Gender Bias in True Blood

True Blood starts tonight – so I’ll be able to see what’s going on and probably disagree with people. For one thing, I know I’ve seen it written that Book Eric is not impulsive – which is not true. The man who tipped his hand in front of Andre by stretching in front of Sookie wasn’t thinking about long term plans, that’s for sure, and nor was the man who had his pride pricked and bounded over the cemetery to look at the witches at Bill’s house that were looking to kill him. It’s one of Eric’s endearing qualities that impulsive nature – his joie de vivre as such. He’s smart and calculating, but he’s not as boring as watching paint dry – he’s a guy that lives on the edge. And encourages Sookie to live there with him. I can’t wait to judge for myself.

So I’ve done a post about Show Sookie vs. Book Sookie – it was even featured amongst Hans von Hozel story challenge as a topic. 😀 But in the comments, I was talking about Pam and Thyra asked me to do Pam (happily! 😀 ). But since Pam isn’t a primary character in the books or the show, it’s difficult to do that and make a post. So I chose gender bias in True Blood – and I’m going to show you why, as a woman I’ll always be a Bookie.

Now, I should say first off that I’m a feminist – I believe women are not lesser to men, and I love doing things like actively using my brain, rather than being property by men, and fully believe that women are entitled to live for more than babies and getting fucked. I love voting, being included in discussions about politics, leaving the house when I feel like it without having to beg permission, not having to beg for money for the household while having no input on what my husband spends at the pub and generally being my own person without being owned by the men in my life.

I’d also like to point out (because I got myself into an argument with another woman over this just recently, where she said I was “throwing my own gender under the bus”) that I don’t believe women are any better than men. We were discussing school shooters, and I pointed out that it is not solely a male crime, even though there are lots of men who do it, it doesn’t mean men are essentially evil, and women incapable of it. The statistics are lower for women, but we have just as much capability to do the wrong thing as men do. Case in point, Brenda Ann Spencer, female school shooter whose reason for committing the crime was immortalised by The Boomtown Rats with “I Don’t Like Mondays”.

Being a feminist does not mean to me that women are perfect – they can be all levels on the spectrum as men are – they are not somehow perfect and beyond reproach because they are women. Men and women are equally culpable in my eyes – I don’t buy the theory that one of “Nature’s nurturers” would never do heinous things. That’s patently not true – take it from a criminologist. Women are just as capable of badness as men – and they should take responsibility for it, and by extension should also take responsibility for the goodness they do – rather than writing off doing good things as part of the nurturer thing. Free will belongs to both sexes.

But that doesn’t mean that I like shows where females are consistently discounted and made weaker – particularly when I have the books or source material to base the story on. In the case of True Blood, I do. So, let’s do this thing.

Pam

Now, Pam from the books, she’s Miss Ravenscroft. For those that don’t know, the last name comes from CH’s forum – it’s not actually in the books anywhere. If you’ll notice, the name of the thread is Pam Ravenscroft. Pam is one of the favoured characters for most bookies – she’s snarky, smart and she can kick some serious arse.

In the books of course, Pam is the second for Eric, and she helps him but she’s not glued to Eric’s side. She’s not a minion, because clearly Pam has her own life far separate from Eric’s as exemplified with this quote:

I only found out when she asked for some time off from the
club to visit Miriam in the hospital.
Dead Reckoning, p. 185

As I’ve covered before, there seems to be a bit of a break between Eric and Pam. Pam might follow Eric’s orders, but neither of them, when pressed by Sookie will admit to loving each other – fondness, yes, but love, no. Probably because Eric killed Pam and has the power of a maker over her. That kills the ability to really commit to full-blown love when the guy is ultimately your boss. 😉 A woman with freedom is impeded in loving because one person is always more important and their wishes are “worth more” than the other. After all, that’s one of the things Pam loves as a vampire – her freedom.

Not only does Pam have freedom – more than she would have had in the past as a wife and mother for sure – but she’s a renowned fighter as well, and is called all kinds of things in that line – Eric’s strong right arm, ruthless, noted fighter. Pam can surely hold her own, and even tag-teams with Eric to get Victor dead. It’s part of the teamwork that makes them a good leader and an excellent second for Area Five. Pam has been in many fights in the books, and held her own. She even took over for Eric for a week while he was cursed, and dealt with all of his problems. She wants to learn how to fire a shotgun, and she gets into fights relatively regularly. She also doesn’t slavishly follow every order that Eric gives her – she goes against his wishes and spills the beans on the situation with Bill.

Pam is also a bit of a girly girl – she fights, but she wears nice clothing – even her Fangtasia get-up has been known to include veils (most likely a tease to Eric on his wedding night). When they go to deliver the bull as tribute to the Maenad, Eric characterises Pam as a “city girl” – someone unused to handling livestock. Pam is sometimes seen filing her nails (I doubt Eric noticed a hangnail and that must annoy the shit out of you over eternity), but mostly her conversations to Sookie consist of teasing, fighting, their friendship and sex.

Show Pam is lesser than Book Pam. She’s concerned with maybe three things – sex, clothing and doing everything that Eric tells her. One of the key jobs of Show Pam is to stand behind Eric in his own club and watch him talk to people, and stand around taking orders. Show Pam is exceedingly concerned with her looks – to the point that she doesn’t have any of the compassion that Book Pam does. There’s essentially nothing really likeable about Show Pam unless you want someone to critique your outfit.

Not only that, but Show Pam – at least in the last three seasons – has had absolutely no independent thought but what Eric wants. She is completely devoted to him. She apparently spends her nights doing nothing more than being Eric’s night person – like Bobby Burnham, but for the night. As ecureuilneglige pointed out here, Pam is more drag queen than woman – and she’s absolutely right. Pam is snarky with none of the interesting stuff going on with the rest of her character. Book Pam has a hard edge to her, but she’s not plain old nasty.

One of the big differences that bugs the shit out of me is the whole True Blood transference of Pam hating Bill. It couldn’t be further from book canon actually:

“These days Bill is full of anger, but he doesn’t know who to hate.
He feels guilty, and no one likes that.”
All Together Dead, p. 86

Here Pam is sympathising with Bill – and comes to try to talk to Sookie about both of the guys. You don’t do that with someone that you loathe and I can’t imagine Show Pam doing anything of the sort. It makes Show Pam seem like she’s just a plain old minion of Eric’s in the show with absolutely no independent thought. If Eric hates Bill and wants Sookie, Pam hates Bill and wants Eric to have Sookie. There is no incident in the book where Bill and Pam hate each other’s guts. Bill stays the night at Pam’s after the Witch War – in Chow’s empty coffin. She didn’t pitch him out into the sunlight, and she doesn’t say one nasty word about Bill.

Book Pam believes in Vampires First – in fact, she’s who we get the term from. Show Pam believes in Eric First and everyone else is gum on my shoe – meaning that she is made weaker because she’s always thinking about what Eric would like right now. Fealty and obedience in Book Pam is replaced with almost slavish devotion – because Book Pam has something better to do than just standing around behind Eric.

I’d also like to point out too that one of the key differences between the Pam relationship is that Show Pam is constructed as “an only spoiled child” when Book Pam has mentioned that there was another child before her, and indeed, Eric has another female child – source.

Tara

In the book Tara is white, for a start. She comes from a bad family, where alcohol and beatings were the way the girl was raised. Now, Tara is one girl who tried through guys to make her way out of poverty. Tara gets all excited at the idea of being treated well by Franklin Mott, even though she’s clearly using him:

I was quite sure that Tara hadn’t been as fond of Franklin Mott as
she’d been saying, that she was much more interested in his
lavish gifts and courteous treatment than in him.
Of course,he’d known that. Dead as a Doornail, p. 207

Now, despite the fact that she may have been using Franklin, I don’t think he had a right to force her to be with Mickey. Yes, it was supremely stupid to think that using a vampire would get her somewhere, but that doesn’t mean that the penalty for taking nice gifts and enjoying being treated nicely is death. Sooner or later, without Sookie’s help and Eric’s intervention, Mickey would have killed Tara.   And Franklin didn’t have to whore her out – he could have merely stopped dating her when he figured out she was using him, for goodness sake.

Book Tara is CH showing – and not telling us – that trying to work your way out of poverty on your back is fraught with danger. Even if you really like nice things. Tara is a nice girl who got in too deep with vampires – but she’s not the first or the last. Tara is a poor girl, who didn’t really have a great foundation or a lot of love, and this is the quick way to make it rich.

Show Tara is black, of course, and seems determined to be the eternal victim of men. But it’s a different way that she’s the eternal victim of men – in that she has little ownership in what happens to her. She falls in love with various men, for not any real reason but there’s got to be a sex scene for her. Show Tara is lured into a money situation with a mother figure, who betrays her. She’s beaten by Eggs, and just set upon by Franklin Mott. Tara doesn’t actually get into trouble of her own accord – she becomes a casualty of what violent natures men have, and when they decide to kidnap and rape her, she’s subject to their whims. There’s absolutely nothing to learn from Tara’s plight, because she’s not really in control of it.

Of all of the book characters, Show Tara is the least weakened – at least in the first three seasons.  She at least tries to get away from Franklin, and fights Bill, but so much of that is tied up with her huge victim complex, that comes out as anger issues. Of course Show Tara would have a victim complex – that’s what she is, without any control. Book Tara can choose to behave differently and setting herself up for falls – and she learns. Show Tara can’t learn shit because she can’t change the obsession men feel about her.

Arlene

Book Arlene is a woman determined to follow whatever guys tell her they need from her in order to get married. Book Arlene actively has reasons why she gets into the messes she gets into. She turns into a Fellowship member because Rafe Prudehomme comes along and Sookie points out that Arlene doesn’t like independent thought at all:

Arlene had never worked out a thought like that in her life. Arlene’s
middle name was tolerance, mostly because she was too
easygoing to take a moral stance. Definitely Dead, p. 124

Book Arlene is nasty and selfish – but she gets that way under her own steam. Through a series of choices, she makes one after the other until she’s ready to have one of her boyfriends crucify Sookie in her backyard. Apart from the men in her life, she doesn’t really have an aim. In fact, when the big confrontation comes with Arlene, Sookie says what she thinks is the ‘meanest thing’ she’s ever said to anyone – the absolute truth. That no rich man is going to come and sweep her out of poverty, take care of her and her kids, and in choosing to go along with the Fellowship lines, and the ‘stellar’ men, she hasn’t gotten what she’s wanted. She’s chosen the way of thinking with a goal in mind, and the goal is not achievable. She’s reduced herself for absolute scraps.

Show Arlene is softened. She’s really a victim. Rather than yet another example of a woman who feels that men will somehow make her life better, she’s subject to guys she thinks love her. Arlene, like Tara on the show isn’t active about her fate. She’s really a nice woman who happens to be beset by bad luck. Rather than just allowing the character to be trashy, Arlene is exemplified as a woman who just hasn’t found a man who’ll treat her right. It’s really bad luck.

Not only is Show Arlene a victim with no control over her fate, but like Tara, she happens to be defined by men not through her own choosing, but just the situations she finds herself in. Show Arlene is really a nice person, and as long as she has Terry around to treat her like a Queen, she’ll act like a Queen. This weakens Arlene’s character, because she’s reduced to a stereotype – the woman as defined by the man that she’s with, rather than the woman who chooses to define herself by the man she’s with. There’s a distinct difference between the two. Show Arlene is not active in her fate, and there’s nothing she has to take responsibility for. The corollary to that is that as long as Terry’s around, she’ll be light and free – his secondary character, rather than a character with goals in her own right. Her fate hinges on his – in a tangible way. Book Arlene chooses to have her fate hinge on the men in the books.

It can be difficult to understand what I mean, because this is sort of digging into complex concepts of feminism. But for example, if I choose to define myself as a law abiding, then I also choose to fulfil that role in an active way. It doesn’t involve calling myself law abiding and having nothing to do with actually acting like a law abiding citizen. While I choose to call myself law abiding, I should get the kudos for acting in a law abiding manner – because the acting is all on my behalf. If however, someone were to force me to be law abiding, without actually making me do the work to be law abiding, that means that the title is a hollow one – not one that I chose of my own free will. I’m forced to do it, and therefore any praise for doing it is unwarranted. If the winds change and I’m forced to be an offender, then I will be. It has nothing to do with my character and everything to do with being an automaton.

Crystal

Book Crystal is somewhat of a nasty piece of work. She’s selfish and venal. She wants to be free of the Hotshot community, and she’ll scheme to get there. She has genuine feelings for Jason, but at her wedding to Jason, she’s eyeing up Quinn, and not committing to things properly – even Sookie doubts her good intentions. Book Crystal knew that Felton might have been responsible for taking Jason and just kept her mouth shut about it. She didn’t look to Calvin – she wanted these things for herself.

Show Crystal wants to be free of the Hotshot community as much as Book Crystal does. But she doesn’t want to be free of Daddy. Show Crystal is reduced to a mere stereotype – the poor girl born in a bad town, who will willingly sacrifice herself to save her man. I don’t think Book Crystal thought of sacrifice in her life. She never helped anyone that’s for sure. She’s pretty much the polar opposite of Show Crystal.

This is a tired and over-used stereotype about women – that they’re really kind hearted people just trying to love all that they can. At heart, they can’t stand anyone not being happy, so they’ll put their own needs at the bottom of the hierarchy for the sake of love. Like Arlene before her, Crystal is really just trying to do the best with what she’s given, and being the noble animal as AB keeps trying to make her into.

Book Crystal had more power – because she never put anyone’s needs before her own. She was an actual character – in that she had her own goals and personality. She wasn’t nice, but she certainly wasn’t anyone’s creature. She didn’t live to make Calvin happy, or Jason happy. Crystal lived to make herself happy in the books. In the show, she’s too busy thinking about what men want and what they need from her.

Sarah Newlin

Book Sarah Newlin was a complete and utter partner of her husband – she’s actively part of the violent nature of the Fellowship of the Sun. When Sookie flees the Fellowship, Sarah is one of the women who rams Luna’s car:

The next thing I knew, I was hanging upside down in my seat belt. A hand was reaching in to pull me out. I recognized the fingernails; it was Sarah. I bit her.
Living Dead in Dallas,
p. 174

Sarah is a mover and shaker in the Fellowship church – an active participant in beating up women who go out with vampires. She’s a nasty piece of work – but her nastiness is all due to her own design. She’s just as bad as her husband because Sarah chooses to ram into a car and yank Sookie back to the Fellowship. Sarah Newlin has just as much propensity for evil as her husband does – and she’ll do whatever she needs to do to fulfil the church’s agenda.

Show Sarah is a victim of an overbearing husband. She’s seemingly his very frustrated beard. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with all that nasty violence – she shallowly just wants to be loved. In fact, seemingly the only real thing Show Sarah cares about is fashion and getting fucked. She’ll take revenge on Jason out of petty jealousy, but all of her motives are a product, yet again, of what men will give her.

Sarah doesn’t choose in the show to be just as evil as Steve – she’s forced into it because she’s a good PR piece for him. Another victim of fucking circumstance. Sarah is never taken to account for being in that situation – she just sort of has to fulfil a role for Steve. If she could have married Terry Bellefleur, she’d be good too.

Isabel Beaumont

Book Isabel is a cold and scary vampire. At the time that she’s just someone who runs errands for Stan, picking up Sookie and Bill from the airport. She’s flat of affect and according to Sookie relatively old. She owns Hugo, vampire “mine” style, as her human, and treats him terribly. One of Hugo’s complaints is:

“I was in thrall to her, couldn’t get enough. My practice suffered.
<snip>
I couldn’t leave Isabel after dark.”
Living Dead in Dallas, p. 144

Sookie likens Hugo to an alcoholic, and Hugo isn’t treated too well by Isabel. She accepts Stan’s punishment of chaining her naked in silver for a month with a nod to Sookie.

Show Isabel is a gentle woman, half in love with Godric, always sweet and kind, and prey to falling for Hugo. Hugo doesn’t complain he’s gone from a lawyer to a dishwasher – he quite cynically wants to be turned. No, it’s Isabel who is the sucker for love. You’d think True Blood would have the naked silver punishment, but then the undertone of the message is “Women are stupid and always falling for the wrong men” would be ruined if Show Isabel wasn’t subject to the age old problem of women, ruled by their emotions.

Lorena

Book Lorena is a former prostitute, and a cruel maker to Bill. She’s relatively into him, but she likes the power that she has over him. She knows that when it comes to stuff, her wishes come first and fuck the human girlfriend. She’s in no way a nice person, and is willing to torture Bill to get the name of the little human girlfriend.

Show Lorena is yet again, someone hopelessly in love with Bill, and he just won’t love her back. Like Isabel, she’s too busy being in love with Bill to actually be active about her evil. She’s hopelessly in love with Bill to the point that rather than forcing him to be with her, she’s all about sacrifice. Oh, and she needs to be told off like a bad girl for Godric.

Maxine Fortenberry

In the books, Maxine is Gran’s best friend and a nice woman. As you can imagine – being that she’s Gran’s best friend. She’s not intentionally nasty or prejudiced. She wonders if Bill will be coming to Adele’s funeral, and when Jason goes missing and they’re all out searching, it is Maxine who organises food for the party of people.

In the show, Maxine is a prejudiced woman who spends all of her time trying to bring Hoyt into line and failing to do so. Hoyt has to tell her off at least once a season. Not only does she do that, but she dragoons Summer into doing it, and encourages Summer to use her feminine wiles to snag him.

Sophie-Anne Leclerq

In the books, Sophie Anne is a 1100 year old vampire queen. She’s incredibly ruthless and cunning – fooling Eric at least twice – once over the assassination of Kyle Perkins, and once over obtaining Sookie. She’s formidable enough to scare the ever loving shit out of Eric:

“What would that punishment be?”
“Oh, with her, it’s difficult to tell.” He gave a choked laugh.
“Something very unpleasant.”
Club Dead, p. 51

In fact, one of her punishments is to put a vampire in a vat of saltwater until their skin sloughs off. That’s what she does to Waldo. When she’s finally defeated, it’s done by having her legs blown off, the state overtaken and finally a staking. Sophie Anne is pretty hard to kill, and is praised by Eric – even with the torture dealie – as a good leader.

Show Sophie Anne is 400 years old, vampire queen and seems to want to spend her money in an eternal fucking shopping spree. Rather than someone who takes her position and power seriously, she’s not scary to anyone. She’s constantly scrabbling for money to fuel her wonderful palace and I think the scene two scenes show best how she’s defined in the show – playing Yahtzee, and scratching scratch tickets to try to win a prize. Show Sophie Anne is contemptible and laughable, a toothless tiger. She’ll do what if Eric doesn’t comply – oh wait, she’ll ask her bosses if she can have Eric’s fangs as earrings. Fuck you very much Alan Ball.

Debbie Pelt

Book Debbie is a nasty piece of work. She has her hooks into Alcide, and she plays games with his head all the time. She first gets her hate on when Sookie makes her look like a fool. She’s as nasty as hell, often carrying on vendettas against girls she hates for the crime of dating men she’s dumped:

Remember when we had to go to court, when she was in high school,
because she put superglue in that cheerleader’s hairbrush?
The one that was dating her ex-boyfriend?
Definitely Dead,
pp. 286-287

Of her own accord, she carries a vendetta against Sookie, and does other charming things such as helps in the torture of Bill. Debbie is so nasty and vindictive, that no one mourns her death.

Show Debbie. I’m almost sick of fucking writing it – her evil is yet again dependent on the man she’s dating. Alcide loved her and she fell in with a bad crowd, yadda, yadda, yadda. Her evil isn’t because she’s rotten to the core and by her own design – no, she’s addicted to V and Cooter made her do it. For fucks sake. Not even evil villainous women can be truly evil – they’re just the creatures of men. God-fucking-damn you Alan Ball. You suck arse.

Callisto/Maryanne

Book Callisto wanders around the world, feeding on prideful people. She loves the violence of sex, the drunkenness. She’s a follower of the god Dionysius – and based in Greek tradition, the maenads would run around tearing off the genitals of men in their orgies. They symbolised the unbound natures of women who are uncontrolled by men. She rips her victims to pieces in the books, gorging on their blood. She leaves covered in blood and Sookie says she looks “full”.

Show Maryanne is a travesty. Yet another woman who’s just waiting around for a man. She doesn’t have any goal other than getting married to the “god who comes”. She builds him orgies for worship, she builds him meat trees and has nests full of eggs. She gets married in her white dress and her ceremony. Unlike the book maenad, who gets her tribute and thankfully leaves, Maryanne can’t go – she’s defeated by a couple of men. Well isn’t that fine and dandy. Good thing we’ve got fucking men around to deal with all our problems.

Hadley

Book Hadley is a girl who goes from Bon Temps to working her way into the affections of Sophie Anne. She’s the one who keeps Sophie Anne enthralled with tales of her cousin and her weird ability. The only time we see actual Hadley on page is in an ectoplasmic reconstruction, and she meets her death by design of Waldo. His jealousy of the Queen’s affection leads to her death.

Show Hadley is the quintessential victim. She’s glamoured, and she’s human. She’s frightened of everything, and just too stupid to understand what she’s done to her cousin.

Of all the characters in the books, the ones chosen to make it into the show are wholly weakened. They’re not exactly the nicest characters, but they got that way under their own steam. Conveniently absent are the strong and good female characters barring Gran – and I haven’t seen enough of some characters, like show Holly. There’s no Danielle, there’s no Indira, there’s no Belinda or Bethany – minor female characters who are not nasty and mean. There’s no Charlsie Tooten – absolutely every nice character is left out of the whole thing – rather than included. No..we’ve got to have the Mickens family, with the weak mother abandoning one child and allowing the other to be abused; we’ve got to have Lettie-Mae who will boink her preacher and make a fucking fool out of herself; the cheerleader being fucked in the back of a car in the Merlotte’s parking lot. Daphne, with her evil scheme and in servitude to Maryanne; and Amy being the woman who leads Jason down a bad path.

The only nice female character that’s included is Kenya – and I don’t think I’ve seen more than 10 minutes of screen time for her. I would have actually been interested in the romantic relationship that develops between Kenya and Kevin – the difficulties they have due to race. But no, we’re subjected to shit about Tommy, and Terry and Arlene’s relationship. Introducing new characters, when really, we only have the bare bones about Kenya and Kevin, and it could have made very effective television about interracial marriages in the South. But fuck that! Let’s have fucking dog fighting rings going on. What a waste.

Now, onto the men. While the female characters are made lesser than what they are in the books – leaving out the nice women and concentrating the weakness of all the characters, taking away the power of women, we find that not with the male characters. Most often, they’re made stronger and more formidable – they’re rarely bound by love for women – they don’t really fall prey to such silly emotions – or if they do – only in a good, empowering way. Usually, they’re fine upstanding citizens who spend half of their days saving the women from the bad men and then the women fangirl all over them.

Bill Compton

Book Bill is a quiet, unpolitical type. He is of course, the person assigned to bringing Sookie into accepting vampires, so that they can use her skills. Bill tends to be a rather overbearing boyfriend, making sure to bring Sookie up to his standards:

Bill had insisted that I needed to look “professional,” and after I’d said,
“Professional what?” he’d given me one of those looks.

Living Dead in Dallas,
p. 74

Bill is often overly concerned with how Sookie looks and behaves. But he’s not by any means a devil – they’re just not a suited couple. He really should date someone like Show Pam, who is into behaving, slavishly devoting herself to someone, and dressing correctly. It would save Book Bill a lot of time. Bill professes at times to wanting to be human again, but the truth is that when an opportunity comes to vamp-it-up, Bill is all over that puppy. He loves hunting and fighting, and will defend his right to do it.

Apart from that, Book Bill is really a pawn in the political games of others. He’s sent to Bon Temps by the Queen, merely because he has a descendant from Bon Temps, and she’ll be able to hide his intentions in that. While there with Sookie, he campaigns for a position as Investigator of Area Five to keep Eric off his – and by extension Sookie’s – backs. Book Bill isn’t really all that interested in power and politics himself – and but for Sookie would never have gotten involved. He’s often around to pick up the pieces when Sookie takes a beating for vampires, and gives her blood. However, Book Bill has only ever saved her from Jason’s attack; and the eight men in her living room who are waiting for her at the end of Club Dead.

Show Bill is still an overbearing boyfriend. I remember vividly the scene where he bites Maryanne and then demands Sookie give him her wrist and feed him her blood. If I was Sookie at that point, I would have booted his arse out of my car – and I wouldn’t have slowed down or stopped to do it. He also spends just about the same amount of time as in the books giving her the disapproving Dad routine and telling her off in the background of whatever she’s doing.

Show Bill may be presented as a pawn – but seemly he’s able to overcome all these political enemies with a flick of his wrist. If Eric breathes too far down his neck, Bill goes to the Queen. If the Queen breathes too far down his neck, he goes to Russell Edgington. He’s willing to knock off Pam, Eric and the Queen in pursuit of his goals. Bill is far more of a political game player than he ever was in the books – in the books, he gets involved by being forced by circumstance. Show Bill determines his own destiny and actually deliberately manoeuvres around the place.

Show Bill’s other part time job is saving Sookie. He somehow gets credit for “saving her” by wandering out into the sunlight when Rene attacks her; and he then goes on to save her from the Maenad, Jessica rampaging through her parents’ house, the Fellowship at the airport etc. This Bill is not a hypocrite – his actions match up to his words. When he says he wants to be kinder to humans, and so he is. In the books, Bill runs off to kill the Fellowship attackers, but in the show, he just gives them a stern talking to.

Show Bill has more control over his actions than ever before – Book Bill was the ultimate rock and a hard place guy – the guy with little or no political clout stuck between two vampires over a thousand years old over Sookie, with no choice but to follow orders. It is hard to sympathise with Show Bill because really, he chooses to be in these situations. Despite the fact that AB probably thinks he’s making Bill more sympathetic with the tripe that comes out of his mouth, he isn’t. But luckily, he’s made Sookie too stupid to even suspect manipulation.

One of the key things I hate about Show Bill is that he is entitled “The Queen’s Procurer”. I hate to read it in fanfic, and I think it’s a giant insult that not only is Sophie Anne a spendthrift shopaholic, but she’s so fucking far removed from anything, she has a man that goes out and hunts for delectable humans for her palate. She doesn’t deign to use her own eyes or sense of smell. This is yet another way to make her seem like a frivolous child. If Book Bill did this as his sole job in the books, then really, what a useless waste of space. Furthermore, Andre is the person about to detect fairy blood, so what the fuck does Bill do exactly? Ugh. I just hate it. It doesn’t say anything about Bill – but it says a lot about Sophie Anne.

Eric Northman

Book Eric is a perfect counterweight to Bill, because he is all about the politics. He develops interest in Sookie over time – it’s not as if it’s love at first sight. Slowly over time, he spends time around her and falls for her – and I’m working here with what happens in the first three books before his relationship with her – which, like the show doesn’t start until Season 4 and Book 4.

Eric is the cause of Sookie getting a lot of beatings on the behalf of vampires. He is the one to send her to Dallas, and he is the one to send her to Mississippi. He goes along, but like Bill, he really spends a lot of time picking up the pieces. When Sookie is staked, Eric is there not to save her from staking, but to get her treatment. When Sookie is beaten, Eric is there to pull the glass out of her arm. He actively saves her life from Longshadow, and from the Fellowship attack in Dallas, by lying on top of her while bullets are flying. Of course, his motivations are murky, because really, as CH says, Eric always has two reasons for doing everything. Assuming it’s luuuurve alone is short-sighted.

Show Eric is still political, but apparently, he’s also unconstrained by any actual limits – he can overthrow the Queen at any time, like when he has Russell around, and seemingly is more cunning than someone 2000 years his senior. Not only that, but most of the trouble he gets into politically is really at the hands of the Queen. If she didn’t have him selling vampire blood, Eric would be fine. But it’s obvious that it’s his choice to leave her as Queen, since he can clearly overpower her.

When Bill’s gone, Eric does Bill’s part time job – and saves Sookie. Which is good, because Show Sookie can’t find her arse with both hands. Show Eric isn’t actually the author of the situations Sookie gets into – he sends her to Dallas, but he doesn’t send her to Mississippi. Mostly he’s there to save her arse and protect her from herself. Eric is active in his evil or lack of – he’s not constructed through whoever he’s dating. Unlike all the women vampires above. And he doesn’t stand behind the Queen all night listening to her talk to people. That’s Pam’s special job. Ugh.

As I’ve discussed before, I hate the change in SVM fanfic from Appius to Godric. Godric would have created a monster, and this is a fatal flaw to include him because he’s sweet and easy to write.

Jason Stackhouse

Book Jason is flawed, often nasty and selfish. He’s not particularly bright, but he’s not completely stupid either. He’s a manwhore, and has an ego he desperately tries to feed. He’s too damn inconsiderate of his sister most often, and really only gets it together every so often – telling her she’s better off without Bill. Most of the time he mooches off Sookie – expecting money and food out of her. His character doesn’t really pick his act up until Sookie stops speaking to him in book 8 – and then he realises what he’s lost and comes good.

Show Jason is stupid, but kind hearted. He tries to do the level best he can for everyone – and is quite the likeable character. They’ve taken a guy who slapped his sister for inheriting Gran’s house, and made him the hero of Hotshot, and man for the underdog. Oh, and he actively goes and saves Sookie at the Fellowship. You just can’t have too many men saving Sookie. You can’t expect her to do it all herself. Only Book Sookie’s capable of that.

Hoyt Fortenberry

Book Hoyt is characterised by Sookie as a follower – he followed Jason’s lead for many years until the marriage with Crystal. Hoyt is a nice guy, if totally concerned with what’s going on with his mother.

Show Hoyt is a stand up honourable guy. If he’s following anyone, I can’t see it. No, he’ll protect his mother, and love his girlfriend, and he’ll tell people off. Show Hoyt has more strength to show as a character determining his own destiny – he’s not at the whim of his Mum or anyone else. He’s decisive.

Terry Bellefleur

Book Terry is a damaged Vietnam vet. He doesn’t like to be around people, and Sookie professes that she tries to keep out of Terry’s head because it’s very scary in there. Book Terry obviously suffers from a very bad case of PTSD – and it limits his life significantly.

Show Terry is apparently a less damaged Vietnam vet. He’s able to raise a family and an armadillo. Show Terry is a little weird, but nothing more than that. He’s able to become the man of the household, and is not haunted by demons in his head.

Russell Edgington

Book Russell is the image of the indolent King of Mississippi. He’s too busy with his mansion full of boys to take much notice that there are new people going in or out, including Eric and Sookie, looking for Bill.

Show Russell is however an extremely old vampire, mover and shaker in the world. He has plans for world domination.

It’s almost like they switched Russell for Sophie Anne. But that’s okay, cause chicks like shopping, right?

Steve Newlin

Book Steve is driven to hiding what he does with his church and has an active partner in the killing of vampires and fangbangers in his wife Sarah. He is often part of the attacks on vampires and fangbangers – the staking of Betty Jo and the abduction of Farrell.

Show Steve is driven to forming associations and training people to do his dirty work – even having little schools for his suicide bombers. He’s not just a fanatic – he’s a politician who never gets his hands dirty. He also calculatingly uses Sarah to fulfil the PR side of his job. Show Steve Newlin is a much more powerful villain because he has a political nous about him.

Sam Merlotte

Book Sam is a nice guy bar owner. In love with Sookie, he makes his move too late. Again, I’m going to focus on the first couple of books with him too. He’s often support for Sookie, but it’s not until later in the books he starts helping her out. He’s often the voice of caution about vampires – and constantly exhorts Sookie to stay away from them.

Show Sam is a man who can apparently, rob an ancient being and later fool her into getting killed. Because Bill and Eric sometimes like to sleep during the day, he pulls day shift on saving Sookie’s life. Like when Rene attacks her. Not only that, but Show Sam is shown taking revenge on women who betray him, and exhorts others to make their own destiny, just like he did.

Alcide Herveaux

Book Alcide is a nice man – but one very enthralled with Debbie Pelt. He knows she’s all kinds of bad, but blames it all on the power of witchcraft. CH says that that’s not the case – Alcide’s enthrallment with Debbie was all his doing. He gets paid half of his father’s construction business to take care of Sookie in Mississippi, and drops the ball when it actually comes time to care for her when she’s staked. Alcide is about as useful as tits on a bull, but he gets paid well for it.

Show Alcide still has the debt, and still the obsession with Debbie, but he actually does his job. He’s sort of forced by Sookie’s stupid scheme to getting Bill back, and rather than making a play for her, gives her gratis emotional counselling. Debbie’s obsessed with keeping Alcide, but so far, Alcide hasn’t fallen back in with her – I don’t know if that will change.

Alcide isn’t substantially changed from the books as of yet – but it’s not as if he’s had all his power sucked out like so many of the female characters. He seems to be much of the voice of reason to Stupid Show Sookie.

Some of the minor male characters that are featured in the show haven’t gotten a run-down here – like Lafayette or Rene Lenier – mainly because there is so little about Lafayette in the books that I can’t really compare and contrast well. We know a lot about how Lafayette died, but not a lot about how he lived the rest of his life. I don’t think that he was 24/7 all about the orgies. Rene is mostly on the periphery as well until his crazy made an appearance. For some, like Stan Davis, we don’t see enough of them on the show to get a reading on their personality either. And for Franklin Mott – he was an amalgamation of Book Mickey and Book Franklin. So I can’t really compare and contrast them while still in one degree territory.

For others, they don’t appreciably change. Calvin Norris is still leader of the Hotshot group, and his own master. Even though they’ve made him into a drug dealing, inbred crackhead, he’s still the leader of the rest of the drug dealing inbred crackheads. It’s not as if they put him on the bottom rung. They just made Hotshot some outpost of the movie Deliverance. Bud Dearborne is still Sheriff and his own master. Andy Bellefleur is still a police officer and his own master. It’s not as if they become weaker and get all of their power sucked out of them. The overwhelming trend is for male characters to have more control over their destiny, and more moral determination.

When there are male characters – brand new male characters introduced – they’re perfect leaders. Godric is apparently doubling as a fucking angel – compared to Godfrey who could have subbed for the devil. Just about the only faulty male character who’s introduced is Tommy Mickens who gets that way under his own steam.

But as you see – as I’ve mentioned in comments and elsewhere – all of the power is sucked out of the female characters from the books. It’s not as if the same thing has happened with the male characters – Hoyt is more of a mover and shaker than ever he was in the books, and so is Russell Edgington. The men are consistent, and it doesn’t matter who they date – they actively construct their lives and their own moral character.

What we see going on with Show Sookie is just the most obvious example of what happens to all of the female characters – there’s not a one who is actively controlling her own destiny or determining the way they want to go with their lives. It largely depends on who they date – and that means that all female characters are constructed through the prism of male characters.

It’s not really about if they’re nice people – it’s about if they’re discrete characters with their own thoughts and wishes – determining the direction of their lives. None of the SVM characters are particularly saintly or nice – they’re complex and interesting, but not generically nice. But at least in the books, when women get their evil on, it’s their decision, and not contingent on what a man wants, or transference from whoever they’re dating. When Book Debbie Pelt tries to kill Sookie, she doesn’t puss out and say that V is to blame. It’s all on her. I don’t require her to be nice – in the books and the show she isn’t. But Debbie has more of a say over what kind of person she is in the books than she does on the show. Debbie cannot be redeemed by fucking someone new and thus changing her ways.

But whatever their actions in the books, they can actually take ownership and responsibility for them. They are not victims of the men in their lives, and they’re not the foil for male characters to keep under control, and they don’t stand in the background waiting for orders. The bad things – and the good things – they do are all up to the women themselves. They don’t have anyone else who can take responsibility. Men are not their caretakers unless they choose. In True Blood, this is not the case. The women have their power and responsibility turned over to the nearest man, and he’ll decide their fate. Meanwhile, they can get going with the business of who best to fall in love with/align with/follow so that they can finally become the sub-character of the man they choose and hope he chooses them.

Advertisements