It’s hard to keep a secret, especially one as big as another lesbian character coming to our screens. And when it’s on one of our favorite shows — as well as one of TV’s most-watched and gayest shows — it’s even more difficult. And after TVLine leaked the teaser that someone was going gay on True Blood, we were almost chomping at the bit to tell you that Tara, the tough Bon Temps bartender with a sass mouth and fierce upper body strength was going to have a girlfriend when the show returned.
Rutina Wesley, the actress who plays Tara, felt the same way.
“I’m really excited, because people keep asking me about it and I can’t talk about it and it drives me crazy,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. And now that we met Naomi (Vedette Lim), Tara’s new love interest, on last night’s Season 4 premiere, there is obviously a lot to think about. Has Tara always been bisexual? Is this just part of a new life where she’s shunned men because they’ve been so terrible to her? And is it going to be one of those very special lesbian relationships we often seen on TV where she’ll eventually write it off as a fling never to be mentioned again?
The good thing is that Rutina says it’s definitely got nothing to do with how Tara’s relationships with men played out.
“I hope that people can understand that,” she said. “Because I know people, of course, are just going to go to the ‘Oh, they’re just doing that, because she had that relationship and all of a sudden she’s gay.’ No, no, no, it’s not that. It’s just something that happened and she ended up being open to it, which I think is really cool. It’s nice to see Tara a little more Zen and open to things. And she just seems more carefree about life. It feels good to see her smile for a change.”
Tara’s previous relationships have been strained, to say the least. She slept with her boss, Sam, but couldn’t find it in her to commit — until she met Eggs. She fell for Eggs almost instantly, only to watch him become a possessed murderer and get shot and killed trying to rectify his wrongs. And on the last season, she was taken as a vampire bride by Franklin, one of the show’s most violent and ruthless characters to date. And at the end of the season, she was swearing off anything supernatural and skipping town.
Which brings us to last night’s episode, one year later, with Tara being called “Toni” by her new girlfriend in New Orleans, who she fights in a cage match before making out with in an alley.
True Blood writer Alexander Woo explained that their line of thinking with the Tara storyline had more to do with her present interests and not so much to do with the Tara we’ve known all along. It’s not so much a sexual awakening as a natural progression of this woman we’ve come to know and love.
“Was she always curious? Did she always have sexual interest in men and women?” Woo tells the Reporter. “I think we figured that we certainly were careful not to suggest that her life and the course of her life drew her into a relationship with another woman. But I think what Tara does at the beginning of this year is that she sees an opportunity to start completely fresh, start completely new and not being tied down with all these patterns that created her so much suffering.”
The show’s creator Alan Ball said he wanted Tara to stop being a victim.
“It was time for Tara to really take charge of her life in a way that would be surprising and would give us some fun places to go story wise,” he said. “We thought, ‘If somebody has been through something like that, maybe they would be prompted to create a whole new life and identity.’ And why not?”
So what does it all mean? Is Tara a lesbian now? Has she always been? Woo gives his take.
“I’m not entirely sure that Tara is gay,” Woo said. “In the case of Tara, she has decided to take on an entirely new identity which also includes sexual identity. We’ll see how well that works.”
Without knowing much more about the future of Tara’s character and her relationship with Naomi, we can only have faith that the powers that be treat it with the respect that some showrunners and producers don’t seem to have a grasp on. True Blood kept Tara’s new storyline strictly secret, and definitely weren’t attempting to hype up her lesbianism in the week’s prior to the episode’s debut. And on a show where sexuality is treated as normal as the existence of vampires, werewolves and witches, I think we have good reason to believe that another queer woman will do alright. It’s Tara, after all. What hasn’t she been through?