Posts Tagged ‘Preference’

 

A Softer World: 642

Warning: spoilers for True Blood Season 4

Falling asleep last night, I found myself considering a question that’s been niggling at me for months: why is it that I’m fine with forgiving some True Blood¬†characters who’ve done terrible things in the past, but not others? Despite all the protestations and boundaries of my own ethical system, the distinction seems to have less to do with the type of terrible thing (up to a point) and more about why it was done.¬†By all accounts, I should find Eric Northman to be a more horrific vampire than Bill Compton; his torture and imprisonment of Lafayette alone is one of the more harrowing plots in an already gritty show. And yet, I don’t – and while a reasonable portion of that discrepancy can probably be attributed to the not inconsiderable charms of Alexander Skarsgard, the vast majority of it isn’t.

Looking at Bill’s history, we see an interwoven pattern of love and violence. For love of his maker, Lorena, he committed multiple atrocious murders, their goriness shown to us in a series of flashbacks. For love of Sookie, he took it upon himself to kill both her¬†pedophile¬†Uncle Bartlett and the¬†villainous, violent Rattrays. No matter how deserving of death we might view these characters to be, all their murders were premeditated, placing them well outside the show’s internally acceptable justification of self-defense which. By contrast, his multiple betrayals of Sookie – selling her to Queen Sophie-Anne, returning to Lorena, forcibly draining her blood – are all the worse for being committed against a loved one, even when we can acknowledge the extent to which his hand was forced.

In Eric’s case, however, there’s a sense in which the worst thing he’s done to Sookie personally (as opposed to her friends) is to buy her house and refuse to sell it back. Not only does this give him unprecedented control over her, but the house has such significance to Sookie that the threat of withholding it constitutes emotional blackmail. Compare this to earlier incidents: though Eric both tricked Sookie into drinking his blood and has forcibly bitten her, these crime are nullified – comparatively, if not absolutely – by the fact that Bill has done likewise in a far more awful manner. His history is violent, yes, but nonetheless designed to make us sympathetic: killing Nazis for one thing, and avenging his family’s murder for another. Elsewhere, his devotion to Godric and care for Pam are both used to underscore his benevolence and loyalty, whereas Bill, having first been a spy for Sophie-Anne, has more recently been revealed as a double agent, killing his queen with the aid of Nan Flanagan. Finally, there’s the terrible incident of Tara’s rape and imprisonment to consider. At the time, both Bill and Eric were witnesses to her plight, and it’s a significant mark against both of them that neither one helps her escape. The difference is that whereas Eric remains a relative stranger, his aid neither looked for nor expected, Tara and Bill are friends. When she pleads with Bill to free her, he refuses – and given what comes next, it’s this betrayal which damns him most of all.

Where am I going with this? That love is simultaneously the best and worst justification for committing terrible crimes, and also a leading cause of terribleness when love is the thing betrayed. Acting against a loved one, no matter how pure or necessary the motive, is bad. Acting for a loved one in a terrible way, no matter how pure the motive, is just as bad, but mitigated in cases of extreme necessity. Acting for a loved one in a pure or necessary way is good – which should hardly need to be said, except that distinguishing these latter instances from one another is where we tend to struggle. By this point in True Blood, pretty much every single character has either committed murder, attempted murder, betrayed their friends, run amok or otherwise behaved badly, to the extent that eliding certain events and justifying others is the only way to like anyone. But even then, some crimes stand out as¬†unforgivable – it’s just that we don’t always agree on which these are,¬†and the emotional byplay as the characters argue their respective cases is fascinating.

And that’s where the opening comic comes in: because doing terrible things for love has become the show’s¬†raison d’etre. Whether it’s Sam and Tommy’s relationship with the Migginses, Sookie sheltering a mind-wiped Eric, Tara lying to Naomi about her real identity, Lafayette dealing drugs to pay for Ruby-Jean’s hospice, Crystal imprisoning Jason, Amy betraying Hoyt, Bill imprisoning Marnie or any one of a hundred other scenarios, True Blood has somehow become a show about the intrinsic difficulties of trying to redeem dysfunction. After three seasons of madness and bloodshed, the cast has been left demoralised and broken. Nobody is innocent, and where we once were quick to judge this character or that as being virtuous or villainous, both those terms have now been rendered fundamentally moot.

As to whether that answers my opening question, I’m not sure. Every fandom has arguments against or in favour of particular characters, but in the case of True Blood, it really is impossible to hinge that debate on superior moral fortitude. For my part, the line I draw, however shakily, seems to hinge on love. Killing someone in self-defense is one thing, but killing to show how much you care is a contradiction in terms.

Unless you’re Eric Northman. Then it’s OK.

Sort of.

Whenever I listen to music, I focus on lyrics. The feel of a song is important – whether it tugs at me, what mood it evokes, how well it flows – but the relationship between that feel and the lyrics is paramount. Fundamentally, I’m¬†both a words person and a poetry nerd, which means that not only am I unable to tolerate bad lyrics, I can’t block them out. This means, somewhat aggravatingly, that I end up learning the lyrics to Delta Goodrem songs purely through chance exposure, like¬†skirting the perimeter of Chernobyl frequently enough to incur radiation poisoning. By contrast, my Long-Suffering Husband has the opposite reaction: being a musician, he finds it extremely difficult to listen to lyrics at all, simply because his attention diverts automatically to¬†composition.¬†This means that despite ‘hearing’ the same information, we process it so differently that neither one can register the source of the other’s interest.

Being word-oriented means I tend to gravitate towards individual songs rather than particular bands or artists: I’m not after melodic replication or common themes, but some kind of subjectively-approved symbiosis between music and lyrics. I don’t mind simplicity, brevity or repitition, provided they work – which, particularly in fast-paced songs like Moby’s Bodyrock – they¬†often do. I’m also a sucker for dual interpretation, wherein the same lyrics express two ideas. My favourite (geeky) example of this comes courtesy of Joss Whedon and the Buffy musical, as Spike, a vampire, sings his love for Buffy: called Rest In Peace, the song weaves between typical love-ballad and specific references to the fact that the singer is undead. Similarly, I love lyrics that tell a story, a¬†la¬†Don MacLean’s American Pie and Vincent; these examples are¬†classic poetry in their own right,¬†while more recent songs, like Release by George, are very much in an abstract, e e cummings oeuvre (although I have to be in the right mood).

Like most people, the music I dance or exercise to is beat-heavy, if only because the necessity of volume tends to drown out the lyrics; a few of these songs I’ll listen to for pleasure, but generally, there’s a difference between music I play when I’m walking, cycling or cleaning the house, and what I prefer in the background. Otherwise, I tend to¬†like soft music: songs like Love A Diamond (Tonic) and Mad World (Gary Jules), which I listened to compulsively through school, or¬†new obsessions¬†like Set Free (Katie Gray), Shipwrecked (Shane Alexander) and Fault Line (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club), all of which I’ve gleaned from watching Bones and iTunesing appropriately¬†(which is , coincidentally, a great way to find new artists).

Still, it’s interesting how different the addition of music makes, such that most lyrics, no matter how powerful when sung, would fall flat if anyone tried to read them as poetry; and yet some manage it. On that note, I’ll leave you with the lyrics of another Bones song I’ve taken a shine to – it’s my transcription, as there doesn’t seem to be one available online,¬†but the song is readily downloadable. So:

Tears and Laughter

(Tall Tree 6ft Man)

No one’s going to come along and line your palms with gold,¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

And if they did, you would unfold;

And if they did, you’d be wrong to take it.

After all the tears and all the laughter,

Your happiness is a string of disasters –

Oh, what more could someone ask for?

No one’s going to say it’s wrong to set alight your soul,

But if they did, where would it go

With all your home in ashes?

After all the fear of showing ages,

On your face like the heavy scent of time

When time is all we’re after.

Step away, stay in the light,

Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.

After all the fear of showing ages,

On your face like the heavy scent of time

When time is all we’re after.

Still, on all the walls we have reminders

Of the times we left behind us,

Now all your words are silence.

Step away, stay in the light,

Then we’ll watch them all walk by

To the waterside.