I hope everyone likes my take on one of the From Dead to Worse covers!
“I’ve always liked Hoyt. He was a good guy in high school. I guess–I hope you don’t really get mad at me–I guess what stopped me from dating him earlier was his being so tight with Jason.”
“But what about Danielle? I would’ve said you were as tight with her as Hoyt is with Jason.”
“I would never have said anything could come between Danielle and me, Sookie.” Holly pulled on her Windbreaker and fished for her keys in the depths of her purse. “But her and me, we’ve parted ways a little bit… I don’t know. When I got interested in something other than the world here in Bon Temps, the world we grew up in, Danielle started thinking there was something a little wrong with that, with my curiosity. When I decided to become a Wiccan, she hated that, still does hate it.”
So we have 1) two women who have become estranged (as you know, women are catty bitches who end up stabbing each other in the back, always) and whose estrangement has come about as a result of 2) bigotry.
Except it’s bigotry directed at Wicca. Despite claims of neo-pagans and Wiccans who yell “NEVER AGAIN THE BURNING TIMES” it is safe to say that Wiccans are not an oppressed minority, and in fact they enjoy appropriating random bits of other people’s cultures–see their silly bastardization of karma–to no end. This is yet again Charlaine Harris championing a minority that’s not actually marginalized or oppressed, in much the same way that she likes to champion US southerners (while simultaneously portraying their culture as one steeped in intense bigotries of every stripe, probably because Harris doesn’t think there is anything wrong with racism, misogyny, or homophobia).
“Maybe people will just accept it. Not in every country. I mean, when you think of what happened to the vampires in eastern Europe and some of South America…”
Ah, that jingoistic idiocy rearing its head again. I strongly suggest that all Americans who think like this–that the US is the best, the bravest, the freest and everyone lives in furious envy of its freedom and awesomeness–be lined up and bludgeoned slowly with giant dildos.
“How do you think I would look in that black outfit?”
“Oh, as good as Beckinsale, ” Amelia said, and turned her head to smile at Pam. They were at the ooey gooey stage. Considering my own complete lack of ooey, I didn’t want to be around.
Curiously, the saccharine lovey-doveyness at the wedding didn’t ick out Sookie. The wedding, of course, involved straight couples.
I had a sinking feeling in my gut. Maybe Pam wasn’t sleeping with Amelia out of sheer attraction. Maybe she’d combined business with a great cover story, and she was staying with Amelia to keep an eye on me. Damn vampires, I thought angrily, because that scenario was entirely too close to an incident in my recent past that had hurt me incredibly.
Invalidate queer relationships faster, Sookie!
Bill glided into my room quite silently.
“What’s up?” I asked, trying to keep my voice very quiet, very calm, though every nerve in my body had started shrieking.
“I’m uneasy,” he said in his cool voice, and I almost laughed. “Pam had to leave for Fangtasia. She called me to take her place here.”
Her rapist is invading her room. I want everyone to keep this exchange in mind against what Bill says (and what Sookie thinks) later.
“Let me in,” a girl’s voice said. “Oh, please let me in.” It was just like a ghost story I’d read once. Every hair on my arms stood up.
“I have to tell you what’s happened to Quinn, ” Frannie said, and that decided me on the spot.
She knows it’s Frannie, her boyfriend’s sister. She does not let Frannie in until Frannie says that she’s here to tell Sookie about her brother. As per usual, Sookie only cares about hot white men. His sister in need? Nah. Who cares, she’s a woman. Please refer back to when Sookie met Frannie the first time where Frannie behaves precisely like Sookie–she hates every woman, especially women who get involved with her brother. This doesn’t spare Frannie from Sookie’s contempt, hatred, and general judgement. Sookie, despite being able to read minds, utterly fails to recognize her own shittiness in others.
“Our mother, our goddamned screwed-up, screwed-up mother, ” Frannie said bitterly. “You know she got captured and raped by some hunters, right? In Colorado. Like a hundred years ago… And Quinn rescued her and killed them all, though he was just a kid, and he went in debt to the local vampires to get them to help him clean up the scene and get his mom away.”
I knew Quinn’s mother’s sad history. I was nodding frantically by now, because I wanted to get to something I hadn’t heard yet.
“Okay, well, my mom was pregnant with me after the rape,” Frannie said, glaring at me defiantly. “So she had me, but she was never right in the head, and growing up with her was kinda hard, right? Quinn was working off his debt in the pits… She never got right in the head, ” Frannie repeated. “And she’s kept getting worse.”
Read this carefully, and then remember that this is not yet the nadir. It gets worse.
But: we have got a woman who was gang-raped and who became deeply traumatized from it (how did a bunch of humans overpower a weretiger–supernaturally strong–and rape her? Answer: Charlaine Harris is a sexist shit who loves to perpetuate rape culture). Frannie absolutely worships Quinn, her brother, for being the hero she and her mother may rely on–while at the same time resenting her mother for being “screwed-up” and making growing up difficult. While that’s a realistic reaction, you might want to wonder: why did Harris set up their family like this? Why is Frannie so helpless and unable to maintain herself, such that she always has to rely on her brother, the Heroic Manly Man? Why is Quinn–a man–the only one in the family who’s capable and competent? Why did Harris make this narrative choice, as an author?
To make matters perfect, she began to cry. “He didn’t want to. He tried to bargain with them, but they had him where they wanted him.”
Now Frannie looked about ten years older than she was. “He tried to call Sookie a million times, but they were watching him, and he was scared he’d be leading them right to her. But they found out anyway. Once he knew what they were going to do, he took a big risk–for both of us–and sent me on ahead. I was glad I’d got a friend to get my car back from you.”
“One of you should have called me, written me, something. ” Despite our current crisis, I couldn’t stop myself from expressing my bitterness.
Remember, again, that Frannie hasn’t actually done anything to Sookie (while a bunch of men have done plenty to her, but they are given the benefit of the doubt or absolved outright–including the gay pedophile vampire in a previous book). Sookie, however, seizes on the first thing she can to tear into Frannie. It doesn’t matter that Frannie is under great stress; it doesn’t matter that Frannie fears for her brother’s life: what matters is that she’s crying and that’s a sign of weakness, because Sookie is a strong Exceptional Woman who is stoic in the face of adversity–except when she isn’t. When Sookie cries it’s justified, and is supposed to make her more human, relatable, whatever. When any other woman cries, it’s time for Sookie to rip her to shreds.
Also, this is one of the few times Sookie blames and resents a man. Why? Because he’s dared to put his mother and sister before her. If there’s anything Sookie will not forgive a man, it’s that he is prioritizing other women over her.
“He couldn’t let you know how bad it was. He said he knew you’d try to get him out of it somehow, but there was no way out.”
“Well, sure I would have tried to get him out of it, ” I said. “That’s what you do when someone’s in trouble.”
Bill was silent but I felt his eyes on me. I’d rescued Bill when he’d been in trouble. Sometimes I was sorry I had.
No, Sookie, you only rescue people when they are in trouble if they are white men.
I felt sort of sorry for Frannie. As the product of a union between a human and a weretiger, she had no special powers to give her an edge or to provide her with a bargaining chip. Her face was streaked with smeared mascara and her nails were chewed down to the quick. She was a mess. And this was no time to be worried about Frannie, because the vampires of Vegas were taking over the state.
Again, this is a situation set up so that Sookie will be able to excuse not giving a shit about other women as something too trivial in the face of greater concerns. It isn’t that Sookie is a pragmatist. It’s that Charlaine Harris, the author, puts her in these situations where she’s given carte blanche to disregard other women. There have been countless occasions in the series, however, where Sookie lends emotional support to men.
“We’ll be fine, ” Amelia said stoutly. “I’m sure you’re a great fighter, Bill, but we aren’t defenseless.”
With all due respect to Amelia’s witchcraft ability, we were so defenseless; at least against vampires.
Silly women and their silly women abilities! Of course Amelia’s witchcraft is worthless, she’s a woman.
“Frannie,” Bill said. He put his white hands on each side of Frannie’s face. He looked into the girl’s eyes. Frannie fell silent. “You stay here, you stupid girl, and do what Sookie tells you to do.”
“Okay,” Frannie said in a calm voice.
“Thanks,” I said. Amelia was looking at Bill in a shocked kind of way. I guess she’d never seen a vamp use his whammy before.
No, Sookie, Amelia is probably shocked that Bill just took away someone’s free will. Bill, the rapist. Remember that, Sookie? Amelia is a decent human being, you see. You may be unfamiliar with this notion. Come to think of it, these books would have been better if Amelia were the protagonist. Her love interest would be Pam. That’d be cool.
Frannie was staring at him, but her expression didn’t change. If there’d been the slightest chance she’d stay calm and cooperative, I might have asked Bill to bring her out of the artificial state. I loved having Frannie still and quiet–but I hated her loss of free will.
Self-awareness: almost achieved. Almost!
“Not the company I’d have chosen,” Bill said in his cool voice. “But we’ll make a good showing. I do regret the women.” And he looked at me, his deep dark eyes full of some intense emotion. Love? Sorrow? Without a hint or two from his silent brain, I couldn’t tell.
This is what people mean when they say that Sookie remains fond of Bill, the rapist. The problem is that neither the meta-text nor the text ever seems to recognize there’s anything wrong with this; no one ever suggests Bill should be strapped down and exposed to the sun. Sookie introspects and analyses and endlessly judges others, but she never considers that there might be anything off about the way she thinks of Bill. The series has always been very clear about moral absolutes: they present characters and you know the author wants you to like or hate them (usually if it’s a woman who might compete with Sookie, the answer is deep, abiding hatred). Bill is never depicted as anything but ultimately courteous and still in love with Sookie, if not necessarily her perfect soulmate (and then, only because Sopie-Anne–his vampire queen–ordered him to get close to Sookie, which eventually caused the rift between Sookie and Bill: it’s another woman’s fault Sookie broke up with Bill, not the rape).
The random chauvinism goes, naturally, unquestioned because it’s a hot white man committing it.
“Ten,” I whispered at Eric’s back. “Nine vamps and Quinn.” If a human brain left a buzzing hole in my inner consciousness, a vampire brain left an empty one. All I had to do was count the holes.
This is nonsensical. If both are holes… in fact, since she can’t read vampires, they would be just an absence. How do you count empty absence? This is like putting on infrared goggles and counting all the bits that don’t glow red.
The last to emerge from the woods was the tiger. I was sure Quinn had shifted into his animal form because he didn’t want to look at me face-to-face. I felt horribly sorry for him. I figured that however ripped up inside I was, his insides had to be like hamburger meat.
Manpain is the painiest. Sookie has empathy only for manpain.
My eyes met Amelia’s. Her brain was pinging with fear, though she was making a supreme effort to keep her spine stiff. If she called Copley, he would bargain for her life, and he had the wherewithal to bargain effectively. If the Las Vegas crew was hungry enough to invade Louisiana, then they were hungry enough to accept a bribe for the life of the daughter of Copley Carmichael.
And, again, the only way out for a woman is to beg a man (in this case her father) to help her. And again, Amelia is scared stiff (unlike brave Exceptional Woman Sookie).
Then something unexpected happened. Frannie snapped out of the trance, and she opened her mouth and began to scream. When the first shriek ripped out of her mouth, the door began to thud. In about five seconds Quinn splintered my door by throwing his four hundred and fifty pounds against it.
See above, now with added Hysterical Damsel in Distress value.
I hated the thought of using my greatgrandfather’s Get Out of Jail Free card so soon (“Love ya, Gramps–rescue me!”), and I hated the thought of bringing him without warning into a room full of vampires. But if ever there was a time for fairy intervention, that time would be now, and I might have left it too late. I had my cell phone in my pajama pocket.
Broken record or, how women can only find rescue by dialing a man.
“There is much you don’t know about Sookie,” Bill said. It was the first time he’d spoken since Madden had entered. “Know this: I will die for her. If you harm her, I’ll kill you.” Bill turned his dark eyes on Eric. “Can you say the same?”
Eric plainly wouldn’t, which put him behind in the “Who Loves Sookie More?” stakes.
In that case, Bill, why haven’t you committed suicide? And now we come to one of the pieces that clinch the whole “Bill being a rapist is A-okay” premise: Sookie thinks he wins the “who loves me more” game over Eric. Eric who, at the very least, hasn’t raped her. Yet. This is about as much a deconstruction of rape culture as Fifty Shades of Grey, which is to say not at all (if you’re curious, yes, Christian Grey does indeed rape Anastasia Steele, but it also goes unacknowledged and unchallenged).
Amelia had made a dash for the bathroom as soon as she could decently let go of Frannie, who was still crying. I suspected the tension had been too much for my witchy roommate, and sounds from the hall bathroom confirmed that. [...] As for me, I felt a little weak in the knees, and my thoughts were in such a tumult they could scarcely be called thoughts. Bill’s arm went around me, and he lowered me to the chair Eric had vacated. I felt his cool lips brush my cheek. I would have to possess a heart of stone not to be affected by his little speech to Victor–I hadn’t forgotten it, no matter how terrifying the night had been–and my heart is not made of stone.
Another direct contrast between how Amelia, a woman, reacts to a fraught situation versus how Sookie, Exceptional Woman, reacts to the same. We also have another case of Sookie going all soft for her rapist, because he said he’ll kill anyone who harms her.
Bill knelt by my feet, his white face turned up to me. “I hope someday you’ll turn to me,” he said. “I’ll never force myself or my company on you.”
I couldn’t think of anyone I could call who would feel the least bit mournful over the loss of Sophie-Anne, Arla Yvonne, Cleo… And the list went on.
Unsurprisingly, all three vampires named are women. Equally unsurprisingly, Sookie can’t imagine anyone mourning them. Oh. Upon meeting the new vampire king, Sookie remarks that his name–Felipe de Castro–”sounds exotic.” Oh.
“Too little, too late,” I said. I second-guessed myself immediately: Was I being too hard, unfair, ungrateful? “If you’d called me weeks ago, even once, I might feel different. But I guess you were too busy trying to find your mother.”
“So you’re breaking up with me because of my mother,” [Quinn] said. He sounded bitter and I didn’t blame him.
“Yes,” I said after a moment’s inner testing of my own resolve. “I think I am. It’s not your mom as much as her whole situation. Your mother will always have to come first as long as she’s alive, because she’s so damaged. I’ve got sympathy for that, believe me. And I’m sorry that you and Frannie have a hard row to hoe. I know all about hard rows.”
“I care for you, too, and I had hoped we’d have a lot more,” I said. “But last night was just too much for me. Remember, I had to find out your past from someone else? I think maybe you didn’t tell me about it from the start because you knew it would be an issue… your mom and Frannie… Well, they’re your family. They’re… dependent. They have to have you. They’ll always come first.” I stopped for a moment, biting the inside of my cheek. This was the hardest part. “I want to be first. I know that’s selfish, and maybe unattainable, and maybe shallow. But I just want to come first with someone. If that’s wrong of me, so be it. I’ll be wrong. But that’s the way I feel.”
In any other book, written by any other writer, this would have been a laudable moment of self-actualization where the protagonist states exactly what she wants, how she wants it. But, here’s a big but: this is yet another case where Harris has set things up so Sookie is pitted against the needs of other women. She needs to “come first” so badly that she’s unable to forgive her boyfriend for not contacting her while he’s out searching for his traumatized, unstable mother (who winds up killing some random tourists). There is also this constant apportioning of the blame… on the mother, who continues to have no name because hey rape survivors who cares about those, they aren’t real people anyway. Sookie has so little empathy or compassion for other women that she can’t even be sympathetic to someone who’s been gang-raped and remains fucked-up from it, or someone who grew up with the knowledge she’s the product of rape (see Sookie’s treatment of Frannie).
Crystal and Tanya had become instant buddies. Since Tanya’s favorite occupation was shopping, Crystal had gone along for the ride several times. In fact, she’d spent all the money Jason had given her for household expenses. She’d done this two paychecks in a row, despite multiple scenes and promises. Now Jason refused to give her any more money.
He’d told Crystal if she wanted any money of her own, she had to get a job. The unskilled and pregnant Crystal had not succeeded in finding one, so she didn’t have a dime.
Keep in mind that Sookie has always disdained Crystal, starting from previous installments: she’s always thought of Crystal as trouble, unfaithful, bad-tempered, flawed in a hundred different ways. And now, well, see? Silly bitch spends all her husband’s money. Silly bitch susceptible to Tanya’s meddling. Shopping! Stupid wife who has no skill and no personal savings! It’s neck-deep in gendered stereotypes you can’t even climb back out.
SOPHIE-ANNE LECLERQ, prominent businesswoman, residing in Baton Rouge since Katrina, died of Sino AIDS in her home. Leclerq, a vampire, had extensive holdings in New Orleans and in many places in the state. Sources close to Leclerq say she had lived in Louisiana for a hundred years or more.
So she has 1) a woman killed off who is 2) bisexual and Harris decides that the news will peg her down as having 3) died from AIDS. Oh.
The bald answer–that I really admired Quinn but didn’t want to play second fiddle to his family’s needs–was simply unspeakable for two reasons: it was unnecessarily hurtful, and I might be seriously injured as a result. Mrs. Quinn might not be compos mentis, but she was listening with growing agitation. If she changed to her tiger form, I had no idea what would happen. She might run off into the woods, or she might attack. All this zoomed through my mind in little pictures.
Uh, wow. And, actually, it’s not really that Sookie realizes it’s “unnecessarily hurtful,” it’s that she’s frightened the woman she keeps thinking of as crazy will maul her to death.
I tried to believe they were talking about something other than me. I mean, I try not to be too paranoid. But when you see your ex-buddy talking to your known enemy, you have to at least entertain the possibility that the topic of you has come up in an unflattering way.
Sookie, sweetie, the world doesn’t revolve around you.
she had the undivided attention of a fairly new audience and she was getting to talk about her new boyfriend’s convictions about the need to kill all vampires and maybe people who collaborated with them. Arlene had no hard convictions that she’d formed for herself, but she was great at adopting other people’s if they suited her emotionally.
SOOKIE, YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. You aren’t some amazing visionary thinker who is above all the sheeple. You are one of them. You have no “hard convictions” you didn’t absorb from some form of existing bigotry, see your racism and internalized misogyny, which are pretty much the sole convictions Charlaine Harris gave you.
Tanya was still in the pay of the Pelts: Sandra Pelt, specifically. And gradually I came to understand that Tanya had been sent here to do anything she could to make me miserable.Sandra Pelt was the sister of Debbie Pelt, whom I’d shot to death in my kitchen. (After she’d tried to kill me. Several times. Let me point that out.)
Debbie Pelt was a “deluded stalker psycho ex” stock character, by the way. Again, this isn’t so much about whether Sookie reacts to this justifiably–it’s about why Harris felt the need to write Debbie as she did. When you perpetuate the stereotype of “crazy psycho ex” so desperate to keep her man that she’s willing to lock her competitor in a trunk, kidnap her and attempt to shoot her dead, what are you doing? If you ask her fans, they’ll cry “Feminism!” but that is presumably some peculiar Martian version of feminism where sexist stock types further the advancement of women.
“I wonder if she even waited till they were in the ground before she activated the Aggravate Sookie to Death plan,” I said.
“This bitch isn’t going to let up. You sure Debbie Pelt was adopted? Because this totally vindictive attitude seems to run in that family.”
Amelia nodded thoughtfully. “A little pathology going on there, ” she said
Have we lost count yet of other characters joining in to call Debbie Pelt a bitch? And then: bonus ableism! “Pathology” indeed.
Elvira, my ass. “This is Sookie Stackhouse. I need to speak with Eric,” I said.
“The master is very busy,” she said, as if that would be hard for a human like me to understand.
Elvira was definitely a newbie. Or maybe I was getting kind of arrogant. I was irritated with “Elvira.”
“Listen,” I said, trying to sound pleasant. “You get Eric on the phone in two minutes or he’ll be mighty unhappy with you.”
“Well,” Elvira said. “You don’t have to be a bitch about it.”
“Evidently I do.”
“I’m putting you on hold,” Elvira said viciously.
This is a completely random bit character. But since she’s female, Sookie must obviously despise her on… sound. They aren’t even meeting in person.
But the two sibs together were a little overpowering, overwhelming–and when they stood so close with me crowded between them (even Sam was having a visual from that), their sweet smell, the smell that made them so intoxicating to vampires, was drowning my poor nose.
Does Charlaine Harris believe people think with their genitalia so much that they can’t see Sookie “crowded between” two hot people without immediately launching into pornographic fantasies?
Sam did have a life that was unknown to me. That sparked a thought. I hesitated, then plowed ahead. There were too many questions in my own life. I wanted to get at least some of them answered.
“How’d you come to settle here?” I asked.
“I’d passed through the area,” he said. “I was in the army for four years.”
“You were?” I couldn’t believe I hadn’t known that.
You will never see Sookie sit down and have a long, long talk about another woman’s life, just so you know. And they do have a long talk, because when the other party is a hot white man Sookie is all ears.
“Yes, that’s what Claudine reported,” he said. “I understand the bitch is dead?”
By which he meant Priscilla. “Yes, sir, ” I said. “The bitch is dead.”
Bitch bitch bitch. Feminism!
“I think she’s great,” Sam said. And I could tell he was absolutely sincere. My back straightened. I felt a flush of pride. In the emotional warmth of the moment, I almost told my greatgrandfather about the big problem I’d uncovered today, to prove I could share. But I had a pretty good feeling that his solution to the Sandra Pelt-Tanya Grissom Axis of Evil would be to cause their deaths in a macabre way.
This comes after Niall, her great-grandfather, tells her she is awesome: “I love your courage. You’re far more interesting than most humans.” Nothing straightens Sookie’s spine like male praise and male approval. Especially when she’s contrasting it against her big problem–a couple of women conspiring against her. Fail-mi-nism.
But neither of us was 100 percent human. In the next instant, I thought, We are, too. We had more in common with humans than with the other part of us. We lived like humans; we would die like humans. Since I knew Sam pretty well, I knew he wanted a family and someone to love and a future that contained all the things plain humans want: prosperity, good health, descendants, laughter.
Telepaths and werebollocks are a real, oppressed minority, guys. Okay? OKAY??? Especially the straight white ones. And they are people too, they’ll have you know! Now back to Sookie whining that she doesn’t want to deal with a black woman’s “racial baggage.” Haha, what, you thought black people were real human beings to Charlaine Stackhouse? Pffft.
Stay tuned for further chronicles of Charlaine Harris and Bigot Turdpiles! Next we’ve got a man abducting a woman and depriving her of free will for her own good! FUCK YEAH, FEMINISM. On the fanturd front, we’ve now got someone citing yet another “it’s okay if this is racist maggotry, it’s just how things are” complete with a citation of The Help to shore up that bigot cred. We also have this Q&A with Charlaine Harris.
Lara, I’m glad you’re enjoying the books. I am certainly a feminist, and Pam thinks she is beyond feminism. Somewhat to my surprise, I have a lot of male readers for the Sookie series; including a lot of guys who like to read the books with their wives.
Rape apologia and unrelenting internalized misogyny are the true advancements of feminism.
I think guys come to the books with a whole different attitude, and they enjoy different things about them.
I’m unsurprised men love her books. What’s better than a whole series that endorse internalized misogyny? All the rape apologia must be making the PUAs and MRAs go wild. Well done, Ms Harris!