On True Blood
Writers are fond of saying that stories are as much defined by their antagonists as they are by their protagonists. (Writers are also fond of saying that they are working on essays when they are really trolling the internet for sexy video clips of Sookie, Bill, and Eric, but the former assertion is actually true.)
Take Maryann Forrester. Like most villains, Maryann has a master plan: In her case, to intoxicate the residents of Bon Temps and stir them into a frenzy of violent passions. She also intends to sacrifice Sam, the shape-shifting owner of Merlotte’s, to bring about the return of her god. True Blood is billed as a show about vampires, but Maryann strolls into town, sets the agenda, and turns the second season into a blue-collar bacchanalia.
What makes Maryann a particularly intriguing antagonist is that she is a combination of two distinctly different villain archetypes. On the one hand, she’s a savage maenad who worships her deity with bloody rites of celebration. On the other hand, she’s is a smoothly sophisticated bohemian intellectual, espousing free love, passing around the hooch and the drugs, and whipping up exotic cannibal cuisine, like braised human heart in wine sauce.
While one archetype may be savage and the other sophisticated, both posit the villain as someone who stands outside the norms and constraints of regular society, threatening the community through some essential Otherness. Yet in the final analysis, Maryann winds up challenging our preconceived notion that evil is something that comes …