‘True Blood’ Trails 5.0: The New Southern Gent Code – Fend off vampires, go bare-chested and tie your lover to the bed
By ANTHONY D’ALESSANDRO
HollywoodNews.com: In her portrayal of gallant vampires and werewolves in the “Southern Vampire Mysteries,” (the source material for “True Blood”) I am sure one of the M.O.s for author Charlaine Harris was to turn the convention of Southern Chivalry on its head.
While watching episode 29 of “True Blood” entitled “Trouble,” it came to me how on the nose and how sarcastic Alan Ball and co. can be when exhibiting Southern Chivalry in their characters. Granted, none of this might be intentional on their behalf (plots occur when writers release whatever is at the top of their heads), but, it’s interesting to observe Sunday’s episode through this prism.
Romanticized by “Gone With the Wind” scribe Margaret Mitchell, Southern Chivalry and gentleman’s behavior is merely an extension of the European medieval definition. Sure, chivalry has a lot to do with the manners of knights and how they should be just, brave and polite during battle, but it also covers the area of courtship and how a gentleman should treat a woman. The basic customs include laying one’s cape on the ground over a puddle for a lady, lighting their cigarette and picking up the cafe tab. During Civil War times, a chivalrous Confederate soldier might guard a woman’s plantation against Union foes — that is if no other men were present at the home. In sum, southern guys are the ideal romantics, whose suaveness always trumped the carpetbaggers from the north.
So who is the most chivalrous on “True Blood”? Which alpha male’s charm is so desirable that no woman can resist? Let’s take a look:
ALCIDE HERVEAUX (Joe Manganiello)
Going beyond his duties to follow the orders of his superiors and Eric, Alcide the werewolf makes it his business to protect Sookie Stackhouse and assist with the search of her lover Bill Compton, even though he’s a vampire. Alcide shows restraint by putting his supposed desires for Sookie aside; hence he’s a noble Southern gentleman.
JASON STACKHOUSE (Ryan Kwanten)
A half naked Jason abuses his privileges as a Bon Temp cop in training and fires up a squad car to court a little vixen named Crystal Norris (Lindsay Pulsipher). She doesn’t buy Jason’s banter, but he cuts to the chase and heads straight for her heart with one question: “Why were you crying when I saw you earlier?…I’m Jason Stackhouse and I wanna know you.” Is Stackhouse a model of Southern Chivalry? Heck, yes. Crystal knows immediately that she can rely on him to protect the henhouse against werewolves. But keep this in mind: if Sheriff Andy Bellefleur was bare-chested and pursuing Crystal, it wouldn’t be dignified by Southern standards — it would be downright perverted.
FRANKLIN MOTT(James Frain)
Ever the romantic, vampire Franklin Mott loves Tara Thornton so much he ties her to a bed. Tara escapes in a grand epic scene, but is pursued and nabbed by the estate’s guard wolf. Mott is in tears.
“But you tied me up…” says Tara
“…to keep you safe!” laments Mott. Tara fibs that she fled because she was scared of the other bloodsuckers, but Mott pledges, like a Civil War soldier, “I’ll never let them touch you.”
And if you thought Mott didn’t have any manners, just wait girls. He promises to take Tara to Shoney’s for dinner (the southern version of Denny’s) and gets down on one knee to propose that he’ll turn her into a vampire. Is Franklin a model of Southern Chivalry? Of course! (In his own twisted head). But in reality, Mott is a therapist’s field day.
Yes, we can add Bill Compton and Terry Bellefleur to the list of the lionhearted below the Mason-Dixon line, but it’s wonderful how Harris and Ball fool with the archetype, particularly in the complexity of Franklin.
The whole concept of Southern Chivalry was actually twisted during the Civil War. General Robert E. Lee preached that the ideal southern gent was defined as:
“The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman. The power which the strong have over the weak…even the clever over the silly-the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light. The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget.”
However, as Lee said this, political cartoons in Harper’s Weekly where personifying and lampooning the Confederates as devilish heathens. Analyze the drawing and replace the Confederates with vampires. The result? The baser instincts of “True Blood” vampires and werewolves will always be at odds with their Southern hospitable manners.
Photo Credit: HBO