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.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tru Blood Tru World: An (Unlikely) Ecofeminist Philosopher

It's LAST CALL for this idea I distilled at the end of Season 3 but have yet to serve up and the FIRST TASTE of a new element we'll be featuring at the PPT come Season 4; Tru Blood, Tru World: AN (UNLIKELY) ECOFEMINIST PHILOSOPHER.

Driving home from work this past Tuesday, a piece on American Public Media's radio program Marketplace caught my ear. It was called, "Canada fights dirty".

Hmm... intriguing.

After Tess Vigeland's introduction, the report started with Marketplace Sustainability Desk's Scott Tong polling Americans on the street about the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of our neighbor to the north.
Predictably, many respondents mentioned the folksy accent (i.e. what are you talking aboot, ay?). Several also upheld common stereotypes like, "it's America-light", "Canadians have a clean and orderly society" and - perhaps the most pervasive - "Canadians are polite, friendly, and nice".

I guess on some level I must buy into that last one, because that's why the piece grabbed my attention. Those nice Canadians are playing political hardball? Really?

Apparently so; according to Marketplace, Tuesday was the last day for the public to comment on a new pipeline to carry Canadian oil to the U.S. We already buy Canadian crude (we actually import more oil from Canada than from any other foreign nation) but whether to pipe in a lot more has become a bitter fight in Washington with deep economic, political and environmental implications.

That's because the product going through the pipe is controversial; it's known as oil sands - literally, it's oil embedded in sand - and it's one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in the world to produce since it requires steam generators and other kinds of heat to get the oil out. This means lots of carbon pollution, and high-carbon fuels are being banned globally.

"Environmentalists around the world are fighting Canada's attempts to export oil from Alberta's oil sands".

So Canada is pushing back.

Canadian diplomats are meeting with like-minded allies, like BP and Shell. Their argument: Canadian oil reduces U.S. dependence on oil exported from unstable and unfriendly Middle Eastern and North African nations. Canada doesn't exploit, oppress and kill anyone to get their oil to market. And, according to Calgary oil analyst Dave Yager, they're "not going to use the profits from tar's oil sands production to build a nuclear bomb and annihilate Israel".

Naturally, what - or who - did I think of while listening to this piece weighing the pros and cons of keeping Canada's dirty oil flowing?

Why, Russell Edgington, of course!

I know, I know, on the surface, at least, it seems odd that a piece broadcast on NPR about, amongst other things, environmental concerns would make me think of the King of Mississippi instead of, lets say...our resident True Blood king of recycling, Bill Compton...

paper products go here, Tru Blood and other glass products go here...bravo, Mr. Compton!
But seriously, let's think about this for just a minute. 

Hearken back, if you will, to the Season 3 scene in which Russell and Eric are riding in the back of a limousine together, on the way to press Queen Sophie Ann into marriage and to challenge the Magister.

Recall how the increasingly agitated king remarked to the scheming Viking: "Throughout history I have aligned myself with or destroyed those humans in power, hoping to make a dent in mankind's race to oblivion. What other creature actively destroys his own habitat?"

Might our duplicitous, power-hungry King Russell also be an (unlikely) ecofeminist philosopher?

"In the case of Russell, he's a power-hungry ancient druid who has a serious concern of the stewardship of the earth". So says a man who looks an awful lot like the King of Mississippi -  Mr. Denis O'Hare himself - in an interview with Brandon Voss of The Advocate

And who can forget the infamous spine-ripping scene in which Russell rants about humanity's egotistical overconsumption and violent, polluting ways...


Russell - according to Mr. O'Hare, who has reportedly worked out a detailed backstory for his scene-stealing True Blood character - is not of this time. His worldview was shaped during a time when humankind had a far different schema for life on earth, organized around a dramatically different master metaphor. The king's druid brethren were possessed of the ancient wisdom - which, in her essay "The Evolution of an Ecofeminist" Julia Scofield Russell suggests has been lost and refound in modern works like James Locklock's Gaia: A New View of Life on Earth (New York: Oxford University Press: 1979) - that the earth is a living being.

And that "the law of the circle" (remember, during his confrontation with the Magister, Russell insists that there is only one true law - the law of nature?) - "the fact that the Earth's natural life-support systems are circular. There is no 'out'. Everything is in the system, and everything we put into the system comes back to us, for good or ill" (Scofield Russell, 1990, p. 229) rules.

Everything is in the system. Including we humans. There is no "out". We can't escape the destruction we wreck. You may disagree with his methods (as I certainly do) but can you really blame Russell for trying to stop, as he says,  our "race to oblivion"?    

Imagine how difficult negotiating modernity must be for an ancient vampire such as Russell, whose multimillenia-long undead lifetime has brought him into such clash and conflict with a nearly unrecognizable paradigm; an entire civilization that heaps abuses upon the earth's body:
...toxic wastes, ozone depletion, species extinction, desertification, smog, acid rain, famine, forest death, poverty, cancer, genocide, dead rivers and lakes, nuclear contamination. (Scofield Russell, 1990 p. 225)
Sounds not unlike Russell's shocking televised speech above, huh?

We 21st century denizens may soon be facing what it's like to live through seismic paradigm shift. In fact, it very well may already be underway; many signs point to this truth.

Here's a relevant excerpt from my dissertation:
Several transdisciplinary theorists have issued a clarion call for a paradigm shift as an integral and overarching component of systemic social change (Morin & Kern, 1999; Nicolescu, 2002; Plumwood, 1993; Wilshire, 1990).

This a metamorphosis which is nothing short of the birthing of a new vision to replace the old frameworks dominated by dichotomous thinking that form the bedrock of modern society and are fundamental to its many ills.

Nicolescu (2002) discusses the immediacy of action required in terms of bringing about a visionary, transpersonal consciousness nourished by knowledge growth to challenge the threat of our material, biological, and spiritual destruction posed by blind adherence to the logic of utilitarianism that characterizes the dominant paradigm.

Goerner’s (2001) advocacy of the concept of a “great turning” posits that this revolution will result from radical changes in the way we think about our world and our relationship to it. She likens it to a developmental passage, a self-generated metamorphosis similar to that of the butterfly.

As the caterpillar is compelled by forces from within to slough away its DNA to allow for the butterfly with a completely different genetic code than its larval form to emerge, so too does our civilization transform as a result of pressure, pushing from the inside-out.

This process is driven by the interconnected crises of modernity. Goerner (2001) asserts that there are hints all around us that modernity has reached the end of its useful life; its virtuous beginning ushered in the noble notions of liberty, equality, fraternity, and reason but its twilight is delivering silent disaster on an epic scale. The transition from modern to integral age will entail profound global change. It will eventually alter every facet of civilization, and it is happening now, not in one or two countries, but in the entire developed world and in many developing nations.

The “great turning” thesis emphasizes the critical role of changing the assumptions that guide our thinking about the world and our place in it. She suggests that shifting the root metaphor we use to explain how the world works from mechanistic to web and ecosystem metaphors will render modernity as radically different from the coming integral age as our current civilization is from medieval times.  Such a reformulation will depend largely upon the choices we make, and whether we as a society can loosen the assumptions and worldviews to which we cleave to allow new ones to emerge like a butterfly from its chrysalis. (Goerner, 2001).

WOW. Are we ready for such a major, life-altering shift?

In my estimation (and Russell's), something's gotta give.

Remember during that same limousine ride I was talking about above how Russell lamented to Eric, "Do you remember how the air used to smell? How the humans used to smell? How the humans used to taste?" Perhaps Russell's reminiscences about the pre-Industrial world reveals something deeper than his recognition that we are polluted and his simple, animal longing for human blood that tasted better, purer.

Maybe, just maybe, Russell can taste what we are lacking in our very blood - "the loss of soul in modern philosophy" (Cajete, 2000). Anthropologist Michael Harner writes about this kind of spiritual vacancy in his treatment of “soul loss”; in contemporary North American Hispanic communities this phenomenon is known as susto and is considered a common condition in the modern world (Broderick, 2001). 

As grief expert Elizabeth Kubler-Ross noted, “There is no spirituality left. I mean the inner, deep knowing where we come from”(Wilshire, 1990, p. 92). Accordingly, Orthodox theologian David Hart offers a sobering analysis of “metaphysical boredom” and what it means for modern Europe:
A culture - a civilization - is only as good as the religious ideas that animate it; the magnitude of a people's cultural achievement is determined by the height of its spiritual aspirations. One need only turn one’s gaze to the frozen mires and fetid marshes of modern Europe, where once the greatest of human civilizations resided, to grasp how devastating and omnivorous a power metaphysical boredom is. The eye of faith presumes to see something miraculous within the ordinariness of the moment, mysterious hints of an intelligible order calling out for translation into artifacts, but boredom’s disenchantment renders the imagination inert and desire torpid. (Catanzarite, 2007, p. 103).
Canda and Furman (1999) define spirituality as "the universal and fundamental aspect of what it is to be human - to search for a sense of meaning, purpose, and moral frameworks for relating with self, others, and the ultimate reality" (p. 36).
Could it be that the spiritual malaise of contemporary Western society; indeed, our stagnant collective soul, (which Russell perhaps tastes in our blood) might be a function of our estrangement from Earth and from the web of life?

Native Science: Natural Laws of Interdependence author Gregory Cajete (2000) writes that Henryk Skolimoswski was one of the first to articulate an eco-philosophy for the transformation of thought needed to bring a new ecological consciousness. In his 1981 study, "Eco-philosophy: Designing New Tactics for Living" he states that current political systems threaten to rob us of our highest values and because the current basis for action is no longer deeply rooted in life-serving purposes (echoed by Scofield Russell: "Ecofeminists antifeminine, it is antihuman, antilife", 1990, p. 225) or reverence for nature, we need a new philosophy to inform and guide us.

According to Cajete, "The era of the 'eco-individual' is dawning" (1990, p. 59.).

What will this era - and the eponymous "eco-individual" look like? How will we tell when it has dawned, and what can we do to move it forward?

Above, I referenced Lovelock's Gaia theory. Back in Season 1, Amy Burley queried a very overeager-to-do-V Jason, "You know what Gaia is, right? Theory of Gaia?". Amy may have understood Gaia theory intellectually, but despite her hippie persona and her  I'm-an-organic-vegan-and-my-carbon-footprint-is-minuscule pseudo cred...

...believe me, she didn't really get it. Amy Burley was a false prophetess - hollow; a complete sham.  

Her treatment, and eventual staking of vampire Eddie Gauthier shows how little she comprehended the meaning of the Lakota phrase "Mitakuye oyasin", translated as "we are all related" (Cajete, 2000, p. 86).

Eco-philosophy is utterly dependant upon this tenet.

If eco-consciousness is indeed a return to ancient wisdom, perhaps we can glimpse the coming paradigm and eco-individual in the Maya words:
The roots of all living things are tied together. When a mighty tree is felled, a star falls from the sky. Before you cut down a mahogany, you should ask permission of the keeper of the forest, and you should ask permission of the keeper of the star. (Cajete, 2000, p. 108)
Euro-western society has much to learn from living indigenous traditions, whose ways and wisdom may seem comfortingly familiar to the pre-Christian Celtic Russell Edgington. For example, native science offers a system for naturalistic observation and knowing which honors and integrates sense, perception, and the metaphoric mind to apprehend reality. Unlike conventional science which leaves out so much, this Indigenous scientific method opens to "the sacredness, the livingness, the soul of the world" (Little Bear, 2000) in a way that can bring us to new and needed vistas.

Ecofeminist Julia Scofield Russell reminds us that while we are all a part of the body politic ("We are its lifeblood, its nerves, its brain") and as such we must continue to engage in the activities of the nation state in order to make a difference, we can also exercise what she calls the "politics of lifestyle", "a distinctly feminine politics in that it is both inner and universal, personal and all-inclusive" (1990, pp. 226-227).

It DOES matter what we choose to do in our personal, everyday lives and at our home and hearth; it matters deeply.

As Scofield Russell writes, the movies we go to see, the food we eat, our relationships, what we throw away and where, our livelihoods - everything - emanates out into the larger system, ultimately impacting the whole living planet.  

Although humanity may be behaving as a cancer on the earth, the answer is not - as Russell thinks - to subjugate and control us so as to force our compliance with his will, despite his (at least ecologically) good intentions.  

If we want to make a difference for the better, we can take our role as consumers seriously and behave as such. We must understand that when we purchase a produce we are supporting the entire system that made it. We can support companies and practices that are sustainable and withdraw our dollars from those that are ecologically and socially damaging. 

There are so many ways we can initiate life-affirming changes in our everyday lives; with our diet and food buying practices, with our relationships, tax resistance, housing, gardening, conservation - as Scofield Russell (1990) writes, it's up to us.  

And yes, Bill Compton, we can recycle.

What do you think? How are you making change; making a difference? We'd love to know! Please share in the comments section below.

Sláinte (an Irish toast to your health) for now...

~ Rachel


Broderick, R. (2001). Leather tramp journal: A 12-mile mountain retreat. Leavenworth, KS: Forest of Peace.

Cajete, G. (2000). Native science: Natural laws of interdependence. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers.

Canda, E. R., & Furman, L. D. (1999). Spiritual diversity in social work practice: The heart of helping. New York, NY: Free Press.

Catanzarite, S. (2007). Achtung Baby: Meditations on love in the shadow of the fall. New York, NY: Continuum.

Goerner, S. J. (2001). After the clockwork universe: The emerging science and culture of integral society. Charlotte, NC: Baker & Taylor, Inc.

Little Bear, L. (2000). Forward. In Cajete, G. Native science: Natural laws of interdependence. (pp. ix-xii) Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publishers.

Morin, E., & Kern, A. B. (1999). Homeland earth: A manifesto for the new millennium.  Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Nicolescu, B. (2002). Manifesto of transdisciplinarity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Plumwood, V. (1993). Feminism and the mastery of nature. London, UK: Routledge.

Scofield Russell, J. (1990). The evolution of an ecofeminist. In Diamond, I. & Orenstein, G.F. (Eds.) Reweaving the world : the emergence of ecofeminism. (pp. 223-230). San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.

Wilshire, B. (1990). The moral collapse of the university: Professionalism, purity, and alienation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment