Sookie Stackhouse Is the Heroine You’ve Been Dying to Meet

When you hear words like “vampires” and “telepaths,” it’s easy to think True Blood is a show only for fantasy-lovers. But don’t let the genre elements distract you; at its core, Alan Ball’s dramatic and risky series is truly the story of one young woman discovering herself.

When the series begins, Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), the southern heroine of both the television series as well as the Charlaine Harris novels that inspired the show, is a lonely waitress with a secret: She can read minds. Sookie isn’t entirely alone in the world, she has a tight circle of family and friends, but her abilities have left her feeling disconnected from everyone else. Reading minds can present a lot of problems, like discovering your friends inner thoughts, or exposing yourself to the unsavory intentions of men. Too scared to share her gift in her small Louisiana town where very little happens, Sookie keeps to herself.

Guided by her own secretive life, Sookie is fascinated when vampires “come out of the coffin” and decide to try living amongst humans. So when Bill (Stephen Moyer), a handsome vampire with an unmatched intensity, walks into Sookie’s restaurant, she is more than eager to prove herself a vampire-ally. The opportunity arises when Bill is taken hostage by two junkies hoping to drain and sell his blood (a new way to get high) and Sookie comes to his rescue. Afterwards, her interest is only more piqued when she realizes Bill possesses one very attractive quality — she can’t hear his thoughts. She goes home that night, thrilled by her encounter and has a dream that crosses the line from erotic to horror, a line blurred when you’re fantasizing about a vampire.

The series doesn’t shy away from fantastical sex, nor should it — the novels embrace the concept of a woman owning her sexuality for the first time in her life — but what follows from the discovery of this unabashed sexuality is a newfound confidence for Sookie, and an opening to an entirely new existence. As the series unfolds, and her awareness of the mythological creatures cohabitating her world expands, Sookie is able to gain her own strength through sexual awakening and by embracing the very qualities that once made her feel different.

Alan Ball took audiences through family drama in a uniquely dark, but humorous way in Six Feet Under, and True Blood is similar in its sometimes sensational approach. This award-winning series features incredible performances from a huge ensemble cast including Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies), Nelsan Ellis, Rutina Wesley, and Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike), who are among the fun and sexy vampires, witches and wolves that populate Bon Temps, Louisiana.

But at its heart, the show’s outrageous elements are ultimately just tools for an honest conversation about self-identity and empowerment, served up with a little bite.