True Blood, Please Don’t Perpetuate the “Rugged Werewolf Hunk” Stereotype. Oops, Too Late!

A. Quinton — Apr. 22nd 2010

Let’s play a game! One of the people in this photo is portraying a werewolf. Which one could it be?

I have only one rule when watching network TV: the show I am watching must be Dexter. True Blood fails this test, and now that I’ve seen this photo of Joe Manganiello as werewolf Alcide Herveaux, I’m obliged to report that the show has failed in another, more crucial way: it promotes the ridiculous and insulting “Rugged Werewolf Hunk” stereotype. This is a phenomenon I have just made up, but consider the evidence.

Joe Manganiello was hired to play a werewolf. Here we see him wearing a plaid lumberjack-style shirt. “Put this on,” he was told. “This is what a werewolf wears. Don’t forget to unbutton the top three buttons, to imply a burly man-chest.” Note the carefully sculpted hair and the full (but carefully trimmed) beard. The result is a figure you might recognize from the covers of countless trashy supernatural romance novels: the Rugged Werewolf Hunk. Dangerous… but tender. Manly… but sensitive. This is the best image that marketing people can come up with when they want to make a werewolf attractive to the average woman. You know he smells like Old Spice and leather, and although he’s a beast he’ll never forget your birthday.

This is what they did to poor, poor Joe Manganiello. To be extra-certain that no one would misinterpret his character’s species, someone asked him to stand in front of a painting of a wolf silhouetted by a full moon and put on his best “hunted” expression.

Now where have I seen this before? Oh yes. I have one of these on my shelf.

  • Shadowfang

    “Hey girls! Do you like TWILIGHT!? Well, then you’re going to LOVE True Blood!”

    Guess who will be passing up on this? I’ll give you a big hint; it’s me.

  • Roukas

    That pic looks almost exactly like a hokey 50s Hollywood promo, only in color. And lol @ at the google images search they must have done for the wolf silhouette in the background!

    Sorry Andrew, that’s all I’ve got for now. You’ve given sufficient mega-rape to True Blood’s typecasting and its lycanthropy-for-the-twitter-generation methodology. Bloody well done, chap!

  • Mac

    I’ve never been all that interested in True Blood myself. Slogged through the first season, which was awful. I tried some of the second season, which was slightly more tolerable. The only way I would watch it now is if this Joe fellow manages to really bring something interesting to the part despite being shoehorned into the hunky werewolf mold.

  • I actually really like True Blood, both the books and the show. I mean, it’d be better if it was all about werewolves rather than vampires, but you can’t have everything.

    Don’t hate me just because I like pulp. If it helps any (by way of compensation), I bought that ‘Sharp Teeth’ book you recommended and it’s pretty damn awesome.

  • PDX Werewolf

    Paul Bunyan is a werewolf.

  • WW

    “This is the best image that marketing people can come up with when they want to make a werewolf attractive to the average woman.”

    No, it’s quite likely the image decided upon by the show’s costume designer and okayed by the show’s producer, who happens to be gay. And quite a few women and gay men happen to like the rugged werewolf hunk stereotype. I’m sure heterosexual men would not be complaining as much if the werewolf stereotype happened to be that of the sexy woman. And yeah, he’s wearing a plaid shirt, which can either be hipster-influenced fashion or a nod to werewolf tradition. On the other hand, he’s not the burly, beer-gutted, big-bearded lumberjack in the stuffed toy picture. Nor is he the hairless teenybopper Twilight type either.

  • WW:

    “No, it’s quite likely the image decided upon by the show’s costume designer and okayed by the show’s producer, who happens to be gay.”

    And the producer and the costume designer want to appease the advertisers and the network people, who want a character who will appeal to the show’s primary target demographic: women (and gay men who are into burliness).

    “And quite a few women and gay men happen to like the rugged werewolf hunk stereotype.”

    That’s nice, and that’s fine. I’m not a woman or a gay man and the rugged werewolf hunk stereotype does not appeal to me. If it appeals to you (and I say this without sarcasm), great, they made a show for you. Enjoy!

    “I’m sure heterosexual men would not be complaining as much if the werewolf stereotype happened to be that of the sexy woman.”

    I’m a heterosexual man and I resent the implication that I would be fine with a dull, consumer-friendly stereotype as long as it had breasts instead of gleaming pecs. The corresponding female werewolf stereotype could be called “Hyper-sexualized Psycho Vixen” (see “The Howling 2” for the prototype) and it sells just as many Pepsis and Mazdas. That doesn’t make it good.

    “And yeah, he’s wearing a plaid shirt, which can either be hipster-influenced fashion or a nod to werewolf tradition.”

    Or it could be lazy short-hand for ‘THIS GUY IS A WEREWOLF’. It’s about as subtle and as clever as taped glasses to show that a character is a nerd or a facial piercing to show that a character is “edgy”.

    “On the other hand, he’s not the burly, beer-gutted, big-bearded lumberjack in the stuffed toy picture. Nor is he the hairless teenybopper Twilight type either.”

    Actually, that lumberjack’s torso has got the V-shape of someone who works hard for a living. I don’t see a gut there. He is burly, though. And wearing plaid. And sporting a beard. In fact, he kind of looks like a picture I recently saw of Alcide Herveaux.

    What’s your point? You seem like you’re mad because I dissed something you like, whether it’s True Blood or werewolves who look like the Brawny guy while in human form. I actually have no opinion of the former, and I’m saying I don’t care for the latter (or the way that particular image of werewolves is being used to sell commercial airtime). I’m not telling people what they can / should like, I’m saying I saw something that pissed me off and explaining why it made me feel that way.

    Mike W:

    “I actually really like True Blood, both the books and the show… Don’t hate me just because I like pulp. “

    I wouldn’t hate someone because they like a thing I don’t like / understand / care about / etc. I liked The Wolfman, which is just about as pulpy as they come.

    “I bought that ‘Sharp Teeth’ book you recommended and it’s pretty damn awesome.”

    NICE! I’ve never looked at stray dogs the same way. :D

  • viergacht

    I would like to see a werewolf who looks like Crispin Glover. That would be awesome.

  • viergacht, I couldn’t agree with you more!

  • Ha! That lumberjack/werewolf doll reminds me of the Little Red Riding Hood doll I had as a kid. You could flip Red upside down and she would transform into dear old Granny, then switch Granny’s bonnet over to the other side of her head to reveal a cross-dressing wolf! I wasn’t much into dolls since I was a tomboy, so I remember leaving this toy in wolf form pretty much all of the time.

  • Roi

    True Blood’s a decent show (for the series was one of my favorite reads before they brought it to the screen). My main concern is how they’re going to make the werewolves. I believe in the books they’re just wolves…. nothing werewolfish about them. Which doesn’t make sense since there’s already shifters in the show… so I’m hoping they see that logic and don’t make the werewolves just wolves…

  • jenn

    i have to say i would rather see this burly hairy rendition of a werewolf than the oh o so waxed chested, gel haired, bad acting, fake brooding, pretty boy wolf of twilight, i mean you could bash true blood for falling in to the biker werewolf archetype but at least they mythology is interesting, the show actually referenced the Nazi werewolf project and they use actual wolves, instead of the twilight sagas CGI over sized coyotes , that honestly look like something from a sci fi channel original movie. i am happy to see a decent representation of a werewolf transformation as well, the shift is fast but looks painful and seamless, it’s what twilight’s werewolves should have been. and if your going to be offended you should be more disgusted by the native American werewolf, this is another example of white Americans making the native Americans something less than human, a mystical being that is to be drooled over and of course his hair must be cut and coiffed ever so carefully so he doesn’t look to native. also the misrepresentation and lack of reference to native American shape shifter lore in twilight is just lame.

  • I’m not bashing True Blood because its lazy portrayal of werewolves offends me, Jenn. I’m bashing it for the same reason I bash Twilight: its werewolves are calculated to be palatable to the largest group of credit-card-holders possible, which is just another way of saying they’re fucking boring.

  • Ryan

    For me, the werewolves in both Twilight and True Blood are basically the same except for two key differences.

    Budget and age demographic.

    But they both suck equally.

  • @ Jenn, the werewolves in Twilight and True Blood are equally lame and uninteresting.

  • jenn

    ok i totally respect an intelligent and articulate argument for disliking the true blood werewolves i am just saying that comparatively the true blood werewolves have an interesting mythology and the use of actual wolves in my opinion is respectable, especially after what the twilight series has done to werewolves, i mean little teen girls are going around wearing cuddle a werewolf t-shirt while blogging about how the wolfman remake is a ripoff of eclipse.

    @Ryan: they are really not the same for the above reasons i mention before and to say they are is a massive disservice to true blood. i have been into werewolves for as long as i can remember and have seen some horrible renditions of werewolves on television and honestly i found the true blood werewolves to be refreshing and while yes the biker/ brawny werewolf has been done, but i think the storyline and mythology are unique, i mean how many times have you seen in television a reference to evil Nazi werewolves?

  • liam

    Hey…hey…

    …True Blood’s not so bad. I mean, I guess I can’t get mad at someone for not liking it, but it’s still not as hate-worthy as Twilight.

    Also, if this is a bad portrayal to you guys, what is it that you prefer?