Tuesday, September 15, 2009

True Blood = True Green

This summer, like everyone else with HBO and half-a-brain, I was totally obsessed with True Blood. And yes, I was obsessed for many of the reasons everyone else was:

Eric and Sam and Bill and Jason are hot.

Sookie is adorable.

Maryann is scary.

The scripts contain humor, gore, sex, and theological questions. The Southern gothic setting is lushly gorgeous. And Alan Ball has created the greenest show on TV.

What? you might ask. Green? As in, environmentally-friendly?


Before you dismiss me, I ask you to think about this: we live in a culture that is saturated with media but which discourages deep reading of that media. Yes, it's okay to think deeply about books (as long as they aren't sold in grocery stores), but try to discuss the subtexts of a TV show (never mind a TV show which involves bare boobies in almost every episode) and you're seen as some prancing dilettante who has nothing better to do than pretend that pop culture has deep meaning.

Pop culture has deep meaning.

(Just read the columns of Grandpa Pop Culture, Stephen King, in Entertainment Weekly, if you want to further explore the concept of deep pop culture.)

In school, we never learn to critically read TV, pop music, or video games. In fact, most teachers I know deny the significance of pop culture however they can. And when we don't read pop culture, we miss out on the fundamental mythologies which are shaping our modern ethos.

So back to True Blood, and why it's greener than that show with Ed Begley Jr. putting windmills on his roof.

One of the themes of True Blood this season was nature -- and how we bring destruction upon ourselves when we deny nature. That includes denying it in the common sense, as in cutting ourselves off from the natural world around us:

Sam: Cities bring out the worst in people. They lose touch with nature ... where they come from.
Daphne: People do that here too.
Sam: Not in the same way.
(Except they totally do, because Daphne wanted Sam to understand that he had cut himself off from his own nature ... ah ... that was some pretty obvious metaphorical dialogue...)

As the above dialogue indicates, cutting ourselves off from nature also includes cutting ourselves off from our deeper natures, our true selves (which are, ultimately, connected to the first type of nature). When we destroy nature, the subtext read, we actually invite trouble upon us. Throughout the season, people were running around, trying to deny who they were and failing, learning that they were ultimately connected to something deeper, and either using that knowledge to bloom, or refusing it and perishing. When things got really wild, nature responded, filling Sookie's house with vines and leaves and the darkness of nighttime woods. Refuse nature, the house seemed to say, and she'll make her presence known.

I know of no other show that takes so seriously the fact of our embodied-ness, the fact that we are inextricably tied to this planet, this earth, and that we will never be the ones in charge of that. It's no coincidence, I think, that True Blood is set in the South, because here, nature is constantly rearing her head in the form of hurricanes, heatwaves, and humidity. It's hard to ignore nature, here. But we try. Boy-howdy, do we try.

I think, then, the message of True Blood, is not to ignore nature. Live in it. And don't go buck-wild either. You don't have to totally abandon yourself to running naked through the woods and eating raw bunnies ('cuz, we see where that gets Maryann). You just have to acknowledge nature, and do your best to be fully a part of it.

Oh. And recycle. Because Vampire Bill recycles.
Note: If you want to really get into a deep reading of True Blood, I suggest you head over to Television Without Pity, and read the recaps. It's kind of like the world's most fun college class, with the most fun text.

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