Happy Valentines…The bond is not romantic

Someone asked me recently if I was bothered by some small continuity errors in the SVM. Considering even ‘canon’ fanfic gets it wrong with such details, I certainly think that this is the wrong community to go on about CH’s continuity errors. My answer was…No, I am not bothered by Clancy vs. Chow, or Greek vs. Roman. In the scheme of things, they’re small errors I could barely be bothered with. What I love is deep concepts, and they are not flawed at all.

Lots of fans are really attached to the blood bond, and the “special” connection it shows between Sookie and Eric. So why doesn’t CH see it the same way? Why is she fine with ditching it because fans don’t understand it? I know that there is a giant outcry from a whole section of peeps, concerned that without the bond, Sookie might ditch Eric. Let me tell you – if the bond is the only thing keeping them together, it just makes my argument stronger.

It is no (WTF) love bond. It is a bond enforced by Andre, premiere arsehole.
As I’ve reasoned in my fics over and over, Andre didn’t intend to do Sookie any favours that night in the hallway. The bond is not designed by its very nature to be a thing tying to creatures who loved each other together – and if it was designed for that purpose alone, then it wouldn’t have been forced by Andre. He certainly wouldn’t have let Eric take his place if he had a secret love boner for Sookie. Eric wouldn’t have needed the pledging – because a bond would be something that would be self evident in its “love”.

The fact that Eric got Sookie to be his wife – and he only started calling her that in DITF – then the bond is no sacred thing between lovers. It might serve the purpose to lovers, but that’s because it is a conduit for emotional influence.  Not all emotions are sexual or loving – some can be harsh and cruel, and it’s quite an effective way of controlling someone. So what then, seems to be the actual purpose of the bond? Eric says it in a round about way. And it’s not even romantic:

” When the human goes completely under, he isn’t worth turning.
He isn’t worth anything at all.
Sooner or later he has to be killed.”
Dead And Gone, p. 178

See, hidden in amongst that little quote is what Quinn said is the purpose – to tag a human “worth turning”. It’s how they prime future vampires. Ones that they wish to turn and haven’t gotten around to it yet. Since that’s what vampire blood does from your maker – makes you controllable, why readers assume that it’s different when the human is on the receiving end is beyond me. Appius “tells” Sookie to move in the last pages of DITF – from Colman’s blade. She doesn’t “hear” it telepathically and she can’t be glamoured, so it’s clear that the bond works the way it’s supposed to – to make you obey without ever asking your brain if you want to move. Just cause Eric doesn’t use it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

Andre really wasn’t doing Sookie any favours. Eric taking on the bond is just his way of asserting ownership over Sookie as a vampire. That he wanted to be the one to turn her. Since Sookie doesn’t want to be a vampire, then I don’t see Eric offering to be her murderer as particularly romantic. Most women, they get a letter from a guy offering to kill them, they don’t put it with their love letters. They show it to the police. Sookie doesn’t see it as much different – and nor should she.

I know that lots of readers always say that Sookie should ask Eric about the bond – why would that be exactly? Mr. I-may-not-tell-you-everything is going to divulge the entire truth, no matter how much it might damage his chances? I don’t fucking think so. If he does, and tells her it’s a death knell, exactly how will that strengthen their relationship? I just do not get the concept that if you ask a question, it’s always going to have a good answer that won’t be scary, or disheartening. Rather than just dismissing Sookie as stupid, I see that she doesn’t ask because as she says herself:

“Because I’m pretty damn sure I wouldn’t like the answer.
Dead and Gone, p. 177
So while you can ask a question, that doesn’t mean that the answer will necessarily be good. You may not, in fact, get what you want. Every reader who complained about that scene anticipated that Eric would tell Sookie he loved her – but he didn’t offer that, and CH hadn’t even decided until she wrote DITF. So the answer there would not have been what those readers were expecting. Sookie was, unsurprisingly, smarter than some who exhorted her to ask the question. She didn’t hear that Eric didn’t quite love her.Since Sookie doesn’t want to die, then it’s not going to thrill her knowing she came so close to being turned and enslaved – which is why Eric is a whole lot smarter than so many readers and doesn’t offer the information. It could only serve to fuck things up, so they both avoid the subject. The idea that she should go ahead and badger Eric for an answer – that’s only ever written by people who anticipate that the answer will, in fact, only be good. Both Sookie and Eric are smart not to confront such a difficult subject – it is the reader being a Mr. Thicky.

Sookie also offered Eric a solution to the problem of wanting to resolve things. She told him that if the bond isn’t all that they have, she’d declare her love. Well, she came through in DITF didn’t she? She told Eric she loved him, not once, but twice. Apparently she didn’t say it quite right, but Eric seemed to accept it and like it, so I don’t know what everyone was complaining about. I know, I know, poor bitch is always wrong, now isn’t she?

Since neither of them have worked out exactly how it is that they’re going to work their relationship, I don’t see the problem with waiting a little longer. I know that the common solution in bad fanfic is just to have Sookie give up her entire life and identity and go be Eric’s personal bloodbag, but honestly, those looking for substance in their romance are looking for more than that. So far in the books, they haven’t even gotten to Sookie feeling free to walk in and out of Eric’s house – she knocks on the door to the kitchen – so before she goes to live with him, I’d at least prefer her to actually feel at home. I know I sure as shit don’t knock on my front door before I enter. So they have time.

Honestly, the bond provides – in practical terms – a big barrier to just living. As a telepath, Sookie is subject to the input of all the humans in the immediate vicinity. She craves silence and being able to relax. The bond is a serious impediment to silence. I can’t imagine that I’d like feeling Eric’s towering rage at Victor at 4am when I’m trying to get some sleep. There are elements to living life that just don’t make sharing emotion particularly happy. Knowing that Sookie is PMSing at a customer isn’t a whole lot of use either.

CH says that each bond is individual, but that doesn’t mean that every bond is automatically good or that Sookie and Eric’s bond is a good thing for them. It’s great for two people who don’t trust so easily, but that’s all it is – a communication device. It was obviously accessed by Appius, so why that makes it something special between Eric and Sookie is beyond me.

The purpose of the bond is many, as far as a storytelling device. The first is to get the two characters closer than they were before, and particularly after Bill’s betrayal, to give Sookie a way to be able to test the veracity of statements, and to force Eric to give her only truth, as much as he can twist and turn it.  Eric can no longer lie to Sookie, and for a man who rarely talks at all, this is a good thing for Sookie. I know in the fangirls’ mind, Eric never lies, but the reality is that we have his lies on page

“If you don’t suck it out, it will heal inside my flesh….”
Living Dead in Dallas,
p. 213

But I suppose for fangirls, that’s the Clayton’s lie – the lie you tell when you’re not telling a lie. Since Eric is a master manipulator – using guilt, courage and intimidation to get compliance in the above scenario – and Sookie is not a chump, the bond provides Sookie with some security that when Eric says he loves her, he’s not lying. In order to trust a master manipulator, you need some sort of measure with which to do that. Trust does not come easily when the person in question is a consummate dissembler and excellent liar. Not only that, but they have in fact, lied to you before and it was only when you had an irrevocable decision made by Eric that she found out it was a lie.

After all, Bill lies to Sookie often, and he has no way to prove he loves her. Eric is exposed in the bond. So that serves to bring them closer together, rather than having Sookie discard all sense and just believe every piece of shit coming out of Eric’s mouth, she has a way to tell. Instead of discarding Sookie’s intelligence, CH uses the bond as the mechanism for trust – or rather non-trust believing – because Eric’s got a bit of a ways before Sookie trusts him without the bond. If he can hold off any more surprise marriages and the like, they’ll get there.

Another purpose of the bond is so that Eric and Sookie can communicate without needing to make her constantly telepathic. As I’ve pointed out, it’s no bloody fun being a telepath. The last thing that helps is having Eric selectively thundering through your head. Their relationship is characterised by the fact that she’s with vampires initially because of the mental silence. That relationship and reason is undermined when your vampire husband can talk to you in your own head.

I’m not so sure that Eric wouldn’t kill Sookie for being able to read vampires all the time anyway. I figure that if Sookie had the ability to read vampires’ heads, Eric would be forced to remove her from supe society at the very least. As good as Sookie is with her telepathy, she makes slip-ups when she’s under stress, because acting normally takes effort. It takes work to block out the thoughts – rather than her slipping down her shields, she constantly has them up – so she would be bombarded with thoughts all the time. The default state is not having shields – not the other way around. The supe world is stressful, so she’d be likely to out herself. In order to stop her from blurting it out and making it clear, Sookie would have to remove herself completely. That’s if she didn’t accidentally out herself in front of Eric, and he didn’t like the invasion of privacy. I know under the rabid fangirl theory, Eric would never do such a thing, but there’s no indication that he likes Sookie knowing everything – there’s the exact opposite with this:

“I may not tell you everything I know, but what I tell you is true.”
Dead and Gone,
p. 178

This is not a vampire who has made the statement that his life is an open book she can look into at any time, which makes it doubly hard to trust him. I know lots of people are holding out on the much vaunted talk, wherein everyone shares and it’s all good, but I just don’t believe that Eric is the repository of only good things. There are going to be things that are absolutely loathsome about him, and stuff that would surely put Sookie off. Like his fervent love of torture. Thus, telepathy is a no-go zone.

Not to mention that it allows the writer to put them into tighter spots, have them working as a team without having to explain plot points before they happen. Why did Sookie not say a word when Eric was pressing her silence? Without the bond, that’s a little tricky to explain, and creates a big hole in Sookie’s character, who doesn’t sit meekly in a corner. It’s another device for retaining Sookie’s intelligence too – rather than signing up as Eric’s wife with no information but by taking some trite explanation that it’s for her own good, she complies thanks to their bond.

We share our surprise with Sookie that the bundle is a knife with which they are married. So rather than having Sookie do things that don’t make sense, or don’t jibe with her character, it allows the author to move the pace of the plot a little quicker, and with a little bit more mystery and surprise.

Now, quite apart from the literary benefit that the bond has, it also plays a crucial role for getting across a message that sadly, many fans have missed. This is the reason why CH is fine with getting rid of the bond if it can’t be understood, because the current way it’s understood is a crying shame when you know what the purpose really is.

How do you explore slavery and race in the South when you’re a white woman that doesn’t seem completely fake and insulting? You use allegory. You imagine what would happen to a white woman, in slavery in Northern Louisiana. There are touches on the legacy of slavery in the books with Bill, but the bond serves to bring it to the forefront with Eric. Sookie is transported from her home, put in a foreign place, and then the bonds of slavery are upon her.

Sookie is basically enslaved.

That hadn’t happened and I wasn’t free, but the chains I wore now were a lot prettier.”
Dead and Gone,
p. 104.

See? Even Sookie sees it as slavery. She never says she’s grateful for it. That’s why she’s a little brighter than those who want her to ask questions and doesn’t ask Eric to confirm that she’s in the position of his slave now. She really doesn’t want to resent and hate him for it – so she just leaves it alone. She doesn’t fault him for being in place of Andre, but that doesn’t mean that she wants to be his slave. Better to think it’s a device for slavery than make Eric demolish their building relationship with one fell stroke and say it out loud.

The blood bond is made clear in the text that it does Sookie no favours – that she sees it as something to be imposed on her and force her to behave. Who is she to go to for redress? Her captors aren’t going to free her – that is made clear – otherwise they would have asked her, not done it without her knowledge. Moreover, Vikings were known to have bondservants – so it’s not as if CH has mired it in a culture with completely foreign to slavery.

Lots of stress is put on the fact that Sookie and Eric have the same colour hair and eyes. It looks like it’s a nice matchy-matchy going on there, but there’s some deep symbolism hidden in that little fact. There is ostensibly no difference in their looks to explain why Sookie is ‘inferior’ – nothing on the surface that looks different racially. So CH has stripped it of the tensions that still live on in the South with regards to what is beautiful. They’re both blonde and blue eyed – they just happen to be different races.

Without any racial differences, the bond has become a way in which CH can explore racial differences with the added dimension of slavery in the South. As I understand it, there is still a big racial divide in the South. People still get disowned for marrying outside their race, and integration is not so integrated in some areas. This is the invisible slavery – one that you cannot see, but that exists none the less. No one can see it by looking, but that doesn’t mean that the impact of slavery in the South has vanished.

This is a way for CH to explore slavery from a safe distance – what it is to be devalued and used by the dominant race. Even though Eric is a ‘kind’ slave owner, he’s still a slave owner. The fact that he is reluctant doesn’t mean squat – it’s still slavery even though he’s reluctant and he’s not a tyrant. African Americans didn’t fight for freedom only from those that were cruel – it’s the entire principle of the “subordinate” race that was the objection – not the quality of the slavery.

It’s also the reason why it’s not romantic. Having a slave owner who owns his slave is not romantic. That’s why CH is reluctant to explain it all – she doesn’t want to be criticised for failing to understand from a position of privilege, but she also doesn’t want to sweep it all under the rug. There’s a whole contingent of people who think that race issues in the South are overdone, and a whole contingent who think it’s not explored enough. CH has gotten around that by meaning to reinvigorate the discussion.  She’s solved any perceived racial bias that might be going on by making them both identical. One cannot say that Eric is superior just because he is white, and Sookie is not – it’s not based on looks, just on race.

Moreover, they really aren’t that different inside. Despite the fact that Eric is a vampire and Sookie is a human, Sookie and Eric “get” each other. They share a sense of humour, and in some areas have the same values, particularly with concern to their own individual codes of honour. Sookie holds her word as sacred, as does Eric. Apart from physical differences (like food vs. blood or day vs. night) they aren’t so different. When they’re alone, they ramble on quite well with each other. So the bond adds the dimension of slavery to two people who only differ substantially based on race – not on the person they are on the inside.

It’s not all romance for CH, and that’s why she’s happy to get rid of it – because if fans think slavery is romantic, then they’ve missed the entire point to having the bond, and sending the absolute opposite of the message CH originally intended to send. No one would advocate a return to black slavery on the condition that white owners love their black slaves – no one. Nor would it be a good message for the free person to beg for enslavement. What could have been a brilliant concept, and one that had much discussion around it, has been reduced to some romantic votive for Sookie – so I see why she wants to ditch it altogether.

The bond was a way to explore some of the issues between Sookie and Eric – those racial differences in novels about tolerance and integration. Those same issues that exist in Louisiana today, but the racial differences are based on colour. Vampires want to integrate with our society, and humans must learn tolerance. In the middle of that is the racial tensions of guys like Andre who believe that humans are to be owned and enslaved regardless of what they want. Eric and Sookie are caught in the middle of the struggle of those two races – both wanting to find some equality and common ground, someone to look beyond their race.

Now you know why I cringe every time I read “my bonded”. It’s taking a racial storyline, and making it into some sort of romantic thing that exists. It’s why Eric doesn’t tell all and sundry that he is bonded to Sookie, because he doesn’t want people to see her as his slave. Nor should he. The thing that makes Eric a little redeemed in the scenario is that he isn’t crowing on the rooftops that she is his slave girl, Sookie doesn’t crow about it either as if slavery in the South is something alive that should be embraced.

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