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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Comparing True Blood To The Southern Vampire Mysteries


I was a late bloomer to watching the True Blood series on HBO but I have read the majority of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (not the last one though.) I’ve written before that I’m a sucker for not only horror/scifi movies but for parallel universes that combine paranormal elements in to everyday life.

Let’s get to the fact that Charlaine Harris’ novels are like drinking a mocha on a spring afternoon. The mocha is pretty tasty, but you drink it and it’s gone, the sun is still shining and you go back to your car to the next adventure.

It’s unmitigated fluff, but it’s amusing to me at least.

And the funny thing is that her descriptions of juke joints in the south is pretty dead on. I like the quirky (everyone use’s that damn word about these books, but it works) characters because I can pretty much identity them here in Hoots Central. The books focus on small town life, petty gossip that can be heard by the heroine which is the basis of the series of Harris’ novel and those subcultures that make a small town interesting.

Oh, and they are dime-store mysteries thrown in with a bit of Harlequin Romance where the sex is just lying out on the table. There is not doubt that all the characters are very unapologetically sexual. Groovy.

And that, campers, is why I read them because they are light, get some of the gist of small-town Southern USA (especially regarding the easy, or sometimes tense, banter in a bar) and there is that bit of hypocrisy that goes along with anyone who is blind to one cause and devoted to another or is just high falutin’. Happens everywhere (although the TV series has pretty much beat me in the brain with the Fellowship of the Sun, although having read the books, I know where that’s going and it’s important to the canon of the tale.)

So I’m fixin’ (because like Sookie Stackhouse, I’m southern) to talk about the differences between the two mediums, why I think they work and that’s it’s just soap opera fun in all reality.

There I said it, we have a new soap opera on the air where you get to see the sex, the gore, the betrayal, loyalty and supes. This is not your Dark Shadows of 40 years ago, but it’s the same premise behind all the glitter of HBO.

And, I rather like it.

Major spoilers after the break and I’m talking serious spoilers from the book so you have been warned.

True Blood is sticking with a great deal of the original novels, which usually run under 300 pages from what I’ve noticed. Alan Ball uses a lot of Harris’ dialogue, especially in the first two episodes of the first season. Anna Paquin who is originally from New Zealand, a Brit (Stephen Moyer), A Swede (Alexander Skaarsgard) and an Australian (Ryan Kwanten) are playing the lead roles, I find myself laughing at their accents at times (I think Kwanten does it the best, quite frankly), I have become accustomed, again, to Hollywood’s rendering of my regional accent. You usually only find really good Southern accents in Indie Films, I find.

Of course, if you haven’t read the books, you wouldn’t know what the fuss was all about regarding (and yet ONCE again we have some odd little names for romantic pairings) Team Eric and Team Bill. If you haven’t read the books, you don’t know what’s in store for little ol’ Sookie when it comes to Bill and I am intrigued to see how Ball plays this one because in the canon of the book, Eric is a very big deal in the big romantic triangle. Eric is very much a larger part of Sookie’s world than Bill is in later novels, although he is always present, it is Eric that seems to be the center of everything. So if you see all the talk, just remember, that’s the book.

True Blood may be taking a different path.

And I say that to focus on how I think Ball is somewhat reimagining the TV series to a large degree, so we will see his vision as well as Harris’. Lorne Green wasn’t Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica, now was he, and that worked. Tara is completely opposite of the books in the series, but I love her on the show and I see her as a combination of several minor characters wrapped into one in Ball’s world I also like Six Feet Under, although True Blood is a lot more whimsical than his former story with a great deal of humor thrown in that the first one didn’t have.

I also like the way he has expanded Lafayette’s character quite well although I have to admit I imagined Sam Merlotte a bit differently. I like the guy playing him just fine, but I just saw him in a different light. I have to say I like Harris’ Sam better than Ball’s, but I don’t hate him, I just like that the Sam in the books is a bit more, shall I say, solid when it comes to Sookie. Maybe I will come around.

Paquin does get the character of Sookie from the books pretty well on how Harris envisioned her, or at least I think so. A scene from the show where she is eating her murdered grandmother’s last pecan pie was acted beautifully.

I also like the fact that both Sookie characters are naive but tough. She doesn’t break down easily which is cool to me. If we were to compare genres, you have Bella the lovesick romantic, Buffy, the reluctant but badass warrior and Sookie, the telepath who doesn’t take a lot of guff off of anyone, I’ll have to go with Buffy and Sookie who are different, but strong in their own individual ways. (I admit, I’m just a little too old for the angst of Twilight. I want some fun in my vampires.)

If you read Club Dead, the last scene is pretty darn groovy because Sookie takes control and I believe that’s the turning point of the series where she grows up a little bit and realizes it’s up to her to determine what she wants, and what she’s not willing to put up with.

Harris’ books are beach reading for those of us who like our paranormal, parallel universes. She’s created a SookieVerse which is rather fun to me and although I still suffer Buffy withdrawal, this seems like a pretty good transition to the next generation of vampire television. And Eric, well, let’s just say he’s groovy in both mediums, I just don’t want him to be the next adaptation of Spike. There can only be on lovesick vampire who was mean as hell and that was the blonde from Jossverse.

Usually, I like my horror hard, but this is pretty enjoyable; the vamps are sexy, political and ruthless (which I dig) and I like characters that aren’t necessarily black or white, but tinges with the gray that lies within all of us.

Now, when does Lost start back up again?



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