Here is one of the main problems that you run into when you build a movie or TV show around mythical creatures: who cares? Let me put that another way. Lots of people enjoy movies and TV shows about mythical creatures very much, duh, but there is a crisis of empathy. You can’t really relate to a creature that doesn’t exist, not in any meaningful way. Similarly, you can’t really relate to a human being that wants to fuck that creature. Granted, vampires are probably a little easier to emotionally connect with due to their mostly humanoid faces than, say, a show about minotaurs trying to assimilate in public, especially vampires like the ones in True Blood with retractable teeth (you can’t tell someone’s a vampire just by looking at them!).
One could make the argument, of course, that fictional characters in general do not exist, so why is it any harder to get emotionally attached to a non-human fictional character than it is to, say, Chuck Bass? And that point is a fair one, but it doesn’t really take into account the impressive amount of will it takes to suspend the disbelief when the character you are supposed to be getting emotionally attached to is an immortal undead creature that feeds on human blood but whose blood is also a drug and who also wants equal rights and who drinks Arizona Iced Synethetic Blood at the bar.
The weird thing, though, with True Blood’s emotional core is that the vampires are the least of its problems.
Now maybe it’s because all of the “regular” people have to be equally supernatural (Sookie is psychic, Sam Merlotte is a puppy changeling), and maybe it’s because everyone has THE WORST ACCENT, but it is incredibly difficult, at least for me, to get emotionally invested in these characters. Is Jason going to become a drug addict? Is Sookie going to become a vampire? Is Tara ever going to shut the fuck up? I don’t know! And I don’t mind not knowing!
Last night’s episode seemed like it was supposed to be really powerful and stuff. Sookie’s and Jason’s grandma was murdered, and everyone is blaming Sookie, and she takes a Valium, and Tara confronts her mom about her alcoholism, and Sam doesn’t want to play games, and Vampire Bill is a tender lover, and Jason Stackhouse cries while having reverse cowboy sex to deal with his emotions, and is that Cat Power playing in the background? Yes, that is Cat Power playing in the background. But it was also the most boring episode! I would miss Grandma Stackhouse more if the show hadn’t just started and she wasn’t a two-dimensional character of the benign, aging Southern Belle who’s nothing but sweetness to everyone she meets. I’m glad that Sookie and Vampire Bill finally have sex not because it is the narrative relief of having the two protagonists finally coming together, but because it was getting tiresome to have them dance around it in every episode. And Tara is insufferable.
To give you a sense of what I am talking about as far as True Blood’s difficulty in connecting with viewers (or at least this viewer) emotionally, please consider the pie scene from last night’s episode.
What is that scene? WHAT IS THAT PIE? Vampires aren’t the only mythical creatures on this show, there’s also the mythical pudding pecan sadness pie with no bottom crust. But let’s get off grandma’s pies, I just got off yours (what?) The point is that this is probably the most “intense” and “poignant” moment in the series so far and it is overly-long, completely devoid of any emotional impact, and ridiculous. And it didn’t even have any leather-vest wearing go-go vampires. I rest my case.