5 Things: True Blood’s Cancellation & Why It’s A Good Thing

“5 Things” is a weekly column in which a writer, group of writers, or contributors may offer 5 facts or opinions related to all things television. We invite you to contribute your thoughts by submitting your own “5 Things” or leaving comment. “5 Things” runs every weekend on welovetvmore.com.

Given this week’s news that True Blood has been canceled at the end of its upcoming 7th season, I decided to ask our staff why they thought this might have happened. The general consensus: it was the concentration camp plot from season 6 that became the show’s demise.

1. Kyle Trembley, Senior Editor (@KyleLovesTV) – Before judging, consider the context.

I think the “concentration camp” subplot needs to be taken within the context of the show that it’s on.  True Blood is both intentionally and unintentionally silly, and about as far as it gets from a bastion of well-reasoned historical commentary.  Ham-fisted social rights metaphors are practically the currency that True Blood operates on.  This isn’t Mad Men or David Simon or Ken Burns making an uncharacteristically sloppy point; this is a very stupid show saying a very obvious thing in a very stupid way.  I don’t think it’s worth getting worked up about for the same reasons it’s not worth getting worked up over Yahoo! commenters being racist.  It’s certainly bad, and offensive on the face of it; but when you consider the source, it’s not unexpected.

Note: Lest you think I hate True Blood, I’ve watched every episode of it leading up to this season, though I’m having a hard time staying on board to finish the sixth season.

2. Cait Malone, Staff Writer (@SpaceCaits) – Did True Blood even have business touching the concentration camp plot line?

I don’t feel True Blood has handled the concentration camp story line extremely well, but I question if the show has any business handling it all. That is not to say that the metaphor of the concentration camp can’t be used well, but when thinking about the context of True Blood there is a lot of potential to make a joke of it. Due to True Blood‘s campy nature (I’m genuinely not trying to make a pun by using ‘campy’. I am just struggling to find a better word to describe this show. ‘Cheesy’, ‘wacky’, and ‘nutty’, while all applicable, don’t quite cut it) it seems inevitable that this particular plot-line turn campy too. I sit down to watch True Blood to watch the crazy adventure that it is, not to take it seriously, so I think another important question is not only whether or not the show is handling this plot-line with tact but also how do the surrounding stories affect watching the concentration camp plot? My biggest fear is that this plot-line be treated like Jason’s terrifying were-panther rape experience, which wasn’t taken seriously whatsoever.

I have some cognitive dissonance over the issue. On the one hand I want the show to forever stay on the cheesy, crazy train but does this issue belong on that train at all?

I also think it’s important to look at this in context of other shows, films, comics, and books that have also used concentration camps in stories. What makes one handled better than another?

 3. Dave Warren, Managing Editor (@fundavy) – Since vampires are not a real race, did they get away with it?

It sounds like the concentration camp plot is a good ‘hot button’ issue.  Because there is not an actual real-world race or ethnicity involved, racism and treatment of creatures & aliens can often be more ‘safely’ explored in sci-fi and horror film/TV.  But if what is taking place on the show reminds us too much of real-life situations, and it’s perceived to be an acceptable practice by some viewers and not others, well, I guess that’s where it gets interesting.

 4) Shana Lieberman, Social Media Specialist / Staff Writer (@evilapprentice) – Plain and simple: This was offensive.

I’m offended.  I can’t say enough how offended I am.  Each week, with each added Holocaust rip-off — from the “death camp,” to the science experiments that are obviously Mengele inspired, to the death threat fueled sexual acts, to the “extermination of [the vampire] race” as the government’s mission, to the obvious gas chamber substitute that was built with that white meeting the sun chamber– I am even more offended.  As a Jewish woman?  I’m offended.  As a scholar of the Holocaust, who has internalized a survivor’s story as my own for the purpose of retelling it?  I’m offended.  As a human being?  I’m offended.  As a TV lover?  Yeah, I’m offended.

It’s not even just insensitive writing; it’s also completely irresponsible, lazy, and cheap. Is there no better way to get the writers’ point across?  Really?  I get it.  The humans are awful, the vampires are being oppressed, let’s teach some sort of lesson about extremism/intolerance/whatever.  To do it, we’re going to jump to the most extreme case that we possibly can and dishonor the memory of millions of Jews, Slavic peoples, Soviets, Romanies, prisoners of war, or otherwise “undesirable” people while we’re at it.  I’m offended.

Have I SAID how offended I am?

When moving a historical fact into a fictional world, especially one that was the cause of the degradation and slow, painful death of so many innocent people, writers should tread lightly.  The last thing that you should want is to make said historical event seem any less significant than it was; worse yet, you don’t want to fuel those who would lead you to believe that a historical fact is all a lie.  The Holocaust is particularly vulnerable to that sort of thing. Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might be one of the most well-known Holocaust deniers, but he’s certainly not the only one.  Want some reading material?  Try Deborah Lipdstadt’s Denying the Holocaust.  It’s a huge eye opener.  When there are people like Ahmadinejad out there, they’ll use any fuel they can in order to prove their point, including pointing to the absurdity of True Blood and somehow equating that absurdity with proof that the Holocaust never happened.  I wish I was blowing that out of proportion, but sadly, I’m not.  These people will exploit any supposed “inconsistency” whatsoever in order to prove their ridiculous point.

Even though I have my reservations about using the Holocaust in fiction, I’m not saying it should never happen.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and Life Is Beautiful both come to mind as very well done films that delve into the Holocaust but are neither based on true stories nor remotely plausible.  I have even seen at least one excellent fictional plot in the sci-fi/fantasy realm via The Twilight Zone’s “Deaths-Head Revisited” episode.  But True Blood?  No.  These writers should be utterly and completely ashamed of themselves.

The way that this show has handled the storyline is absolutely disgusting.  The dialogue is cheap.  I love a well-placed curse more than the average bear probably does, but come ON.  Everything is completely over the top and mired in the aforementioned absurdity.  The most revolting part of all was how easily our supposed victims escaped.  “Oh, ok.  I’m going to just disguise myself as a guard and mosey on out of here now.”  No, that’s not how it works.  If you’re going to use the Holocaust as a way to make a cheap metaphor because you’re too lacking in intelligence or creativity to do something subtler, at least be a little more accurate about it, please.

5. Blaire Knight-Graves, Director of Social Media / Associate Edtor (@BlaireLovesTV) – We were somewhat lead to believe that the vampires deserved it, which makes it that much worse.

Given that the vampires committed repeated acts of terrorism against human kind (not just a single nation or state, although most of what happened was in Louisiana), we as the audience are not only allowed to but almost told to sympathize with such an extreme action being taken against them. The humans are making a rash decision, and I was made to feel like I am supposed to somewhat be okay with what was happening to the vampires. And then I was meant to sympathize with them as they started being starved out. And once I sympathized with them, they killed more humans. What happened to the metaphor that vampires deserve rights (groups of people who are not of privilege)?

If we’re not talking about any of the other terrible things that were wrong with this season, this was certainly a kick in the pants of cancellation. If this is the state of writing for my formerly favorite TV series, then I can also safely say that I am de-vested. Good riddance. This show used to have a message, but now it’s just sensationalist garbage.


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