“True Blood” Promises a Lesbian Character – For Real This Time

True Blood, HBO’s hyper-sexualized, super-stylized vampire drama, returns this weekend with a promise to amp-up the lesbian content in its sophomore season — at least a little.

You might be wondering what, exactly, True Blood can build upon in terms of sapphic substance — after all, zero multiplied by anything equals zero. It’s a fair question.

First, let’s run down last season to bring everyone up to speed.

Anna Paquin as Sookie Stackhouse in True Blood.

True Blood takes place in Bon Temps, a fictional town in Louisiana, where vampires, witches and shape-shifters mingle with humans. The creation of synthetic blood has allowed vampires to become regular citizens. Over the course of the season, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), a telepathic waitress, meets and falls in love Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer), a rugged, handsome 175-year-old vampire. The main storylines concentrate on Bill and Sookie’s relationship, as well as the relationship between Sookie’s boss Sam (a shape-shifter) and Sookie’s best friend, Tara.

There’s a season-long murder investigation, centering around Sookie’s brother Jason; an explanation of a strict code of conduct for vampires; and a whole lot of blood-enhanced sex.

After the first two episodes aired last summer, True Blood executive producer Alan Ball told us we could definitely expect to see lesbians in the series, but after persistent viewing we began to wonder if, instead of lesbian, he actually meant “lesbian-ish.”

Or, as Kristen Bauer put it, characters who exude “a certain lesbian energy.” Bauer plays fan-favorite Pam, co-owner of the vampy bar Fangtasia. In the Southern Vampire Mysteries (the books True Blood is based on) Pam is labeled bisexual, with a leaning toward women. Late in the series she forms a relationship with Sookie’s roommate, a witch named Amelia Broadway. HBO, however, defines all vampires as “pansexual.” Maybe that’s why we never saw Pam’s lesbian energy take her further than the occasional lecherous stare at Sookie.

Kristen Bauer as Pam in True Blood.

Sometimes screenwriters and networks choose not to use labels — or they prefer a catch-all label like “omnisexual” — so they won’t have to develop authentic lesbian or bisexual characters. If it doesn’t test well with the audience or focus groups, networks can just back the character out of her relationship with a woman, and hook her right back up with a man.

That’s probably not the case with True Blood. Alan Ball is openly gay, and has written several wonderful same-sex couples in his career. Plus, the show is on HBO. It certainly has the liberty to portray sex any way it pleases.

In fact, it looks like the second season plans to be a lot clearer about some of its characters’ sexual orientation.