Last Sunday night (June 29), you might have seen something a little peculiar — a little old school — trending on your Twitter and/or Facebook feed, depending on your particular social media poison. That something was “True Blood,” the bloody, hyper-sexual relic of the late 2010’s that famously went off the rails somewhere in the middle of its run, but is still currently airing its final season — while everybody else has moved on to “Game of Thrones,” “Teen Wolf,” and the 37 other supernatural television shows on The CW.
But “True Blood”’s remaining loyal fans were freaking out for good reason. After months (years?) of teasing and anticipation, the show aired a soft-core “slash” sex scene between two characters, Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgard) and Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten), that didn’t exactly advance anything plot-wise, but still reminded everybody of what was so thrilling about the show in the first place — its willingness to depict relationships, sexual or otherwise, that defied norms.
“The real question was how we would approach it, because historically with the men-with-men sex dreams, they’ve just been sort of straight sex—no subtext—and we wanted to do something a little different with this one,” writer Kate Barnow told Entertainment Weekly.
Barnow is referring to the fact that “True Blood” has aired many “love” scenes of varying intensity between two male characters before, be they dreams or otherwise. This (thankfully) doesn’t seem like such a big deal nowadays, but back when the show premiered in 2008 — before “Thrones,” “Glee,” “Orange is the New Black” and more made LGBT characters in popular television series a rule, and not an exception — its taboo sex scenes were a major talking point. Heck, the entire season one plot about the struggle for vampire equality is popularly known as an allegory for LGBT rights. (See: the “God Hates Fangs” poster in the show’s opening.)
Years of ill-advised plot lines and other, even more NC-17 cable series (again, “Thrones”) have certainly dulled “True Blood”’s cultural impact, but the power of last night’s Jason/Eric sex scene shouldn’t be ignored — not only because it appealed to the often-ignored slash-shipper fan base, but because it brilliantly managed to appeal to that fanbase while also introducing yet another widely experienced (but rarely explored) element of human sexuality into the mix: the bi-curious sex dream.
(*Often ignored for good reason, when it comes to storytelling — just because a slash fan base, or any shipper fan base, thinks that two characters should end up together, doesn’t mean that they should. Just wanted to clear that up.)
“Bucky [showrunner Brian Buckner] and Kate asked me for my input, and I felt like the more ownership of the scene I gave Alex and Jason, the more they’d be able to channel it,” director Howard Deutch continued. “So it wouldn’t be me being a puppeteer or them just acting, they could be it. This is Jason’s dream, so Alex kept saying, ’Well, you tell me what to do, Ryan. It’s your dream.’ And Ryan would go, ’Well, I don’t know. What do you want to do?’ It started like that until Alex said, ’Well, you know, I could f— him or I could kill him. I’m not sure.’ And out of that came the notion that there’s violence in the eroticism… We didn’t want to shy away from what a real love scene would look like with them.”
Knowing that Kwanten, who has been playing Jason Stackhouse for seven years now, had control over this scene — which depicted his own character’s deepest, darkest desires (or, at the very least, curiosities) makes the whole thing even better. The point of that dream (again, besides pleasing the fan base) was not that Jason is gay or has gay fantasies, because we know that that’s not true. But the fact that he has complicated feelings and even admiration toward Eric is totally understandable — the man is a 1,000-plus year old viking demi-God who can fly, for God’s sake. For a simpleton with Rambo-esque aspirations like Jason, Eric is a freaking superhero — and a superhero who recently saved his life, so having a dream or two with complicated, sexual undertones (overtones?) involving physical power struggles is something that, theoretically, could very likely happen.
Did the show present Jason’s dream as a complex, multi-layered aspect of human sexuality that is typically ignored? Of course not — it was an Anne Rice-esque, porny sex dream, through and through. But as “True Blood” enters its final stretch, the fact that the show has never shied away from showing its hyper-masculine, heterosexual male characters experience feelings that aren’t necessarily indicative of a zero on the Kinsey scale should be applauded, no matter what you think about those damn were-panthers.