The XX Factor

True Blood May Be a Lot of Things, Ted Cruz, but It’s Not Misogynist

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer in True Blood, a show that makes little sense but doesn’t have anything against women.

Courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO

Ted Cruz, once again demonstrating that he has an ego too tender to be in politics, threw a tantrum on Facebook on Tuesday upon learning that the HBO schlock-fest True Blood made fun of him in a recent episode. “Sunday night, they aired a misogynist and profanity-ridden episode where Texas Republicans are murdered attending a ‘Ted Cruz fundraiser,’ ” he wrote, not even giving his followers the courtesy of a spoiler warning.

It was a masterful display of completely missing the point, and not just because he complained about the profanity in a show whose sex and violence make Game of Thrones look like Sesame Street. Still, at least that complaint was accurate enough. But “misogynist”? It’s like Cruz heard somewhere that “misogynist” was a bad thing to be and just started flinging words around to discredit the show. I mean, sure, one of the characters in the clip in question uses the words “Republicunt,” but considering that she’s a self-identified “asshole” who murders people for fun, it’s a stretch to argue the show is endorsing her language choices here.

True Blood may be a muddled mess that riffs on touchy political issues without having anything coherent to say about them. You can definitely ding the show for having some racially unsavory moments or for accidentally perpetuating the homophobia it seems to want to denounce. But the show isn’t misogynist, and not just because you can see Alexander Skarsgård or Ryan Kwanten in the altogether in any random episode. (Though having a show that panders to the female gaze as much as the male gaze is a quiet triumph.) No, it’s because in the topsy-turvy, screwed-up world of True Blood, female characters are allowed to be just as crafty, evil, autonomous, and straight-up horny as the men.

Take the show’s main character, Sookie Stackhouse, who gets to live alone and have sex with whomever she wants, but anyone who suggests she’s a cat lady or a slut is clearly a villain. Arguably, you could say she’s even rewarded for those independent ways by getting to bang both Skarsgård and Joe Manganiello. Sookie was first presented to viewers as a traditional damsel in distress, but over the course of the series, it’s become clear that her male vampire lovers need her to save them more than she needs them. 

Another example: Sookie’s brother Jason, a blond bimbo (a man) who gets exploited by members of the opposite sex (women) over and over again, as he’s too dumb to learn from experience. Then there are the many, many supporting female characters who get to be villains and heroes in equal parts, and usually in ways that are closer to how the male characters get to behave than to female stereotypes. The show may not be feminist—it’s too muddled for that kind of coherent political statement—but it’s a real stretch to call it misogynist. 

Oh, and the show is terrible. I can’t believe I’ve outed myself as a regular viewer. Look what you’ve done, Ted Cruz.