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.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I am your daddy and I'm gonna teach you how to hunt, shoot, trap and fish and…and how to take clothes out of the dryer

So a bathrobed Terry Bellefleur promised the baby boy he cradled in his arms in I'm Alive and On Fire. Contrast his words with Melinda Mickens’ to her prodigal son Tommy when they were reunited after a time apart: “Don’t you cry too, you’ve gotta be the man”.

Do you see a difference in terms of the image of manhood and masculinity; what it means to grow up and be male in our culture conveyed by these scenes? I do. 

On the one hand, we've got a sensitive father figure imagining aloud his future as a male role model for his wife's son Mikey who, although not his child biologically, he is raising as his own. They'll do all kinds of typical red-blooded American outdoorsy guy stuff together, and yeah, he'll show his boy how to do things that until recently were reserved for the domestic womanly sphere, too.

And on the other, we've got a [conniving and manipulative in her own right] mother trapped in an abusive patriarchal marriage encouraging her son to adhere to more retro-rigid models of masculinity and repress his emotions. 

We need different – more like new - images of maleness and masculinity to replace the ones that reassert the genderized ethos of domination, as Tommy’s mom does when she entreats him to bottle up his feelings, dry up his tears.

In the words of womanist midwife (and professor of women’s studies at my alma mater, the California Institute of Integral StudiesArisika Razak:
The last time I checked, men had tear ducts. They had arms for holding babies.They cared about their children. And they cried at births. (1991, p. 172)
Maybe she was checking Season 4 of True Blood!

tear ducts - check!

arms for holding babies - check!

caring about children - check!

The current season of True Blood - and the episode I'm Alive and On Fire specifically - have delivered several such images that run counter to our culture's image of male heroes as warriors, conquerors of women and nature; a picture of masculinity a growing number of men are increasingly uncomfortable with.

Take Eric, for instance.
No, no no - not that Eric....

...the new Eric.
Nope, wrong again! Not the jogging suited Eric of Season 2 who showed up freshly shorn at the Forever 21-esque boutique where Bill was shopping for Jessica, declaring, "it's the new me".
I'm talking about the new-new Eric. Amnesia Eric. He's contemplative. Playful. Vulnerable, even. And seemingly contrite for the sins of his [distant & more recent] past. Sookie sees the change, noticing out loud to Eric, "It's just that you weren't always like this; gentle, sweet, but it suits you.” (S4E5 Me and the Devil)

Indeed, this [perhaps temporary] version of the Viking, Eric 2.0 seems light years away from the swaggering, coldly calculating, at-times viciously cruel (or as Sookie said in last week's episode, the "smug sarcastic ass") side of the vampire sheriff we have come to know best.
*Sorry, couldn't resist adding that in - truebies will get the reference!.
Sookie certainly seems to. Yet despite her obvious warming to him, Eric doubts himself. Something deep within him knows that he has drifted from society's expectations of an [alpha] male and he fears Sookie will reject him for it.

In the I'm Alive and on Fire scene below, Sookie climbs down into her basement cubby to rouse the uncharacteristically [for the Eric she thinks she knows] morose vampire moping there. She comments that the "real" Eric would not be so down. He begs to differ, replying in protest, "I AM real".  
This exchange is particularly relevant to the point I'm trying to make about True Blood offering up new, more expansive images of masculinity:

Eric: You think I'm weak.
Sookie: No.
Eric: You want the Eric that doesn't feel.
Sookie: It's not that.

Feminist scholar and CIIS professor Carol Christ (1997, p. 161) writes:
Rooted in the ethos of the warrior, modern societies have been described as "dominator cultures" by cultural historian (also on the CIIS faculty) Riane Eisler. The ethos of dominator cultures states that power stems from control. Dominators are taught to control women, nature, children, animals, other men, their own bodies, and their feelings and sensations. The ethos of domination denies or disparages human embodiment, relationship, and interdependence. In the ethos of dominator cultures, finitude, vulnerability, and limitation are called weaknesses.  
We've seen Eric's emotional side before; with Godric, Pam, even with Sookie. But this new openness to feeling, this often being lost in emotive reverie stuff would likely not have jived too well with his human life as a Nordic warrior - or with his present duties as a figure of considerable authority amidst the shifting sands of the cutthroat vampire hierarchy.

It must feel strange and unsettling to Eric; like weakness. On the contrary, in the new Eric I see an image of masculinity that's a step towards changing the patterns of domination that govern our lives and society.
"In a society that wishes us to see men as devoid of feelings,
let us hold an image of men as nurturers (Razak, 1991, p. 172)
And then, we've got Terry who - as we wrote on our Forum's Scope page - describes himself as "a nurturer". This seems an odd juxtaposition with his military background, since the military identity tends to be traditionally hypermasculine in the U.S.  
In Christ's thinking, military training figures prominently in the indoctrination into dominator cultures; into the way such social systems define masculinity and power. "Manhood" is equated with the denial of Eros (defined as a transformative force of intelligent, embodied love which connects us to each other and the web of life) and its replacement with violence. Feminist political scientist Judith Hicks Stieham's quote underscores her point:
The appeal to manhood is very much part of military training...the familiar "This is my rifle, this is my gun [pointing to the penis], one is for killing, one is for fun." (1997, p.162)
The ethos of this institution that breaks down young men's defenses (that which connects them with others) in order to turn "boys" into "men" who readily submit to authority and are prepared to kill has permeated the whole of our culture. In the rituals of daily life we reenact its basic training.

Christ ponders, what would happen if all the energy and resources (money and human capital) spent on war and the cost of repairing its damages were instead devoted to the nurturing of life?

Razak (1991) proposes that new images can be created by men who participate in childbirth and affirm themselves as nurturers of life. Could Terry as a wounded warrior/ wounded healer - someone who [usually, except for that whole Arlene pregnancy thing] responds well to the emotions needs of others, doesn't shy away from holding another wounded man in his embrace, and finds fulfillment in nurturing family life - be seen as positing a new model of maleness? And a particularly potent image of masculinity for our times, at that, given that scores of battle-worn soldiers will soon be returning to our shores from the Iraq and Afghanistan fronts? 

And finally, there's everyone's favorite shape-shifting bar owner, Sam Merlotte. Sure, he's interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with Luna, so getting on her daughter's good side just makes good sense. But did you notice that initially, Luna seemed hesitant to even let Sam know she had a daughter; much less let him meet or get close to her?

Luna's shady behavior when he showed up at her door to return her seducing favor almost led me to believe that she was harboring not a pint-sized dynamo of a kid, but another man inside. Her leeriness to allow a strange man into her daughter's life is perfectly understandable; she's instinctively protecting her child, and part of her probably thought Sam would bolt at the sight of such "baggage".

But he proved her wrong! Sam was immediately at ease with Luna's daughter, crouching down to ask her, "which Barbie doll do I get, I hope she has a bunch of pretty dresses." If a rugged, scruffy-sexy guy sitting on the floor playing with Barbies isn't masculinity stereotype busting, I don't know what is!
Children are usually pretty adept judges of character; from the image to the right, it appears as though Luna's daughter has given Sam her stamp of approval. She can probably sense his genuine vibe.
Men in our culture are not raised to see themselves as relational; they have long been socialized to accept the model of the linear hero’s journey in which others he meets along the path are seen as either assets or barriers to his achieving his purpose.

As Christ writes, many thinkers have portrayed “man” as an isolated rational and moral individual – an island, if you will – and have posited an intrinsic opposition between the self and others who are perceived as impinging upon the freedom of the self. This ideal “independent self” of traditional philosophies and theologies can be seen as a fiction.

Theologian Martin Buber says, there is no “I” without a “Thou”, no self that is not created in relationship with others.

The basic word I-You can only be spoken with one’s whole being. The concentration and fusion into a whole being can never be accomplished by me, can never be accomplished without me. I require a You to become, becoming I, I say You. All actual life is encounter. (Christ, 1997, p. 137)
Buber states further that it is wrong to say that first we “are” and then we “enter into” relationships. "Rather, the longing for relation is primary, the cupped hand into which the being that confronts us nestles…In the beginning is the relation – as the category of being, as readiness, as a form that reaches out to be filled" (Christ, 1997, p. 137).

Too often, the models for being extended to men are more accurately represented by a closed fist than by an open hand reaching out to clasp with another. 

The men of True Blood profiled here - at least in their current incarnations - seem to have hands open and outstretched; they seem ready for relationship, for conceiving of themselves as relational. 

We absolutely need new images, integral models of maleness and masculinity, but, as Razak (1991, p. 165) writes, we must also answer "the critical need our society has to make a new model for human interaction". My eyes are glued to True Blood for what I hope will be a continuing stream of alternative images that can add to the discourse in this regard.

~ Rachel    
Christ, C.(1997) Rebirth of the goddess.  New York: Routledge.

Razak, A. (1991). Toward a Womanist analysis of birth. In Diamond, I. & Orenstein, G.F. (Eds.), Reweaving the world: The emergence of ecofeminism. (pp. 165-172). San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. 

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