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Human, All Too Human: Looking Past the Second Season of True Blood

"When life has no meaning, it is very, very easy to kill," says Rev. Steve Newlin of the Fellowship of the Sun in the season premiere of the v.v. hot HBO show True Blood. With the human world overrun by vampires, shape shifters, telepaths, and maenads (well, one maenad anyway), what meaning does human life have? Or, more to the point: what happens to humans when posthumans —even ones in prehuman metaphysical garb — take over human society?

This being HBO, the answer is generally: "Lots of fucking." Anna Panquin’s nipples make another appearance, and there are tales of teenage blow jobs and a girl who can crush beer cans with her tits (another supernatural creature!), Bill struggling not to say "whore," Sam remembering his first roll with Maryann, and even Tara ends up smooching. Poor Carl gets smacked for cock-blocking Eggs. Finally, we know Jason Stackhouse is in big trouble this season when he turns down easy sex for a born-again hate group’s leadership conference.

There’s another theme in True Blood, but it doesn’t seem authentic. Sure, Eric and the other vampires like to toy with humans, but why bother torturing them with deprivations and with what can only be called a Conan Wheel? When was the last time you tortured a cat or a cow, even though you could do so pretty easily, whenever you wanted to? (If the answer is, "Last week!", please don’t email me.) Hell, for that matter, when was the last time you fucked one? (Don’t email me about that either.) I don’t buy the idea that vampires are true posthumans, ones who see humans as "pets." Even Eric’s torturing of the redneck and other "criminals" are all too human.

The drive behind True Blood is pure romance: Bill, the romantic hero, is as desiccated as any brooding Byronic type. In Sookie (and also in properly recycling his glass and paper products) he sees a way of recovering his humanity. Sookie, burdened by the ability to read thoughts, gets to finally be a normal human girl around Bill and other vampires, but cannot help but feel "inhuman"—a telling, even heavy-handed choice of words in tonight’s episode — when she had to kill. For Sookie, human life still has meaning. And for life, well, first you need some fucking.

True Blood is an engaging show: sometimes campy, sometimes gory, sometimes sexy. But it’s still a show on this side of the Singularity. The posthuman characters are as "slow" as the humans; human screenwriters and human fans cannot help but put themselves in the thematic driver’s seat. Of course we’re fuckable — even if we are little more than pets to vampires and pawns to Greek goddesses. True Blood offers a few tantalizing hints of what vampire society is like. They have lobbyists, their own version of Coke Zero, and awful theme bars, but…where are their TV programs? Does VTV have sitcoms where a Lucy Ricardo type has burnt the human and, oh no, Ricky is coming home from the club with a talent agent? Soaps where we’re about as important as a subplot about fumigating the summer cottage? They should, but if we saw what vampires really thought of us, well, we just wouldn’t want to fuck them anymore.

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