Southern Vampire Mysteries vs. True Blood #3

If you recall, over the last couple of weeks Liv Rancourt and I have been having a discussion about the differences between Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries and the HBO series True Blood. The first week, right here on my blog, we talked about our favorite aspects of the show and the books. Last week, over at Liv’s blog, we talked about sweet Sookie, and Liv left you dangling with the question of how Eric’s scion, Pam, fits into this fictional world. So, without further ado, here’s the next bit of our conversation…

LR: …which brings up the subject of Pam. Of all the casting choices Alan Ball made, she’s my least favorite, because the book Pam was more like Alice In Wonderland with fangs. She’s also Sookie’s only vampire friend. What do you think of Pam? Is she a friend to Sookie?

KM: NO. She is not Sookie’s friend. I think I can say that pretty emphatically. I like Pam a lot (I think she’s hilarious, and a friend once told me I look like her, so that gives me a soft spot for her), but she’s definitely Eric’s henchwoman. She repeatedly gets pissed at Eric for putting the pair of them in danger on Sookie’s behalf. She’s definitely an ‘us-versus-the-world’ kind of gal.

I think I like her, though, because she’s kind and loyal underneath her prickly exterior. She’ll complain about helping someone, but she helps them all the same. She helps Jessica from time to time, or at least gives her advice—is Jessica much of a character in the books? Jessica is probably more of a character than Pam herself.

I’m going to redirect, though, to something you mentioned about humor. True Blood has its funny and ridiculous moments, but I think that aspect of the Charlaine Harris novels has really gotten submerged in the HBO-requisite sex and violence of the TV show. I might like the show better if the humor played a larger part, but the greatest part of the humor is making certain characters ridiculous: brother Jason, for instance, or parts of Lafayette’s role.

What role does humor play in the books? How does the darkness that’s so prevalent in the television series fit into the books, or is it entirely an interpretation?

LR: Had to think about this one a while. And then I had to pull out my copy of Living Dead In Dallas. Here’s one of my favorite moments that illustrates the different between the books and the television series. Eric and Sookie are at her house, getting ready to head to a sex party to try to find Lafayette’s killer.

“I have been to orgies,” he offered.

“Why does that not surprise me? What did you wear?”

“The last time I wore an animal hide; but this time I settled for this.” Eric had been wearing a long trench coat. Now he threw it off dramatically, and I could only stand and stare.  Normally Eric was a blue-jeans-and-tee-shirt kind of guy. Tonight, he wore a pink tank top and Lycra leggings. I don’t know where he got them; I didn’t know any company made Lycra leggings in Men’s X-tra Large Tall. They were pink and aqua, like the swirls down the sides of Jason’s truck.

“Wow,” I said, since it was all I could think of to say. “Wow. That’s some outfit.” When you’ve got a big guy wearing Lycra it doesn’t leave a whole lot to the imagination. I resisted the temptation to ask Eric to turn around.

“I don’t believe I could be convincing as a queen,” Eric said, “ but I decided this sent such a mixed signal, almost anything was possible.” He fluttered his eyelashes at me. Eric was definitely enjoying this.

In that scene, they’re talking about going to an orgy, but the emotional tone is more humorous than not. I don’t know if the TV series even tried to put Eric in Lycra leggings. There’s a goofiness about the visual image I get when I read this that undercuts the nasty nature of the subject matter. I find that all of the books, especially the early ones, are painted in Crayola colors, and I think it’s because the reader sees everything through Sookie’s eyes, and she’s an essentially optimistic character.

When they get to the orgy, the descriptions are filtered through her embarrassment at seeing people she’s known for years acting like fools (from her perspective). She finds friends and neighbors – including Tara, her best friend in high school – in a kinky situation, and her underlying compassion for them shows up in the details that make the page. The humor is there because that’s how Sookie sees the world.  The biggest difference between the two formats is that the camera’s eye is so much more objective.  Alan Ball didn’t have to look far to find the darkness, he just had to see it without Sookie’s filters.  (And did they put Eric in blue and pink Lycra?!?)

Okay, so we’ve covered some of our likes and dislikes and the humor thing and some of our ideas about Sookie. Now I gotta ask you, who does she end up with? Ms. Charlaine has said that Sookie will find her HEA with someone. From your perspective, which guy should that be?

If you want to know which sexy man’s team we come out on, you’ll have to tune in next week to Liv’s blog for the final wrap-up of the throw down!

Throw-Down: Southern Vampire Mysteries vs. True Blood

Does life suck more in tv- or novel-land?

Bonus blog post! Not only am I posting this from the past, it’s on a day I don’t normally post. How exciting is that?

Awhile back, fellow blogger Liv Rancourt and I got to chatting about the differences between the HBO show True Blood (in which I’m pretty well-steeped) and Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries (all of which Liv has read), and we ended up having a pretty long conversation. One thing led to another, and now we will celebrate the start of True Blood‘s new season and the recent release of Deadlocked with a FOUR-PART SERIES of blog posts discussing the differences between the books and the television show!

Let the throw down begin!

LR: Okay, Kristin, let’s get ‘er done. 😉

You’ve watched all four seasons of True Blood and I’ve read all of the Southern Vampire mysteries. Now it’s time to compare notes. Your recent blog posts suggest that you’re a mite bit tired of ol’ Sookie and her friends. What’s your favorite thing about the show, and what’s not working so well for you now?

KM: My biggest problem with the series sprang to mind first, so I’ll start there! (Sprang… what a weird word.) I’m bothered by the constant escalation of violence: the show has upped the ante so many times that it’s become harder and harder to shock the audience. It’s forced the producers to show really graphic violence, from a vampire king ripping someone’s spine out on national television, to a main character getting shot in the head in horrifying detail. The other side of the coin that I actually like is the realism that comes with this violence. The show writers and producers aren’t afraid to dance around truly appalling issues, like drug use in the poorer areas of the South, abuse, incest, and even just the harsher sides of friendships and love affairs. This unflinching vision of the fictional Bon Temps is probably what keeps me sticking around—in addition to the sexy men, of course. The world and the characters are real and fully imagined.

So I’m going to turn the question right back at you. I’ve only read a couple of the novels, and the twelfth book is coming out in May. Have they “jumped the shark” or are you still enjoying them? What are your gripes and likes?

LR: I think the answer to your question depends on how committed you are to the series. Like, if you’re the kind of person to hang around Ms. Harris’s website and endlessly debate whether Sookie should end up with Eric or Bill, if you use a calendar to track the days till the next book’s release, or if you’re planning a summer vacation to Bons Temps, you’re probably still along for the ride. A more casual fan, though, has likely noticed a change in energy, tone and style, and has maybe become disconnected enough to stop reading. I’m somewhere in between. I’ve spent time on Ms. Harris’s website, though not recently, and I’ve found the last two or three books to be more episodic and darker in tone, and generally a little disappointing.

Some of that darkness is a result of Sookie’s ongoing maturation and integration in the supernatural community. She’s done some things that would have disturbed her younger self and she’s had to find ways to cope with those deeds. On the other hand, especially with this last book, I thought maybe Ms. Charlaine had watched a little too much True Blood while she was writing it –  that the show had influenced the book, and not necessarily in a good way. The more recent books don’t have the frothy funny energy that the older books had, but whether you see a shark in the water depends on how hardcore a fan you are. And while I haven’t pre-ordered the next one yet, I will.

Intrigued? You’ll have to tune in to Liv’s blog next Saturday to learn just where our conversation will go. We’ll talk about Sookie’s Mary-Sueness and how those crazy fanged men in her life use and abuse her.