I don’t pretend to watch HBO’s True Blood. In fact, I’ve never really seen an episode from start to finish. The whole vampire thing has never done it for me, but this article peaked my interest and touched on a topic I’ve been interested in for some time: Hollywood’s obsession with linking sex with violence.
The article brings up several valid points in that True Blood’s violent “hate sex” is written off as edgy and artistic and not held to the same standard as say, other television programs. Afterall, vampires are always misogynist and violent.
The author writes:
“True Blood buys into the same myths about violence and rape that do real harm to women today: that men have more sexual drive, that rape is an act of passion rather than domination, that women mean yes when they say no, that violence against women is part of the natural order.”
And I agree. These portrayals are most definitely harmful to women.
On the other hand, I am a huge fan of AMC’s Mad Men, which has recently come under considerable criticism for the blatant sexism it portrays. However, unlike True Blood, Mad Men depicts a historical trend of sexism in the work place; what it was like to be female and live in the oppressive 1950s and 60s. The message behind Mad Men seems to be a warning of some kind, a cautionary tale of how society has historically resigned women to a second class citizen status and how our cultural norms do not reflect the kind of egalitarian society women need in order to be fully functioning, independent, and fulfilled beings.
While I would most definitely say True Blood glorifies violence towards women, Mad Men, I would argue, does no glorify women’s oppression. The creator of Mad Men believes (and I agree) that ignoring the sexism women endured would be the equivalent of acting like it never happened. It would be the same as not talking about slavery because the topic is too uncomfortable. The difference between the two shows is that while both are fictitious, True Blood is not depicting any kind of historical event, it is bringing to life the sick fantasies of a closet rapist. Mad Men is edgy because of the writing, the depth of the characters, the fierceness of its female roles. It’s real, it’s tangible, and it’s brilliant.