'True Blood': The Weird Normal of Jason Stackhouse

By Clarissa Matthews

In a show where everyone has some sort of supernatural power, one character stands out for being entirely conventional

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HBO

In Bon Temps and beyond, characters are busy taking false identities, shifting were-style, skinwalking, inviting spirits to possess them, and sometimes being possessed without inviting anyone to do so—it seems like no one can remain the same person for more than a matter of minutes. No one, that is, except Jason, universal everyman and foil for all the supernaturals who are getting crammed ever tighter into the small space of Bon Temps. Jason is one of the main anchors still tying Bon Temps to normal: even though he has been kidnapped by were-panthers, joined and then been hunted by vampire-hating cults, developed and overcome an addiction to V, and wandered into any number of other insane situations, he maintains an amazing naivete and small-town aura. He's got some sort of normality Teflon—all the weirdness just rolls right off him.

Some of Jason's best lines exist at least partly to demonstrate his small-town cred. The best this week was Jason's voicemail line: "If this is an emergency, dial 911 and ask for me." Last week's winner was his shocked "Good GRAVY!" as he sat up in bed after some intense and guilt-ridden sex dreams about Jessica. Poor Jason used to be the normal one protecting weirdo sister Sookie, but now just about everyone turns out to be some kind of magical freak of nature, tossing normal into the minority. Jason's best friend is dating a vampire; his friend Lafayette is a reluctant witch; his ex-girlfriend turned out to be a psychopath were-panther; his sister finds a way to get mixed up with any kind of supernatural imagined or unimagined. As Jason confides to Jessica in his panic-attack induced introspection (Jessica's lovingly pitying line about panic attacks was possibly the best-delivered line of the night—Jason gets a lot of loving pity), sometimes he feels a bit left out of all the special. Just as it seems that he is finally going to be—unwillingly—provided with a power of his own by being turned into a were-panther, his terror at the thought is immediately followed up by disappointment when it turns out to be a false alarm. Of course Jessica consoles him by telling him how very special he is—he's a football star! and so good-looking!—but we know better. He's endearing, adorable, sweet, dumb, and normal.

We need Jason to be normal. If True Blood were just about supernaturals fighting each other all the time, it wouldn't have nearly the appeal—it's been done. Tying it to a small town, with the kindness and bigotry expected of small towns, is part of what makes the show so fascinating. Developing the normal, imperfection-full personalities that you might find in real life (perhaps slightly caricatured) like Andy, Arlene, and Terry (with his armadillo!) is one of the things the show does extremely well. The supernaturals are exciting, and the really attractive people are great on the eyes, but the small-town setting and characters is what makes the show addictive. We need Jason in the story not just because he gives us the small-town flavor, but because he's like a compass always bouncing back in the direction of normality—he keeps the audience from getting over-saturated with the supernatural, reminding them to be continually amused at just how strange everything is getting in Bon Temps.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/08/true-blood-the-weird-normal-of-jason-stackhouse/242858/