Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guest Post: The Trouble with True Blood

flatvintagefairy Today, I have Steph from Fangs, Wands, and Fairy Dust here to talk about the topic of the The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris vs. the TV adaptation, True Bloods. I haven’t read the series and with all the books having ‘Dead’ in their titles I had to include them in my celebrations! Thanks so much, Steph!


The Trouble with True Blood

True Blood versus the Novels it is based on, The Southern Vampire Novels

by Charlaine Harris

All of these books have Dead in the Title, The first was Dead until Dark and the second of what is now ten is Living Dead in Dallas.

By Stephanie Takes-Desbiens

Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust

When I offered to do this guest post, I thought I really had the Sookie Stackhouse or Southern Vampire Mysteries books versus True Blood (based on) TV series sussed. That was until I began reading the books from the beginning of the series again to refresh my memory.

One of the chief complaints of folks who read my blog, Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust, is that the show doesn’t follow the books to our satisfaction.

However, in reading I am finding the first two seasons quite closely adhered to the storylines Ms. Harris devised. Some additions were there, yes, but the main storylines are intact. The biggest deviations (not in any order) apparent to me are :

1. The role of Tara as a close friend of the family is hugely enlarged on the TV show.

Many people don’t like that Tara has this much importance. In the books, Sookie, the main character is a telepath and explains that she didn’t really have close friends because of her strange abilities. Tara has a lot to do with the second big difference:

2. Lafayette is killed at the beginning of Living Dead in Dallas, and while the character has remained gay, and slightly drag, he was not a big part of the books even before his death. His biggest part in the storyline was his death.

In the TV show, the sham-shaman, Miss Jeanette is killed in Lafayette’s stead. Because of his presence in True Blood story lines that interfere with the story lines in the book have to be invented to accommodate his presence. This includes a big part in the storyline being given to the sale of “V” or Vampire Blood. It affects the characterization of the denizens of “Hot Shot” a trashy area inhabited by were panthers. In the later books when they come up, they are not portrayed as particularly “bad,” or unclean, inbred, impoverished people. On the show they are portrayed with the classic taint of the phrase “White Trash.”

In this last season Lafayette’s role was expanded to include a Vampire for whom he sells drugs giving him a very expensive car, the addition of a boyfriend who is his mothers CNA at the loony bin to which Lafayette has had her committed. Lafayette (or LaLa) was saved by his charm, I am sure. We all love him! Ring, ring hook-ah, ring, ring.

3. The story of a mythological creature, a Maenad was a small part of Living Dead in Dallas. But the season before last revolved around the maenad, Maryanne. She also wanted to kill Sam in order to give life to Dionysus, but in the book, she and Sam ran through forest together and enjoyed each other’s company. On TV it is the maenad’s buddy, Eggs who is the killer. In the book, the maenad kills a bunch of individuals who are at a swapping party.

The other chief complaints are about Sookie or Sookie and Eric, Bill or Alcide:

Sookie: In the books, Sookie is portrayed as a young woman hampered by her telepathy in many ways throughout her life. She was unable to go to college because of the mental noise. But, she is very intelligent, a bit naïve but intelligent. While Bill is her first, it isn’t because she doesn’t have a healthy interest in that department, it’s just that she was considered a freak and she could hear what the guy was thinking.

I don’t think we can say the same for TV’s Sookie. She doesn’t have the quotes from books that Book-Sookie comes up with. She doesn’t seem very bright, she pleads a bit too much for salvation. She doesn’t know when to stop bothering the poor bellboy. Book Sookie says that it isn’t her secret to tell, where TV Sookie wants to chat with him about it while she retrieves breakfast.

Book Sookie does NOT swear as much as TV Sookie. Some people disagree on this, but in Dead Until Dark she swears and then says she used one of her brother’s words. On TV she drops the F-Bomb rather frequently. Gran would be spinning in her grave.

Focus and Purpose: The show has too many story lines involving too many characters who aren’t Sookie. Book-Sookie is the southern, vamp-loving, Agatha Christie who solves crimes with Bill, Sam, Eric, etc. She finds clues that Rene is a serial killer, she locates a locked up Farrell and Godfrey/Godric, and figures out who killed Lafayette. The books each have plots that give Sookie Purpose.

On the show, Sookie is a sort of sexy waitress at a bar who has dated a vampire. Much of the show has little to do with her. The books revolve around Sookie like she is the sun. Without the focus the series is spinning out too many sub-plots and they rob the character’s purpose.

Book Sookie becomes inured to the modern world outside of Bon Temp more slowly than the TV character does. Book Sookie is a bit more unsophisticated than her TV counterpart, but she is much smarter.

After much buildup we didn’t see Alcide enough and when he did show up we didn’t see enough of him. In this same way we’d like to see more of Eric more often.

Smaller things:

1. Added and enlarged characters were not in the books or had a smaller part for a reason.

2. Arlene’s baby couldn’t POSSIBLY be Rene’s; he dies at the end of the first book and season. There were quite a few months, at least, between him being arrested/being decapitated with a shovel.

3. Book Eric kills Long Shadow, not Bill. Thus so much trouble ensues from a changing one character’s role. It is responsible for Jessica, and her relationship with Hoyt. It has an impact on Summer’s life too.

4. The Queen of LA storyline and the casting of Evan Rachel Wood. Queen Sophie is a genteel old Vampire. TV Queen Sophie is a vapid harridan but even she would have been more genteel that Evan Rachel Wood’s portrayal.

Finally, we (mostly women who read the books) are waiting for the hot stuff between Eric and Sookie. I am now in book three and it hasn’t happened yet. While we may want it for other reasons (her relationship with TV Bill is not all a modern woman would like), they are not being terribly unfaithful to the story line.

So, I am humbled to read that the main storyline, of the books isn’t too different from that of the series. There could be fewer Non-Sookie storylines, which would tighten-up the show. The differences are subjective and I think changing the personality and focus of entire characters is still an issue. A series based on a book does have to make changes. Otherwise, it would bore us to tears.

The bottom line is that any True Blood is better than none.

Once again thanks so much Steph! You should go stop by Steph’s awesome blog! She’s trying to reach 500 followers for her 50th on Nov. 3rd so go help her out!



bibliophile brouhaha said...

Loved this - thanks, Caitlin! I, for one, was very disappointed in Sophie-Anne's TV portrayal. Evan Rachel Wood was a hoot, but I was hoping for one more similar to the book: a calculating, sophisticated ruler, not a spoiled, money-hungry, fit throwing princess.

The tutu wearing fairies just about killed me at the end of this last season. . .

-Linds said...

Hi thanks to Caitlin for Putting this great idea together and giving me the chance to guest post. Steph

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

Um, I've reached the point where no True Blood is better than none. The show has rapidly deteriorated into the land of ADD and since I have ADD, I know it!
I want a focus on a few primary characters and story lines. I don't expect True Blood to follow the books exactly, regardless, I want my characters fleshed out and my stories compelling.
I'm not a Tara fan - I'm a much bigger fan of book Tara. I am, however, a Lafayette fan and was previously a Jason fan - until this season. The obsession with the Maenad, wasting an entire season on her, infuriated me - the show became almost unwatchable, aside from Sookie's dream of Eric.
You're right - book Sookie is smarter, more naive and far more appealing than True Blood Sookie.
ah well...glad I finally found this post!

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