This post contains spoilers through the Aug. 21 episode of True Blood.
After a season spent cavorting through convoluted mythologies, True Blood finally returned to politics tonight, with unimpressive results. One of my friends suggested earlier in the weekend that he wished the show would get down to politics instead of going off into snow-drifted fantasies, and while I agree with that in principal, that would require the show to have a coherent political vision, which True Blood lacks. Wherever the show turns this season lies shallowness, and worst, offense.
In that latter category lay the resolution to Lafayette and Mikey’s storylines. Lafayette, having been possessed of the spirit of a black woman, murdered along with her child by her white lover, storms into Hoyt’s house wielding both Mikey and a gun and orders Hoyt out of his house, prompting a standoff. He refuses to let Andy into the house on the grounds that “You sound like a white man,” prompting Andy to holler at Jason that “this situation became pretty damn un-defused by the time that she-male broke into my house.” It’s clumsy and entirely predictable to have an effeminate gay man imbued with the spirit of a woman. And it’s even more predictable that, despite a storyline that’s ostensibly about the deep wounds of Southern racism and how they stretch across generations, the entire thing’s resolved with a bit of magical mumbo-jumbo (and I mean literal mumbo-jumbo), a backyard excavation, and the nice white family getting their formerly haunted baby back. Getting reunited with your bones is one way of settling a spirit. But an actual engagement with the institutionalized racism that let Mavis get murdered and forgotten would be just a tad more meaningful.
In second-place for racial clumsiness was a moment at the beginning of the Tolerance Festival (the vampires need some marketing people on payroll) when Bill protested that the whole thing felt like “having a civil rights protest without any black people,” only to have his boss lady remind him, “They’re called African-Americans,” as if she’s telling him something profound and meaningful. I actually thought this scene was reasonably well put together, complete with a testimonial from a vampire ally. But it’s much more interesting to look at what happens when members of a minority group behave in a way that some members of that group think isn’t conducive to assimilation when those people are acting of their own free will, rather than under suggestion from evil wishes. This is a boring way at getting at a fascinating issue, and Marnie/Antonia’s quest has become just another predictable way to torture Tara.
The one part of the episode that I thought worked on a political level was Sam and Luna’s camping trip with Luna’s daughter, which turned into a nice illustration of the perils of sensitive parenting. “I hope I turn out to be a shifter instead of a werewolf,” Luna’s daughter chirps at one point. “Whatever you wind up being is what you’re supposed to be,” her worried mother tells her, worried that she’s caught the scent of some incipient self-hate. “Why are you being all serious when I just want to pet a bunny?” her daughter complains to Luna. Sometimes, wanting to be a shifter is a sign of incipient anti-werewolf prejudice. And sometimes, it’s just about the fluffy bunnies.