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, September 15, 2011

Women Setting Boundaries in True Blood S4 Finale

WOW. I mean, really, WOW. There's so much that can be said about the unreal True Blood S4 finale that aired this past Sunday, "And When I Die".

Multiple viewings of it may in fact be truly hazardous to your health!

Case in point: I crashed at Rebecca's house on Tuesday night, and we decided to re-watch the episode together. Just as the opening credits began, our brother pulled into the driveway and we shot each other looks acknowledging the fact that as soon as he came in the door and realized we were watching it AGAIN, he might just kill us!

You see, Johnny's a fan of the show too, but for him watching each episode once is enough. And when he comes in from work, he likes to relax in front of the tube and decompress. So as the key turned in the door we braced ourselves and when we heard him in the hallway, we both grimaced and Rebecca almost timidly called out, "hey man" to test his mood. 

Luckily for us, his shift had been good and he was feeling benevolent. Striding up the stairs, he caught the strains of Bad Things rising and joked, "third time's the charm, huh?" before briefly taking inventory of the fridge and descending back down the stairs to his room.

Whew, close call. We were now free to watch "And When I Die" yet again, and although each of us had already seen it at least once (we viewed the finale together late Sunday night and Rebecca had re-watched the next day and taken notes), we were both still feeling the effects of the fangover and attempting the process the show's dizzying chain of events. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, so much happened during the finale that we could discuss here at the PPT. But since the Web has been abuzz for several days with recaps, reflections, and questions concerning the central action, I'd like to address a subtly nuanced theme of female empowerment nestled within the episode's dizzing action.  

Easy to overlook in light of the general craziness of the S4 finale, this theme is made evident in the pattern of several female characters drawing boundaries for themselves in their relationships that emerged during the course of the show, particularly in relation to Sookie, Jessica, Luna & Holly.

Rebecca and I started to flesh out our ideas on this topic on Tuesday night.

When the episode ended, we joked a little about how I had, in a moment of denial that the season had actually come to its conclusion on Sunday night, told her "no, we've got to see the coming attractions" when she lifted the remote to switch the station. Rebecca had astutely pointed out on Sunday that there would be no trailers for next week and that I'd have to face the fact that a sobering nine months of True Blood withdrawal stretched out like a barren wasteland before us.

Maybe a little over-dramatic, but true nonetheless.

So we laughed a little about that again, and Rebecca quickly turned our attention to an article she had read online that pointed out how, in her two-way break up with Eric and Bill, Sookie has actually chosen herself.

Although leaving without either of them in her life caused she and both her lovers great heartache, Sookie realized - perhaps due in part to the poignant words of her dearly departed Gran's spirit - that being alone is nothing to be afraid of.

And that maybe the best thing for her to do instead of trying to choose between Bill and Eric was to take some time to discover and get to know herself, outside of a relationship. Although shocked and deeply hurt, both vampires respected Sookie's wishes enough (at least for now) to let her go.

Similarly, during her sexy Halloween night tryst with Jason, Jessica verbalized her own sense that she is just barely getting to know herself.

Jessica is Rebecca's favorite female character for the reason that she feels the baby vamp displays the most real, believable [human] emotion. Sorry Sookie - Rebecca's words, not mine ;-) but I don't disagree.

Despite their strong mutual attraction and genuine caring towards one another, Jessica was brave and authentic enough to draw a mid-coitus line in the sand, telling Jason that she did not want to be his girlfriend. It's not that she doesn't want him; she's simply not ready to commit to him yet because she recognizes her inexperience in relationships and she doesn't want to hurt Jason the way Hoyt ended up hurt when they broke up.

In this scene, Jessica asserted herself as a sexual woman and vampire who is beginning to know what she wants and needs and isn't afraid to articulate that to the man in her life. And for his part, Jason was understanding and accepting of Jessica's reticence to jump into a committed relationship with him or to be intimate enough with him to drink his blood; as Jessica said, at least not yet.

Luna, too, put the breaks on a close encounter that could have heated up into quite the romantic night for she and Sam.

Not because she's not ready to stay the night with Sam or for them to be an official item (although that may well the be the case), but because she felt her baby girl Emma may not be. Luna and Sam both displayed the emotional maturity required to take their budding relationship slow; let's hope the snarling wolf that confronted Sam just as the van carrying Luna and Emma home drove up the Merlotte's driveway towards the parish road and out of view doesn't put the permanent brakes on this promising couple!

Last but not least, we've got fairy-costumed Holly, who, despite (or maybe because of) her mental and physical exhaustion brought on by the drama of the night had the gumption to tell it like it is to a persistent, Halloween bouquet-toting Andy Bellefleur.

Here's the dialogue courtesy of Television Without Pity

Andy: "Sorry about the last time, when I took your flowers."
Holly: "That's okay, you were nervous."
Andy: "No, I was a drug addict. V. thought I needed it to do the job, and to talk pretty ladies like you... So I didn't feel like a loser all the time. It worked for a while, then it didn't."
Holly, wearily: "Okay look, honey. You're really sweet and everything, but this is all just too much for me right now."
Andy: "It's no problem. Lot of baggage, I get it. I just wanted to say that I'm sober and I'm lonely. And I can be good to someone if they let me. 'Night."

After taking in and weighing what he had to say, Holly asked Sheriff Andy for a much-needed hug, which I think may have been balm for both their souls. I look forward to seeing what will come next for these two, and if the kind of "rigorous honesty" the tragically doomed Debbie Pelt had talked about having with Alcide might prevail for both of them; given their respective pasts (Holly as a survivor of sexual assault and Andy as a recovering addict) should they become involved.

Now, the above is not to suggest that self-actualization and being in relationship are mutually exclusive. In fact, as the introduction to the section on self-in-relation in the book Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality asserts, the idea of self as relational is prominent in feminist thinking.

The concept of the relational self has not caught on in the traditions of dominant Euro-Western philosophy and theology in which Descartes's' vision of the self as essentially rational, disembodied, and solitary holds sway. From this perspective, it is easy to see how relationships could be seen as detrimental to the growth and development of the self - especially for women - whose stereotyped roles as nurturers and caregivers of others threaten to swallow us alive.

Another vision of the self suggests that we are by nature embodied, passionaterelational, and communal. Many feminist adhering to this viewpoint stress that identity is found in community. Black womanist theologian Delores S. Williams coined the term "relational interdependence" to name Black women's struggles for freedom from racist and sexist stereotypes within the context of relationships, family, and community. In this view, women's independence is relational.

There is no you without me; no me without you. The self is forged in relationship.

Even so, drawing healthy boundaries for the relationships that structure our lives and bind us to others is necessary, and it's refreshing to see the women of True Blood taking these steps - and their men responding in kind!

Yours in TB withdrawal...

~ Rachel


  1. So I followed your link from the Inside True Blood blog, which is why I'm only finding your post two weeks after you put it up.

    Although I do see the parallels you've pointed out with the major female characters drawing their boundaries, and asking the men in their lives to respect them, I have to ask... what would be your feminist perspective on Sookie still considering being in a relationship with Bill, after all he's done to her?

    It was in the finale of S3 that it was revealed to Sookie that Bill was sent by QSA because of what she might be, that he entered into a relationship with her under false pretenses, and stood by and watched while two rednecks beat her until she was almost dead. He lied to her repeatedly, and even cheated on her with Lorena. Would an empowered woman even consider returning to this abusive relationship?

    So, while I can see the writers of TB trying to use feminist themes on the show, I see a stronger, more frightening message underneath the surface.


  2. Hey krtmd,
    Thanks for engaging us here; your thoughtful post is quite appreciated! Sometimes it's hard to get a real dialogue going and it's clear that you've given issues quite a bit of consideration. Here's my take.

    I don't see True Blood as necessarily pursuing feminist themes as much as they posit ideas, situations, characters, and story arcs that are of interest to feminists and ripe for feminist analysis.

    I don't see Sookie as a feminist icon, but I don't think she or any other female characters on the show need to be writ large as "feminist" characters for them to be part of a feminist discourse.

    I have talked about this concept in other posts. notably this one:

    Here's an excerpt from that post:

    ...When it comes to True Blood, Sookie and Tara, Arlene, Jessica, Pam, and Sophie-Ann, Crystal and Debbie needn't be cut from the cloth of any of these remarkable women or draped in the mantle of feminism; writ large as "feminist characters" to offer us valuable points of departure for dialogue and discourse around our issues and struggles, identities, aspirations, relationships, and our lives - whether we are male or female.

    More to come...

  3. Hi again krtmd,
    Blogger wouldn't let me post my whole response to your comment!

    Here's the 2nd half...

    RE: Sookie and Bill, I completely understand your perspective, but to be fair I think we must admit that the same argument can be applied to Eric in terms of reasons why Sookie should not consider him as a romantic partner, i.e. manipulation, dishonesty, etc.

    Truly, should any women really consider either of these guys who have been capable of such extreme cruelty and violence?

    My sister and I were so horrified by the S3 "It Hurts Me Too" scene of eroticized rage between Bill and Lorena, I think if you really want our take on how True Blood puts disturbing but potently socially relevant issues out there and says, "discuss" you should take a look at the very first posts that launched this blog; they are linked in the upper left hand corner of ever page here at the tavern.

    Here's an excerpt:

    ...And yet, we can’t condemn or denounce this scene bravely and powerfully acted by Mariana Klaveno and Stephen Moyer which according to the National Organization for Women (NOW) Media Hall of Shame blog entry “True Blood Depiction of Sexual Violence Goes Too Far” would appear to be the right and proper feminist response. Rather, we see this deliberately shocking scene—shocking not because it shows that Bill might not be right for Sookie but because of the vivid picture it paints of the brutal fantasies and realities of penetration, destruction, and domination that have pervaded our culture since its birth and continue to prevail—as an opportunity to interrogate violent misogyny.

    Frankly, I'm less interested in whether or not this is an example of Bill cheating on Sookie that proves he is unworthy of her, than, for instance, considering why it is that so many viewers of the show posted on discussion boards that Lorena got what she deserved, while Sookie would be deemed too pure and virtuous to ever be exposed or subjected to such violence.

    I'm also concerned with the idea of woman as redeemer of man; this theme is present in literature dating back centuries and comes forth in True Blood in terms of the Bill/Sookie and Eric/Sookie relationships.

    Is Sookie a true romantic interest - an egalitarian partner - for either of these men, or is part of their attraction to her made up of their drive to put her on a pedestal as a vessel of their redemption, their recovered humanity?

    Do I have a hard time reconciling the genteel and romantic Bill (who I do believe loves Sookie deeply - he has evidenced this through self-sacrificial efforts to save her life on many occasions) the Bill that was capable of so despoiling Lorena? Yes. I do think that since we are dealing with vampires, the betrayals and offenses we see Bill (and Eric for that matter) commit as well as their heroics are on an inhuman scale; they can be seen as allegories for the trials, pitfalls, glories, and ambiguities of relationships, as Alan Ball has said, the "terrors of intimacy". So when is enough? When do we seek to make our relationships work, and when do we bail? I think it's significant that at this point in her life; Sookie has chosen to bail - on both Bill and Eric - and too focus (hopefully) on herself.

    This girl is not looking forward to a season 5 of Sookie and Alcide. Would an empowered woman, in your view, partner up for the sake of partnering up so soon after severing ties with two other men?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts, and for you to keep visiting/commenting here at the PPT!


  4. I, too, am not looking forward to a Sookie and Alcide pairing - particularly after the all too vivid demonstration of how Alcide treats the women of his life. I never thought it possible, as a fan of the books, to be sympathetic to Debbie Pelt, but I was. As a recovering addict, Debbie needed support and TLC, and what she got was a boyfriend who isolated her from her community, lied about his interest in another woman, and generally abandoned her to her insecurities. Granted, she is ultimately responsible for herself, but Alcide may as well have loaded that shotgun Debbie pointed at Sookie.

    I'm hoping that TB actually sticks to the books a bit where Sookie and Alcide are concerned - a friendship with a mutual attraction that cannot go further. They've also set it up that Sookie can hear Alcide's thoughts, so a relationship between them strains credibility within the show's mythology and the premise of why Sookie is attracted to vampires in the first place. Then again, this show tosses out their own mythology often when it suits their plot.

    Ultimately, I am doubtful that Sookie will spend a considerable time by herself - something any woman must learn to do. She has never lived alone, or been alone - lonely, yes, but alone, no. But I do not have faith that the show will be willing to show that - there are ratings to think of, cliffhangers to dangle, shockers to deliver. I'm just not sure they are truly brave enough to deliver what Sookie really needs - time.

    As to the Lorena thing, although I do believe that ultimately Bill raped Lorena, I also think that her active participation in the act ultimately removed her as a victim. Was Bill acting in violence, rather than love? Yes. But did he commit an act of violence against Lorena's will? No. But it certainly isn't the first time we've seen Bill act this way... I would argue that the graveyard sex scene between Sookie and Bill from S1 could also be construed as a rape.

    In fact, this show has a strange relationship with rape. Although your blog focuses on a feminist perspective, I would be curious to know your thoughts on the gang rape of Jason by a bunch of marginalized women. I so hoped to see a moral here, a lesson, consequences for any of them - but instead it was played for laughs.

    My post is a little all over the place, and I apologize for being wordy. I have more to think about in terms of Sookie and Eric. As a bookie, it's hard for me to let go of the hopes I had for their tv relationship, and what has instead been delivered on True Blood.


  5. Hey there, krtmd! Thanks for the continued dialogue. This type of interaction is exactly what we've been looking for! Rachel and I have had the same convo with each other about Alcide and his treatment of Debbie (isolating her, lying to her ect.)by the way.
    It really helps us as bloggers to know that people such as yourself are out there, watching this show the way we do. Have no fears about being too wordy..we here at The PPT tend to get a bit wordy at times as well, and we like it ;-)
    We have blogged quite a bit about Jason's storyline this season! I think you'll find our p.o.v. as far as the rape of his character here: It has never been our thought that his rape was played for laughs, and I hope that by reading this post you'll see why! We would also encourage you to poke around our archives and join in more of our conversations. Also, if there is anyone else out there (friends,fellow bloggers, True Blood forum users) that you know of, that would enjoy joining the conversation please feel free to invite them in! Thanks again for the feedback ~ Rebecca