True Blood, False Choices

4 Sep

Note – this post is in reference to the television show, True Blood, which centers around both the supernatural (vampires, witches, fairies), mysteries, murder, and the ongoing war of good and evil…whatever they are.  Recently, the writers gave Arlene the (human) waitress, a pregnancy – fathered by her ex (who is both dead and evil), and a fiance (who is neither, and looks forward to the arrival of a child (knowing it is not biologically his).  Certain that the child will be ‘evil’ like his father, Arlene is facing the decision of whether to live by her anti-choice rhetoric and carry the pregnancy to term, or terminate it.

I have watched along with the rest of America to see where the writers of True Blood would go with this pregnancy plot line. It has been fascinating to watch Arlene’s resolve to carry the pregnancy to term and stand firm in the face of an offer from a co-worker to take her to a clinic – where she could have a safe medical procedure to terminate the pregnancy, but falter when the same co-worker offered an alternative to the clinic. Somehow, to Arlene, it was preferable to go to the middle of the woods with another waitress who we can presume has little to no medical qualifications, ingest some ‘tea’ while standing in a circle of salt and rely on ‘the goddess’ to take care of her problem.

If it has the same result – ending the pregnancy – then what difference does it make the method that is used? The difference is that while there is an extreme anti-choice taboo that prevented Arlene, and the real women like her from making the conscious decision to drive to a clinic or doctor’s office and say, “I need an abortion,” it is somehow easier to induce a miscarriage when it is wrapped up in ritual and invokes the name of the god or goddess of your choice. Somehow despite swallowing poison, she still was able to tell herself that it was up to a higher power, and by not taking ownership of her decision, she was able to escape the self imposed guilt.

There are some who might shrug and say that to choose to induce a miscarriage with herbs and rituals is just one of the choices that women have, and that to truly be pro-choice means to accept that. If adding rituals or prayers, meditating or any other ritual helps a woman make the undeniably intense decision of whether to carry a pregnancy to term, then I commend her for knowing that about herself, but consider this – in the case of Arlene, her do-it-your-self abortion made her bleed, but the episode ended with a smiling doctor telling her not to worry – she’s still pregnant (and yes, she is horrified to hear that, not relieved). If she had gone to see that doctor in the first place, she would not have been. I hesitate, as a result to see this do-it-yourself faux-bortion as a real ‘choice’ so much as a reason that abortion in a safe medical-professional-provided setting should be de-stigmatized.

What do you think will happen next? What should happen? I’m still hoping for a positive abortion clinic cameo myself.


7 Responses to “True Blood, False Choices”

  1. tenderhooligan September 4, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    I was quite shocked they went down this road on True Blood, but it then made perfect sense in the context of the show and the implied attitudes of many of the characters on the show.

    I felt the storyline offered a subtle yet very high-impact depiction of the choice to have an illegal and potentially unsafe abortion because you are faced with a plethora of obstacles to a legal procedure. It was the lesser storyline of the week but certainly the most important one. I don’t know what will happen yet but I hope that they continue to be realistic.

  2. ProChoiceSocialist September 4, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    I am not a True Blood Fan. I am curious as to Ms. Harris’ opinions when it comes to choice.
    She is for gay rights but there are some anti-choice people are who pro-gay rights.

    In any case, I would have loved to see the character go to a doctor and have an abortion. It’s the most logical thing to do and it would have probably destigmatized abortion greatly. I know a lot of the fans of True Blood are young and this could have shown them that there is nothing wrong with abortion.


    I am so sick of shows taking the “easy way out.” I truly hope this episode showed women out there that a medical abortion is the way to go when you want to end a pregnancy, not taking some tea.

  3. suggestive September 4, 2010 at 11:50 pm #

    At this point I think a clinic is out of the picture. I think they’ve gone through enough in this particular storyline that an abortion would sort of cut it off at an unnatural point… for the show, that is. It’s unfortunate. I imagine that the baby will be born and Arlene will get yet another storyline from it.

  4. Hanna September 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    Like tenderhooligan and suggestive mentioned it fitted in the show. Nevertheless it made me bit disappointed. I would have wished to either see a) Arlene telling Terry that the baby isn’t his and most likely Terry would have said “that’s cool” or b) Arlene doing the abortion in proper medical way without mystical crap.

    But obviously both would have been way too logical and not mysterious possibilities. Now we can wait how Arlene produces a Damien Thorn from The Omen.

  5. Lindsey September 5, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    We will find out later that the other waitress, Holly, is a witch. I am frankly disappointed that there has been so much political debate over this show. Yes, there are a lot of touchy subjects covered. The books are quite different and not really political in any way. Why can entertainment not just be entertainment?

  6. Amanda@Longroadset September 6, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    People are scared of the abortion issue, and even though I am a huge fan on True Blood, I think this was out there, even for them. It does make you think, and question things, like do some people think of it differently when they try self-abortion methods. If faced with the private and intimate choice, I would want it to be in a safe setting, and not render me infertile, or cause other issues.

    I think if they carry that story line any further then we may all be in for a shock.

  7. Dee September 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    I don’t think True Blood was scared of the abortion issue, which most shows on tv are scared of. I think TB has gone out of its way to show us that Arlene is conservative in her outlook, and this includes her views on abortion. She wouldn’t even be considering ending this pregnancy if not for her fears that the baby is LITERALLY evil. She strikes me as one of those antis who get abortions, then return to harrassing women entering the abortion clinic.

    There’s a couple of things to take into consideration when weighing TB’s storyline. 1)The show is about the supernatural, so there’s a good chance Arlene is correct in her feelings about the evil of the baby. 2) Abortion may have been discarded by Arlene b/c she wanted the end of the pregnancy to look like a miscarriage, in order to not upset Terry. 3) The show steeps itself in Southern Gothic, which includes witchcraft and alternative religions (see Lafayett’s place), so it would revel in showing us a ritual rather than a medical procedure, which is less Gothic and dramatic.

    I don’t think True Blood is antichoice. On the contrary, I think it’s very much progressive. It’s Arlene’s own stance on the issue shining through, not the show’s.

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