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true blood and the water cooler

I should say something about True Blood’s water cooler moment from last night. First, though, I’d like to mention something Charlie said when he was visiting this weekend. He noted that I write a lot about television, but I rarely give anything away. He watched all five seasons of The Wire because I obsessively promoted it, but when he finally did so, he was regularly surprised, because I managed to explain the qualities of the show without telling “what happened” for the most part.

I’m not going to say “what happened” on True Blood last night, so you can consider this spoiler-free, beyond noting that the episode did indeed have a water cooler moment, which in a sense gives something away, I suppose.

On The Atlantic web site, Clarissa Rappoport-Hankins wrote that the specifics of the water cooler moment amounted to “a petty excuse to go for shock value and violence-instilled titillation.” I don’t entirely disagree … I wouldn’t use the word “petty,” and I don’t know that they need an excuse, but yes, it was shocking, violent, and titillating, more so than usual (hence the water cooler discussions). But really, is anyone surprised when True Blood takes another step in the direction of sex and violence? I completely understand not liking the show for its at times cavalier treatment of sex, violence, and the combination of the two. And I wouldn’t be writing this if last night’s episode hadn’t gone a step further than had happened before. Having said that, I stand by my opinion that True Blood is a show that lazily allows the context of vampire mythology to create the illusion of depth in a series that is about titillation above all else. It’s a highly-entertaining show, one of my favorites. But it’s entertaining because of the shock value and violence-instilled titillation, not in spite of it.

I just had a thought. I wonder what Pauline Kael would have thought of True Blood? It does seem rather De Palma-esque.