Monday, 23 April 2012

True Blood

Watching the fourth series of True Blood, I've been wondering about the influence of Twin Peaks, the David Lynch soap parody from the early 90s - that was also set in a small town where weirdness was progressively revealed. But the differences between them also show what's changed culturally in the two decades since then. The True Blood premise - that vampires have gone mainstream because the availability of the eponymous blood substitute means they needn't kill humans - looks at first like a straightforward metaphor for the mainstreaming of gayness, especially given the conspicuous presence of gay characters, combined, stylistically, with a reliance on camp parody and irony. What's more interesting is the way that such a wide range of other kinds of deviance is gradually developed so that a very high percentage of the population of the Louisiana town turn out to be shape-shifters, werewolves etc etc. The protagonist, Sookie Stackhouse, who gives her name to the books which the series is based on, looks like an author proxy because her telepathic abilities are also what novelists can do - she can read the thoughts of the other characters (well, except for vampires) but this also means she's endowed with unexpected power for a young waitress, and she's wish-fulfullingly the focus of great sexual interest for the most glamorous men in the series. But the series is crucially generous in its endowment of power; that's similar, maybe, to the banal Xmen moral - give freaks a chance - but goes beyond that because the proliferation of deviant and ambiguous powers (are they a blessing or a curse?) suggests a much more widespread tolerance - way beyond a straight/gay binary, and hinting at a celebration of human variousness in all its forms. And, like all those HBO series, it's brilliantly scripted, acted and filmed. Marvellous.