Fri
Jun 15 2012 11:30am

True Blood Fan Confession: I’m So Over Sookie

Hands down, the profanity-laced quote that best sums up my feelings about HBO’s steamy vampire series True Blood came out of the mouth of Pam the vampire in season four (completely NSFW clip here). In the middle of dealing with necromanc, witches, a missing Maker and a slew of touchy vampire political issues, Pam finally broke down and uttered the unavoidable truth that seems to be at the heart of a lot of fans reaction to True Blood: she’s so over Sookie Stackhouse, and frankly, so am I.

With season five of the show taking back the time slot that it shares with Game of Thrones, Truebies are presented with the further adventures of the Bon Temp vampires, with a healthy helping of werewolf and shapeshifter struggles, and my favorite ongoing question: will Lafayette and Tara ever catch a break? But nowhere in these plot lines is there anything exciting for the character around whom the series is based. It doesn’t matter how hard Anna Paquin tries, good actress though she is: the truth is that the character of Sookie has been relegated to plot device-and-wish fulfillment status, and the longer it goes on, the more glaringly empty Sookie becomes.

(Minor spoilers for the season five premiere!)

The problems began when the creators of True Blood decided on their format for the show. The Sookie Stackhouse novels work with the half-faery protagonist because they are told from the first-person, in which Sookie’s vapid, brainless smiles and behavior are explained away as a tactic for dealing with the alienation she feels by being able to read other people’s minds. Despite taking the time in the show to explain that fact, when creators brought the storyline away from Sookie’s viewpoint and began to explore multiple character story lines, they took us away from the insights into Sookie’s personality that the first person allowed. What is left is a hollowed out plot-driver, a woman whose earnest attempts at goodness and kindness seem unrealistic and contrived when compared to the fleshed-out actions of her co-stars’ characters.

What boggles my mind is how the show’s creators managed to take smaller characters like Tara and Lafayette and give them lives so far outside of the scope of the books while neglecting their lead actress. Lafayette is a nobody in the series, a throwaway murder victim who has exploded into amazing, scene-stopping glory on television. Tara is completely changed from the books, from a dress shop girl to a volatile powerhouse whose family dynamics and personal problems has made her so much more than the sum of her literary counterpart. So how is it that Sookie has become such an empty shirt while other characters have blossomed? I’ve christened this the Blank Slate problem.

True Blood was meant to be your guilty pleasure. It’s supernatural sexiness done up in a classy package —because it’s on HBO—but it makes no bones about the fact that it’s there to do bad things to you. For people to feel the freedom to step into the shoes of the protagonist and experience all the fantasy hotness—like frolicking in the woods with Vampire Bill and Eric Northman in all his always-naked glory—there can’t be much character to Sookie. She has to be a blank slate, a good girl who is wanted and desired but who is vulnerable enough to be empathized with by the audience. She has to be beautiful but not too pretty, awkward enough to be recognizable as human, and full of super magical powers that make her special. She is the empty shoes that Bella Swan was made in Twilight, the place where the viewer can slip into her role in their minds without being too distracted by issues of characterization or depth. Sookie is a Mary Sue, there to drive along the plot with her very presence without being at all offensive, and the audience is along for the ride.

The trouble with Blank Slate characters like that is they quickly become irritating alongside fully fleshed out characters. When you can no longer justify caring about what happens to the protagonist because their actions are arbitrarily based on where the plot needs to go, or when they waffle on the most basic of decisions so as to drag out a hackneyed plot device, the character becomes tiring.

Personally, I don’t care any longer over who Sookie will end up with romantically. She spends so much time worrying about it she is barely ever seen doing anything else—when does the woman go to work, anyway? Season four’s decision not to choose either vampire was an obvious attempt to include the werewolf Alcide as a possible lover just for the sake of making things spicier, but comes off for Sookie as emotionally nonsensical and pointless. Will she choose Bill? Or Eric? What about Alcide? Tune in next season while she weeps copiously over her indecision while I continue to absolutely not care.

I laughed aloud when even Sookie’s vampire lovers in the premiere of season five echoed what is effectively my feeling on the subject. Eric declares “F*** Sookie!” when Bill wants to rush to her rescue, and that’s my feeling exactly. Their plot has moved on to bigger and better things than the two biggest vampires in Louisiana being cabana boys to a Bon Temp waitress. It’s why Eric is the one on most of the ad posters these days and not Sookie—the creators know what characters are carrying the show. We come to see Alexander Skarsgård and Ryan Kwanten, Deborah Ann Woll as the show-stopping Jessica and Joe Manganiello as Alcide. And of course, Kristin Bauer van Straten as the most fabulous vampire ever, Pam. Because I would rather watch True Blood for more of this...

 

...than more of this:

The realization of how useless and incidental Sookie has become came in the season premiere when I realized that her entire storyline could have been completed that episode by Lafayette. Sookie’s presence was completely unnecessary in almost every scene she was in, and that’s the taste left in my mouth going forward. True Blood never really was about Sookie Stackhouse, not in its incarnation on HBO, and while we might have to put up with her for the sake of plot, we certainly don’t need her. Instead, I’d watch the Eric Northman Hour all day long. Or better yet, if we need a blond lady, let’s have a show about Pam.


Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com

19 comments
Robert H. Bedford
1. RobB
My wife and I enjoyed the first couple of seasons, but Tara got annoying quick, Maryan's storyline dragged season two. Season Five has a very short leash for us. The whole fairie world in the first couple of episodes last year seems to have been all but forgotten and that seemed interesting.
Mordicai Knode
2. mordicai
I only care about Jessica & Russel. The rest of the show has gone from melodrama to cartoon to...well, boring.
john mullen
3. johntheirishmongol
I have to disagree with you, Rob. I enjoyed the Maryan story line, but I am a huge fan of Michelle Forbes..she just has presence. I do have to agree that the series and books seem totally apart.

I do have some issues with the series, mostly that it seems to be gratuitously bloody, that the characters seem to change in an instant (Bill as King? using mercenaries?) and that the sex is badly shot. I am just now watching season 4 on netflix so I know I am behind.
Gardner Dozois
4. Gardner Dozois
Actually, rather than not changing, I found Sookie's admission in the season opener that she'd killed Debbie because she WANTED to, even though she didn't have to and it might have been more convient not to, along with the casualness with which she now deals with disposing of bodies (as compared to Lafayette's squeamishness), as an indication that the character is toughening up, which is a good thing. She ought to be tough, practical, and fairly ruthless by now, after all she's been through.

The show doesn't need less Sookie, it needs MORE Sookie--but she ought to be more vivid in order to reclaim the center of the show again, which is really what she should be if the series is going to work.
Robert H. Bedford
5. RobB
@johntheirishmongol - The Maryann story would have been great if it wasn't so long. The payoff with Sam may have been a highlhight of that season, but all the middle stuff - endless orgies and whatnot - just got boring, tiresome, and irksom. Agree that Bill as King was a big leap over the character development canyon

@Gardner Dozois - "The show doesn't need less Sookie, it needs MORE Sookie" That's a fair point because for alot of the last couple seasons she seemed a character who existed as dressing rather than one with real agenda and motivation.
Jim
6. JimmyMac80
I don't think that Lafayette would have been able to convince Pam to turn Tara. Other than that I agree with everything you say, though I find the other characters, Lafayette in particular, to more than make up for it.
Philippe D. Andrecheck
7. pda
@ 4. Gardner Dozois
I agree that Sookie has changed as seen in her admission that she wanted to kill Debbie: this could be the springboard she needs to explore her powers more completely. I don’t understand why the fairy powers weren’t explored and explained in more detail but perhaps season five will include more exploration of the fairy aspect.

As for who makes the show for me it’s definitely Jessica!
I’m so happy that she’s not with Hoyt anymore: if there’s one character that annoys me it’s Hoyt! I am looking forward to the interplay between her and Jason.
Michael M Jones
8. MichaelMJones
I had to give up on the book series when Sookie started suffering from Anita Blake Syndrome, about 5 or 6 books in. When you have no less than six different men, each of a different supernatural species, lusting after you, you may also be suffering from ABS.

It was hard for me to get into the show based on my annoyance with the books.
Ashe Armstrong
9. AsheSaoirse
This article. Yes. Pam's comment. Yes. Eric's comment. Yes. I love it.

@mordicai: "I only care about Jessica & Russel. The rest of the show has gone from melodrama to cartoon to...well, boring."

Okay, you were already up there as one of my favorite folks around here cause of the Korra discussions but you are officially my favorite person now and I want to be your new best friend, dude. Cause, bam, I'm there with you. Jessica and Russel are the best things about the show.
Mordicai Knode
10. mordicai
9. AsheSaoirse

The great thing about liking Jessica & Russel is that I don't even need to watch the show; all the good moments will be made into gif sets.
Michael Grosberg
11. Michael_GR
I couldn't even watch the entire first episode of this series. I'm not only over Sookie, I'm completely over True Blood in General. To many characters, too many plot lines, no focus whatsoever. It's all just porn and occasional flying vampire offal. And even the porn isn't that good.
Gardner Dozois
12. sjwood
I don't know how this show is still going. The first season was good - took me awhile to get into it, but by the end I was really looking forward to season 2. And season 2 was fantastic. It had two great threads running through it that were separate but perfectly balanced and the ending was just wierd and creepy and it hinted at a vast untapped world of magic just waiting to be explored. Then the third season happened and it was about what ..? There were werewolves but it wasn't about that - there was a few kings and queens ... but it wasn't about that either ... there were some hicks who in the end turned out to be were-cats. I mean, come on - couldn't you possibly think of a more boring superpower - but it wasn't really about that. Also not about shape shifters. And then it ended and I didn't think it could possibly get any worse. Of course I was wrong, because then came season 4 with the cheap 80's porn take on fairies. And I think it was the fourth season too, that they decide to neuter the most bad ass character and have him mope around like a love sick puppy.
That show sucks so hard now that I can't ever imagine battling through season five.
Ashe Armstrong
13. AsheSaoirse
@mordicai: Preachin to the choir. Sadly, I skipped a LOT of season 4 for those reasons. So everything Jess & Russel was just delicious. Jess, without a doubt, is one of the few characters to actually receive a real character arc. And Russel...well, Russel is everything you could want from a thousand years old vampire on a corny, boobs & blood soaked show about vampres. Chew that scenery, sir! Chew it up real good! Leave no set piece unfanged!
Ximena L.
14. ximena
THANK YOU. I had thought she was bland since episode one, but I decided to give her a shot. Not a good idea, lemme tell ya.
Gardner Dozois
15. JoyB
I say yes for the Eric Northman Hour, and oh how I would love to see Alex and Kristin together in a show of their own. They have so much chemistry together.
Gardner Dozois
16. iamfantastikate
I enjoy watching True Blood, but mainly because I love its campy clusterfuckness. I think if you began watching it, thinking you were going to get some sort of complex story with fleshed out characters, as seen in something such as Game of Thrones, you completely missed all the GIANT RED FLAGS that have been raised since the first episode. The whole show is filled with cliches, awkward dialogue (SOOOKEH!), surprisingly low-budget effects, etc.

If you think too hard about it, it's not enjoyable. If you have fun with the creators (as it's very obvious they make fun of the genre(s) a bit), it's enjoyable. It doesn't really matter who Sookie ends up with, or how she gets there; all you can be sure of is that it's going to be an amusingly random ride. If you can know and accept that, it's fun.

Seeing Skarsgard naked never hurts, either.
Gardner Dozois
17. ahiggins2400
I say we need more jessica. I don't know about you but when she was naked, or in the corset it was great part of the show. I like Sookie I say we need NO more lafeyette. Come on a gay guy just takes away from the whole show, NO more gay guy, no more gay guy
Gardner Dozois
18. idleprimate
I found sookie's bizarre love triangle and constant flibberty-gibberty man crazies tedious, almost as tedious as the fantasy notion that all these older, mystical creatures cn't help throwing them at herself. Aside from being boring, tedious and embarassing, the narcissistic love goddess fantasy that seems to be requisite for any genre fiction aiming at the female demographic ( i don't know what's worse, that publishers condescend so sexistly, or that women lap it up gluttonously) is creepy and seems an unhealthy kind of obsession.

and its not entertaining.

I do miss the first couple of seasons when the characters seemed more like characters and less like cartoons, and the plots had a bit of gravity and weren't just a buffet of sensationalism, sex and gore randomly shuffled. what began as a kind of neat show with a fair bit of rich territory to explore has devolved into pubescent cartoons.
Gardner Dozois
19. SueQ
I've only seen True Blood in bits that fans put on YouTube. The guys are cute, especially Sam. I'm a book person; however, and I've read all of them so far. I'll keep reading them until Sam bites the silver bullet, and then I'll be gone. I love Sam (though he does have odd taste in women. (Hey! There's hope for me yet.) I love the fact that of all the big, bad-ass, dangerous critters that Sam could shape-shift into, he picks a collie. My kind of guy.

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