I really used to like True Blood at one point in time—or at least I liked it a lot better than I do now—but Season 3 has to be the worst season thus far. I wasn’t happy with Season 2 and its portrayal of religion through an extremist group, but at the very least I didn’t hate everything that was happening. That’s not true of Season 3. The Tara storyline made this season painful to watch, and though it was by far the worst storyline, it was hardly the only awful thing happening. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the writers purposefully went out of their way to make Season 3 the most offensive, difficult, triggering season possible. And Tara’s rape plot is sadly not its only devolution into straight up misogyny.
Spoilers and trigger warning for mutilation, slut-shaming, mental issues, rape, and abuse up ahead.
Other than Tara and Sookie, True Blood gives us a decent number of important female leads. The vampire Lorena and the werewolf Debbie are just two of them, and they both played huge roles this season. We’re first introduced to Lorena during Season 2 and learn that she is Bill’s sire. We also learn that she is obsessed with Bill, can be very jealous, and wants Bill to love her. Due to this, she absolutely hates Sookie and wishes to see her dead. We learn a bit more about her this season as well. During a conversation with Bill, we find out that her sire practically traumatized her into insanity. Lorena used to be a good person, grew up as a member in a convent, and was convinced that God is love. However, before taking her vows, she was turned into a vampire, and her sire would use her to lure men to him. Then, he would rape, mutilate, and murder those men.
Lorena herself underwent abuse at his hands, and due to that she lost the ability to love and feel affection, which consequently is why she’s so obsessed with Bill. She believes Bill is a very compassionate person, and that intrigues her, since she’s incapable of the emotions he displays, because that’s how abuse and mental disorders work now, I guess. During a conversation between Bill and Lorena, Bill mentions that Lorena’s sire, who was an evil twisted person, turned Lorena into a vampire and shaped her to be a mirror of himself—as such, Lorena learned to destroy everything she touches and to hate and distrust other people.
All in all, I think Lorena could have been a very interesting character. Lord knows I love Drusilla from Buffy, and both characters are pretty much in the exact same position with the exact same backstories. They’re both psychotic, dark and twisted, and have the potential to be awesome villainesses. But where Drusilla was fun and exciting to watch, Lorena’s just boring, and that makes the problematic aspects about her character so much harder to overlook. It also doesn’t help that her psychological issues seem to be based on a significant misunderstanding of how abuse works—people don’t just lose their ability to feel love.
Lorena is a character defined by the men in her life. Her sire took her, twisted her, and hurt her so badly that hundreds of years after his death, Lorena is still incapable of feeling love/compassion/whatever emotion the writers don’t want her to feel. From this, we can infer that Lorena is meant to be a tragic character, but never at any point does the story capitalize on that to better develop her. Her backstory doesn’t really let us learn about and pity her; it feels more like an obligation and cheap explanation for her actions. Oh, Lorena is evil and insane? Well, that’s because she suffered abuse at the hands of a random asshole hundreds of years ago. She has no character development or redeeming qualities? Well, you see, that’s because the abuse took away her ability to feel love. This is why she doesn’t learn and grow as a person over the two seasons we see her in.
And now that she’s out from under her sire’s control, Lorena is obsessed with Bill, who becomes her primary motivation. She teams up with the vampire Russell Edington this season, and is promised Bill for her work. When Bill betrays Russell, Russell orders Lorena to kill Bill. These are orders she cannot disobey. As such, she procrastinates as much as possible by torturing Bill and mutilating him with knives. She even goes so far as to cut herself and mix their blood together, so she’ll be inside him when she finally does kill him, because that’s not an apparent rape analogy.
However, before Bill’s betrayal is found out, the two of them share a few scenes together. When Bill first sees Lorena this season, he sets her on fire because she walked into the room he was in. I know Lorena isn’t a good person, but Bill is supposed to be, and the two of them didn’t part on violent terms at the end of Season 2. Maybe they weren’t good terms, but they also weren’t murderous. I would have thought that, I don’t know, Bill would have waited to find out what Lorena was up to before attempting to murder her. Later on, since Lorena is so obsessed with Bill that not even getting set on fire will turn her off to him, she confronts him, and the two of them have incredibly rough sex—Bill breaks Lorena’s neck, twists her head around, and continues having sex with her body. This scene was so shocking and misogynistic because not only do we have a female villain solely defined by men, we’re supposed to empathize with Bill as he brutally attacks her. We’re supposed to hate her so much that nearly breaking her head off and having sex with her body, as if she’s just an object and that’s the only part that’s valuable, is supposed to be acceptable.
After Lorena is told to kill Bill, Sookie confronts her, and Lorena ends up being staked. As she always viewed Sookie as her competition for Bill, and Sookie in turn naturally couldn’t see her as anything other than an adversary (Lorena has tried to kill Sookie a couple times before as well), Lorena’s death also delves into another harmful stereotype. Women need to compete with each other for men’s affection, and Lorena just wasn’t good enough.
Sadly, Lorena is not the only offensive female character this season. We still have the werewolf Debbie to talk about. While Lorena fulfills the “women are competition” and “women need men” stereotypes, Debbie fills the “white trash” and “sluts” stereotypes. Debbie used to date the werewolf Alcide, but she left him for another werewolf. The reasons why she did this are never properly explained, and her dumping of Alcide exists only to further Alcide’s manpain, since he now has to witness his former girlfriend who he loves fuck another werewolf. I say “fuck” and not “date”, because that’s what it is. Debbie spends all season dressed up like “whore”, sleeping around, getting high on V, and is generally treated like an idiot, because she left Alcide—the most amazing guy ever—to be with someone else. And that’s literally it to her character. It doesn’t help that Sookie slut-shames her throughout the whole season and calls her stupid for leaving Alcide, because we’re supposed to agree with Sookie. We’re supposed to disagree with Debbie for daring to be with a man of her own choosing, exercise bodily autonomy, and sleep with the people she wants to sleep with. Making her a V addict just goes to further the audience’s contempt for her character.
Season 3 almost made me stop watching this show. I always knew that True Blood had problematic material, but I never expected it to get this bad. It almost feels as if the show went out of its way to make as many people as possible hate it or feel offended by it. If that’s the case, it certainly succeeded. I’ve already started on the fourth season, and I can sadly inform you that the show, while improving in some areas, still adheres to numerous stereotypes and trigger storylines. At the very least, though, halfway through the season, it’s still not as bad as this season. So maybe there’s hope for True Blood, but at this point, I wouldn’t expect anything.
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I’m sorry to say it’s only going to get worse from here. I watched all the way to the end for completionism, but will likely never rewatch.
Reblogged this on Blogging After Dark and commented:
I wish we could resurrect this show and do it right this time.