First things first. I need to thank you for your contribution to the cinematic and television art. You understand the importance of character development and the emotions that come from relationships. You especially have a knack for perfectly capturing family relationships- probably from experience, I’m thinking. Six Feet Under was some of the greatest writing, best characters, and best developments ever seen on television. This show not only paved the way for realistic, multi-level gay characters, but also paved the way for cable networks to take a chance on producing television shows.
American Beauty was a feat for cinema. An amazing, captivating story without big explosions and cliches. You even captured the feeling of a gloomy, moody teenager while still treating her with respect and taking her seriously. And you made a superstar out of Kevin Spacey. (But seriously, what happened to Wes Benley? You should have a talk with him).
These are some deep stories that are sometimes hard to watch. It shows the core of what it means to be human, and most of those emotions ar not fun. So it makes total sense that for your next project, you’d want to do something light and fun. And even a little sexy. That’s what television is all about, right? Escaping reality.
Then you created True Blood.
Alan, great job on the first season! The characters were great. Even though it wasn’t heavy on plot, these were characters the viewers enjoyed spending time with. Not people you’d see on other shows. And the setting! You could almost feel the heat and mist coming off the swampland. You could have gone one route and made it Beverly Hillbilly style with people with southern twangs with backwards morals. But know, they were really smart people who happen to live in the deep south.
Alan, even when writing a fun, escapist show, you still managed to include some metaphors and allegories! You just can’t help it, you are that good! Alan, I loved the world you set up, where vampires weren’t walking around with Transylvanian accents and black capes. They were a subculture just trying to be accepted, and overcoming people’s judgments. To make it even richer, the vampires were themselves divided- some wanted to assimilate and be “accepted” by the mainstream, the others felt that they had been persecuted enough that they wanted to punish the mainstream and maintain their cultures. This could be a metaphor for racism, homophobia and other oppression. Brilliant, Alan.
So, Alan, my question is….what the hell happened?
After the first season, the show became a farcical cartoon. Characters had snappy one-liners,no one seemed fazed that a new mythical creature emerged into this small town almost hourly, and the plots became laughable. I am a bit embarrassed for you. Maybe you got caught up in it all. Sure, the ratings are through the roof, fangirls everywhere scream at the mere mention of Eric Northman, and vampires have never been more popular. But Alan, I do believe in you and that you have the talent to rope this show back in.
Based on the recent promo for the fourth season, you seem to be banking on the fact that Alex Skarsgaard’s naked chest is your main selling point. Alan, you are better than this.
Luckily, you have me to guide you to get things back on track. A fourth season is still a time to get better. It’s when the show really comes into its own. (I mean, have you watched The Wire?) I have some helpful notes for you.
1.No more “Are they together or not”? Sookie and Bill’s courtship in Season One was quite scintillating, mostly because it was forbidden. He was a sulky, brooding stranger and we learned about his past; Sookie really related because she, too, felt like an outsider. Since then, they have broken up and gotten back together more times then…well, middle school-ers. Lately the pattern is that Bill (supposedly) betrays Sookie, they confront each other, have angry, frantic sex, and then fight again, repeat cycle. All their conversations become about their relationships and what scary monster they just overcame. Don’t they ever just go to the movies? Or talk about what food they like? We should have all learned our lesson from the Ross and Rachel saga.
Not to mention this meth-head Crystal and her cycle of aggression and then passion for Jason Stackhouse. All we know about her is that she is an emotional roller coaster whose characterization depends on if she’s having sex with Jason. Let’s see more of her character so we can actually care if she gets away from her meth-head daddy and lives happily ever after with Jason.
2. Lay off the Sookie lust. Speaking of Sookie, please stop making her the object of everyone’s affection. Sure, she is the protagonist, and we want to like her and appreciate her as a character, but there are better ways to do this than making everyone instantly fall in love with her. First Sam’s holding a torch for her, then she meets Bill, then Eric is in love with her, and now it looks like Alcide will throw his name in the hat for her affections. Sure, she is attractive blonde who will pull out a feisty attitude when she is in a pickle, but she always ends up as a the damsel in distress. In the upcoming seasons, it would be great to see her take part ion the conflicts as an assertive force and be respected for her thoughts and not her attractiveness or her propensity to find herself in trouble. It’s as if you are trying to convince us how great she is by making the other characters become obsessed with her. Alan, as a talented writer, understand the idea of “show, don’t tell.” Please make us like Sookie because of what she does and says.
3. Stop the guest star revolving door. Slow down on introducing different types of supernatural characters. Heck, stop introducing characters, period! This show is slowly becoming what “Law and Order” guest starring parts are to struggling actors; everyone has it on their resume. The idea of the vampires is a nifty one, so let’s explore than some more. I know you are probably excited to show the other types of creatures, especially with all the cool CGI and makeup, but it’s a bit ridiculous. If I am understanding the timeline of the show correctly, the whole show has happened in a number of weeks. First, the vampires come to town. Fine. Sookie is psychic. Well, okay. We’ll go with that. Sam is a shape-shifter. Okaaaayyyyy….Then MaryAnn the Maenad comes to town. The next day, there’s a whole subculture of werewolves. And then, there are not just werewolves, there are WEREPANTHERS too. All living in Bon Temps, but they all reveal themselves within a matter of days. Then Lafayette meets a witch. Alan, please don’t even make me even mention Sookie meeting her family of faeries. I can’t even say it out loud without cringing.
We don’t even have a chance to understand these different subcultures, nor get a chance to see character’s true reactions to them. In the second season, a Maenad takes over the town and turns it into one big bloodfeast/orgy. The next day, everyone is back at the grocery store shopping for eggs and barely fazed. And how many times has Sookie been threatened/kidnapped? Meanwhile she is calm enough sunbathe in her bikini. Yes, these characters are all fantasy and part of the excitement, but if there is no human element to the interactions, this may as well be a Saturday morning cartoon.
For the next season, let’s stick with what we have. Let’s explore the inter-relationships of these cultures. Resist the urge to introduce the Leprechauns or Centaurs, or whatever new creature is coming down the pipeline.
3. Better portrayal of gay characters. Alan, you are a proud and out gay man, and I think that is wonderful. I appreciate you portraying gay characters in your movies that are not necessarily accessories to the plucky female lead. Heck, it is great that some of your characters are gay. Period.
But just being gay is not enough. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but your villains are disproportionally gay. Queen Sophie Anne and Russell Edgington, for example, are scheming, uncaring, manipulative villains. Even the pack of werewolves like to turn back into their (naked) human form and tumble around with each other and their enemies. It’s as if the gay in them is what makes them campy, fun villains.
I’m most upset about how Eric Northman takes revenge on Russell. Since Russell killed his Viking family thousands of years ago, Eric decides to kill the one he loves the most, his partner of over 500 years, Talbot. Now, you’ve explained that Eric is over a thousand years old and therefore a very strong, almost invincible vampire, and Talbot is only 500 years old. Eric could easily just overcome Talbot and kill him. It’s really about Talbot being dead, right? But alas, Eric concocts a scheme in which he first seduces Talbot, and kills him in the throes of sexual intercourse.
Why is that needed? I understand that several of your devoted female fans were in rapturous delight seeing Eric in a sensual position with another man, but why did he need to seduce him? Eric instructs him to “turn over” implying anal sex, but then kills him brutally. It’s as if Talbot was not only used as a pawn to get revenge on Russell, but also being punished for being gay. In your reasoning of the narrative, If only he wasn’t gay, he wouldn’t have felt for Eric’s seduction and thus not be killed.
Furthermore, Russell walked around with Talbot’s liquefied remains in a clear urn for a gross-out comedic affect. In that his pain for his partner’s death was a cause for comedy. Meanwhile, Tara’s pain over losing Eggs was a point of tragedy and was treated as such.
Alan, you and others may think I am over-analyzing this, but it does strike a cord with me. perhaps your gay characters can portray deeper feelings and personalities other than being gay. You seem to be going on the right track with Lafayette and Jesus; for two seasons Lafayette was a supplier of sassy comebacks, but it seems he has found a trusty partner in Jesus, his mother’s nurse. Hopefully in Season 4, we can see this relationship further their character development. And hopefully that will not be overshadowed by the discovery that Jesus is actually a witch (please refer to point #3).
4.Leave Tara alone! Please stop victimizing Tara. First season, she was a victim of her mother’s physical abuse. Second season, she was manipulated by MaryAnn and her boyfriend Eggs was gunned down. This past season, she was manipulated, stalked, kidnapped and raped by the vampire Franklin. How much more can this character take? Furthermore, how much more can her bottom lip take from all the trembling? I’m also a bit uncomfortable with the fact that she is the only black woman on the show and is constantly brutalized. Tara seems to be one of the smartest, forthcoming and even caring characters, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I’d like for Tara to be a protagonist or an agent of change for her own life, other than getting a sassy new haircut (which looks awful by the way).
Alan, you may say that you are only being true to the source material. Sure, it would be ignorant for me to ignore the fact that you didn’t pull these ideas out of thin air, that it is based on the book series by Charlaine Harris. I will also admit that I haven’t read them, so I don’t know much about them and if the issues I mentioned above plague these. However, there is a reason that books are adapted into movies and films. It is to create an interpretation of these books. HBO gave you a desirable time slot not because you can transcribe books directly into scripts, because you have a vision.
And I still believe in you to have that vision to get True Blood back on track. It can still be eye candy, an escapist fantasy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be of quality. I have faith in you. And I’m serious about you finding out what happened to Wes Bently.
Robin “Mrs. Sam Merlotte” Hardwick
[Thanks for the link on Reddit. I’m flattered that it warrants so much discussion.]