September 11, 2012

“True Blood” Season 5 Wrap of Religious Demons and Smoke Monsters

Posted in Pop Culture at 12:39 am by chavalah

Behold…the rise of Billith!

When last we left off, vampire theocracy and violent extremism with Lilith as a demon god were the new kids on the block in “True Blood.” The rest of the season largely continued in that vein, with not-so-surprising Sanguinists taking over the pro-mainstream Vampire Authority, and the ruling party of ambassadors either showing their true colors as power-hungry gluttons or getting killed for toeing the moderate line (though by the end of the season, almost no new vampires, whether guest stars or extras, were anything but goo on the floor.)

No, “True Blood” isn’t a show that thoroughly or even honestly probes the intersection of politics and religion; it’s silly camp about sex, blood and violence. I just got back from DragonCon, where the actors touched just briefly on the other “voodoo” storyline of the season—Terry, Arlene & co. being haunted by an Ifrit, which in TB amounts to little more than a CGI smoke monster with vague Islamic ties hailing from Terry’s Iraqi war veteran past (ultimately all he had to do was to kill his trigger-happy superior officer in the name of vengeance and then everything went back to normal for him.) Similarly, the Lilith/theocracy storyline was about a real-life “mad god” hallucination, naked, covered in blood and ordering her followers to gorge themselves in a never-ending killing spree.

If I had my way, the question of Lilith’s existence would have remained incorporeal and ultimately of little consequence while the show played up the idea of Salome as an extremist, self-declared prophet. Of course she’d need some chutzpa for that, rather than watering down to a one-note passive character who can’t tell friend from foe. But in theory, her historical/mythological counterpart, Salome of Agrippa, is like Christianity’s Lilith (Jewish sources actually have little to say about her, though she was one of us.) She is the picture of the evils of womanhood—a dangerous seductress who uses her feminine wiles to call for the deaths of wholesome men like John the Baptist. The show almost immediately distanced its Salome from that history, when the character dubbed the Biblical story “little better than U.S. Weekly.” Similarly, Jewish feminists question the sexism behind the original Lilith tales, as I outlined a few months ago. Isn’t this a steadfast reason for TB’s Salome to fall under Lilith’s thrall? Two women, wronged and shamed by male-dominated humanity, on a quest for vengeance. How easily Salome could believe that she was fulfilling Lilith’s vision for the good of all like her by doing away with the puritanical, cattle-like mainstream human society. I’m all a-tingly; I’d love to watch this! 😛

But there is one character who, for me, was an actual, somewhat honest depiction of the type of person who might find comfort in extremism. Bill, as was pointed out several times throughout this season, is a person who has constantly struggled with his vampire reality. After 175 years of feeling damned, and after Sookie, who was more or less his only remaining tie to humanity deserted him, why not find solace in an ideology that says his existence and his urges are not only okay but destined? (I was particularly moved by his flashback when he declined to turn his dying human daughter into a vampire—how that must have haunted him ever since, denying the chance of getting to save her and getting to keep her.) Granted, at the end of the season, it appears he’s little more than the new “blood monster” villain of the show. But along the way, actor Stephen Moyer gave us something real to chew on. And I could be wrong about that one-note monster thing; this is the male lead after all. 😉

Will have to stay tuned next season!


1 Comment »

  1. […] When last we left off, Billeth hath ariseneth, and I am more than thrilled that ten long episodes later, all the powers he had amassed of pulling stakes out of his heart, ignoring the “do not enter” rule and walking in the sun are GONE. Hallelujah! I admit, part of me enjoyed Stephen Moyer’s portrayal of self-righteously take-charge, Jessica-centric Bill. But the rest of me hates characters with no weaknesses or flaws–basically who cannot die. It’s why I’m a bit lukewarm on the popular graphic novel industry and characters like Wolverine. I get that they’re supposed to be modern mythology, but no. I’ll stick with Harry Potter, thanks. :p […]

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