Icky, rapey situations follow after the cut. No, the text of course doesn’t question or challenge them in any way. What did you expect? This is Planet Gor. I must say, by the way, that whoever designed these covers must’ve really Not Given a Shit. Just look at them: not a single shit is given. Less tacky than these, sure, but damn that’s a lot of ketchup spillage.
Calvin mulled this over. “I kind of like that ole girl,” he said. “She’s a live one. I’ve been pretty concerned over the trouble she’s causing Crystal and Jason, though, and I’ve been wondering what steps to take about Crystal’s crazy spending. I guess this kind of brings the issue front and center.”
“You like her?” I said. I wanted all cards on the table.
“I said that. […] Well, her and me, we’ve had some good times now and then.”
“You don’t want her to go away,” I said. “You want to try the other thing.”
“That’s about the size of it. You’re right: she can’t stay and keep on going like she is. She either changes her ways, or she leaves. ” He looked unhappy about that.
At this point, they are discussing what to do with Tanya Grissom. Option A is to put a spell on her to chase her away from Bon Temps, which Calvin is not happy with seeing that he has the hots for her. Option B is to alter her memory and motivations. In both cases, Calvin’s needs–a man’s–are prioritized over Tanya’s agency, as both options involve depriving her of free will. For another strike of protagonist-centered morality, Calvin defers to Sookie for the ultimate ethical judgment. Whatever Sookie decides is right and correct and vomit.
Calvin carried Tanya in over his shoulder. Tanya was compact, but no featherweight. Calvin was definitely working, but his breathing was nice and even and he hadn’t broken a sweat. Tanya’s hands and ankles were bound, but I noticed he’d wrapped a scarf under the rope so she wouldn’t get chafed. And (thank God) she was gagged, but with a jaunty red bandanna. Yes, the head werepanther definitely had a thing for Tanya.
Of course, she was mad as a disturbed rattler, wriggling and twisting and glaring. She tried to kick Calvin, and he slapped her on her butt. “You stop that now, ” he said, but not as if he was particularly upset. “You’ve done wrong; you got to take your medicine.”
Let’s summarize: Sookie gets a man to abduct another woman, but because he cares about her he’s tied her up nicely, so that’s okay! When she protests, he slaps her on the butt because who cares about a woman’s consent and idea of personal space or sexual harassment? He then proceeds to talk to her like she’s a child–in fact, his entire treatment of her is absolutely infantilizing. Sookie stands by and has no reaction to this, because hey it’s another woman being treated like shit, not her personally, so that’s not a problem! After all, she asked Calvin to do this in the first place.
Amelia made a gesture, and Calvin bent over to untie the red bandanna that had made Tanya look like a small bandit. He pulled another handkerchief, a clean white one, out of Tanya’s mouth. She’d definitely been abducted with affection and consideration.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me!” Tanya shrieked the second her mouth would work. “I can’t believe you kidnapped me like a caveman, you big jerk!”
See that? That’s rape culture. It says as long as a man is being sufficiently gentle (and if his motivations in abducting a woman sufficiently justified–in this case, Because Sookie Says So) it’s okay. He is above reproach and doesn’t need to be challenged or criticized, his conduct is perfectly fine.
“Sookie, tell these nuts to let me go! Calvin, I was halfway interested in you before you tied me up and dumped me here! What did you think you were doing?”
“Saving your life, ” Calvin said. “You ain’t gonna run now, are you? We got some talking to do.”
See? Getting tied up and kidnapped and then having a spell cast on her that fucks with her head, well that’s just for her own good. Calvin’s a rapist in the making, and Sookie has absolutely nothing to say about that.
“No, Sandra and I don’t see each other too much.”
“What do you think of her?” Octavia asked.
“I think she’s a double-barreled bitch. But I sort of admire her,” Tanya said. “If Sandra wants something, she goes after it.” […] She was sincere, I could tell. In fact, she was beginning to get anxious at our line of questioning. “Ah, have I done something bad to somebody?”
“I think you got in a little over your head,” Calvin said.
To repeat: this is for Tanya’s own good. The spell that at the very least erases her memory of having agreed to help Sandra and alters her personality.
I felt oddly deflated at this easy–easy to me, that is– removal of a real thorn in my side. I found myself wishing we could abduct Sandra Pelt and reprogram her, too. I didn’t think she’d be as easy to convert. There had been some big pathology going on in the Pelt family.
Remember: Sandra wants to ruin Sookie’s life because Sookie fucking murdered her sister whom she loved. So, yeah. “Double-barreled bitch.” Bitch bitch bitch. FEMINISM. Also, our heroine!
After all, Crystal had really wanted to marry Jason, and she had seemed genuinely pleased that she was pregnant again. Why she was so discontented now . . . I simply didn’t get it. I could add her to the long list of people I didn’t understand.
Sookie, you recognize that your brother is a shitheel and Crystal wants babbies because of the whole werepanther propagation bullshit, which is entirely apart from being happy with her husband. Why so confused? Oh, right, that’d require some level of empathy with another woman, which you aren’t capable of. My bad. Sorry.
“And I always knew it was the vampire in me that attracted [Selah], not the person who was a vampire… I never cared about her, ” he said. “Or very little. ” He shrugged. “There’ve been so many like her.”
“I’m not sure how you think this is going to make me feel.”
“I’m only telling you the truth. There has been only one you.”
In case you ever forget that Sookie is the best of all women, the grand madam of femininity, next to whom all other women pale, the peerless lady, the most special in any man’s life, the Exceptional Woman. This is one of the components that makes her such an attractive wish-fulfillment fantasy–a set-up where other women are demeaned, derided, and made lesser so she may shine.
I wondered if he dreamed I could love him again. I still felt pain when I thought of the night I’d learned the truth [of his ingratiation]. I figured my regard would be the outer limits of what he could hope to earn. Trust, love? I couldn’t see that happening.
This is the deal-breaker, by the way: that he first entered her life because Sophie-Anne ordered him to. The deal-breaker is not the rape.
“She married Maurice Kershaw, ” he said. “They got a little boy, cutest kid in the world. Angela’s a new woman–she don’t smoke or drink, and she’s in church when the doors open.”
“I got to go over to Clarice and pick up some chainlink. Crystal wants us to fence in some of the backyard for the baby. So it’ll have a safe place to play.” I was surprised that Crystal was showing that much foresight and maternal instinct. Maybe having the baby would change her. I thought about Angela Kershaw and her little boy.
Oh fuck off Charlaine Harris.
Since I was very nervous with Sam’s Blackberry, he entered the totals while I counted
See this is funny because if Sookie had been a working-class person in Southeast Asia she would be perfectly familiar with smartphones, as in probably owning one.
I heard a muffled sound, a moan. It came from the biggest bedroom, the one my parents had used, which lay across the family room and to my right.Oh, shit, she’s miscarrying again, I thought, and dashed to the closed door. I flung it open so hard it bounced off the wall, but I didn’t pay a bit of attention, because bouncing on the bed were Crystal and Dove Beck.
I was so shocked, so angry, and so distraught that as they stopped what they were doing and stared up at me, I said the worst thing I could think of. “No wonder you lose all your babies.”
FEMINISM. Why didn’t they lock the door…? No, really, why is it that whenever this stupid cliche happens in fiction nobody ever locks the goddamn fucking door? Also, back when they married, Sookie already hated Crystal and noted that Crystal was “making eyes” at other men. So now she’s cheating on Jason. As you can see, Sookie is always right about everything: Charlaine Harris makes sure her preemptive judgments are always validated, her irrational hatred vindicated.
I should have taken the time to listen to Jason’s brain. He’d known good and well that since he had business in Clarice, Dove and Crystal would probably take the opportunity to have a tryst. He’d planned on me being dutiful and dropping by. It was just too big a coincidence that Calvin had shown up. He must have also told Calvin to check on Crystal. So there was no deniability, and no chance of hushing this up–not since Calvin and I both knew.
Here’s the trouble: this excuse was used before, in a different book. Sookie utilizes her telepathy freely, with no respect for anyone’s rights to privacy (except maybe hot white men’s) but when the plot requires it she will suddenly not bother to check the contents of someone’s thoughts–it happened with a lawyer who betrayed her to the Fellowship of the Sun (pre-meditated too). In much the same way, Sookie conveniently misses that Jason plans to slut-shame his wife and make sure her extramarital affair becomes public knowledge. It’s shit writing. It’s shit, incompetent writing. Pretty much anyone who thinks these books are technically good can’t read.
I decided that Crystal had wanted to make her betrayal as emphatic as it could possibly be. She was saying, “I’ll have sex with someone else while I’m carrying your child. And he’ll be older than you, and a different race from you, and he’ll even work for you!” Twisting the knife in deeper with every layer.
Who thinks like this? Other than racists? Take a guess as to what ethnicity the man Crystal cheated Jason on belongs to. Oh guess.
Yes, he is black. Fuck you, Charlaine Harris, fuck you and your endless bigotry. Fuck you because pretty much every word you shit out is full of racism. Fuck everyone who loves this woman’s diarrhea uncritically and laps it right the hell up.
There’s a scene where Sookie gets emotional and seeks the support of a man. Unlike when other women get emotional, Sookie is of course not portrayed as weak or contemptible for this. Then we come to the ceremony where Calvin, Crystal’s uncle, has to stand in for her and be punished for her breach of the marriage contract. Sookie has to stand in for her brother to punish him, and the idea is to break his fingers.
After I’d looked at it for a long minute, I said to Jason. “I don’t want to talk to you again. Ever.” I faced Crystal. “I hope you enjoyed it, bitch, ” I said, and I turned as quick as I could and brought the brick down on Calvin’s hand.
Bitch bitch bitch. Sookie, the feminist paragon. Note that she never calls a man, for example, a dick or a cock or any such thing. Women though? Bitch BITCH BITCH.
“What’s wrong?” Sam asked me. He’d been trying to find out for days, and I’d been fending off his well meant queries. Eric was standing to one side, his arms crossed over his chest. He made a gesture with one hand that said, “Tell us; we’re waiting.” Despite his brusqueness, his presence relaxed the big knot inside me, the one that had kept the words locked in my stomach.
This is actually a different scene from the one I previously mentioned. Yes, there are multiple lengthy scenes in this book where Sookie turns to men for emotional comfort. It’s always men that she first thinks of when she needs help; it’s always men that she first thinks of when she needs someone she can trust. This is where the argument of the fanturds fall down–Sookie doesn’t so much act like someone who’s been steeped in a misogynistic culture and who reacts against a society where men treat her like shit, she just acts like a misogynist period. Because, consider: just why is it that she trusts men oh so very much? They constantly treat her like shit or try to manipulate her, but she’s always more charitable, more forgiving, and more trusting toward men.
Sam looked from me to Eric as if he expected Eric to do something to make me feel better. “I don’t belong to him,” I said sharply, since all this was making me feel handled in a major way. “Did you think Eric coming would make me all happy and carefree?”
“No,” Sam said, sounding a little angry himself. “But I hoped it would help you talk about whatever was wrong.”
Sam knows that proximity to Eric will mess with Sookie’s emotions, that said proximity acts like a drug on her. He still calls in Eric in the hope that with Eric around she’ll get in so good a mood that she’ll spill what’s troubling her. In short: depriving her of agency. This, as per usual, goes uncriticized beyond Sookie being mildly irritated. In fact:
You know how it is sometimes, when someone really tries to cheer you up? When you just decide that by golly, nothing in the world is going to make you feel better? Sam had thrown Eric at me like he was throwing a happy pill, yet he was aggravated that I hadn’t swallowed it. Instead of being grateful that Sam was fond enough of me to call Eric, I was mad at him for his assumption. […] I caught Sam’s eye as I cleared a table of plates. I winked at him. He turned away, shaking his head, but I caught a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth.
And just like that, my bad mood was officially over.
See, silly Sookie, you should’ve been grateful all along!
When he let go of me, I did an awkward sort of dip in the king’s direction (American! Not used to bowing!)
He was one of the most powerful vampires I’d ever met. But Sophie-Anne had been even more powerful and protected by the huge warrior Sigebert, and look what had happened to her.
Tsk, Sookie, you keep forgetting: Felipe is a man, Sophie-Anne a woman, of course he’ll be fine.
The biggest weapon at my disposal? Okay, that would be my car. I felt a little pang of regret, because it was the best car I’d ever had, and Tara had sold it to me for a dollar when she’d gotten a newer one. But it was the only thing I could think of that would make a dent in Sigebert. So back I crept, praying that Sigebert would be so absorbed in his torture that he wouldn’t notice the sound of the car door.
He tried to get out of the way, but he was none too bright and I’d caught him with his pants down (literally–I really didn’t like to think about his next torture plan) and I hit him very hard, and up he bounced, to land on the roof of the car with a huge thud.
Let’s unpack this. Sigebert is a former servant of Sophie-Anne, and absolutely devoted to her. After she died, he’s attempting to avenge her on the new vampire king Felipe de Castro. Eric and Sam are caught in the crossfire. Sookie, happening upon the scene, proceeds to rescue them.
Sookie is stopping a man from trying to avenge a woman. A man who is queer, by the way, and this isn’t the first time (nor the last) where male homosexuality is predatory: Godfrey/Godric, another gay vampire, was a pedophile and a rapist. Jason’s friend Hoyt is gay and in love with Jason, and takes it upon himself to murder Crystal, Jason’s wife in a subsequent book–and we’re running up against “gay men are psychotic murderers” to go with “gay men are rapists.”
So we’ve got Sigebert here preparing to rape Felipe and probably Eric, because as we know, Homophobic Fuckface, gay people are sexual predators. But this also ties into Sookie attributing all evil to Sophie-Anne: her break-up with Bill? Sophie-Anne’s fault. Her getting involved in the vampire world? Sophie-Anne’s fault. Bill’s inability to perform as the perfect soulmate? His maker Lorena’s fault. Bill raping her? Debbie Pelt’s fault (BITCH BITCH BITCH). Quinn not living up to her expectations as the perfect soulmate? His sister’s and mother’s fault. She never really holds any of the men accountable. She always finds a way to blame a woman for any evil committed by a man.
I suddenly came to the full realization that Sam had walked into a situation in his own backyard, a situation he had no stake or interest in, and that he’d almost died as a result. And why had Eric been in the parking lot back of Merlotte’s? To talk to me. And then Felipe de Castro had followed to talk to Eric . . . Though I wasn’t sure why. But the point was, them being there at all was my fault.
“Oh, Sam, ” I said, almost in tears, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know Eric would wait for me, and I sure didn’t know the king would follow him. I still don’t know why he was there. I’m so sorry, ” I said again. I would say it a hundred times if it would take that tone out of Sam’s voice.
And now, Sookie blaming herself because after a certain point, she’s a woman too–and if it comes down to blaming a man versus blaming herself (when no living woman is available for blame), well, it’s the woman who loses out. She doesn’t think that Sam gets involved in this particular situation out of his own free will; she doesn’t consider that Eric came over because he wanted to, not because Sam held a gun to his head to force him to be Sookie’s “happy pill.” Felipe wants to keep tabs on his underlings, again for his own interests.
But no, of course Sookie all but grovels before the men so Sam will like her again. The face of internalized misogyny.
“How are you feeling?” Amelia said with a knowing air.
“Fine, ” I said automatically. Then I understood she thought I hadn’t come home the night before. She thought I’d been having a good time with someone. “Hey, you remember Tray Dawson, right? You met him at Maria-Star’s apartment.”
“He’s going to call you. Be sweet.”
Remember that earlier Amelia was going out with Pam because she was rebounding from her cat boyfriend?
“Did Tray call?” I asked.
“He sure did.” Amelia smiled broadly. [..] She looked happy and said, “I think he’s an interesting guy.”
“A bit older than you,” I said, just so she’d know.
Amelia shrugged. “I don’t care. I’m ready to date. I think Pam and I are more buddies than honeys. And since I found that litter of kittens, I’m open for guy business.”
Remember that? So! We now conclude the one brief queer female relationship with one of the partners going for a guy, then saying what amounts to, “Oh, it was just a phase.” She never took her fling with Pam seriously because she only takes relationships with men seriously anyway.
Fuck you, Charlaine Harris, you miserable, worthless, homophobic waste of oxygen.
“She was attacked by another vampire,” I said. “He was jealous of Hadley’s relationship with her, ah, her…”
“Girlfriend?” No mistaking the bitterness in her exhusband’s voice and in his head… all the shock had worn off. There was only a grim resignation, a loss of pride.
OH FUCK YOU.
Hadley died because a man was jealous of her homosexual relationship with another woman. Yes, you can say that this isn’t Harris’ homophobia but her writing a homophobic character… but remember that thing about authorial choices? Pam and Amelia broke up with Amelia going for a dude. Hadley died because a homophobic man attacked her. Sophie-Anne died because a male vampire wanted to take over her state (and the headline suggests she died of AIDS). If at this point you still think Charlaine Harris isn’t a raving homophobe, you’re functionally illiterate.
“Hadley told you I had a disability.” I looked away from him, at the boy, who jumped to his feet, announced he had to go to the bathroom, and dashed out of the room. I couldn’t help but smile.
“Yeah, she said something…. She said you had a hard time of it in school, ” he said tactfully. Hadley had told him I was crazy as hell. He was seeing no signs of it, and he wondered why Hadley had thought so.
Hooray, yet another woman Sookie hates and who by authorial fiat deserves that hate. Also, we have a total stranger, who is male, and who is therefore nicer to Sookie than her own female cousin, because as we know, Misogynistic Fuckface, all women are catty jealous bitch whore sluts.
“You didn’t offer this woman a drink, Remy! Sookie, can I get you a Coke or a Sprite?”
She knew what was in the refrigerator. I wondered if she lived here. Well, none of my business, as long as she was good to Hadley’s son.
Upon meeting Remy’s girlfriend, again a strange woman, Sookie proceeds to judge her by how well she can take care of a male child: recall how Sookie was hoping Crystal would change once she had a baby. Feminism!
AND NOW WE ARE DONE BECAUSE HAHAHA FUCK IT.
What mindless fans don’t want to confront is that Sookie Stackhouse et al are not real people. They are the way they are, and do what they do, because Charlaine Harris the author writes them so. These posts aren’t about “but Sookie isn’t a perfect Mary Sue who is a flawless feminist”: it’s about “why does Harris make sure Sookie hates every woman in the world, give her justifications to hate them, and validate that hatred?” Sookie is not a real person. Charlaine Harris, however, very much is. What does it say about her that she chooses to perpetuate rape apologia, internalized misogyny, and write books in which all the men are good and worthy, and are never held accountable for any of their actions–even something as vile as rape or depriving women of their free will? Why does Harris write Sookie as a horrible person who has no empathy or compassion for other women?
And if factual accounts of the US enforcing its imperialist hegemony aren’t enough to convince you, consider that Charlaine Harris is immensely popular. There are god knows how many seasons of True Blood. She makes bestseller ranks regularly. This is the stratum that makes American foreign policies possible: observe all the little things, of Sookie singing her little jingoistic paeans to the greatness of America, to the freedom and enlightenment that elevates the US over “heavily Catholic or Muslim countries,” the generosity that drives her fictional America to open its arms to vampires fleeing “persecution.” This is the type of shit that American readers are lapping up without thought or criticism–the doublethink of America being simultaneously about freedom while still upholding the shameless bigotry that Charlaine Harris endorses (see all the “African-American” descriptions). It’s things like these books, and like these signs, that make people join the US army with the express purpose of murdering brown people. This is why you people cheer when they hear some dictator in a “third-world” country is dead, without pausing to question who put him there and whose politics you’re listening to. Fiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Incredible popularity and commercial success of said fiction don’t happen in a vacuum.
America is a disease, and people like Charlaine Harris are the symptom. Contributing to her popularity and wealth makes you complicit, because the Sookie Stackhouse books aren’t “just” entertainment: they are propaganda. They say it’s okay to be racist. It’s okay to hate and judge women harshly. It’s okay to be scared of gay people, because they’re out to rape you anyway. It’s okay to be scared and suspicious of “Muslim countries” because they’re so fanatical (whereas the US is the LAND OF THE FREE FUCK YEAH U-S-A) that they’d kill vampires, who are coded for “minorities,” on sight. After all, Americans would never do any such thing! Americans are awesome.
This is despite Sookie coming into actual contact with very, very few non-USians. Of the ones she does encounter, we’ve got Jonathan the “Thai” vampire who doesn’t even have a Thai name and who’s made of latex, and who acts like a tourist attraction robot. We otherwise have… actually, almost nothing that I can recall beyond the string of Fangtasia bartenders who are often of color and non-US: “Chow” the East Asian vampire Sookie never even bothered to find out the exact nationality of (nor can she distinguish between the Chinese and the Japanese) and a Native American vampire who was a cheat, tried to kill Sookie, and was staked by Eric. This is a narrative of the dehumanized other. The treatments of white vampires versus of vampires of color are never quite alike, and Sookie’s inner monologues are always extremely telling. Not that American POC are treated any better, because witness all the “far from black” black people (emphatically “very light” skin, straight hair).
To have all this pointed out but still continue defending these books to the death requires an utter absence of critical thinking, a whole different level of “complicit” than simply buying and recommending these books. Because when you say “this is okay” or “this is just the way it is” or even “you should criticize this respectfully” you’re excusing the perpetuation of so many forms of bigotry I’ve lost count. There’s a difference between being a fan of problematic things and being a fan who will hear nothing bad said about that thing.
That isn’t good or commendable or something you should be proud of. It’s an embarrassment. It should shame you. You are bad. You should feel bad, as should Charlaine Harris. This isn’t entertainment; this is institutionized, commercially endorsed bigotry.
Further reading: Dear Author reviewed this book. Mentions of racism, jingoism, misogyny, rapeyness or rape apologia? Zero! There’s this, though:
But I’ve always felt that this series was different – not better or worse, mind you – but different in its sharp and sometimes beautifully nuanced social and cultural commentary.
I put this into google translate from “English” to “human being” and it gave me “SQUEE SQUEE I AM AN IGNORANT TURD.” Because this is such a stirring book, they reviewed it again.
Can I just reiterate that I love Sookie? She feels so real to me that I am invested in her happiness, and when people who should care for her let her down, I feel her disappointment and hurt. I think From Dead to Worse was a return to your classic form, and for that reason, I can’t give it less than an A grade.
RACISM, HOMOPHOBIA AND MISOGYNY? I GIVE IT NO LESS THAN AN A, MADAM.