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My New Fannish Obsession - True Blood - Mo's Journal
December 1st, 2008
07:14 pm

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My New Fannish Obsession - True Blood
So I have absolutely no interest in the current tween vampire sensation, Twilight. I tried reading the first book and gave up after a few pages. I've read bits of the third book to Zara (she's mostly reading it to herself but occasionally likes to be read to just before sleep) and have to work hard at not laughing at how cheesy it is. However, I am quite interested in vampires.

There's a strong sexual undertone in vampire legends. And also, of course, a sense of Otherness about vampires. Both of these themes have queer resonance. In addition, I should point out (thanks to JHH who pointed it out to me) that the vampire legend is connected to the anti-Semitic blood libel.

Hmm, so evil creatures who can be construed as queer folk or Jews? Why do I like them? Well, it's all what you do with the story, and I often find the stories really compelling and mysterious, from Stoker on. I thought Anne Rice's vampires were too whiny and, as I said, I couldn't get into the Twilight ones. But I'm just loving the latest Vampire TV.

A bunch of people, notably talktooloose, suggested I try watching True Blood, HBO's series about vampires in Louisiana. I started watching it over the weekend and ended up seeing 7 episodes. I am totally hooked. The series is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris, which I'm now eager to read. It takes place in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana and centers around the relationship between Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress in a bar/grill type place and Bill Compton, a former Bon Temps resident who became a vampire right after the Civil War and has now returned to his former home in an attempt to "mainstream" - to live among humans.


The central premise of True Blood is that two years before the story starts, Japanese scientists were able to create synthetic human blood that is enough like the real thing to satisfy the nutritional requirements of vampires. Without the need to feed on human flesh, some vampires have decided to "come out of the coffin" and reveal their true natures. There's an attempt to pass a Vampire Rights Amendment and also attendant backlash. Even stores and bars that sell the synthetic blood (called "True Blood") have staff and owners who are none too comfortable with vampire clients, causing some of the tension and conflict in the story. There's also considerable tension between vampires like Bill, who want to mainstream, and those who want to continue drinking human blood and living in vampire nests. Action takes place primarily in Bon Temps, but also at a vampire bar in Shreveport called "Fangtasia." Although the main story is about Bill and Sookie, there are many characters and a variety of subplots.



The script plays with the parallels between vampires and queer folk in a few ways. There are puns (like the come out of the coffin thing) and the struggle for equal rights for vampires is very much paralleled with the real world struggle for gay and lesbian rights. The main organized opposition to vampire rights comes from fundamentalist Christian organizations. A representative for the vampire rights group is shown on tv and has that determinedly mainstream appearance and manner of speaking that representatives of HRC have. Someone says to Bill at one point "Why should you have special rights?" and he says "I just want the same rights you have." The non-mainstream vampires refer to normal humans disdainfully as "breathers." A church has a sign up "God hates Fangs."

But queer subtext is not the only queer content in the show. There's a very gay and very queeny man who is one of the main characters, the raffish Lafayette. Lafayette works with Sookie at the bar and is a prostitute and drug dealer on the side and very out and proud and takes no shit from anyone. In addition to Lafayette's presence as Out Gay Man, there are some closeted cameos, including a Nice Young Man who dates Sookie and whom she likes until she hears him thinking that he'd love to marry her and then he's sure he'd stop thinking about Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhaal.

There's also heterosexual sex, and lots of it. These vampires don't just have blood lust, they have regular human lust, too. And sex with a vampire (often accompanied by getting blood sucked during the act) becomes a favored activity among some humans, known as "fangbangers." Vampire/human sex is featured in pretty explicit (and very hot) scenes, as is human/human sex.

The fangbangers seem, to me anyway, to be representative of BDSM subculture. There's a strong kink element to the sex, and a feeling that if you don't have careful boundaries and limits, the practices could be very dangerous.


I don't know any of the actors except for Anna Paquin, who plays Sookie, but I think they are all superb. The characters and relationships are complex, the humorous bits are truly funny, I find myself completely immersed in a world where vampires (and telepaths, for that matter) are real. The plot occasionally falls off the edge into soap opera, but for the most part it is compelling and really makes you want to know what happens next.

So, I'd love to know if there's any fanfic or fannish discussion out there. Anyone know?

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Comments
 
[User Picture]
From:davidfcooper
Date:December 2nd, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
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Shoshana and I enjoy True Blood too, and look forward to its return in the summer. No doubt fan fiction will emerge, but I haven't seen any yet.
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From:ringthebells
Date:December 2nd, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
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Oh, so that's who Sookie Stackhouse is!

Well, in terms of fic, I am happy to pass on this short gem that was rec'd earlier today on my flist: Vampires and the Women who Love Them: What would happen if Buffy Summers, Bella Swan and Sookie Stackhouse sat down for a little chat with an inquisitive talk show host?
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:36 pm (UTC)
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That was very funny! Thanks.
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From:undomielregina
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:14 am (UTC)
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I don't know about the fandom, but I do have the first four books of the series, if you want them -- I enjoyed them, but I don't think I'll be wanting to re-read them, so I'd be happy to pass them on.
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I'd love them! I think it's probably a long wait at the library. I can send them back when I'm done, or just send you something else in return.

Do you have my full name and address?
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From:undomielregina
Date:December 3rd, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
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I'm afraid I don't have your name/address, so you'll have to give me those. There's no need to send the books back or exchange anything, I truly don't think I want to re-read them, and I live in student housing -- making more space is doing me a favor ;)

Oh, and I'll second the comment lower down that the writing isn't great, but the characters are pretty good and I like Sookie's voice (the books are first person), so I felt like it balanced out.
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From:mofic
Date:December 3rd, 2008 06:25 pm (UTC)
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Thanks in advance! Here's my full name and address:

Dale Rosenberg
325 First Street Apt. A-8
Brooklyn, NY 11215

I'll try to come up with something to give you that doesn't take up space.
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From:tarchannon
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:34 am (UTC)
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I've been reading the Southern Vampire Mysteries fan for maybe two years, and I'm current on the books, and needless to say I'm a huge fan. I'm also a fan of the TV show, which follows a similar 'meta' plot, but diverges a lot when to comes to the secondary characters. Of course, TV is a very different medium, and being Sookie, Sookie, Sookie all the time would exhaust poor Anna, so we get so many *delicious* slices of heaven from Alan Ball as he adds plot for the rest of the crew. Tara, Sookie's best friend in the series, is a definate favorite of mine, and in the books, she's a cool, white, very peripheral character. As a sassy, broken, angry, *awesome* young black woman, she rocks my world. The TV show is even more of an adult series than the books, but whoo! Totally fun and a not-so-guilty pleasure, fans of the books will be satisfied, but not bored.

And an extra bonus Yahoo! for Ryan Kwanten almost naked in every episode. *drools*
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:39 pm (UTC)
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Interesting to hear some of the differences.

I really like ensemble stories/shows/movies. I think it wouldn't be as interesting if it was just about Sookie and Bill.

Which one is Ryan Kwanten? Jason?
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From:talktooloose
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC)
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I was surprised to find out how many of the main actors are not Americans. The actor playing Bill is British and Ryan Kwanten (Jason) is an Aussie who played a surfer on a popular soap there. He is a particularly fine comic actor!

The woman who plays Tara blows me away. She is in a very good Canadian movie called How She Move about a bright high school girl who has to leave the private school where she's enrolled and return to the inner city black neighbourhood she was trying to escape. She ends up joining in the dance competitions there and finding some balance in her identity. It's a very smart movie with amazing dancing. She's very good in the role, but you also don't realize just how funny she is. Tara is my favourite character on True Blood.
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 04:31 pm (UTC)
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And Anna Paquin is from NZ, right? I think the accents are excellent. I'm not sure who my favorite character is - maybe Sam, maybe Lafayette. I just saw one where Lafayette is getting V from this pathetic loser vampire guy in exchange for sex. The vampire is clearly in love with Lafayette and Lafayette is obviously using him, but he sort of wants him to be happy, too.
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From:talktooloose
Date:December 2nd, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
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Um, actually Anna P is your lantsman... she was born in Winnipeg and moved to NZ when she was 4.

Lafayette's gay V source is an excellent character for sure.
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 06:26 pm (UTC)
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Cool on the Winnipeg connection.
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From:tarchannon
Date:December 2nd, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Yup - Tara is my fave, too.
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From:davidfcooper
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:40 am (UTC)

found it

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Go to Just For Fan(g)s and click on "Fan Fiction" on the menu on the left.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:40 pm (UTC)

Re: found it

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Cool! I'll check it out, thanks.
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From:alilypea
Date:December 2nd, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
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I absolutely love love love that series. But I haven't been able to find any discussions etc for it, but since you have an interest and I know at least one other person does I'd be glad to create a group if you would join.
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
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Count me in!
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From:lilacsigil
Date:December 2nd, 2008 06:16 am (UTC)
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I adore the series - it reminds me more of Poppy Z Brite's vampires than anyone else's. Another vampire series with fine queer subtext, though not as awesome as True Blood, is the Canadian series Blood Ties. (The books by Tanya Huff have a lot of bisexuality, but it's all subtext in the show).
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From:undomielregina
Date:December 2nd, 2008 10:22 am (UTC)
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The Blood Ties books are love, although I may like the followup series even better. (Have you read those yet? They focus on Tony.) Tanya Huff is the best Fantasy writer I've found when it comes to talking about including sexualities other than het.
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 03:41 pm (UTC)
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I never even heard of Blood Ties. Have to check it out.
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From:talktooloose
Date:December 2nd, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
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I was idly wondering what way in I could find if I were moved to write a TB fic (which I'm not). I saw a great idea on the fanpage: Bill and Eric as former lovers. You have the closeness and tension, the hierarchy of Eric as sheriff which could be subverted by sexual roles. You could set it in many interesting eras. Vampires have that lovely appeal that Wolverine does: they've potentially lived long and varied lives.
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)
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Oh, I can definitely see Bill/Eric. And yes, the long and varied lives leave lots of room. You can do all sorts of period stuff in various places and times. Also, like Wolverine, you have the whole disconnected-from-society thing. Bill really craves human society, but not all of them do. It could be interesting to explore how Bill and Eric ended up in such different places.
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From:notmonica
Date:December 2nd, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
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True Blood OWNS ME!!

I got into it right at the beginning. I'm about half way through the first book and, unfortunately, it isn't great writing although I give the show kudos for sticking with the source material faithfully. Still, all of the humor and storyline is there so perhaps I would enjoy them more if there was more an element of surprise (and better technical skills).

We've been tearing up our hp-ohio forums discussing it and I'm sure there must be some good lj stuff for it I just haven't looked.

I adore Lafayette. I worked with someone who was EXACTLY like him when I was a restaurant manager. I mean exactly. It's a little freaky, actually.
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From:mofic
Date:December 2nd, 2008 11:28 pm (UTC)
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I'll give the books a shot, although taking your review under advisement. After all the HP books are not literary masterpieces, but a lot of us love them anyway, because we love the characters and the ideas and the humor. Meanwhile I'm loving the show.
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