I’ve sort of covered this subject in my fics, but it’s something that really bothers me when I see it creeping out of the TB section, and into the SVM section because it’s easier to write Godric. Frankly, that’s why I don’t read much TB fic – the fundamental problems undercutting the foundation of Eric’s character. You want easy nonsensical characters, TB is your category there, not SVM.
When you have a fuller world like CH has given, amateur writers usually can’t handle the bigger stuff, so they make one character the important one, and bend everything to their favoured character’s wishes. In this fandom, it’s usually Eric who gets that honour. If you read Bill/Sookie, it’s Bill who gets to be the one. Occasionally it’ll be Sookie, but it’s not as if the books are about her anyway….wait…:D
One of the ways that amateur writers choose to take the easy way out is by making all relationships with other characters are easy. That’s barring Sookie, who is the only source of relationship tension – and refuses to get with the Eric program, as told by Amelia, Pam, Eric and sometimes Bill. Appius versus Godric is where writers make things easier on themselves as well. And they shouldn’t. Eric’s personality was affected by Appius, and without him, Eric is not the same man – most likely for the worst.
My fundamental problem with Eric not being a victim is that it changes how he reacts to creating victims. His empathy is less because he cannot identify with his victims as much. He’s never been in such a situation, so without making Eric a victim, he would create more victims and be harsher to his victims. Now, I’m not just talking about killing humans, I’m talking about victimising his female staff, hurting humans for fun and being generally cruel and sadistic. Without a very specific history of abuse, the temptation to be an abuser is great.
Now, those of us who have read up on all the books know that Eric has been a victim of sexual abuse. That for decades, he was the sexual servant of his maker, and that he talked of trying to fight his maker off initially. Eric doesn’t, of course, explicitly state that his relationship with his abuser is just that – but then Eric doesn’t quite see it the way that the dispassionate non-victim sees it.
One thing that I see all too simplified when writing about the Appius-Eric relationship is the way that Eric feels about Ocella. I’ve read that but for the fact that Ocella is his maker, Eric would hate him with his whole heart. Yeeeaaah. That’s the feeling of the fanfic writer – not Eric himself. That’s a bit of a crap understanding that over-simplifies the relationship and ignores direct quotes from Eric himself such as:
That one was in response to the tacit accusation that Sookie made that Appius having sex with a young boy was harming him. Now, I know that readers can and will lie to themselves and produce some sort of weird justification that Eric was forced to say that, that Ocella heard him and warned him that he didn’t want Sookie to think badly of him. Give me a break – that requires Appius to care what Sookie thinks of him, and I bet he’s null pointe on the whole “Sookie should approve of me” scale.
Abuse isn’t all painful. That’s the lie that pains victims, and produces guilt, produces the idea that they must have secretly wanted it. It’s why children don’t come forward with sexual abuse allegations – it is literally a harmful idea that abuse is always painful, always hurts, always requires force or the victim is complicit. So stop thinking that way, because it’s not. Do the abused children that haven’t come forward an actual favour and stop thinking that way and spreading that little lie. It’s not always painful, doesn’t always hurt, and doesn’t require force. That doesn’t mean that the victim wanted it either. If it was painful, hurtful and forceful, we would all be hearing the screams of pain from around our houses, of children being sexually abused. Don’t believe that there aren’t children being abused in your neighbourhood either – studies have estimated that only 1 in 6 paedophiles are actually ever reported. That’s because of the lie that it’s painful, and that’s why abuse is so damn insidious.
The fact of the matter is that abusers often temper their abuse with loving gestures. They cuddle with them, and they do little kindnesses. The victim themselves turns that self hatred inward to a certain extent, and blames themselves. In cases where they continue the abuse – namely where they go on to abuse other people – they have normalised it. It’s normal to force others because that’s the way that it’s done. That’s how you show love – they’re the people who bought their abuser’s line. That’s how a victim goes on to do that to other people – they see it as something that’s just done – a legitimate way to show how you feel, and just what one does.
Then you have the other type – the abuse victims that repudiate that idea. They still don’t wholeheartedly hate their abusers – they still forgive them and love them. That’s all twisted up with love and hate – and a whole heap of pain and shame. Plain old hatred doesn’t exist in that sort of relationship – in order to cope with the ongoing abuse, they learn that their abuser is not a one dimensional monster – they are someone who is both kind and hurtful, someone who is a duality, not a monster and not a saint.
They still see what it was they went through as wrong, and they hate that aspect of their relationship, but they confine that and compartmentalise it away. It is separate from the good person who did nice things for them. So you have a whole heap of bizarrely, feelings of gratitude for the nice things the abuser did, and then that is filed separately from the bad things. They have understood the duality of their abuser far more, and not normalised their abuse. In the case of those victims, they want to do the nicer things their abusers do, but they don’t want to be an abuser – it has scarred them too much.
So they have hallmarks of abuse. That was why I called one of my fics “Marks of Resistance” – because it is the hallmark of a resistant abuser. They don’t want to be like their abuser, and Eric himself has had those hallmarks all the way through. Little notes that to me, made me suspect the story that was in DAG of Eric’s turning loooooong before I actually read it.
Real life abuse victims often have hallmarks that they have – things that they will and won’t do, that to the non-abuse victim don’t make much sense, but to the victim do. So for example, I read a case study of a female sexual abuser of children (why yes they do exist) who would never, ever babysit or have children over because she was afraid she might accidentally slip and touch them. As it turned out, someone dumped their kids with her on the spur of the moment, and she did actually slip, but felt so bad about it she turned herself immediately into the police and confessed (which is how I read about it).
These are artefacts – ones that victims have experienced themselves, and have resolved not to cross a line that they fear. So for Eric, it’s obviously any kind of force once the person says she doesn’t want to do it. Where do we see hallmarks of Ocella artefacts – in ways that would have quite literally changed the plot of the books? You’d be surprised.
One of the things I’ve covered before is artefacts of rape – in the name of hygiene rituals. Eric has hygiene rituals. He’s always pristine, clean and shining. Trekking through swamps he’s still pristine, clean and shining. It’s one thing that he has in common with Sookie – his hygiene rituals. Eric may not have a palatial bathroom like Bill (damn I so did want to see that on TB) but he certainly keeps himself scrupulously clean. In the general scheme of things though, that’s fairly small.
We first get a hint of Eric having a bit of a past in the early books. There’s little hints of it, but it fills out the fullness of the picture that we got in DAG. This challenges the theory that when CH says “flying by the seat of her pants” it really means “planning absolutely nothing and just throwing shit in there for the fun of it”. The first indication I got was Eric saying at the orgy that he’d been to “worse” places than the orgy. Now, that doesn’t exactly sound like he’s a party fun boy to me – it’s something quite ominous for me, having read hints of it before in offender’s accounts of their pasts. It’s hinting at a great big pit they don’t really want to bring out and share with the class as if it’s cake.
Then in CD we have Eric, who pushes boundaries, but stops at a “No” from Sookie. I first noticed it when Eric would be so daring as to jump into bed to ‘snuggle’ with Sookie, but when sharing his blood with her, doesn’t take advantage of the situation. It’s not as if Eric doesn’t know what is going to happen, but he takes the initiative not to just to stop from having sex with her, he puts a considerable barrier between them – in the name of the position he’s chosen.
In CD, Eric could have just shared blood with the injured Sookie while lying beside her. She would have been high on his blood, he would have been high off giving blood, and Eric could have easily have had sex with Sookie with dubious consent. Except he doesn’t. He makes sure that he gets the injured Sookie to move into a different position, one where he would need to do a little manoeuvring to actually have sex with her. I don’t think this is any accident. This is Eric making sure that he doesn’t fall into any patterns he doesn’t want to be in – namely to be the one who is the abuser.
That’s one of the classic markers of real life abused people. Rather than be normal, they put in place roadblocks, because deep down inside they fear becoming the abuser. There’s that dark little unsure part of them that thinks about how easy it would be to slip into that pattern and do what they wish. After all, that’s effectively what Appius did all those years – what pleased him best, regardless of how Eric felt. Victims of abuse identify how easy it would be for their abusers and thus make sure they can never do anything that crosses the line they’re not willing to cross.
Furthermore, it’s pretty essential when a victim has retained some core part of themselves. That’s the last pocket of resistance to the abuse, and thus to becoming an abuser. It’s the way some victims’ minds work. That’s how a person both retains themselves and understands what was done to them is wrong, and doesn’t let go of everything.
I remember once someone commented to me that they really couldn’t understand how it was that offenders would catch themselves on video or in public abusing people – particularly violent offenders. The reality is that those barriers are gone for them. They have come to see what it is that was done to them, and what they do to others as so normal they don’t even hide it any more. They consider those behaviours merely to be something that people do, and thus abuse is normalised and transmitted over a wider range.
We see this behaviour in some of the peripheral vampire characters – that abuse is normalised. Felicia, when she first meets Sookie tells her that Peter Threadgill took favours from all of his female underlings. Mickey thinks it’s totally fine to abuse and rape Tara, and so does Franklin Mott – because he must have known what Mickey was like. We have Malcolm, Liam and Diane, and there’s Michael who sees it as his right to rape female employees of his Sheriff’s because he wants to and she refuses to acknowledge his right to have sex with her.
The thread carries through the rest of the books as well – Eric’s refusal to go any further than Sookie wants him to. It carries less weight for me than the stuff that happened when he didn’t care about her. It is harder to abuse someone you know and care about if they’re not in a relationship with you; and you want them to be. But during that time, Eric could have forced Sookie all the way down the line. He would never have to pull back, but for his own feelings about it.
At the heart of Eric – what keeps him from being a brutal, sadistic monster like Appius is the fear and shame that he felt himself, and not wanting to be seen the same way he saw Appius. That’s what stops him from being Appius after a thousand years of killing and using humans. That thread that Eric holds onto that he has depths that he’ll sink to, but will never bottom out to be like Appius.
Now, one of the reasons that readers get upset is because they hate seeing Eric hurt and powerless. It’s not something I relish either, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have benefit. Any other history behind him, and Eric would be a whole lot more brutal and Sookie would have been a rape victim by Eric, who’d learned long ago to disregard victims’ feelings. I mean, he doesn’t feel even slightly sorry for dead humans, but he doesn’t rape people. Let me tell you – humans, they recover from being raped. Not so much from being murdered.
That’s because CH decided, once she was going to build an entire series with Eric as Bill’s counterweight that she had to find actual reasons as to why Eric would kill, be brutal, but would draw the line at raping. Otherwise his character would make no sense, and she couldn’t convincingly have Sookie trusting him. She had to think about why it was that Eric would make deals and go on consent with sex, when he doesn’t have consent to murder people.
While she might not have pinned down what happened to him until it came time to put it on the page (hence the “flying by the seat of her pants” statement finally making sense) she built it into his character from Living Dead in Dallas and it gibed with the Eric from Dead Until Dark. That’s why she didn’t have to kill Eric off in LDID – because she could work with him. But only if she gave him a convincing backstory that made sense as to why he didn’t force women, when he wouldn’t think twice about killing them.
So, in the biggest plot hole and lack of character understanding, Alan Ball has given us Godric as Eric’s maker, a seemingly regular vampire who isn’t a sadistic rapist and who had a ready, willing, coddled and eager fledgling who looked forward to what he was getting into.
Godric is a nice guy. Unfortunately, as presented by True Blood, he’s way too nice. Under the scenario that Godric turns a willing human and he becomes a “companion” to Death, Eric has found a way to power and vengeance that he hasn’t had before. If someone is asked would they like to be Death and kill as Death, how sympathetic to the victims of Death do you think they’re really going to be? The answer is not at all.
The willing vampire – the one who saw immortality, vengeance, power and killing things – would be a true monster, and more monster than Eric ever is. They would relish death, and see every cruelty meted out as some sort of divine right. Someone who sees that as a step up, and spends the next thousand years doing just that is going to be absolutely horrible.
Now, lest someone in the comments jumps on that fact and says that proves TB Eric is a different, awful Eric, and Book Eric is prone to puppy fests and throwing real baby showers for mothers-to-be, that’s the whole point to the rant. Alan Ball has included all of the hallmarks of Appius-created Eric in Godric-created Eric. TB Eric has willing sexual partners – I mean, he could just rape Sookie, but he doesn’t. He could – as he himself points out – just take Sookie, but he doesn’t. His own fantasies seem to centre around the idea that she wants him – not just is willing to put up with him doing her, but that she positively wants him. That’s the Eric that us book readers know and love.
So by all means, don’t include a lot about him, but keep Appius Livius Ocella as Eric’s maker. His character actually makes sense and is predictable in that world because of his past. Godric-made-coddled Eric doesn’t make sense. That Eric would be a monster. Only change that character if you’re willing to change Eric and make him into an actual monster (and hey, why not write Mickey/Tara fic if that’s your kink).
You’re not only taking a shortcut to churn your story out faster, you’ve just made a nonsensical character. If you do that, then you have created a character hole that readers like me will be able to see, and have made your writing easier at a consequence to your character. A really bad consequence – and you could always write…I dunno…Pokeman fic if you value easy.
If you do that for Eric because you hate seeing him hurt, the very least you could do is erase the same bad incidents from Sookie’s history and make her easy too. Appius is essential for the making of Eric – in more than one sense.