Yes, in the summer of 2014, it has come to this: an HBO paranormal soap opera has a better understanding of women’s lives than the majority of the people who interpret the laws that govern those lives. This holds true even when one remembers the low points of the past six seasons of True Blood, including wildly inconsistent character development, inane plot meanderings, massive divergence from the original source material, questionable accents, and werepanthers. It even holds true when one considers that the main theme of the show has been the Superheated Sex Life of Sookie Stackhouse and Her Supernatural Swains. That’s how out-of-touch Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is. If you have been living under a log in the bayou for the past month, it’s the case that supposedly confirmed that “closely held” corporations can have religious principles and therefore disregard the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide contraception for women as part of their employee health insurance plans.
I am not a legal scholar, but I am pretty sure that “closely held” does not mean this.
While most conservative commentators are focusing on the implications of corporate religious freedom, this ruling means a gigantic step back for women’s health and well-being. Since most Americans still get their health insurance as employee benefits, and since approximately 90 percent of U.S. corporations are closely held, this ruling effectively gives employers the right to discriminate against the Arlenes and Hollys of this country.
It’s roughly the equivalent of buying a new car that doesn’t have a reverse gear, and when you complain to the salesman, he tells you that it’s no big deal and you can just avoid situations where you need to back up. Or that you can pay extra to have that gear installed, even though it’s standard on cars purchased by men. Never mind that it isn’t safe to drive a car that can’t back up and you might end up dead in an accident as a result. When you ask to speak to the owner of the dealership, he claims he can sell you a defective car because to do otherwise would violate his religious principles. Never mind that his religious texts do not say one word about putting a car into reverse. And then he starts screaming at you and telling you that you’re destroying the moral fabric of our nation all because you want to buy a car that works.
As Lafayette Reynolds would say: Hooker, are you out yo’ goddamned mind?
Let us now leave metaphor behind and return to realism as depicted by True Blood. (Now there is a sentence I never imagined typing, but here we are.) For all that various critics deride it as being a silly supernatural soap opera riding mostly on gratuitous nudity, it has reflected American women’s lives remarkably well. It’s one of the few television shows that features anything like a working-class existence, even if Sookie hasn’t shown up for work in about two years. It deals with the complications of family, friendships, and love for women (though granted, most of us don’t have to worry about vampire love triangles). Most important, two of the three pregnancies depicted during the show’s run were unplanned, which is within spitting distance of America’s actual rate of 50 percent. (If one considers that Andy certainly didn’t plan to be the dad of four half-fairy daughters, the calculation gets a bit more complicated.)
At least delivery is still covered under the ACA.
But above all, True Blood has been about sex in remarkably refreshing and lady-centric terms. Whether it’s the emphasis on attractive male nudity (bless you, Alexander Skarsgard, for finally going full-frontal) or the complete lack of shame around acknowledging that, yes, people bone, the show has been a force for cultural change in some unexpectedly quiet ways. Unlike HBO’s other top-tier shows, which mostly view sex as a somber plot device (Boardwalk Empire) or an excuse for narrative-free salacious slobbering (Game of Thrones), the emphasis of the entire six-and-a-half season run of True Blood has grounded nearly all of its sex within the surprisingly conservative confines of romantic relationships. Some of them have been contrived, some have been ridiculous, and a few of them have been as dumb as Jason Stackhouse in the first season. But they’ve all had a basic understanding that’s surprisingly lacking in most other parts of our society: people have sex, and that’s both normal and good. Perhaps this is the reason why I have kept watching this show for the past six years, despite all its shortcomings and werepanthers.
That right there almost broke me, though.
Here’s the thing: the Hobby Lobby decision isn’t just an issue for women. It’s an issue for the men who sleep with us, too. Not to put too fine a point on it, but most of y’all have been outsourcing your contraception—and the subsequent costs, effort, and side effects—for between 50 and 60 years now. Ninety-five percent of women use some kind of prescription contraception in our lifetimes, and the vast majority of us do so to have sex with you. Frankly, some of you could be a bit more grateful. In particular, all five of the men in the majority of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby might want to reconsider how their lives might have gone had they not been able to choose if and when they had children. I understand that’s the sort of thing that can really derail a legal career.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go incorporate my ovaries. Doesn’t get more closely held than that.
And, as the headline promised, here are all the ways in which True Blood is smarter than five Supreme Court justices:
1) It recognizes that pregnancy is a difficult process affecting solely women.
2) It recognizes that sex is a normal part of romantic relationships.
3) It recognizes that religion is personal.
4) It recognizes that sex doesn't have to be about procreation.
5) It recognizes that an employee’s sex life is none of her employer’s business.
La Donna Pietra (@ladonnapietra) is a Duke City denizen with opinions about pop culture, gender, and ice cream.