Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Guest Post: From Hollywood to Bon Temps, and Nary a Feminist In Sight…by Emilie Spiegel

by Melissa Silverstein
September 13, 2011 3:05 AM
9 Comments
  • |

Sunday night’s HBO lineup included both the series finale of Entourage and the season 4 finale of True Blood—two vastly different shows, herein considered together not only because they play back-to-back on the same network, but because, somehow, women have come to serve the same purpose on both (even though one is set in affluent, glamorous Hollywood and the other in working class, quotidian Bon Temps, Louisiana). Magical agents and magical witches aside, somehow, these two shows have created a narrative economy wherein women serve as motivating agents for men… ciphers largely devoid of their own desires and goals, or as a friend put it “Sookie Stackhouse is the MacGuffin of Bon Temps. She could easily just be replaced by a magical vase that everyone really likes.”

In fairness, Entourage was never going to be a feminist vehicle, but at its best (this season particularly), the show displayed some awareness of the utter ineligibility of its male characters. Vincent Chase is a mostly shallow womanizer who uses his good (ok, great) looks and charm as a shield against intimacy. Ari Gold, for all his last-minute, grandstanding mea culpas, does sell out his wife and kids at every given opportunity. And Eric! Oh, Eric… the only kinda, mostly good guy. You did totally sleep with your ex-fiancé’s (ex) stepmother and lie about it. When the ladies on the show finally seemed to (pardon the expression) grow a pair and reject these louts, I was (perhaps naively) heartened. Until last night.

The smart, no-nonsense journalist (Alice Eve) who accurately eviscerates Vince for his inability to connect with women on a deep level pulls a 180 and decides to marry him after one epic date and a few “c’mon, he’s a great guy” speeches from his friends and exes. Mrs. Ari (a character who until this season did not have a first name, but was only known by her husband’s… wow) retracted her fully justified demand for a divorce after years of neglect and humiliation and is last seen in a bathing suit and heels, bending over her husband, with her “assets” squarely to the camera. And the girl Eric betrayed and impregnated… well, she’s ok with all that now and they can totally live happily ever after. Ouch.

Entourage doesn’t exactly get a pass for this level of absurd misogyny, but at least the show always presented itself as a “boys’ club.” True Blood, however… True Blood—the brainchild of a female author… the series centered on a strong, magical female protagonist… the show that gave us Pam, the best female vampire ever on television. I’m disappointed.

Sookie’s character arc is hinged on which centuries-old vampire she’s currently sleeping with, how she can use her magic to save him (or how her magic-ness has rendered her a target in desperate need of his saving), and occasionally, how many excuses for skimpy sundresses she can cram into one episode. Her best friend (and perpetual victim) Tara has gone from a righteously pissed-off hellcat to an ineffective, inconsistent whiner. And even Jessica, the new vampire on the block, has to sublimate her strength and appetites so the human men who lust after her can work out their issues with each other.

I applaud True Blood’s creators for branching out creatively and not sticking strictly to the plot lines laid out in the book series upon which it’s based. But would it kill them to remember that in the books, women (and Sookie especially) were the focus, not the set-dressing? I’m guardedly optimistic for Season 5.

Emilie Spiegel is a grad student, studying the effects of Media Cultures on young women. She lives in Brooklyn.

  • |

More: Sexism

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

9 Comments

  • Heather | September 18, 2011 8:56 AMReply

    That pretty much sums up how I felt about True Blood this season. All of the female characters were lame, except for Nan.

  • Heather | September 18, 2011 8:07 AMReply

    Actually, I liked Jessica this year. I love Pam, and hated how they destroyed her character. Tara started out promising, but really wasn't used a lot. Sookie was really annoying.

  • Beth | September 15, 2011 12:32 PMReply

    Oh my goodness, I am glad that I am not the only one who hated Sookie this season. I was jumping up and down yelling "What the heck are you forgiving him for?". He expressed no remorse, no regret. He was sad because he got caught. Lets not even get into the fact that he had sex with another woman, while he was still with her. Yuck, Sookie became the kind of girl that whines about how bad men treat her, but keeps going back for more. What an insult!

  • Tracy | September 14, 2011 12:59 PMReply

    I've given up on the show after this season. They have completely ruined the character of Sookie. I don't even recognize her. Charlaine should be ashamed.

  • Jo Fish | September 14, 2011 9:09 AMReply

    Great article, and I'm glad I never saw Entourage! After I liked the first season of True Blood, which was fairly true to Charlaine's first SVM book, I watched all of Six Feet Under. I thought that Nate, the main character, was horrible to the many women in his life. I was thrilled when he died, and I don't think that's how viewers were supposed to feel. He was a misogynist like Bill: he used women all the time and seemed to feel like he was treated unfairly by them when things didn't work. (I know Brenda was a piece of work, but I'm not talking about her.) I'm not a bit surprised that another Alan Ball show treats women like plot devices for the men. The book Sookie is unrecognizable in this season of True Blood. And Pam? Not even included in this show.

  • Emilie | September 14, 2011 6:25 AMReply

    So pleased to hear i'm not the only one chafing at the ladies of Bon Temps this season! I have (guarded) faith that it'll turn around... what do you think?

  • Missy | September 14, 2011 5:41 AMReply

    So agree with you. Sookie Stackhouse and Pam are the strongest female characters of the novels. Pam now is acting like a spoiled teenage brat, when in the book this season was based on lead team of vampires, wiccans and weres against evil witches. Sookie forgives and asks forgiveness to the man that had her beaten up almost to death, lied to her all their relationship, manipulated to fall in love with him, cheated on her and tried to kill other people for her. All a week after finding all of this out. She/they are everything their book characters are not!

  • zee | September 14, 2011 5:18 AMReply

    i so agree....and what they reduced Pam to this season! after building her up as such a great strong loyal right hand for eric,this season was such a let down! and sookie....the strong,fearless heroine who manages to save everyone in the books even though she has no microwave fingers.....THIS is not her...this girl doesnt even wait or process her ex's betrayal,and asks HIM for forgiveness??excuse me?what?! am i not on planet earth anymore? i cant think of a single female character with more thn five minutes of screen time they havent royally screwed up...its sad really.

  • Julie | September 14, 2011 4:02 AMReply

    Thanks. You've totally voiced the complaints about True Blood that I've had for a long time. I lost interest in this show this summer. I couldn't get past how horrible the female characters are written on this show.

Email Updates

Most "Liked"

  • Amma Asante Inspires Women Filmmakers ...
  • New York's Women’s Project Theater Hires ...
  • 17% of Venice Film Fest's Main Lineup ...
  • Trailer Watch: Dear White People Tackles ...
  • You're the Worst: Misanthropes In L ...
  • Amanda de Cadenet on Becoming the Newest ...
  • Trailer Watch: Fifty Shades of Grey ...
  • Quote of the Day: Joe Swanberg on the ...
  • Trailer Watch: New Spot for Chloe Grace ...
  • Soska Sisters to Direct Superheroine ...