Jul 31 2011 6:00pm

The Women of True Blood: Tara vs. Arlene

Tara and Arlene in True BloodWe’ve often focused on the men of True Blood, and for good reason—an inability to wear shirts, serious sexual charisma, and many, many abs. But what about the ladies? So we thought we’d represent them as well, and do a H & H Throwdown on which True Blood woman you like the best. First we had vampire Pam pitted against faery Sookie. Now we’ve got Merlotte’s waitresses Tara and Arlene in the ring. Let us know in comments which is your favorite, and that winner will go against the winner of the next round. 

Tara, Lafayette, and Sam in True BloodIf you like a girl with poor taste in men, bad attitudes, and mommy issues, then Tara Thornton is your girl.  In the last three seasons, we found her in more horrible situations than any other character—at least that’s what it felt like. But this season, the True Blood gurus are giving her some resilience.  Viewers are seeing what seems to be a stronger, less victim-y woman who knows how to protect herself from the creatures that walk in the night, and sometimes the day.My favorite Season 4 scene so far, one that epitomizes a Tara that won’t take anyone’s Sugar-Honey-Iced-Tea (the acronym anyway), is when Tara defends Lafayette against Pam, like a lioness protecting her young.  She seems more willing to accept responsibility for her life and is determined to make something of it—in a cage fighter kind of way.

Tara’s come a long way from someone that we almost didn’t want to see anymore, ever, during the middle of season three. The overall concensus (okay, what I read on two blogs and heard on a radio show) is that the New Tara is a winner.  We want to keep her this way, and we are praying that crying, whining, weaker Tara is gone for effin’ good!  Maybe she’s a lot happier because she came out of the closet… hmmmm. Girl power!

Arlene in True BloodI’m not here to talk about Book Arlene. Book Arlene is an evil, evil bitch. I’m here to talk about TV Arlene.

And TV Arlene is awesome.

Maybe it’s my redneck heritage, but Arlene speaks to me on a deep and personal level. I’ve known Arlenes all my life: Hard-working, good-hearted women who were dealt a crappy hand at birth and have played it best they can.

They don’t always make the best decisions, but there’s never anyone around to save them from the consequences of those decisions, so they become tough, resilient and resourceful. The Arlenes of the world have to be their own safety nets.

I figure her daddy was a drunk, if she had a daddy at all. Her mama did the best she could, but that wasn’t much. Arlene was on her own at an early age—probably sixteen or seventeen. The kids came soon after. I’m sure she was convinced that their daddy was The One. He wasn’t—but Arlene didn’t give up. Every time she falls in love, she’s sure it’s The One. (“I know I’ve done it four other times, but it never gets old.”)

Everything Arlene has, she worked for—hard. And she does it all for her kids. Any single mother who’s ever had to worry about dating another loser (“I’m sorry you fell in love with a serial killer, alright, but honestly, who here hasn’t?”), getting time for herself (“Everytime I get a night off my babysitter falls through on me”), or telling the boss she was late because of a family emergency (“Lisa decided to give Coby a nose piercing like she saw on America’s Next Top Model and now he’s got an infection.”) knows Arlene’s life.
A lot of women would be left bitter and man-hating after finding out their fiancé was a serial killer. Not Arlene—Rene hurt her, but he didn’t harden her. She still had the presence of heart to recognize the worth of Terry Bellefleur.
And if she’s not quite as sophisticated and tolerant about vampires as her economic betters (“No, darlin’. We’re white. He’s dead.”) —well, who could blame her? Just look at what Russell Edgerton did to that poor newscaster! Yeah, Eric and Bill are sexy—when they want to be. How comfortable would you feel having sex with a guy who could exsanguinate you in seconds? The only thing holding him back is, what—his better nature? No. I don’t think sex with vampires is an evolutionarily useful trait.

(Werewolves, on the other hand, are part-time humans. They’re mortal, warm and cuddly, and they can cook you breakfast and take you to the beach.)
Sookie runs around in real and constant danger, but you know that on some level she likes it that way, else why wouldn’t she just get up and move someplace where the vamps and shifters and fairies can’t find her? Because she digs the drama, that’s why.

 Jessica struggles with vampire monogamy and the pain of losing her virginity every time she has sex, but she’s young and hot and has hundreds of years in front of her to do whatever she wants.

Tara’s had a hard life—as hard as Arlene’s, I suppose. But Tara is younger and hotter and unencumbered and can pretty much kick anything’s ass, up to and including vampires if she’s pissed off enough.

Pam’s a glamorous vampire and Portia’s a glamorous lawyer.

Arlene and Terry in True BloodArlene? Arlene’s a waitress with three kids, one of whom might be possessed, and a husband who loves her dearly, but has some issues. Arlene gets to experience all the danger and trauma of life in Bon Temps without the mind blowing sex or supernatural gifts. She’s never even gotten to see Alcide with his clothes off.

It would be easy to laugh at Arlene’s taste in men, or clothes, or hair color, or her grammar or her parochial view of non-human sentient beings. Come on, admit it—it’s easy to laugh at people who are different than us, as long as they’re of the same color and culture. Then it’s not bigotry, right? Then you’re just laughing at someone who’s poorer or tackier than you. If it wasn’t easy and fun, no one would visit

But don’t laugh at Arlene. Instead, ask yourself: if you had an emergency and needed to drop your kid off at someone’s house, who would you call?
Sookie? No. Sookie’s either screwing a vampire, or running away from a vampire, or looking for a vampire or driving to Mississippi to make googly eyes at Alcide.

Tara doesn’t do children.

Pam eats children.

Portia Bellefleur? Girl, please. You’ve lived your whole life in Bon Temps and Portia still doesn’t know your name because you are Not Her Kind. (Rather high and mighty for someone who’s banging her own great great great granddaddy, isn’t she? I know what the hottest topic at the next chapter meeting of Daughters of the Confederacy is likely to be…)

No, you call Arlene. And what does Arlene say?

“Oh, honey, of course I’ll watch her! We got a pizza in the oven and Lisa and Coby made chocolate chip cookies yesterday. Just come on over.”

Really? Are you sure? I don’t know how long I’ll be, it might be overnight—-

“That don’t matter! We’ll make pallets in the livin’ room and the kids can camp out. Terry? TERRY! Kinsey’s mama’s in the hospital and she needs someone to watch the Diva. Run down to Blockbuster and get some movies for the kids, okay? Thanks, baby. Now, Kinsey, listen to me, just drop her off and don’t worry about it. And tell your mama we’re prayin’ for her, kay?”

Thank you, Arlene.


Aliza Mann,

Kinsey Holley writes about werewolves. She and her husband have college degrees. But he owns a lot of guns, and she’s been known to let the kids strip down to their underwear and play in the hose.

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Megan Frampton
1. MFrampton
This is so hard to choose! On the one hand, Tara is tough as nails; on the other, she makes piss-poor choices. And Arlene is tough in her way, too, but she's made some bad decisions in her past, also. Terry is not one of them! I think Terry tips me over into Arlene territory, but I bet I'd like hanging out with Tara more.
Deidre Jordan
2. MissDeidre
OK, I started off rooting for Tara ... but then after reading what you wrote abour Arlene, I made myself stop thinking of BOOK Arlene and I have to cast my vote for TV Arlene ...

Charli Mac
3. CharliMac
Well, this is hard. Tara, well, Tara has been through the ringer. So has Arlene. They both are specieists (supernatural racists) and can be down right nasty when they want to be.

But Arlene just makes the dumbest mistakes.Cause, like Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does" and Arlene can ke all kinds of stupid at times.

I need a street smart girl to have my back. Tara can think on her feet and fast. Plus, she is in incredible shape. I vote for Tara.
Kinsey Holley
4. KinseyHolley
Deidre: Thank you! That's what I want to hear!

Don't misunderstand me. I think TV Tara is the bomb diggity - even last season when she got involved with the Bajoran chick (sorry - I will always think of Star Trek when I see Michelle Forbes) and then later with Franklin, I still liked her. I figured the woman had a lot of shit to deal with and if she screamed and freaked once in a while, I couldn't blame her. Incidentally, TV Tara is also way the hell better than Book Tara. Book Tara isn't evil like Book Arlene, but she's basically a selfish, dysfunctional person.

Honestly, I was never a big Six Feet Under fan. I thought it was over written, way too precious and impressed with itself. But what Alan Ball has done with True Blood is pretty freaking brilliant. The writing and the acting are just phenomenal.
K.M. Jackson
5. kwanawrites
Tara! Though she'd better wise up and get back to the Tara of season 1 before no one can stand her.
6. Earlene
I really wish they would get rid of Tara, I didn't like her in the books and the tv version is worse. She isn't even a secondary person in the books so why make her such an integral part of the series. (Just saying) Arlene is just as ridiculous in the series as she is in the books. I am not making it a point to watch the series like I did the first season. If I catch it fine, if I don't fine.
7. babbs
tara in the tv series is just a pain. I am sick of her character, they could have created a better storyline for her if they had followed and built on her character in the books. Here shes just plain mean . If I was Sookie I wouldn't want her for my friend. Everything is poor, poor Tara.
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