Offender: Television show True Blood
Media Outlet: HBO, first airing 6-27-10
The Offense: Vampire Bill Compton has violent sex with his nemesis/”maker” Lorena, during which he twists her head around backward.
NOW’s Analysis: Here’s a quick backgrounder for the uninitiated: HBO’s True Blood is based on a series of books about vampires and other super-natural characters. The show frequently contains explicit sex and violence. Bill is a main character and romantic interest for the female lead, Sookie. Currently Bill is going through a personal crisis about loving a human while being controlled by vampire Lorena, who turned him into a vampire long ago and keeps popping up despite his attempts to break away from her. Lorena is the classic “bitch” character who viewers are encouraged to hate. Bill definitely despises her, but vampire rules compel him to follow his maker’s commands.
In this context, Lorena asks Bill to make love to her. He says “never” but proceeds to throw her on the bed and rip off her clothes. Apparently, he can’t stop himself from having sex with her, but in a form of protest, Bill literally twists her neck, turning her face around backward. He continues to have sex with her as the camera provides us with a wide shot that is disturbing, to say the least. Facing the floor, with blood spilling out of her mouth, Lorena proclaims to Bill that she still loves him.
True Blood might be make-believe, but the parallels to real life in this scene are too horrifying to ignore. The scene taps into a hatred of women that still exists in our society — a revulsion toward women with power and a desire to punish them for making men feel weak. Yes, we’re supposed to be shocked. This is our wake up call that Bill might not be a suitable lifemate for Sookie. But let’s forget for a minute who or what these characters are: Here is a scene that was written and filmed to allow viewers to watch a man have violent sex with a woman he hates so much he twists her head around, and she loves him all the more for it. Remember, the character of Lorena is fictional, her persona and actions are the creation of writers, directors and producers. She is presented, simultaneously, as a hideous, controlling “bitch” and a pitiful, deluded stalker. And while we are supposed to be disgusted by Bill’s violence, aren’t we given permission to believe, just a tiny bit, that this woman got what was coming to her? Bad girls deserve to get hurt, and, besides, they like it — right? Thanks, but no thanks, True Blood for this messed up depiction of women, men, violence and sex.
Take Action: Write to HBO and tell them what you think about this violent, misogynistic scene in True Blood.
Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director