Thirsty for a Fresh Take on All Things True Blood?

WELCOME! Thirsty for a fresh take on all things True Blood? Pull up a virtual barstool at the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern where sisters Rachel and Rebecca are serving up juicy feminist analysis with a twist and opening a vein of thoughtful sociocultural dialogue on HBO's hit series.

Like the epic literary salons of eras past - theaters for conversation and debate which were, incidentally, started and run by women; where the spirited debate about the issues of the day ran as copiously as the actual spirits did - but updated for the digital age, the Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is a fun forum for exploring questions ripe for discourse about the human condition & today's most crucial social issues through the medium of True Blood.

Your salonnières are not peddling liquor per se, but they are offering up new and alternative ideas informed by such diverse influences as pop culture, art, music, cultural history, Goddess studies, transformative theory, literature and poetry, and archaeomythology, filtered through the sieve of their own lived experiences as feminist women of a particular age, background, and culture.

This is a space where you - patrons and passersby alike - can view and engage with these perspectives through the lens of True Blood and contribute your own thoughts. So, no matter if you're a Truebie or a more casual viewer of True Blood, or your drink of choice is a pomegranate martini - one of Rachel's favorite cocktails to drink and Rebecca's to mix - an herbal tea, a frothy double mocha latte, or a can of Fresca (wink, wink) you're invited to join the conversation on the show's complexities in a way that can spark transformation.

Hopefully you'll find something to sink your teeth...err...straw, into! PLEASE ENJOY RESPONSIBLY ;-)


The Pierced Pomegranate Tavern is dedicated to exploring social issues and more through the lens of True Blood. As such, you may encounter:

related to the often provocative and adult themes presented by the show

If you choose to enter and participate in this virtual salon, please be prepared to do so in a thoughtful, respectful, and mature fashion with the above in mind. Click here to check out our comment policy. Thanks!


No copyright infringement is intended, all rights to True Blood belong to HBO, credit is ascribed to sites where images appearing here were originally found.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

...and speaking of fine detail TV viewers may or may not be able to see on True Blood sets: a quick aside

Since I'm popping into the tavern just to point out something Fangtasia-related, I think I'll grab a quick bottle of Tru Blood A neg (my blood type, TMI?) served at the requisite 98.6 degrees - as Tara would tell would-be experimental imbibers like Hoyt - for the road since I'm about to head out to the diner for some actual nourishment in a few minutes...

You'll recall that in my last post I summarized the "True & A" panelists' response to Rebecca's question about how the unique locales in and around Bon Temps like the Stackhouse home, Merlotte's, and Fangtasia - when thought of as characters on the show in their own right - might influence or shade the actors' performance. Sam, Kristin, and Michelle seemed to unanimously agree that the sets' fine detail (which TV viewers may or may not ever see) has an immense impact on how they interpret and get into their characters, how they play their scenes with co-stars, etc.    

Speaking of fine details on sets, I leave you to ponder an image we noticed in the background at Fangtasia very early on in Season 1; last time we checked, it was still occupying a relatively visible spot behind the bar:

former U.S. President George W. Bush taking a bite out of Lady Liberty

Some thoughts/questions:

  • Does this image make a statement on Eric, Pam, or even the late Longshadow's politics?
  • Or more likely Alan Ball's?
  • What meaning can we take from the (strategic?) placement of images like this?
  • Is using imagery like this on set - even in the background where it is not directly addressed by the characters or involved in the action or in the ongoing narrative - an effective means of communicating ideas or catalyzing discourse?
  • What background images have YOU noticed on True Blood - even if they appeared on screen only for a split second - that you think may have been put there to make a statement or send a message?

Talk amongst yourselves, I'll be back to sum up the insights we gleaned from all three Dragon * Con True Blood panels.

~ Rachel

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dragon * Con Part II...of Part II continued - our panel questions answered there we were, Rebecca and I; poised and ready to confidently articulate the questions we had painstakingly planned out to the True Blood panel before a packed house during Saturday, September 4th's "True & A"...

OK, so that's not entirely true. More accurately, by the time our nerve wracking march from our front row seats concluded at the center aisle question queue we found ourselves semi-seriously contemplating retreat. There were about 6 or 7 people in front of me, I was in front of Rebecca, and we were both uncomfortably shifting from one position on the floor to another - partly due to the anxiety that bedeviled us as we struggled to take in all that was going on while fretting about whether or not we'd survive our own turns at the mike, and partly because we had been asked to crouch down so as not to block the view of all those behind us in the audience that crowded into the ballroom that day.
Admittedly, we had a hard time being truly present and paying full attention to the questions posed to the panel - some fun and lighthearted and others more serious and weighty - by those in line ahead of us. We were, however, able to take some of it in and fortunately we've been able to find some YouTube footage of the questions that preceded ours to fill in the gaps (thanks to YouTube user elizabeth6777) . 

One that stood out for us was asked by someone who self-identified as a gay man; he prefaced his question to Nelsan by thanking him for his role in a portrayal of gay society that is more realistic than that of the seminal Queer As Folk; this elicited surprise and cheers from the crowd. The essence of his question revolved around why some representations gay sex scenes are shown in graphic detail (i.e. Eric mercilessly staking Talbot while ostensibly seducing him) but others that are tender and rooted in real affection and caring, such as Lafayette being intimate with his new love interest Jesus, cut away prematurely. Rather than trying to paraphrase, I give you his full question and Nelsan's response (starting at the 1 minute 30 second marker):


We were able to chat a little with the guy who posed this excellent question as we were all being shepherded out of the ballroom post-True&A, and he wasn't sure he bought Nelsan's response 100%. He had the sense - with which we didn't disagree - that there is a tendency to show a more darkly prurient side of gay sex while demurring from - pardon the pun - a "full frontal" honest and loving portrayal of homosexual romantic partners on television. In a political landscape where controversy swirls around the issues of marriage equality and the American military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell", True Blood serves up some timely food for thought...

After he sat down there were maybe three people ahead of me, and by that time my thoughts were drifting to:
  1. would I be able to get up from from my kneeling position with some semblance of grace; or at least avoid accidentally kicking my sandal off and launching it at the panelists (clearly not the impression I was going for)
  2. would I be able to make it through asking my scripted question - which I was prepared to read from my note pad in order to avoid blanking out completely - without my voice wavering or the girl with the microphone cutting me off before I was finished
  3. would I be so distracted by the lady about 4 rows back who huffed and puffed indignantly each time someone in the queue stood up to ask their question (utterly obstructing her view despite the 2 very large screens mounted on the wall in front of her) that I would lose my train of thought
By the time it was my turn I decided that if people ahead of me could indulge in acting out scenes from Season 2 and declare their love for cast members before even getting around to their question, then by golly I would stand up and ask my question in full, undeterred. That's what I did. I began by thanking the cast members for taking my question which was being directed to the panel as a whole, then I launched into my query in earnest. Here it is:
Yesterday the moderator led with an author's quote which said in part, "True Blood is the most progressively political and sexual show on TV". That really resonated for me since I see the show not only as being wildly entertaining but also as a potent medium through which to critically engage cultural currents and provocative issues; it can bring questions about the social problems it raises straight into the living rooms of more people than most political tracts or speeches could ever reach and get those viewers to start looking for answers. I'm wondering if you see a role for True Blood in forwarding a civic discourse; do you ever hear from fans that the show and the issues it addresses have made ripples in their ways of thinking or acting in the world, and do you feel any responsibility as actors on True Blood to impact your viewers in that way?
As soon my lips stilled, I checked out. That's my coping mechanism, you see, my default mode for dealing with threatening scenarios. It's purely involuntary - I disassociate; my consciousness leaves my body and floats skyward leaving the rest of me stranded down there on the ground to give the impression that I'm actually still wholly there.

I wanted so badly to take in the panel's response, but frankly I was intimidated standing in front of them, unnerved by the ballroom full of people behind me. All I could do to maintain composure was to set myself in a rigid pose to keep from fidgeting, left leg bent and kicked out to the side, hip jutting slightly; trusty pad in hand, pen stolen from behind my ear and lifted to paper in the ruse that I was taking notes as the panelists responded, all the while my eyes locked in the direction of the stage and my head nodding in the motion of my feigned active and engaged listening.
Only, no one responded. At least not right away. I wish I could recall what happened in the moments right after I stopped speaking, but I can't. All I really remember is my distinct and rising fear that no one would answer me.

What Rebecca says happened is that once I was silent, the whole room audibly gasped and was silent too. And then there was applause. The panelists leaned back in their chairs, away from their mikes. For a split second they glanced around at each other, Sam leaned into his mike, then leaned back again, Kristin urged him forward, and he uttered something akin to, "why did I decide to speak first?", there was laughter, Nelsan remarked that it was actually a really good question, Sam concurred, and proceeded with a response. Nelsan followed.

I hope that my question, which Rebecca and I actually labored on together, rang true for others in the audience because it was intended to open a vein on the show's deep implications. We met some other cool people while leaving the ballroom post-True & A who talked about how the genres of science fiction and horror have long commented on social issues and mentioned knowing that True Blood was going to be good as soon as they saw Tara reading Naomi Klein's influential book on the rise of disaster capitalism, "The Shock Doctrine" in Season 1, Episode 1 so we know there are people out there watching the show with a critical eye the way we do.

Here's Sam and Nelsan's remarks (which I will transcribe soon); same video clip as above, just drag the play bar to the 7 minute 13 second marker:

After Nelsan concluded his response, I thanked the panel again and wheeled around to return to my seat. As I stepped gingerly over the people in crouch mode lining the center aisle, my heart was heavy that I couldn't stand in solidarity with Rebecca and offer her moral support as she asked her question since I knew she was just as nervous as I had been - but for different reasons. She's a show choir and theater veteran and still sings in public regularly so masses of people don't upset her apple cart, it was the panel that was freaking her out. She also had the added challenge of playing musical microphones; for some reason the girl holding the mike kept moving it around in front of her, blocking her view of her question - which like me - she had written down.

For fear of being cut short, she opted to preempt herself and by the time I had returned to the front row and evicted the people who were squatting in the chairs we had temporarily vacated I could tell she was going off script. It worked out to marvelous effect; her ad-libbing resulted in a question that to my ears was a different animal entirely than the one she had drafted the night before; it was stronger, tighter, and more relevant to the panelists present that day. Her original question was in retrospect more appropriate for True Blood's writers or creator Alan Ball.

She wanted to know how the unique locations so intimately connected to Bon Temps and its colorful inhabitants - i.e. the Stackhouse home, Merlotte's, and Fangtasia - when thought of as characters in their own right impact or influence the actors' performance. She was rewarded with amazingly rich responses from 3 out of the 4 panelists assembled; Nelsan didn't speak simply because he didn't have the time since Sam, Kristin, and Michelle had offered such in-depth perspectives.

I figured Rebecca might very well be checking out as I had minutes earlier when she finished her question. By that time I had regained the presence of mind to spring into action on behalf of my sister and enough wits about me to take notes, so I did. Here they are:
  • For Michelle, the rich detail of the sets helps her immensely as an actor; it's fun between takes to look around in the corners to find minute detailing that she had previously missed. The sets are atmospheric, "you can feel the sweat and humidity, hear the bugs"; of course you can't, but being on location evokes that kind of embodied reaction.
  • Sam interjected that at Merlotte's there are things that the viewing audience will never see and can't read on set like business cards collected from local carpenters that are tacked to the walls, this provides very realistic Louisiana details to pepper the background with; he said this is good for the actors to flesh out their characters even though these fine details can't be seen on TV.
  • Kristin responded that when you're at Fangtasia there's a whole process for getting into character and the sets contribute hugely to her character development. 
  • Michelle jumped back in at that point, she leaned across the table to her right, and looking at and talking to Sam now, said that the first time she visited Merlotte's she learned a lot about the character of Sam Merlotte by looking around "your" office. 
  • Kristin resumed her line of thought by saying that all she has to get into her character is her imagination. She recalled the scene in which Pam was supposed to be delivering the check from Eric to Sookie; she expected it to be a relatively plain and basic prop but it had things like Eric's bank account and routing number on it and even though she knew no one would ever see these details on TV it helped her be able to get into the head space where she felt like she was really delivering a check from Eric Northman.
Knowing this, it's easy to see how the densely detailed sets and props contribute to character development, to the actor's powerful and convincing performances, and to the show's uncanny ability to induct us into the unique world it unfurls before us every Sunday at 9 o'clock.

We were gifted with many of these kinds of insider insights, along with other such juicy morsels, as well as some unexpected (and at times emotionally charged) revelations over the course of the three True Blood panels at Dragon * Con 2010. In my next installment I'll be back to with a deeper discussion of the panels, and I hope Rebecca will chime in as well since both of our input when taken together will provide a fuller and rounder picture.

Until next time...

~ Rachel

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dragon*Con Part II...of Part II

OK, let's continue, shall we?

What I'd really like to talk about now are the events of our second full day at the con, Saturday 9/4/10...starting with the wee hours of the morning.

I don't think most people spend their Friday nights while on vacation agonizing over the written word, but then again we're not like most people. That's exactly how we spent our Friday night; laboring to construct the perfect panel question. You see, Saturday's panel was entitled, "True and A" and with a name like that we assumed that it would be mostly dedicated to taking audience questions. We had given both Nelsan and Sam forewarning that we would have questions for them at "True and A" when we met them on Friday on the Walk of Fame so we knew we had to bring it. Our goal was to come up with a question each that would convey the depth of analysis and the intent of this blog, since we had given the True Blood stars we met before the panel our business cards and encouraged them to check it out. It took hours of brainstorming, riffing off each other's ideas, and littering our hotel room floor with the confetti of our failed attempts...

draft "True and A" questions that didn't make the cut
...but by about 1AM we had each hammered out a panel question that we were satisfied with.

Jump to Saturday morning, go time. We made sure to get to the panel nice and early and we were rewarded with a front row, right of center seat. By this time, we were both more nervous than we had ever been before in our lives. Ever.

As we surveyed the calm before the storm...

empty dais just prior to "True & A"

we knew that we were well prepared with our carefully crafted questions, but when faced with a packed house...

full house for "True & A"
 ...a True Blood panel which that day boasted four cast members...

Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds)

Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte)

Kristin Bauer van Straten (Pam)

Michelle Forbes (Maryann Forrester)

the entire (rather intimidating) cast panel

...and even an out-for-blood Maenad in the audience to boot...

...we rapidly started to lose our nerve. Fortunately, we had met a very nice guy named John who was seated to my left; he showed us his autograph collection book and engaged us in friendly conversation which helped distract us (a little bit) from our encroaching anxiety.

But when the moderator took the stage, announcing the start of "news hour with Russell Edgington and Tiffany with the weather", we knew it was on. After some introductory remarks and questions to the panel, he asked any audience members with questions to begin lining up in the center aisle. I quickly shot out of my seat and knelt down in front of my chair, back facing the panel, to put my camera in my bag. Looking up at Rebecca who was seated to my right with what could only have been saucer eyes of trepidation, I said, "you coming"? Her answer was yes, but her expression was unsure; for a moment I thought I would have to go it alone. Seconds later we were both striding up the aisle towards the question line, knees wobbly and hearts in our throats...with our new friend John suprisingly right behind us!

Alas, my lunch hour is over and I must return to work. This is my attempt at a True Blood-style cliffhanger ;-) I'll be back later to let you know what happened next...

~ Rachel

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dragon*Con Part II

Here's a quick photo essay to let you in on some of the sights of Rebecca said, here you'll see:

  1. the panels from our vantage point (up front and slightly right of center if you're facing the dais)
  2. images of the True Blood autographs I was able to get (Rebecca is currently experiencing technical difficulties and is therefore unable to get images posted; I'm sure she'll work it out soon)
  3. some of the "general con craziness" she mentioned in her comment to some of our readers from her last post - hard to believe that we went from three amazing True Blood events, to a literary panel, to the "Last Party On Alderon" (yeah, we were into Star Wars as kids, but who wasn't?) all in one weekend! 
  4. and last but not least, some pics of downtown Atlanta thrown in for good measure to give you an orienting sense of place

Downtown Atlanta...where the skies are always blue (at least on Labor Day weekend 2010), and if the streets of NYC were ever as deserted, we would think we had somehow survived the zombie apocolypse!

The view from our hotel room's balcony...the Varsity fast food joint where Sam Trammell tweeted that he grabbed a bite at was within our sights!  


Thursday, 9/3/10. Our first day in Atlanta...the dreaded badge gauntlet...our site of torture for 3 1/2 hours in line...we were seperated and I had the distinct (dis)pleasure of going through it TWICE once Rebecca and I finally reunited! My first gauntlet pass culminated in my being told by a surly volunteer  - after an hour and a half of waiting in line - that I did not have to wait at all since I had will call tickets. Rebecca had preregistered and as such she was directed to a different line that wrapped around the Sheraton and through a parking garage. By the time we entered the gauntlet (me for a second pass and Rebecca for her first to claim her badge) it was after 11PM and rumors were flying that we might be turned away only to have to take on the gauntlet again in the morning. The first True Blood panel started at 10AM on Friday, so we weren't having it and happily that did not come to pass...      

...back at our home base, what DID come to pass, however, were post-gauntlet adult beverages!

By our second day in Atlanta - the first full con day - we knew it was on...

I'm not posting pictures from Friday's panel because they did not come out very well (an announcement was made not to use flash photography and I was trying to be a conscientious con goer - that idea went out the window by the next day), but after the panel Rebecca I went to the Walk of Fame event that she described in her last post. Here's the autographs I was able to get:

Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette Reynolds)

Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte)

And here's another fun DCON artifact - my con badge that Sam used as a cheat sheet for signing my autograph
And here's our post-Walk of Fame cocktails, artfully arranged...hey, meeting and talking with True Blood stars for the first time and telling them about this blog takes a lot out of a girl! We HAD to decompress...and celebrate!


We both got Kristin Bauer van Straten (Pam) and Michelle Forbes (Maryann Forrester) autographs after the Saturday panel:

Kristin Bauer van Straten (Pam)

Does the image Michelle Forbes (Maryann Forrester) signed her name next to look familiar? It should; it's the pre-dynastic Egyptian artifact the True Blood creative team used as the template for Maryann's collector's piece that figured prominently in the show and in her character development. I was able to tell Michelle how when the artifact first appeared on True Blood while Rebecca and I were watching together at my house, I leapt up from the couch to grab the book she autographed for me, "The Once and Future Goddess" off my bookshelf and immediately leafed to that image since I had instantly recognized it as The Bird Headed Snake Goddess which is on display at the Brooklyn Museum. Michelle told us she has seen the original there, and wondered where I, and this book, had been when she was preparing to play Maryann! 

Next up are some shots of the con hotels; they are enormous and absolutely amazing...and have the odd effect of an intergalactic space station...perfect for DCON!


This one's a little different, all the wrought iron gives the impression of the Old South...

There were Sookies aplenty...

And general costumed DCON craziness...

One of these things is not like the a few points during DCON we felt like Sookie at Fangtasia or Lou Pines...our "normal" attire had us looking a little out of place...

I will be putting up pics of the Saturday "True and A" panel in my next post along with the notes I took on all the panels, but for now, here's some shots of the Sunday panel - the last DCON True Blood event of the weekend entitled, "Sin and Salvation in Bon Temps"; this was a little deceiving since the moderator did not structure the session around that theme, much to our disappointment. The images you see here are of the packed house prior to the panel, and of each actor coming onto the dais:

By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around we had fully gotten our "con legs" and really didn't want to go home! I snapped a picture of our home away from home as we took the short walk from the con hotels back to the Downtown Renaissance where our luggage awaited with the bellman. Here you'll also see the hotel lobby where we whiled away a few hours waiting to teturn to the airport...and almost stayed too long! 

Hope you've enjoyed your visual immersion in our experience of the weekend. I'll be back to post a full roundup of Day II at DCON, our wild time with the "True and A", some pictures of that event, and lots of information and insights gleaned from the panels themselves!  

~ Rachel