Sure, the books are cute, who doesn't like the books? (My favorite part of the books so far are the lack of skin-sparkles and spine-devouring devil-babies with retarded names.) I mean, the books would make a great show on TNT or A&E, like, my understanding of The Closer is that it seems to be about a woman totally engulfed by her troubling relationship with food, but who is secretly the most manipulative person on the planet, attended by six or seven dwarves, who are policemen by day. (…Am I even close?)
That sounds like wacky good fun, and I've always kind of assumed that would be the model for the Sookie Books. And then sliding toward edgier, Lord knows I adore The Cleaner and Saving Grace (besides Mad Men they're all I've really been watching), because basically I'll watch anything where people do a whole bunch of drugs and a whole bunch of fucking, and then have long conversations with God while solving crimes. That is so the best job. That would have been a fine match. The Sookie Books are mysteries, right? Do some fucking, snort some V blood, do heinous shit/solve a crime, be adorable and quirky and psychic. Easy.
Except this show didn't get made for TNT or A&E. So the whole character-centric, client-based formulaic fun goes out the window. This show got made for HBO, by Alan Ball, a man whose relationship with the zeitgeist is not unlike that of The Closer's with food, Grace's with scary sex, or Da Bratt with sobering people up. Which is to say, Alan Ball is so very much about the issues of the day that he's managed to grab hold of a concept that literally stands in for all issues simultaneously. Which is… the opposite of a dick move, as it turns out. It's actually fucking brilliant.
Because the show asks the same question as the books -- What if vampires...? -- and then answers it about fifty different extra ways. The books are about Sookie, but the show steps away from Sookie, which means you get to actually see what things are like for people who are not Sookie, so every scene in the entire first episode just keeps asking this question -- What if vampires..., what do you do? -- over and over and over, and every single scene answers it differently. So like, what does unshielded psychic waitress Sookie Stackhouse do? Wait for two years after the vampires' official simulcasted "coming out of the coffin" to see one up close, and spend that time getting more and more adorable. And when she does find one, his mind is closed to her. For a show -- and a trope -- that's all about penetration and interpenetration, whose teeth are where, whose mind's inside whose, that's a powerful aphrodisiac. She's spent her life hearing the beast in every man: why not choose the one monster whose beast she can't see? Plus, he's like soooo übercute.
And what does violently sexy brother Jason do? Well, that should be clear if you've ever seen a queer movie in your life: act totally gay-bashy about them while simultaneously focusing with laser-like sexual intensity on them and what they do in bed exactly, and then getting any vicarious hit he can off it. The sex part, actually seeing it happen in all its grotesque biological glory, seems to have really scandalized some early viewers, but I don't know. It's not particularly titillating, that's for sure. And it seems obviously played to a specific note that has more to do with Jason's body sending out certain unexpected signals that make him wary of himself, which is just one way we do this. Our era is such that a huge part of this kind of cultural change would be sexual in nature, because we are right now allowed to experiment with our bodies more fluidly than ever. He's the fetishizing-the-Other viewpoint here, so it's good that he looks so excellent naked, because mainly what he's going to be doing, apparently, is: Be Naked. Oh, and framed as a serial killer. A Naked one.
And what does the town's former Other -- a makeup wearing, hard-as-nails gender-nonspecific fry cook named Lafayette -- do about the vampires? Um, nothing really. He's too busy trying not to get his own ass murdered while holding down what seems to be 11 jobs, by my count, and simultaneously uttering witchy, wise, harsh and strange advice. For a character I was pretty sure was going to push every button I have, he sure did become amazing in about two seconds. He's like if every weird character from Shakespeare had a very skinny, very violent and sexually aggressive baby.
How about Sookie's sweet old Grandmother? She just giggles and nudges her granddaughter to ask the vamp out, because she's seen it all before. And the guy at the liquor store, he's all set to pretend to be a vampire just to fuck with normals, until he does it in front of a very unamused real one. What does the town whore do? Get caught up in a web of very spooky demon sex that ends in her murder. What does the best friend do? Act like a dick and whine a lot. I don't like her too much yet. What do the town meth addicts do? What addicts do best, which is do whatever's most brutal and nasty in order to get the best hit for the best dime -- which in this world includes chaining vamps down and draining their blood for dope. And what does Sookie's gorgeous boss Sam -- who is, of course, deeply and secretly smitten with her -- think about all this? Trust me when I say he's got his own shit to deal with.
I mean, we'll see what happens. Ball's giving all the right answers, Paquin has now slid 95% of the way across the bar from Cute to Hot, the vampires are all awesome so far (and will be including the Sexiest Man in Sweden by the end of this month)… Mostly I just like the idea: What do you do? What would you do? Now, of all times, I'm excited about watching the story of people who are present for a cultural change of sweeping intensity. Terrifying -- the apocalypse always is -- potentially gratifying, certainly edifying. This is a story about the moment everything changes. Now's the time.
I keep thinking about my grandmother -- or yours -- and how one day, maybe she was sitting on the porch or behind the wheel, and she saw a man and a woman together, with skin colors that didn't match. And their baby between them, toddling along, and maybe in this hypothetical Poitier moment she didn't have the software to process it: Babies are awesome and cute, but hate is this whole other thing, which may or may not even apply, but they don't really belong together, but too late for that now, but what's the kid going to grow up having tooooooo10010101010011. Not "good"/"bad", not "hate"/"tolerance", but something much more human: I don't have the fucking software for this downloaded into my head yet. Please be kind to me for as long as it takes.
So what do you do? Sex, either as a means to absorb the other or to be subsumed by it. Death/immortality: the two biggest opposites we've got. Freedom from illness/enslavement to hunger. Pain/pleasure, wisdom/addiction, euphoria/degradation. Escape/control, power/submission. You're on there somewhere, I'm on there, there's something there for everybody, because it's not really about what the vampires are, right, like their themness, because they've got it under control: they've been vampiring around behind your back forever. It's about what happens to us when things change, which is really the only story there ever is. Because, sorry, what happens to Sookie when things finally change is … very simple: she falls in love, she saves her man, she gets the ever-loving shit kicked out of her.
And I mean, not to knock it, but: wouldn't you rather watch something like that than Kyra, The Vampire Closer? Even if things get do a little porny now and then?
Oh, Kelly and Brad, you madcap couple of swamp rats. Let me ask you a question: how come the trashy-slutty-country vibe makes women look worse and men look hotter? Is it like age, like some kind of cultural misogyny where Sean Connery's ancient dick is still appealing to people, but Helen Hunt became disgusting when she turned 35? Is this fear of pussy talking? Are slutty country girls, in fact, hot and I just don't know it? And if so, is it because they -- like Kelly -- are willing to drive down the highway with one hand on the wheel and the other one around Brad's dick? Even though he is snoring and asleep? She says it's because she's bored, and he notes that she gets bored pretty easy, then lays back for his handjob. He's just getting into it when he sees the sign for a roadside gas station -- WE HAVE TRU BLOOD -- and squeals for her to stop.
Inside, Nan Flanagan is explaining for the umpteenth time to Bill Maher that, as citizens who pay taxes, her people deserve basic civil rights like everyone else. "Yeah, but... Come on. Doesn't your race have a rather sordid history of exploiting and feeding off innocent people? For centuries?" Is she a Republican? She looks kind of like a Republican. "Three points: Number one, show me documentation. It doesn't exist. Number two, doesn't your race have a history of exploitation? We never owned slaves, Bill, or detonated nuclear weapons." That's so human, like how if you kill one guy you're a murderer but if you kill a thousand you're a hero: vampires kill in a way that's way too intimate for Americans to handle, because intimacy is not something Americans can handle. "You blew up Japan." "Yeah, well you killed a dude in 1895, and it was really dark outside."
The guy operating the gas station this late at night has long lank hair, so black it's gotta be dyed, to match his gothy boots and intensely douchey silver jewelry: pentagrams, five rings on every finger, upside-down crucifix, etc. That was so sad when this guy got beat up every day of his entire childhood, but at least he had the shadows into which he could retreat. And look at him now: proving to everybody that being a self-conscious overdramatic weirdo is its own reward. Working the graveyard shift at a gas station is totally sticking it to the man, Ponytail.
"And most importantly, point number three: Now that the Japanese have perfected synthetic blood which satisfies our nutritional needs, there is no reason for anyone to fear us. I can assure you that every member of our community is now drinking synthetic blood." The only other guy in there is good old boy, whistling at the beer cooler, as Nan goes on: "That's why we decided to make our existence known. We just want to be part of mainstream society." On the screen the cheering and applause erupt; Brad and Kelly come in laughing, drunk.