True Blood: Escaped from Hotshot, but Free of Torment?

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Am I the only one still stuck in Hotshot? Jason mercifully skipped town in the last episode of True Blood, but I’m still shuddering from his three episodes in captivity. I’ve been watching heinous fictional crimes since I was a wee toddler, yet few things have disturbed me as much as Jason’s turn as “Ghost Daddy.” First off, I love True Blood. Love the writing, the cast, the stories. Alan Ball, this is your barbecue, and it tastes good. But popular TV is a very nuanced and telling social artifact, reflecting its consumers as well as its creators. The same way I would not look at the Egyptian pyramids and say “That architect must have loved triangles,” I’m not going to say, “True Blood writers are being awfully frivolous about rape.” Instead, I’m going to say: “Why did those pharaohs think they needed to be buried in pyramids?” or, to complete the analogy: “Why, amidst all the violence in True Blood and TV in general, was Jason’s abuse so disturbing?”

Sexual violence is a taboo area in TV for good reason: you never know what can trigger a survivor. True Blood has pushed this boundary line, but so far has been super chivalrous in depicting the sufferings of its human characters. Tara’s abuses by Franklin in season 3 happened largely off camera, and her story has several parallels to Jason’s shorter season 4 arc. Both he and Tara were victimized by someone they were in a relationship with. Both were told it was for their own good, both were kidnapped, both tied to a bed, and both eventually escaped through their own efforts. But Tara’s interlude with Franklin was handled discreetly, and the sexual abuse was implied or discussed, not shown. In comparison, Jason’s abuses were filmed practically in real time and in great detail, including hazy shots of Crystal on top of him from his point of view.

We’ve to date seen no portrayal of a human sexually abusing a human in True Blood (that big guy who threatened Sookie in the basement of the FOTS was stopped by Godrick), but 90% of the abuse and 100% of the sexual violence is “imaginary creature”-on-human. Thats the loophole in depicting graphic violence. Bill can twist Lorena’s neck because he’s a monster. That’s what he does! Tara flattened Franklin’s head, but he’s not real, he’s a vampire! That newscaster got his spine ripped out–by someone dressed like Count Dracula! Not actually violence!

But this imaginary premise is harder to accept with the Hotshot shifters. Sure, those women were theoretically were-panthers, but what we actually saw was women raping a guy. No wild cats got on top of that mattress. The imaginary aspect was that these rapists were women, and thats just silly, right? Women can’t rape guys! Can’t rape the willing: guys always want it!

But that idea is actually a harmful cultural misconception. Like, was I the only one who growing up had guy friends who actually did get taken advantage of by older girls + alcohol? And it wasn’t a fond memory or a cool fantasy scenario, it was someone getting a basic physical choice taken away from them, and then never getting to really acknowledge that because they are supposed to want it all the time no matter what.

So maybe thats what's making me queasy about Jason. It's not a comment on the show at all, its a sensitivity to a cultural attitude that guys are sex-hungry dogs (though certainly Jason has been depicted as specifically that) and the negative/dehumanizing effect that can have on relations between ladies and gentlemen in general. Tara’s interlude with Franklin certainly had profound effects on her character: she transformed her whole identity. The real test of how seriously they’re going to take male sexual abuse is the effect it has on Jason–and I don’t mean transforming into a werepanther. I mean something more profound. I’ll be watching this Sunday to find out.

Questions:

…Jason and Tara: same story, different gender, right?

…Did you find Jason’s Hotshot interlude super disturbing, boring, or thoroughly enjoyable?

…Did you kind of wish Jason had bashed in Crystal’s face to pancake flatness like Tara did to Franklin?:

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