Theme Songs and Title Sequences: True Blood

True Blood has devolved from a delicious, mystery-driven, Southern Gothic evisceration of societal mores to a lukewarm pool of bloody literalism. When you ditch the metaphorical drugs, religious persecution, and prejudice (obvious though they may have been) for literal manifestations of a vampire goddess, fairy godmothers, and televised vampire-a-thons, you have jumped the alligator. Relatedly, don’t take a whole season to dispose of a virtually invincible vampire just to bring him back (delightful villain though he was), and don’t change entire characters then refuse to let them die already. For the love of holy water.

Enough about the show. This is the start of a series on title sequences, AKA the only part of this particular show I can still count on enjoying every time. Well, almost only

The sequence was done by Digital Kitchen, specifically Paul Matthaeus, who said, “I wanted a sense of the twin polarities of the need for transcendence as it plays out in the rural south — of church and sort of whipping yourself up into an evangelical frenzy, and the honky-tonk on Saturday night where you basically do the same thing only through drugs and hooking up and getting into brawls.”

Sequentially:

0:00 It’s funny to me the first shot is a ‘reverse Lynch,’ coming up out of the murky water into the bright sunlit scenery, then the video deconstructs a town’s dark underbelly the same way Lynch does.

0:07 After coming up, the camera moves right-to-left, signifying though the show is roughly in the present, the town is rooted firmly in the past and its superstition, bigotry, the Klan, etc. All big establishing shots in the sequence are static or move R-L.

0:12 quick flashes of intertwined bodies. I mean, this is HBO, after all.

0:13 Church scene, bar scene, inextricably linked.

0:18 Race riots may not look like this any more, but the feelings that led to them still underpin this society.The relative niceness of the white people’s clothes repeats the idea pretty facades hide despicable things. Hatred comes in many flavors.

0:21-25 The image of a woman slowly sinking down to a rattlesnake lashing out intimates the woman is coiling to strike. This cut, including the slo-mo, may be my favorite choice of the sequence.

0:27 Seeing a child a Klan hood with a blank expression is particularly jarring, and signifies hateful attitudes won’t change soon because they’re being planted in the next generations. The next shot, at 0:29, is a middle-aged man, and since he’s in color where the Klan boy was B&W, we may assume they are meant to be the same person.

0:31 Eating strawberries is a blissful summertime activity, but obviously there’s a lot of symbolism with the blood and the evisceration and the lip-licking smiles, especially as the next shots are a carcass, inner organs, and some faint hints of naked people again.

0:38 The boy moving forward (L-R) disappears in the blink of a frame. Child abduction, aging, a resistance to growth or change, all of the above?

0:41-0:42 A shot of a woman lying still (with glowsticks casting an eerie light and suggesting a rave) cuts to a dead possum. Is the woman dead, are women often devalued as merely bodies to use and discard, or all of the above again?

0:43 “God Hates Fangs” sign blatantly spells out the vampires-to-homosexuality metaphor, and is the only thing in the opening sequence besides the names and titles to directly refer to True Blood.

0:48-56 Dancing, flirting, bars, groping, sex, all inextricably intertwined, just as the church preaches.

0:57-1:01 Speaking of the church and sex being intertwined.

1:02-1:04 For the third time, a woman’s motions are tied to an animal and death, this time a venus fly trap swallowing a frog.

1:04 Masterful timelapse.

1:06-1:09 “Laying on of hands” in three contexts: violence, sex, religious furor.

1:09 The emergence from a cocoon is religious imagery, of course, but also tied closely to vampire lore as True Blood uses it; having to be buried and emerge ‘new.’

1:11-1:13 The writing of the creature emerging cuts to a writhing lady likely speaking in tongues / possessed by spirits, then to a woman sexually writhing.

1:14 An extreme closeup of red lips inhaling smoke. Sensual, deadly, and again a reversal of what we expect as the norm.

1:17 Plasma bags wrapping, engulfing, then revealing the show title. The music seems to conclude, but suddenly it winds back up for ten more seconds.

1:20 Two girls, in a red-colored shot which can be sensual or murderous, or both.

1:22 A Baptismal shot of two men pushing a woman underwater, both religious and murderous. The shot is briefly interrupted by a flash of the title card again, comes back in a medium-long shot which puts the grouping in the lower third and surrounds them with only darkness (broken by the glaring white of the ‘written and directed by,’ which is not-incidentally the clearest title of the whole sequence), then jump-cuts back to the medium shot for the woman to emerge, thrashing and trying to get away from the two men, who suddenly look much more predatory. The struggle is interspersed with flashes of a cross and those ambiguous bodies we’ve seen throughout. This is the longest any one scene runs.

1:29 Dark scenery flashes along with one brief red medium-close-up of the woman from the dance floor, appearing from below this time as she seems to be atop the woman from 1:20, again, whether sensual or murderous is intentionally ambiguous, but it’s likely she’s a vampire, so, both.

1:30 Fin.

Stray Observations

  • The Sesame Street knockoff also did a spoof of the title sequence. 
  • Something else the show has lost which the titles retain is the sticky, humid, claustrophobic sense of living in a backwoods Southern town.
  • It took four days, an original font, and a lot of polaroids to shoot this sequence.  

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