“I am an organic vegan and my carbon footprint is miniscule,” utters Amy Burley, as she embarks on her environmental cause. “Balance”, “Harmony” and “Beauty” are three signature words defining Amy’s cause in the HBO series, True Blood. Amy, along with other True Blood women, does not represent a new wave of womanhood, but rather women’s participation in contemporary society as activists in their own right.
The character of Amy, played by Lizzy Caplan, is an eco-activist constantly preaching and guiding her partner, Jason Stackhouse, towards an organic lifestyle. She is the future of modern ecological consciousness in the small, dysfunctional town of Louisiana.
Amy is not a public and environmental campaigner calling for change, however, but rather a personal mentor who attempts to influence those she singles out towards a toxic-free lifestyle. Hints from her past show that her choice of followers happen to be all men, and the current man who best respresents her as an example of the matriarch in action, is Jason Stackhouse. Amy embodies the image of an empowered and conscious woman when she is first introduced in the series. Naturally, her ideas among vampires is troubling, and they are mystified by her presence — especially Jason and his sister, Sookie Stackhouse.
A libertine and sensualist at heart, Amy’s dark side is totally dependent on vampire blood to maintain her lofty visions of hedonistic grandeur. Without it, she’s short-tempered and capable of very scary pursuits. Her character is quite paradoxical indeed, leaving her torn between the lines of a corrupt hipster and a conscious preacher of environmental sustainability.
Much like the Greek goddess Artemis, Amy’s connection to animals is depicted through her narrative, ‘We’re all links on the universal food chain. See, squirrel eats nuts, snake eats the squirrel, gator eats the snake. And we can eat pretty much anything we want. It’s the circle of life.” A naturalist at heart, she shows that she is more than meets the eye as her character progresses throughout the series.
Following in the philosophical footsteps of the great Earth mother, Gaia, Amy’s earth conscious spirit and need for aesthetic balance are her greatest motivators. Although her unique earthy style makes her appear as warm to others, her sunny disposition can mask a monster lurking beneath the surface. Her extreme dark side emerges through her action of drawing of V (vegan) blood out of a citizen vampire, which makes Jason question her motives of ‘saving the earth.’
Being a vegan means Amy relies on the ultimate tool to commune with the earth: V blood. Yet, drawing V blood out of a member of the minority population whose only source of life is V, might be a hate crime. In other words, it justifies her points on the links within the food chain. It’s the ‘circle of life’ to feed on each other in the form of violent hierarchal power, yet the dichotomy is to sustain the notion by co-existing equally. Amy gives credit to the fact that the Earth belongs to the mother, and unconsciously pursues empowering that mission in a self destructive and fulfilling manner. She is the image of the woman environmentalist, who at some point hits rock bottom and goes wrong after attacking a citizen vampire, who just happens to be male.
The paradox of her character is that she ends up not being the damsel in distress, but rather, she’s the woman who saves men in distress. She is Jason’s guide to a more purpose-filled life and she pursues such a leadership role with compassion and humility, yet as is typical of human nature, her role as a powerful guide goes awry in the form of bigotry and arrogance. Despite her character’s setbacks, Amy tries to guide others to live more holistically and with a conscious. Since vampires in True Blood represent society’s minority, Amy is shown to be resistant to that minority through her illegal actions of draining a vampire of his blood.
Although Amy serves as the image of a progressive activist on True Blood, the paradox of her character makes us question her progressive cause more than anything else. Like most characters that are full of paradoxes in the series, Amy’s character is more positive in the sense that her assets outride her flaws. Apologizing for her crimes against the minority vampire population and reconciling with Jason over her betrayal of his trust further exemplifies the humility of the matriarch in a position of power. This falls in contrast to the typical image of the patriarch, whose tool for survival is to consistently appear aggressive and dominating.
It’s imperative to view Amy as a voice of reform to such underscored conceptions of the ‘damsel in distress.’ Both genders in positions of power produce damsels in distress, yet the matriarch apologies for it. She struggles to lead without abuse and apologizes for her shortcomings while at it. She’s not always innocent, but she’s always courageous and cares for her followers’. Amy’s stance in empowering her girlhood through humility does not weaken her power or her process of empowerment, but rather, her power is in her compassion.
Amy doesn’t vilify her followers by confining them to a status any less inferior than her own. She is the 21st century matriarch in action: forgiving, conscious, and tenacious.