeing this complimented here makes me more eager to try it when I get the chance. (Though I’m not generally fond of “modern with open supernatural” settings, I could overlook that if the rest was awesome enough).

  11. I’ve only seen one episode… didn’t like it very much. Then again I like the stereotypical elegant Vampire and while having ‘red neck vampires’ is something new it’s not something that appeals to me.
    Plus the episode I saw had a rather bad practical joke in it… I really hate even normal practical jokes so… yeah

  12. SunlessNick, Torri: It’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes.
    I could have done without some of the sex scenes (or at least truncated them), but I can see, as time goes on, how they fit into the whole of the story. There’s absolutely nothing elegant about it; it’s grimy and gritty and messy and deeply unpretty. And when I say that, I don’t mean artfully-smeared Hollywood grime on a pretty background, I mean presented with a real eye for detail – down to things like lots of visible sweat on days when sweat would be visible, bra straps showing (and not in a self-consciously sexy way) when women are wearing spaghetti strap tops, that sort of thing. You can almost smell the body odour, feel the pain and anger and blood.
    I find this all refreshingly different.

  13. That’s one thing I’ll say for the books–it is a massively refreshingly different kind of vampire fiction. It almost has renewed my faith in the genre.

  14. I could throw in a recommendation for Kelley Armstrong here.

  15. Yay! A Hoyden post about Sookie! *bounce*
    I devoured the show, loved it, and then recently borrowed the books to devour as well. I have just come up for air after reading them almost nonstop for two weeks. I have to say that I thought Sookie was more badass in the books. The show makes her come off more stereotypically damsel-y in certain respects. Some examples: A0 The run through the cemetary in a white lacy nightgown. Oh, the cheese! In the book, there is a more natural progression to the inevitable scene. B) The final showdown in the final episode of the season (trying not to spoil here) has more men try and come to her rescue. In the book, she kicks ass all by herself and the men show up afterwards.
    And all that grime, grit and sweat you speak of, Lauredhel is purely Alan Ball. It’s how he does things. Not that the books weren’t grimy and gritty when they needed to be.
    Personally, I would have chosen Tara as the Hoyden over Sookie. Tara as she appears in the show doesn’t exist at all in the books and she is the biggest improvement Alan Ball made when creating the show. She simply kicks ass. Her mouth is priceless. She’s made of win.

  16. [Tara] simply kicks ass. Her mouth is priceless. She’s made of win.

    Quoted for truth!
    Five seconds of Tara as we first see her (part of this larger scene):
    http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=3513085&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1
    More from episode one:
    https://www.youtube.com/embed/ArOIjn4TZWc?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent
    She gets less stereotypical and far more complex as the series goes on. But I love that she is doing the public-reading thing in these two clips. You don’t see that often on TV.

  17. There’s a lot to like in Sookie. It’s true that she’s a bit less damselly in the books, I think, but she still differs to a lot of TV heroines in that, for example, she doesn’t latch onto one man and take whatever he gives her. There’s some nice movement around that. And she’s not always in a good mood, even if she’s mostly reasonable. She’ll argue back, she’ll be moody, unhappy, angry, even. We like women who are *just like real human beings*. ;-P
    But Tara… she’s utterly breathtaking. All the way from her sassy mouth (and I have to say, Lafayette rocks to absolute awesomeness too) to the spiky edges of her fragility to her loyalty to her open, knowing sexuality. And she’s funny as hell too.
    And really, there’s got to be something about a series that depicts a man going down on a woman as its first (overt) sex scene (and intriguingly moves swiftly into some pretty edgy and potentially problematic breath play), and as the introduction to any recurring characters. I like that the grime and grit crosses over into the sex scenes, so very little is ever perfect. I also think that it does something interesting to contemporary depictions of sex on TV, in that it doesn’t turn the two people having the sex into simply representatives of class ‘Woman’ and class ‘Man’ engaging in the always-the-same activity known as ‘Teh Secks’. Instead, each encounter, in its entirety, is shaped by the characters and their unique style of interaction. I can’t specify, coz it would be spoilery, but to me it looks like a shift in representations of sex which do better justice to the (for want of a better phrase) multidimensional characters they’re working with, and to the variety of sexual acts people, y’know, actually engage in. [shrugs] It may not be the significant thing I’m making it out to be here, but I think something different is going on…

  18. Lauredhel: I particularly love it when Tara rips Sam off for the waitress uniforms. I swooned with a fangirl crush then. 🙂
    WildlyParenthetical: Yes, I see where you’re going there and I agree.
    Everyone *has* seen Six Feet Under, right? Right? You *do* realize it has more win than True Blood even? Alan Ball is a genius!

  19. I just watched the first 2 episodes (and plan on getting more) as a direct result of this post. And it was awesome!

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