The Hard Bite

I was watching this documentary last night that sparked some thoughts.  This is sort of more the philosophical underpinnings of why I think a particular way. Those of us into ethics/philosophy/academia love these sorts of things. If you don’t, pass on by. 😀 This is just to exorcise this particular demon from my brain because it’s blocking me writing on something else. Oh, and before I forget, it seems to me that I’m often thinking something, and end up wanting to make a pictorial illustration of it, so I made a tumblr for those pictures,  so I don’t spam my own journal. I don’t intend to pingback to Twitter and spam the shit out of my followers though, since I hate that when people do it to me. But it’s a place to put things like the pictures I’m going to put in this post, as well as banners, and maybe even desktop pictures I make for myself. I’m not going to be blogging and reblogging pictures – Flickr just wanted too much bullshit from me, and this is the easiest way to create a huge cohesive gallery.

So, I was thinking about this passage:

“You are being a hypocrite, and I will take blood,” he said, and he
struck. It hurt. He didn’t make it feel good, an action almost automatic
for a vampire. Tears ran down my face without my wanting them to.
In an odd way, I felt the pain was merited, justified – but I also
understood this was a turning point in our relationship.

Eric twitched, and I knew he’d heard Bill, knew Eric
realized he should stop. But he didn’t.
I shook myself free of the lethargy and self-loathing, grabbed hold of
Eric’s earlobe, and pinched as hard as I could.

Eric bent down to kiss me, but I flinched. Not with that bloody mouth.
Dead Reckoning, p. 301

It’s probably one of the most controversial events in the book. Eric has been dubbed out of character for this, but as I pointed out, he’s really not, because Eric can be and has been a right royal prick at times. Where Eric isn’t pronounced out of character for hurting his wife and making her cry, Sookie is seen as “deserving” of this. As I’ve discussed before, that’s not really acceptable to me.

Most of the time when it’s brought up, there seems to be a variety of excuses for Eric – Sookie deserved it, Sookie asked for it, Eric didn’t know what he was doing, the character’s inventor doesn’t know the character as well as fangirls do, or that it doesn’t matter and is a complete non-issue. I don’t think, apart from at Bill fangirls headquarters, there’s a lot of condemnation of Eric that I’ve seen – it’s mostly condemnation of the victim, who wasn’t in control of how hard a bite is. Eric instead is turned into the victim of Sookie and her evil scheme not to want to celebrate dead bodies.

Of course, when I visualise Eric hurting Sookie like this, I find it nigh on impossible to see him as the victim in all this. He was the one who gauged how hard to make his bite, he was the one who needed blood – from a woman who’d just been fighting to help them both. He was tthe one who continued in the face of Sookie crying and Bill’s careful disapproval, and his own realisation he should have stopped. Moreover, looking at this comparison of their book heights, Eric seems a completely unreasonable prick:

Eric is so much bigger than Sookie – she’s 5’6″ and he’s 6’4″/5″. Not to mention that he was turned at the prime of life (that she has physically aged past) – with no injuries, and was a warrior. Add to that he’s a thousand year old vampire, and this comparison of heights doesn’t really give the full picture of who exactly has the physical power to wound who here.Yet Eric is the one who is constructed as a victim – and Sookie is at fault. Despite the decisions made on Eric’s behalf, Sookie is seen calling that on herself. I know why it’s done – the construction of “victim” is one that people like to put fault on the victim for – so that they feel as if they have some control. The reason why Reader X hasn’t been tortured for example, is not because no outside person decided not to abduct and torture them, but rather because “Stupid Sookie” took her eye off her porch, and wasn’t looking where she was going. That makes Reader X smart by default, rather than lucky thanks to circumstance. It’s constructed in a way that both Reader X and Sookie are responsible for what happens to them, and it is Reader X who is the winner by dint that they haven’t been tortured. Reader X feels superior to Sookie – smarter than her – for having grown up in a free society where little torture goes on.Same with this scenario – Sookie is constructed as being at fault for the violence done to her. Now, I can understand that that is furthered by Sookie saying that she feels it’s merited and justified, but that doesn’t make Sookie absolutely right in her feelings. If Sookie were feeling suicidal, and decided that she “deserved” to die for her crimes, only those profound Sookie haters would agree – and only if it’d make Eric happy. If Eric wants her, and he might mourn for a couple of minutes, the Sookie haters will hope she doesn’t die. Yet in this situation, Sookie is taken at her word – that she feels at fault and thus is considered unequivocally to be at fault.

I think this is one of the real difficulties of first person POV – that while Sookie might say something straight out on the page, that doesn’t mean that an objective eye can’t look at her narration and come to a different conclusion. A fair portion of readers don’t seem to critique what they read, or how they think about what they read. If Sookie says it’s merited, then by golly, it’s fucking merited. Bitch deserved it. There’s a great swathe of people ready to blame her for any and all problems – and wonder when she’s going to help Eric get over what happened to her and apologise for thinking. They’ll critique Sookie’s thoughts and the way she constructs her feelings when it’s for Eric’s benefit, but not for Sookie’s wellbeing.

In this case, there’s a confluence of mutual interest – those E/S shippers who don’t want them to break up, the people who don’t read well, the people who don’t critique what they read, the people who hate Sookie no matter what, and the people who just want to find any way they can to hack into the author (CH can’t write Eric, AB got to CH, CH don’t know Eric like I know him, CH doesn’t know what she’s doing) and finally, those who just want to smooth it over as if it’s nothing, because they can’t deal with uncomfortable subjects or it mucks up their fanfic.

I doubt any of those people have really tried or wanted to try grasping the difference in power dynamics in part illustrated by the height differences picture. I’m sure that they would just skim right past that one. It doesn’t suit the world view wherein Sookie’s clearly to blame because she doesn’t want to celebrate dead bodies she helped plan, because the reality horrifies her.

For me, it’s encapsulated in the power differences between the two – Eric has the power and will to hurt Sookie, and that’s just what he did. I don’t intend to lay any part of the blame for that at Sookie’s door no matter how justified she thinks Eric is. Because I don’t think he has a right to physically hurt Sookie because she won’t go along with his plan to have a good dry-hump session right then and there, and leap for joy. I don’t think Eric has a right to expect that everything will go his way, and the then explicit right to punish Sookie if it doesn’t, because she’s disagreeing with his mental standpoint.

I can’t support that when I extrapolate out where that reasoning ends. Under the “if one won’t go along with the other, force is fine” I could completely be on Bill’s side over the trunk rape – Sookie wouldn’t fuck him, and he needed it, so he was totally right to rape her. And I’m definitely not likely to say anything like that. So too Mickey is totally fine in attempting to rape Sookie, because she just wouldn’t go along with his ideas with fair and adequate warning he wanted to kill Tara. That’s where I end up if I generally adopt the rule that forcing is okay if asking or expectation it’ll go your way doesn’t work.

Part of the mechanism for being fair to all of the suitors for me is applying rules equally. If Eric can’t control Andre, then I don’t expect Bill to control Sophie Anne, in the matter how that impacts Sookie’s life. I’m not going to hold Bill to a tougher standard, wherein he resists the Queen’s plan, but not require Eric to constantly conquer his own ruler. If Bill’s not allowed to force Sookie when she says no to his asking her, that means that Eric doesn’t get a free pass on that sort of behaviour either, by dint of not being Bill. That’s where unequal treatment springs from, and why Bill has to be demonised for hurting Sookie, but Eric can’t be (or the reversal of that at BillBabe forums). I try not to do that in trying to be a little more objective about it.

If I do apply a less objective interpretation of rules, it’s in Sookie’s favour, because she hasn’t inflicted the majority of hurt on the guys and she’s been their victim. She gets special consideration for strangling Bill, because she was just twenty minutes previously raped and drained by Bill. In that case, it was Bill who actively hurt her – so she gets special dispensation due to extreme circumstances. In the case of the hard bite, Sookie hadn’t raped or drained Eric – she’d fought on his side and helped him out. In both cases, Bill and Eric were completely in control of whether they were there for their treatment. Bill could have stopped Sookie from strangling him, merely by being there one minute, gone the next. Eric could have stayed celebrating with Pam. Sookie had no such advantages to where she could go while she had fangs stuck in her by either aggressors. Eric could have found someone else to feed on, or could have not made a deliberate effort to hurt his wife. He wasn’t actually required to feed on her as if she were the last human in the world.

The other part to the general argument is that Sookie went ahead and killed Victor – helping in the planning, wanting to be there, engaging with it fully, yet in the aftermath of what was done, she’s not so gung-ho on the Kill Victor sitch. That therefore, she is deserving of whatever treatment Eric wants to dish up, because she has no follow through.

I was thinking about the idea of no follow through – and how one would apply that rule equally to Sookie – that if she likes an idea before she sees it carried out, she is morally bound to see it through even if it elicits different feelings; and then to apply that same rule to everyone else. I think lots of readers who advocate Sookie should see an idea carried out haven’t really thought that one through – both because so few have seen dead bodies, so few have created their own dead bodies, so few have been in fights, and because they think differently about themselves than they do about the rules Sookie has to follow. It’s a case of do as I say, not as I do.

I would argue that there is a whole bunch of people who similarly don’t have follow through on lots of ideas they thought were a good idea. They rarely force themselves to see it through – and I wanted to make a visual comparison:

As an aside – looking for “Eric True Blood” on Google brings up heaps of images of a clean looking Eric – but looking for “Eric True Blood Mouth” brings up considerably fewer. It seems to me that Eric with blood all over his face isn’t considered sexy by the majority of his fangirls and posted all over the web as “hawt”, yet Sookie is expected to love that big glob of congealed blood he’s got going in the corner of his mouth and give him some quality tongue time cause he’s happy. Askars fangirl pictures are usually with him clean and shining, not covered in chunks of stuff and blood. It’s constructed as “funny” most of the time, rather than “hawt”.

But of course, the picture is about ideas that people have that are not constructed as ideas that one should always follow through. Many of the people who eat chicken or cows would not be so cool with having to go into a slaughter house, douse said chicken in hot water and get to plucking and gutting – they’d rather be hypocritical about that (by their own definition). They don’t want to get their hands dirty when they want some chicken salad, or some gravy, or some eggs – they want to do the clean stuff.

It doesn’t just apply to those who eat meat – rarely does the vegan get out there and grow everything themselves. They want to conveniently buy it from a shop. Nor does the car driver want to get involved in mining or the resulting oil spills, or the person wearing blood diamonds want to take responsibility for the people who were mutilated to bring the customer said diamonds at a cut rate price. Most people don’t really have complete follow through on their actions or unintended consequences – they pick and choose what they want to participate in from the point of view of what’s easier on them. Could merely reading those articles, and not knowing how it affected others then make someone a hypocrite if they weren’t willing to go up to dead dolphins or maimed humans and take responsibility? Should those consumers have to bury the bodies of the dolphins, or help that guy make dinner because these were the consequences of doing those things? Few would say yes.

If one argues that if Sookie has an idea, she’s bound to follow through and deal with the consequences, then why is it that the same readers haven’t taken a trip to Africa or Louisiana this year to apologise and pitch in with the consequences of their actions? I think it’s because it’s easy to say that if you have an idea, you should follow it through out of etiquette, but in a global first world country you don’t really have much of a choice as to whether you participate. You can minimalise your impact, but you can’t pull out all together. Nor do people bother to find out what every single ramification of an action is. Before you ask – we don’t own a car –  we take public transport always (much to my chagrin, there’s rarely an option for “zero” miles you’ve driven this year on environmental impact quizzes sending what I think is an oppositional message about public transport), and I don’t buy diamonds.

So too with terrorism – or the fight against terrorism. Few people too want to actually be held accountable for the incidents at Abu Ghraib – they’d rather eschew that and say that’s not what they meant when they said that they wanted to stop terrorism. I daresay if one of these people who construct Sookie as “hypocritical” was asked to waterboard someone, they’d baulk at that as well, but they’re happy with the resulting information to stop terrorism. Few want to discard the advantage of that information – they want to nominally condemn waterboarding, and still use the information to protect people from terrorism.

What about something that has consequences that one can anticipate, like say a break-up of a relationship. Lots of people regret breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend – even though they knew the consequences of that break-up – that they wouldn’t be with the other person any more. Few people try to cheer someone up after a break-up – even a break-up they masterminded – with ideas that this is the rich reward for what they did. And fuck them if they regret their actions.

Yet, there is a huge meme going through fanfic in particular – one of Sookie (it’s almost always Sookie) breaking up with Eric, and then regretting her actions. No one advocates that she should just live with the consequences, and go for a HEA without trying to grovel on her knees to Eric, and having them with others. This is seen as just fine if she begs him for another chance – to ‘take back’ her actions and pay for them. The narrative is purposely designed to make her feel complete and total regret, and be at fault for 99.9% of what went wrong in the first place. Indeed, in the rare .1% where Eric breaks up with Sookie, people feel sorry for him, even though this was the consequence of his action of breaking up with Sookie. No one ever feels sorry for Sookie of course – they stick to telling her “She’ll be sorry” and such, and how she drew the failure of the relationship down on herself, and how she should have crawled on her knees a little more.

I’m fine with Sookie feeling regret at her situation. Even though she planned it, even though she’s seen what death looks like. I know there are times when I have to put down what I’m doing and don’t like it very much – both personally and professionally. Sure, I can tough it out, but I don’t have to be overjoyed about it – I should be able to be as real as possible. I rarely look at my criminological work and think “Well, you need to read about how they raped that 11 year old in intimate detail because you chose this” – if I want to put it down, I feel free to regret that – I don’t need to dance around and celebrate my choice of profession.

Nor do I celebrate when my eldest goes in for surgery. Yep, I chose to have him, but that doesn’t mean that I have to be gung-ho about every piece of surgery that he goes through – I can be worried, and I can not want it even if I go ahead and sign him up. I’ll support him by being there and helping him out, but I don’t have to make out it’s my dearest happy wish, despite signing the consent forms and opting into the surgery.  It doesn’t have to be logical because it’s based on feelings, and I feel entitled to hating both of those personal and professional moments – completely and totally.

In this way, I try to apply the rules for myself to Sookie – how far I would hold myself accountable for the same sorts of actions. I find it difficult, since I’m about Sookie’s height (she’s half an inch taller) to see Eric as the misunderstood victim of her not being happy, and Sookie deserving of his harsh treatment. I would probably find her a lot more alien if she did dance around and kiss Eric with Victor’s blood in his mouth. I suspect she’d catch hell for being willing to kiss Eric and celebrate those deaths – I’ve yet to read her doing a Tom Cruise on the couch scene rewrite of that bit of the book. She’s really just forced to apologise for who and what she is – because she’s different, and she doesn’t go along with everything Eric wants.

I find it difficult too to cheer Eric on for hurting Sookie – or just ignoring as if it doesn’t matter. I think it’s included for good reasons, and cohesive reasons, and I’m not going to make out that it ultimately doesn’t matter if Eric casually hurts Sookie.  After all, I give equal consideration to both Eric and Sookie’s histories of sexual abuse. I don’t completely ignore his and the impact it has on his actions, while focusing on feeling sorry for Sookie only. But I do know that I’m the rare animal in that as well. All kinds of allowances are made for Eric’s history of powerlessness – and it’s often used as a justification as to why it’s okay for Eric to rob Sookie of power and make decisions on her behalf.

So that’s my thinking and reasoning (with pictures) on the hard bite – because I’ve covered it over a few posts in dribs and drabs, but I wanted to disgorge it all here so I could get my mind off it. This wasn’t really part of the scheduled programming. 😀 I’m not demanding that Sookie have nothing to do with Eric because of it, but I don’t like to think of it as an inconsequential nothing. The hard bite was designed to hurt Sookie, and it worked – she got hurt. In my eyes, Eric is wholly accountable for it.