Suitor Wars, Fangirls and Fear

Damn you Anon. 😀 Schedule got bumped up due to plaguing thoughts.  Someone asked me on the Billsorbency post about the phenomenon of the plastic perfect Eric and why the phenomenon exists amongst so many supposed fans of Eric.

As soon as the thought entered my head, I started seeing it everywhere and thinking about it a lot. In fact, it was a tough call on whether or not this post would be called “Is Eric wussier than Doctor Who?” as my sons were re-watching the episodes where Rose and the Doctor part, and unlike Fanfic Eric who is willing to meet the Sun if Sookie dies, Doctor Who powered through the death of his entire civilisation and the constant death and desertion of his companions. Which leads me to wonder if Eric is more of a pussy than Doctor Who. A whole heap of fanfic says he is.

Firstly, it’s important just to note how Eric is plasticised, for the most part, and the mechanisms for doing that. It’s useless to talk about how Eric is plasticised if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. Since I’m a fan of real book Eric, and seemingly, a substantial amount of people love plasticised Eric, who is practically perfect in every way, I want to set out where I see some big problems, even when you totally gloss over Eric’s constant references to torturing people.

One of the key ways I notice things changing with Eric, is with talking. Fanfic Eric often yammers on constantly. He explains things, spoonfeeds them – almost like he’s written a relationship book and knows such things. He is Eric of the Largely Unnecessary Exposition, talking of his feelings. Book Eric doesn’t say much about his feelings, and he certainly doesn’t spoonfeed anything.

So I took a bit of time to gather statistics on most Eric fangirls’ favourite book, Dead to the World. This is all rough because that’s the way I did it. If you want to find precise numbers, well you’re more than welcome to do that. I didn’t. My numbers are loose, rounded up, and if you want to make them tight, go right ahead. In the entire book, Eric has around 220 sentences, and under 2000 words. 95 of those sentences have question marks at the end. The following are the only sentences he makes about himself – without reference to being sorta questions like “I embarrassed you.” – which is really him reinterpreting something Sookie said looking for confirmation, or suppositions he wants confirmed such as “I must be a frightening person, when I am myself”, or questions that he’s answering:

“We vampires are all murderers.” Dead to the World, p. 53
“I find I have feelings for you.”
Dead to the World, p.211
“I was never a Christian.”
Dead to the World, p.260
Wanna know what his longest monologue was?
“Her parents were jailed in Shreveport. They were witches, too, but they also ran
confidence games of some kind, using their craft to make their victims more
convinced of their sincerity. In Shreveport, their luck ran out. The supernatural
community refused to make any effort to get the older Stonebrooks out of jail.
The woman ran afoul of a voodoo priestess while she was incarcerated,
and the man ran afoul of a knife in some bathroom brawl.”
Dead to the World, p.286

That’s right – it was practical, strategic information (and he was answering Sookie’s tentative question about what happened). It was pared down to the very barest of minimums at that. For all the talking Fanfic Eric does, that’s certainly not a reflection of book Eric, who deals mostly in short, meaningful sentences, limited information, strategy, practicality and above all, gestures. That’s where the majority of Eric’s communication is – unspoken gestures, facial expressions and the like. The rest of it is short sentences – really, really short sentences.

Fanfic Eric is missing a lot of his subtext. A lot of the interaction between Sookie and Eric is deep and unspoken – not filled with exposition. Case in point, when Eric wants Sookie to ask about what will happen to him after they defeat the witches. He squeezes Sookie’s hand, she speaks for him. Not once is stuff all on the surface – he never tells her that he wants her to ask, he doesn’t thank her for asking, he doesn’t share his thoughts about getting uncursed on page. That is the primary failing – or at least one of the primary failings I see with Eric in fanfic. He talks too damn much.

One of the things that Anon said – and they’re right – is that Eric in fanfic isn’t the Eric actual fans of Eric enjoy. He is flat, and without any substance, because everything he does is right, and he’s as exciting as watching paint dry. He’s never a contradiction, or a conundrum, and figuring him out in fanfic is not something I either work hard at, or find in any way a challenge. What’s happened is that the writer has taken a somewhat difficult character, made him talk way too much, and made all of his talk helpful. All of the plot is now up to Eric, who won’t shut up about how things are going to go.

Instead of Sookie being worried about Eric killing her, torturing her, threatening her, then dumping her body in an alley somewhere because Eric hasn’t told her outright what might be happening; Sookie just cannot give in to the sheer perfection that is Eric and is always waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never, ever will. Eric then tells her so, at length, and is laid bare…and boring.  So Sookie becomes a nonsensical character, because writers or readers are too simplistic to ever think Eric might be avoided for a reason – better to accuse the woman of being a fucknuckle than it is to admit that a man might have something wrong with them.

Particularly since a section of writers are looking for the perfect man – who is never coming or they haven’t married one – they want to believe that the perfect man is out there. He’s never a turd or a jackass, and he likes what she likes, thinks like she thinks, and loves the very best version of her that can exist.  All he wants to do is talk and have fantastic sex.  That like a Disney movie, everything will be swept up and made better. But part of that dynamic is that they themselves will be better people. Sookie is beaten into the perfect woman by the perfect man – she’s not loved as her imperfect self, but rather, it becomes the story of how a woman was made better by a man. There is something in me that grates at that, being my imperfect self and not having a hint of narcissism.

So how does that happen exactly?Part of it is the exact same thing that drives the deification of Bill. It’s the fact that for whatever reason, the fangirl likes Eric, and so she reasons that Eric is a good guy – minimising all of his faults and making him more like what she sees as the perfect man. Making things easy, and Sookie just plain old crazy for not liking such a spectacular version of man. The (rather faulty) deductive reasoning goes like so:

a: I like Eric.
b: I am a good person and like only good people.
∴ Eric is a good person.

So they make out like it is every other vampire who does this, or Bill who is a psychotic whacko, and that but for that, Sookie would be able to see that Eric frolics in moonlit meadows, helps the elderly and infirm; and would talk if only she didn’t shut the poor man down. Anything he does that is dodgy is really a secret way of helping Sookie – not a betrayal. Exposition often goes into erasing his previous bad behaviour, and explaining it years later when she finally gives him his chance. Because if they like a guy who betrays her trust, then really, they might find that they like Bill. And they can’t like Bill “The Rapist” Compton, now can they?

The other part of it is simply crappy writing. You have to bring your game up with writing if you want to convince readers that they should vote for your Eric. You have to minimise any reason why you won’t get positive feedback – because it’s all about the positive feedback – and make it so that if your writing won’t cause readers to rave about it, your perfect Eric certainly will be swooned over in reviews. Nothing needs to be hard in any way, because really you can just write about a saccharine version of the perfect love affair, and use the Disney formula. It’s not as if the Disney formula won’t resonate with a whole heap of people, after all.

Therefore, rather than go the difficult route and find some way to complicate a story by having a less than perfect protagonist, then make him unbelievably good. Making sure at the same time that none of the other suitors come slightly close to being a good choice – make Quinn, Sam and Bill unbelievable psychotic whackos just to be sure that only somebody with a screw loose is going to choose them. That way, readers are incredibly invested in the perfect man, perfect romance than would ever normally be invested in the storyline itself.

The fact of the matter is that NOT ONE of the suitors for Sookie is the epitome of a good choice. Goodness help any of them if a suitor who was all kinds of attractive with the minimum of hassle were to come into Sookie’s life. If Sookie had a Tolliver instead of the supes she has, Sookie would have made her choice long ago, just like Harper did. If any of them were perfect guys, then they would compete so flawlessly against the other imperfect suitors. They wouldn’t epically screw up their relationship with Sookie and give any of the others an in to getting their own chance with Sookie. So I suspect that CH deliberately keeps those suitors out of things, so that she doesn’t discount Sookie’s emotional intelligence.

Eric isn’t the only benefactor of this phenomenon. In despair of the reaction to DITF among Eric fangirls, I had hoped to go to the Bill fangirls for a bit more fair and balanced than I was getting at Eric Fangirls and Associates, but found the exact same phenomenon. That Bill was just far too wonderful and perfect, and Sookie would never ever see it. She didn’t give him a chance to explain things to her, and she really should have. Hell – I’ve read a fic wherein Sookie apologised to Bill for the trunk incident – ie not forgiving him. Before any Eric fangirls get on their high horses, they make her apologise for being tortured – as to how much it hurt fucking Eric that she got tortured. Or Quinn fangirls who make her apologise that she selfishly didn’t want Quinn to sell her out vampires to protect his mother. Sam fangirls seem to be the most logical of the lot – but there’s not a whole heap of Sam fic written.

Just a casual observance that I’ve had over time – one that has always made me giggle. If you reference Eric in your username, you’re more likely to love a fake version of Eric – ie. not the book character – which is surprising. You would think Eric fangirls who love him enough to reference him in their usernames would love the total package. Sadly, not. As Anon pointed out, St. Eric is rejecting real Eric in favour of a guy who is not Eric. Rather than being interested in the total package, they like the joking, but not the brutality; they like the blonde hair but not the dead body; they like the richness but not the working; they like the caring, but not the silence. Eric is seen as an in-charge guy who has sex – and that’s all he is, and he’ll spell it all out in relatively simplistic terms.

It is the nature of amateur and immature understanding – if you fail to understand the deep nature of Eric, and the Eric and Sookie relationship, you have to custom fit Eric into something else. You couldn’t possibly champion a man who can be a complete dick to her at times. Eric fangirls see that with each passing book, Eric is not more perfect – he is more flawed. That in DITF, we got to see Eric as hopeless, powerless – something only seen by people you’re close to – not by someone you don’t want to love all of you. That is the beginnings of true trust – which Eric himself needs to learn to do – to let down the barriers in front of Sookie the way he has in front of Pam.

That is the true nature of any person – having good and bad points. They are not perfect – they are real and they are fallible, or they are fake, or possibly Jesus. All of the suitors in the SVM are lacking, and each and every one is not someone who can “win” Sookie by having no faults. That’s what causes every single panic every time a book comes out. As CH herself pointed out, ELs seem to create issues for themselves to worry about.  But the truth is that every time a book comes out, fans see that Eric is hanging on by a thread by being a really, really lacking suitor, by not shining in front of the rest of the competition.