Mainstreaming Mainly Mocked

This is one I see popping up into SVM sometimes, from the retardation that is True Blood. The idea that Eric Northman is not a proponent of mainstreaming, and refuses to do any mainstreaming whatsoever. I have some quotes, and some logic to go with that one. It’s really an illogical idea that Eric would come out only to want to be back in the coffin again, or that he’s opposed to mainstreaming.

In the show at least, it’s used as an easy device to show why it’s a bad idea for vampires and humans to date – because they have opposing goals and viewpoints. Vampires are only playing the part in the media, and the reality is something altogether different – they just can’t stop themselves from killing, and that makes them bad boyfriends (that Sookie inexplicably wants to date anyway). In the books, CH has used a different device by showing how vampires screw up a human’s life by getting them killed, and not being able to be the full partner to a human (dead in the daytime, killer colleagues and other fun boyfriend deficits). The whole media thing exists in the books, but that’s not why everyone tells Sookie not to date vampires – she’s well aware the PR is a lie.

But, we all know that the logic is not high in the writing room at True Blood. The logic is as follows – vampires lied to everyone about liking TrueBlood and now are forced to subject themselves to it to make humans happy – why, I don’t know, because they don’t like or respect humans at all. They believe having anything socially to do with humans is a complete embarrassment. The logic is apparently that vampires came out of the coffin to let us appreciate their magnificence, and don’t intend to have anything to do with us but take our money. Why they need human money when they could make vampire money (superior natch) is beyond me. Why they didn’t stay in the coffin is also beyond me. Then they could eat humans, and not have to be overwhelmingly shamed that they happen to be seen in the vicinity of a human when not actually feeding and fucking.

The truth is that the concept is undermined in the show. I just saw Season 4, Episode 1 this week, and surprisingly enough, it was Pam who pissed me off the most, with her complete and utter lack of logic – something we don’t see from Book Pam. In that episode, Pam makes fun of Jessica for trying to stick to human values like monogamy and living with a human; as well as shows complete contempt for trying to perform public relations – and the professed value previously that humans are worthless bloodbags etc. etc. This is the Pam slavishly following human fashion trends, living in a house, wanting equal citizenship with humans, and owning a bar for humans. You know – the Pam living a lifestyle similar to a human one. You can see in AH fanfic, just about the only thing that separates vampire Pam from human Pam is the drinking of blood and the fangs. So thanks, Alan, for making Pam a hypocritical shallow douchebag.

Book Pam might call the patrons of the bar vermin, and she might tow the Vampires First line, but Book Pam doesn’t see human society as without value. Yet, it bleeds into SVM as if it was part of what comes from the books, when in fact it comes from the show…you know – the one everyone complains about how much it sucks.

Oh, and because I mentioned it in comments for another post, no, I don’t think King Beehl is the stupidest thing the show has to offer. It’s at least consistent with the narrative that vampires like Eric and Pam hate interacting with humans – one half of the equation anyway – even if it makes Eric and Pam look like hypocritical douchebags with their bar for human tourists. Bill’s job as King seems to involve a lot of schmoozing – and if Eric and Pam don’t want to do that, then they get placed at the bottom of the pile and be told what to do. You don’t want to play the political game, then you don’t play it – but you don’t get pronounced King so you can behave like Russell in the post-Russell Edgington world.

So firstly, what does mainstreaming mean? That’ll help in debunking this myth:

“I haven’t seen you in a few months,” she said to him, her voice as
cool and sweet as his could be.
“I’m mainstreaming,” he explained, and she nodded.
“What were you telling her?” I whispered as we walked down the short
hall and through the red double doors into the main room.
“That I’m trying to live among humans.”

Dead Until Dark, p. 101

That’s what it means to mainstream – to live among humans. That means that every single vampire who lives among humans is “mainstreaming” – that includes Eric, who owns a bar for humans, Pam who co-owns that bar, Bill who lives in a human house and owns human businesses, Sophie-Anne who has a city block to herself and a public presence in New Orleans; and almost every other vampire that we meet – and certainly the ones that readers like – they’re all  mainstreaming.

Mainstreaming seems to mean acting completely like a human on the show – which doesn’t make any sense. Because obviously, Bill doesn’t have steak and veggies for dinner, so how the hell he is acting like a human I don’t know. Apparently, it’s only contemptible human activities, like recycling and loving people. You know – stuff that inexplicably makes you weak enough to be proclaimed King. As I’ve said – the logic – she is not high.

But in the books, mainstreaming actually means something – it means that vampires are living in human society. There’s no hierarchy of acceptable behaviours, with someone looking over your shoulder as to which ones they are – it’s just if you live in the human world, you live in the human world. It’s not as if you’re forced to interact with humans or live alongside them – vampires have been hiding from humans for a while. Mainstreaming involves an active change – one where you get records about you and such. It’s not something you just do because you have no alternative choice.

You have to actively go out and get some identification that has your vampire age on it. You have to actively go out and start a business and buy a house with your own money under your own name. If you do that, you are a mainstreaming vampire, but it’s not as if vampires have that stuff from birth. Even us humans have to go to a bit of trouble to get registered as a citizen, through birth certificates and such – vampires don’t have that, and if they don’t, then they can’t enter our economy on their own – they need a human proxy to do it. But it’s much more likely that a non-mainstreaming vampire would just steal stuff if they don’t intend to come out.

Not only that, but there’s a purpose as to why most of the vampires in the books are mainstreaming – that’s why we read about them interacting with Sookie:

But in return for that safety, I was still obligated to show up when I was summoned,
and put my telepathy to use for them. Milder measures than their former choices
(torture and terror) were what “mainstreaming” vampires needed.

Living Dead in Dallas, p. 23

See? Every single vampire that wants Sookie for their telepath is mainstreaming. They’re the ones who don’t use torture and terror to get what they want. They live alongside humans, so they can’t just kill people at random – it’s far too hard to hide a whole heap of bodies, and truly, if enough people who work for vampires go conveniently “missing” then the authorities are going to know that something is going on. Before vampires came out of the coffin, and those that want to stay secret – they don’t care about how many bodies show up in their vicinity. Why would they care if it makes vampires look like dangerous killers who should be hunted and killed? They’re already hunted and killed because they’re dangerous killers – hence the myths about how to detect and kill a vamp.

It is only those who are trying to look socially acceptable that would trade torture for a telepath. After all, if you can kill one human who works for you – the culprit, then you can leave your other ten employees alive. One waitress – particularly one who works for a vampire bar – going missing is understandable. Ten waitresses and your accountant going missing is going to be noticed. However, if you’re not a mainstreaming vampire, you just don’t have ten waitresses – you have the victim you eat tonight, and the victim of petty crime that you ‘disappear’ (read torture and kill) because you want a change of outfit and a bit of recreation. You don’t need to worry about any connections from you to missing humans – you’re not mainstreaming, you’re off the radar.

We do hear about non-mainstreaming vampires – Bill interviews and catalogues them for his database:

“You’ve told me that some vamps don’t want to come out, that
they want to stay in the darkness and hunt secretly.”

Club Dead, p. 242

These are the ones who aren’t in the human society – they’re hunting and sticking to the old ways. They sleep in crypts, and stay away from human interaction – the old ways. They don’t have anything to do with humans unless it’s to feed or steal their stuff. They don’t even own houses – they sleep in common areas that don’t require invitations. They certainly don’t have any need for a telepath. They use torture and terror. They sleep in crypts, so the odds that they have a bar they need to run? Yeah, sure. They don’t really interact with humans – they’re not the mainstreaming vampires – so they don’t have any need for interacting with humans. Mainstreaming vampires use money to get what they want – they don’t kill some guy and take his clothes and jewellery – they use money to buy their own. Non-mainstreaming vampires live in the shadows – they don’t visit the shops, unless it’s to break in one night for something they want.

We meet a vampire who holds to the old ways of course – Appius:

“I think you are used to knowing vampires who are trying to…mainstream.
Master, he is not trying to do this. He is much happier in the shadows.”

Dead in the Family, p. 170

The guy who has the clothes on his back and that’s it. The one that roams around in the shadows keeping it secret that he turned Alexei. Mainstreaming vampires would probably end up killing Alexei merely for the absolute disaster he is in public relations. Not only is he delusional and stabby, but just the fact that he was turned – that’s a nightmare. After all, gotten hold of by the media, that would be the tale about how the vampires fomented the downfall of the Russian royal family. On top of that, the fact that he’s been the sexual slave of a guy like Appius – oh, that’s a freaking nightmare. Headlines to read “VAMPIRE PAEDOPHILE ENSLAVES PRINCE”. So Appius really has no choice – he can’t be on the radar, with his fully registered child.

Sookie points out just how unfamiliar some stuff is for a vampire that lives in the shadows:

Alexei was looking around the kitchen as if he seldom saw one.
I figured that was probably true.

Dead in the Family, p. 171

So those vampires that are familiar with the urban kitchen – they’re all mainstreaming vampires. This is what makes Show Pam seem like a frivolous and idiotic girl. She’s familiar with all manner of human things, like kitchens. If she truly wasn’t mainstreaming, she wouldn’t just be sneering at Bill for having TrueBlood – she’d be out of her fashionable clothes, out of her bar, in a crypt somewhere. True contempt for humans and human values should actually extend to inconveniencing her lazy arse, not just eschewing TrueBlood.

Of course, that’s how it turns up in fanfic – that mainstreaming just means that TrueBlood is absolutely disgusting and no self-respecting vampire drinks it. Despite humans using artificial blood for years now and it saving lives it’s not good enough for the delicate palate of bloodsuckers. Give me a break. It does not taste like shit, and vampires are not total idiots to come out of the coffin so they can subject themselves to something they hate with a passion. We humans have been using it for years to save people, and to augment real blood supplies. That’s what gave CH the spark to write the first book – the advent of synthetic blood in the real life medical world. The problem is not in fact with taste for vampires – it’s sensation. The difference in the books is the visceral pleasure that vampires derive from biting someone:

As far as I could tell, drinking synthetic blood was exactly like drinking real
blood. Bill had always enjoyed it, though he’d remarked more than once that
flavor wasn’t the thing; it was the sensation of biting into flesh, feeling the
heartbeat of the human, that made being a vampire fun.
Glugging out of a bottle just didn’t do the trick.

All Together Dead, p. 77

Imagine if you could have your favourite meal – in pill form or on a plate. They taste the same. Which would you pick? Most people would not pick the pill form. They want the pleasure of the texture of the food – the pleasure of eating it and knowing what’s going on, even if it is really the slow way to do it. Vampires are no different with TrueBlood. They want to take blood from humans for the pleasure of biting into prey. It’s got nothing to do with taste and all to do with whether it’s better to hunt and kill, or drink from a bottle, which has no heartbeat.

Some of the vampires complain about the fact that they prey now willingly offers themselves too – Melanie at the Queen’s palace wanted someone to hunt. But she can’t go and hunt for every meal – she’s a mainstreaming vampire. I’m sure that on occasion vampires like to go out hunting as a break from it all, and to get back to their roots. Sookie can get Eric’s motor revving by offering to let him chase her. I dare say that that’s like a treat – the equivalent of dessert at the end of the meal – not always required, but a nice treat. Good God, I am so glad I have cheesecake, and not blood vs. blood. But most of the time, vampires have TrueBlood – not dessert with every single meal.

But just to put paid to that idea, let me also point out two of the many instances of Eric drinking from a bottle of TrueBlood in the books, of his own accord in his own bar:

Eric took a swallow of synthetic blood, leaned back in his chair,
and looked at me with unreadable blue eyes.

Dead as a Doornail, p. 31
He was drinking some TrueBlood and talking to Clancy,
who ranked under Pam, I thought.

Dead and Gone, p. 84

There he is, drinking TrueBlood, because he wants to. Drinking and eating are very social things to do, while biting someone’s neck is not particularly social. It makes sense that there is more freedom in drinking out of a bottle and being able to talk to people and do other things without making everyone uncomfortable and showing how different you are. I mean, there’s no talking to Clancy while you’re eating a fangbanger, and Sookie sure as hell wouldn’t sit there chatting to an obviously busy Eric.

Eric drinks synthetic blood at the orgy, in the car waiting for Sookie to finish dinner with Niall, and copious bottles of it at Sookie’s house and Sookie’s expense. Sookie hasn’t got much money, and TrueBlood is expensive – so if Eric is taking it and not needing to drink it, he’s costing Sookie a hell of a lot of money for the sake of what? Manners? The same manners he uses on the phone or in person – the ones he doesn’t have? Pam delivers it to his house – the one where he can eat whatever he likes. There are plenty of instances of Eric drinking TrueBlood of his own accord.

Eric might make a face when it’s human or TrueBlood, but otherwise it doesn’t seem to faze him. Eric limits the amount that he bites Sookie after her torture – but that’s out of consideration no doubt that she spent some time in a shack in Arkansas being bitten by two fairies. While I don’t believe he’s surviving solely on TrueBlood, as I’ve discussed before, he doesn’t feel the need to eat a human at every single meal. Not only that, but he’s also concerned with how things might seem to humans as well – hiding the bad behaviour of vampires killing as I’ve discussed before – and smoothing over the transition for mainstreaming vampires.

So as you see, Eric from the books is a mainstreaming vampire – he’s concerned with how it makes vampires look to be killing and beating human women at random, he’s concerned with making sure to hide the dodgy dealings. He has a house with a kitchen, and a bar that caters to humans. He pays taxes and all these other human things. His absolute favourite food might be Sookie, but he doesn’t live in a crypt and hunt his dinner every night. He owns stuff. He lives right alongside humans, and he uses a telepath rather than resorting to torture. And I’m pretty sure he’s asked Sookie – a human – to live with him a few times now. It’s not about being human, it’s about living alongside humans and sharing in their society – and for that, Eric is the poster child of the mainstreaming vampire.