What’s a Stevedore?

A bit of housekeeping, since I know it’s important to people hereabouts. I made the first post that started a lot of this debate, all about women and violence and how it’s acceptable in the community. You should read this rant and then refer people elsewhere. A group that uses such a thing to get popular support and then deliberately elects by panel to award the very problem they say is serious, without the original fic being elected for any awards by the chat room group vote is completely disingenuous. We should all go elsewhere. It’s either important, or it’s fucking not. Don’t say it is, and then insert the fic you want to reward.

Another bit of housekeeping – it’ll probably be a while until I do another big post – I want to go through and tag my posts to make searching easier – putting “Eric” or something on posts so people can find them. WordPress tells me I have 101 (now 102) posts, so this shit is getting huge. Every so often I get people asking if I’ve covered a particular issue, so I’m going to try to address that with tags, so they’re easier to find. You’ll be able to click on a tag that says “Gift Wrap” or something, and it’ll bring up the posts that deal with “Gift Wrap”. So only baby posts, and only if I feel the need until that’s done.  On with the show.

I know it’s probably a bit shameful, but I take refuge in the fact that I beat Eric. I just recently watched Gone with the Wind. And I only made it through because I know a lot of people draw similarities between Rhett and Scarlett and Sookie and Eric. This is then used to draw the conclusion that the books will end like Gone with the Wind, with Eric finally leaving Sookie, with the line about not giving a damn. You can find nasty readers cackling about that, when Sookie will get her comeuppance.

A favourite movie doesn’t mean that that’s how your life with end up. I’m pretty sure my husband isn’t going to become Lord Summerisle and burn some poor Christian to death. He hasn’t even started building his Wicker Man. Favourite movies of the characters and pop culture references don’t actually mean that the character in a book is bound to live by the outcome. Unless people are suggesting that Sookie’s recent love of Jeopardy means that the ending of the book is going to be as so:

I thought about my surprise at what had happened over my life. I had won. I was
still alive. You could have knocked me down with a feather when Alex Trebek
walked out of the woods and told me I could keep my winnings and come back
to defend next time round to two new challengers. The end.

Deadbeat Bullshit, p. 310

There are plenty of popular culture references in the text like Jeopardy and Gone with the Wind. That doesn’t mean that just because it’s referenced that the ending is somehow foreshadowed. Everyone loves to quote this phrase:

“Rhett and Scarlet,” I said.
“I don’t understand,” Eric told me.

Club Dead, p. 178

But they forget the reference to the The Rime of the Ancient Mariner just a couple of paragraphs previously:

“Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” I said and Eric laughed out loud.
Club Dead, p. 177

All this emphasis on Gone with the Wind, and none on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? I don’t know what people are seeing when they see this – but I’m not seeing these huge parallels that others see.

For a start, Sookie is absolutely nothing like Scarlett. Scarlett is spiteful, selfish, will do anything for attention. How that’s similar to Sookie is beyond me. Oh, I know that Sookie haters would turn that time she carelessly dated Quinn into some way that Sookie hurt Eric because he was all angsty, but I’m working on the premise of pro-choice – Sookie owns her body, and is not obligated to save it or give it to Eric when he feels bad. I’m startlingly modern like that – I think Sookie gets to decide who she dates, not ask the last guy who fucked her and forgot all about it. I feel sorry for all those chicks out there who get burned asking their ex-boyfriends if it’s okay to date again, and if he’s finished with her.

I can’t see Scarlett chucking herself out of a window riding on a coffin to save anybody. Nor can I see Scarlett fighting off two drainers in a parking lot to save a stranger’s life. I see Scarlett doing the selfish thing and staying inside – not caring how big the attrition rates get from her actions. Scarlett tries to flaunt social rules, and bend them for the sake of her own selfish desires – and gets hated for that by other women. As I’ve spoken about before, Sookie follows the rules and is a little lost without them.

There are some similarities between Rhett and Eric – but not a substantial amount. Eric might be a vampire – but he has a good reputation as a vampire. He’s renowned for being a good boss, he has a way with the ladies. Rhett takes a special joy in being perverse, and he is bitter about things that have happened in the past. One of the most likeable things about Eric is that he’s not bitter – despite having a whole lot more to be bitter about. The other way he’s similar to Rhett is wanting to hurt Sookie when Sookie hurts him. Like Rhett chucking Scarlett down the stairs, Eric bites Sookie hard because she hurt his feelings.

But they certainly don’t have what Rhett claims is his primary argument for a relationship with Scarlett. Rhett says that he and Scarlett are similar over and over – saying that they are the same sorts of people. Notably calling them both “selfish and shrewd”. That’s the case with Eric, for sure, but that’s not where he connects with Sookie. How can one of their connections – over her saving his arse from torture by Sigebert – be seen as selfish or shrewd. I’m pretty sure that Sookie gets chanted at by readers for being stupid with her safety (excepting when it’s Eric).

Rhett spends quite a bit of time trying to get Scarlett to ignore propriety, and looks for her to say anything positive about him. This is one parallel that’s almost always drawn – that Sookie says nasty stuff to Eric all the time and she always has a go at him, and isn’t nice enough. She’s never grateful, and she’s always mean as hell to him. How this is negative things she says about Eric is beyond me – because there’s some selective reading about the woman who apparently refuses a kind word to Eric, and forgive the list – I picked one from every book, barring the first, and this is in no way exhaustive:

Eric, I appreciate your offering to help me, and I appreciate your willingness
to come to an awful place like this.

Living Dead in Dallas, p. 260

Thank you, Eric….For standing by me in the club. For coming here with me. For
not leaving me alone with all these people.

Club Dead, p.184

I murmured into his neck, “You are so beautiful.”
Dead to the World, p. 125

“James Blond,” I muttered.
Dracula Night, A Touch of Dead, p. 52

“It was gallant of you, in the extreme,” I admitted.
Dead as a Doornail, p. 294

It seems to me like the queen needs you more than I do. But I appreciate it.
Definitely Dead, p. 310

“Sorry,” I said. “I know you meant to compliment me.”
All Together Dead, p. 264

“Actually,” I said, leaping to firmer emotional ground, “you saved my life, and I’m grateful.”
From Dead to Worse, p. 119

“Am I happy when I’m with you?” I put my hand against his cheek. “Yes I am.”
Dead and Gone, p. 177

“I miss you, too,” I whispered.
Two Blondes, Death’s Excellent Vacation, p. 29

I love being with you, whether we’re having sex or not.
Dead in the Family, p. 83

“Well, I appreciate the thought.”
Small Town Wedding, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p. 22

“I do love you, all on my own.”
Dead Reckoning, p. 183

It may have skipped some reader’s attentions, but Sookie is the telepath. Not Eric. What she thinks in her own head is just that – thoughts in her own head. Since she doesn’t say them to Eric, he doesn’t know them. Thoughts work like that. She could think like so:

If Eric hadn’t come in yet, Eric wasn’t coming. Maybe he’d decided to leave. Leave me.
Here.
Alone.
Just like Bill left you, my mind supplied helpfully.

Club Dead, p.249

And even though you’ve read it, Eric never heard that thought or her doubt. That’s how thoughts work, on the page. Just because the reader reads them doesn’t mean that Eric knows them. He doesn’t have a copy of the books with him – he doesn’t know these things. A greater majority of griping about Sookie is usually about her controlling her thoughts and thinking only of puppies and how Eric will save her. She’s even had shreds torn off her because when she was being tortured for an hour or two, she even gave up on Eric saving her. She clearly should have given him a week before she gave up on him coming for her, uh? It’s only a bit of torture.

Scarlet spends all of her life in love with the weak Ashley, her neighbour who is married to his saintly cousin. How this is similar to Bill is beyond me. Bill isn’t some long term guy who’s only had a few girlfriends, and he’s not weak. Not to mention Sookie isn’t in love with Bill. She hasn’t been in a while:

We’ve got some bad history between us, Bill, but you’ll always have a special place in my heart.
Dead in the Family, p. 32

Having a special place in Sookie’s heart is not love – most women hold their first boyfriend in their hearts. We’re not all in love with them. Sookie even hopes she isn’t in love with Bill:

“You must love Bill, or else you’re a fool,” she said.
“Neither I hope.”

Dead in the Family, p.247

And the complete failure of the Ashley/Bill similarity is that if Sookie wanted Bill back, she could have that in a heartbeat. How many times has Bill declared his love, offered to do anything to get back with her? Ten times or something. Scarlet would have leapt on that sort of chance if she was offered it. Sookie keeps turning Bill down. So the nasty readers lose anyway – if Eric goes off in a huff to have his lonely life, Sookie is way more likely to get a new boyfriend than Eric is to find a brand new love. It’s more fangbangers and more empty for him.

There are, in fact, lots of in-text references to the vampire genre, more than the romance genre. Romance is relatively standard and relatively simplistic. For example, one of the romantic standards I’ve come to hate is this one – Sookie gasps when she first sees Eric. Drives me nuts. Happens all the time like it’s normal and not the response of an idiot who’s never seen a man before. That doesn’t exist in the books, and is one old romance cliché. I’m going to deal with just some of the in-text references to other vampire literature, and I know them because I’ve read a lot of vampire books. I suspect those that see huge parallels with Gone with the Wind aren’t vampire fiction readers (Twilight does not even count – we both know it’s barely vampire genre, and anyway, all of these books – and CH’s series – were started prior to Twilight).

Please note, there will be spoilers for all the stuff I’m mentioning. So if you haven’t watched/read these things and don’t want to be spoilered, go do or skip to the next section.  I’m going to presume you know what I’m talking about.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

In order to understand this post, I’m going to assume that those who love vampires and strong women have actually watched the definitive show about vampires and strong women. If you haven’t watched the show, I tell you, you are wasting your time when you could be watching it right fucking now. It is epic. It is wonderful. CH admits she is a huge Buffy fan. Eric even watches it in the books:

I turned in about midnight, leaving Eric absorbed in my
tapes of the first season of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Dead to the World,
p. 54

So, in Buffy’s world, there are some distinct similarities between some of the characters, and of course the big cast. Now, if you’ve watched the show, you’d know that Sam could easily be Xander, with his lady love the wonderful demon Anya (Jannalynn/the Maenad) Xander is the nice guy who always falls for the dangerous women; Quinn and his new girlfriend Tijgeerin matching up wonderfully to Riley and his wife, Samantha; the (I love Riley’s line) “billowy coat, King of Pain” that is Angel (Bill) – who had his redemption forced on him; as opposed to Spike “Am I just supposed to help you out of the evilness of my heart” – who sought redemption for his own sake (Eric); Willow as the later lesbian witchy best friend (Amelia). Oz as Alcide. Buffy of course as Sookie – and even though Sookie doesn’t kick nearly as much arse as Buffy does, she’s no slouch.

Now, it’s not strictly to the books – but there are some elements that don’t fit at all. But if you want a way better visual than True Blood gives you on what it would be like to be a telepath – how fucking hellish it would be – then watch the episode “Earshot” which is where Buffy gets infected with something that makes her hear thoughts without control – that she can’t shut out. It’s not the selective, relevant-to-the-storyline of True Blood, but a harrowing, isolating disability as in the books. The title of this post is one of the most hilarious lines from that episode – and I won’t spoil why it’s relevant. If you haven’t watched it before, now you’ll watch it so you can cackle. 😀 True Blood even stole/made tribute out of one of the best lines they’ve ever used – when Lorena tells Sookie she’s going to wear her ribcage as a hat? Buffy said that to a character named Whistler in Season 2 – and hey, she said it to a man, not over one.

I’d also like to note, notice how Buffy didn’t need to hate Angel and kill him even though it didn’t work out? Notice how Buffy didn’t need to kill Riley, even though it didn’t work out. Notice how she doesn’t have to stop being friends with Xander because she’s with Angel or Spike? See any similarities about how a woman can have ex-boyfriends and friends in her life without having to hole herself up in a room as a personal feedbag for it to be love?

There are elements of Buffy’s story arc that are very similar to some of Sookie’s story arc. Sookie is older of course, but Buffy very much feels the burden of her slayer job – she’s relegated to dead end jobs because she can’t have a career and spend all night slaying vampires. Same with Sookie – she yearns for something more, but her extra abilities put her in a bad space for a job, and so she is left with the equivalent of the Doublemeat Palace.  Buffy is known for her slaying puns, and Sookie is known for her grim humour in the face of danger.

Buffy doesn’t fall into the romance standard of having to have perfect guys who are equally good choices – both Angel and Spike have tried to kill Buffy at some stage. Might I note, she got over it, and didn’t feel the need to slay them into the ground – the essence of complicated romances. Neither of them went throughout history helping humans and being ‘good’ vampires. Angel turned a girl mad before turning her into a vampire (for fun apparently) and Spike once told Buffy that a vampire starved would look like one of those famine victims “only not half as funny”. Riley is the nicer guy, without a history of turning his mother and trying to destroy the world, but that’s for the value of nice – and he’s part of a government conspiracy to make supes into weapons, used by people bigger than him for an agenda. Sound familiar to Quinn being a tool for others?

Buffy also had the small town vibe – Sunnydale – where things happened that were bad all the time. It was a nexus for badness, and site of a Hellmouth. Sookie hasn’t yet found a Hellmouth, but she does have a fairy portal in her woods. Neave and Lochlan make it seem at least comparable to a Hellmouth there.

Not only that, but Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a similar post-feminist work – one designed to subvert stereotypes. It is Buffy who saves men’s lives, not the other way around. Yes, occasionally she needs help, but mostly it’s Buffy who does for the dudes. Much like it is Sookie who saves Bill from draining, Eric from Sigebert, and both of them from Rhodes. Sookie’s efforts at saving all of these beings is mostly ignored in the fandom, but she’s done way more for a being with no super strength, no healing abilities.

While Dead Until Dark was published in 2001, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was already up to Season Five by then – so there’s plenty of reason as to how the big cast and quite a few of those similar elements got incorporated into the books. As I’ve said, there’s similarities to them, but I doubt Sookie is going to find a way for all the potential telepaths in the world to exist to remove her burden – she’d still be telepathic, and that’s the one thing Sookie doesn’t want. Nor is Sookie going to come out of this saying that she’s cookie dough. If you don’t get that reference, watch the show. It sounds exciting right?

Dracula

Like Buffy, Dracula is referenced in the text. Not only is there the short story called Dracula Night, but there’s also references to the book itself, rather than the figure Vlad Dracul:

There are some vampires who like to take control over a human…
make that human their Renfield.” He used the term with distaste.
“That’s from Dracula, right?”
“Yes, Dracula’s human servant.”

Dead and Gone, p. 178

The book was written in 1897, so it definitely pre-dates not only the series, but CH herself. It is a bloody long winded Gothic novel with not very much vampire action in it. I painfully pressed my way through it. What can I say? I like Jules Verne much better – plenty of action. I think I might have gone mad if I had to read more warbling on about the lovely Mina Harker, most beauteous and gracious of women.

Now, one of the things that Dracula holds in common with the books is not just the Renfields, but also the idea of the fangbanger. Girls who are drawn to vampires, and accidentally turned, and promptly discarded. Lucy, one of Mina’s friends, is drawn under Dracula’s spell and he has a cadre of females around him, loving him – the Sisters. Dracula is all about the women. Don’t regard the movie though – Dracula went after Mina in vengeance to stop Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker from killing him. Why he came to London? Again, not for Mina, but to start his reign of terror over the world. The romance crap was tacked on in the movie. Dracula was clearly evil and not sympathetic in the books – he has an end game other than twue wuv.

Moving into your neighbourhood and corrupting the local women is something vampires do, and face censure for doing. There’s Malcolm, Liam and Diane who get a mob with pitchforks and fire to kill them; while the more low-key Eric and Bill survive being surrounded by women because at least they’re willing women. And not to discriminate, they also like the men. There’s not so much of a virgin-fangs-penetration triad going on in CH’s books as there is in Dracula. Vampires have no intention of ruling the world – which would be a clearly stupid idea, because they all sleep in the day, like the original Dracula. They’d rule for about 12 hours and wake up to find all the humans had killed half of them. Humans do not take kindly to being cattle.

Another similarity is that Dracula forms a blood bond with Mina. He is able to communicate with her telepathically, call her to him and she is able to track him through that bond. Again, this is another similarity to the blood bonds in the books. Bill called Sookie to him in Rhodes, and Eric communicates with Sookie via blood bond. The blood bond doesn’t really get explained in either books, so don’t go looking for an explanation in Dracula – he’s an evil character and no one in that book was just living with Mina having a bond with him – no one cared about whether the overall affect was bad – Dracula’s evil, therefore the bond is bad. And Dracula in the books didn’t use it because he really loved Mina – he was trying to distract the men from killing him. Even the proto-origin of the blood bond is not romantic.

Similar to this book is the idea of the men all rallying round to try to get the “good girls” out of the clutches of Dracula. Like I say – much warbling about Mina, and what a shining example of womanhood she is. It’s like being inside Sam’s head most of the time. Constant talking about the evil that is Dracula, trying to get Mina and Lucy out from under the seductive Dracula. Posses of men forming up to free the womenfolk. Lucy is corrupted by Dracula and starts preying on babies. There’s very much that intolerance vibe going on in the SVM books as well – girls are shunned for having anything to do with vampires.

Now, don’t go looking for this book if you like to read about vampires. Mostly you will read about how wonderful Mina is. It might have been one of the first vampire books, but we’ve come a long way baby. Back when Dracula was written, vampires were evil, and there was nothing much good about them. There’s not a lot of killing or a lot of vampire human-interaction in the book itself.  Mostly Mina. Oy.

The Vampire Chronicles

The other influence on CH’s book series is of course Anne Rice – that’s why New Orleans is such a mecca for vampire tourism after all. Not only that, but straight out on the first page:

But rural northern Louisiana wasn’t too tempting to vampires, apparently; on the other hand, New Orleans was a real center for them – the whole Anne Rice thing, right?
Dead Until Dark, p. 1

Now, if you haven’t read the books, that’s cool. The first movie – Interview with a Vampire is not bad for a book to movie translation – and it’s told in the maudlin viewpoint of Louis – it was frankly the worst of the books. Louis is a bore and he’s so depressed it’s not funny. Like Bill, he rarely laughs. The second movie – Queen of the Damned is a travesty that should be killed with fire. It should have been a much better movie than it ever was – it is truly craptacular. Do not look to it for a speck of canon, other than names. True Blood isn’t the first show where they fucked unforgiveably with canon – like True Blood, they changed hair colours and screwed with storylines until it was unrecognisable.

Louis is the character most similar to Bill (there’s actually a blond Eric in the books as well but he’s not a major character) – he’s brunette, he’s from Louisiana, and he’s a plantation owner. He’s also dissatisfied with his lot and keeps to himself. He is juxtaposed to Lestat who is a blond troublemaker, known in certain circles as “The Brat Prince” because he’s just filled with naughty shenanigans, like outing vampires to the entire world, and all kinds of other adventures. I wonder if there’s a blond, mischievous, flamboyant vampire in SVM….hmmm. 😀 Mind you, I’m pretty sure that Lestat has Eric beat for getting himself into trouble, since he has taken part in a genocide of men worldwide, gotten into a body swap dealio and met Satan. Eric looks like a sedate little old lady next to that. 😀 Lestat has also been taken as a Consort for a Queen. Don’t look for that similar ending though – because I’m pretty sure that no one is going to cut Freyda’s head off and eat her heart and brain and become the new Queen of all vampires.

Not only that, but there’s a maker – Lestat, who turns Claudia into a vampire to keep his other child Louis around. Finally, when they do away with Lestat (not really because it’s almost impossible to kill the vampires in these books) they flee to the Continent together to have a good time. This is similar to Lorena, who in the books turns Judith to keep Bill satisfied. Like Appius, with his many vampires that he turned, Magnus, Lestat’s maker chooses him because he killed a bunch of wolves, and for his looks – and on the night he turns him, there’s a pile of blond, blue eyed boys he’s killed that didn’t turn.

Indeed, one of the key similarities is telepathy and vampires – but it is the vampires who are telepathic. They can read thoughts, and Lestat makes a point of killing only evildoers. Louis cannot read thoughts, which means that he’s all over the place. Indeed, their telepathy is so hard on them, and changing worlds become so hard on them that it is only vampires with a focus and purpose who do not go underground and stay dormant for a couple of decades. Only Maharet – a vampire who elected herself to watch over her descendants – is the person with continuous consciousness throughout the millennia. Much in a similar vein, SVM vampires have stuff they do to keep busy. They don’t swan around in frock coats – they build empires to keep busy and distract themselves from eternity.

There’s also a system of governance that all of the vampires follow in Paris – they have courts and punishments. Much like the Sheriffs and Queens and such – there is governance of vampires in the SVM series. Not only that, but later on in the books Armand meets the Sun because of religious convictions, much like Godfrey did in CH’s series – except for Armand, it didn’t work. These vampires tend to stay alive not only because they want to, but also because it’s almost impossible to kill them, and they fear that even if burned to ash, their consciousness will remain in those ashes. Don’t look for who “gets the girl” in these books – they’re not into girls so much – all of the vampires are sexually inactive – their bits don’t work. They give humans pleasure, but they don’t take pleasure themselves. Most of the women do fall in love with Lestat though.

So as you can see, seeing similarities to Gone with the Wind are infinitesimal when it comes to the series over all – it has just as much resemblance to the movie (or even the book – which I am not reading – the movie was enough of a trial) as it does to other things. It’s one of the things that shows true creativity – taking elements of popular culture and making every one of them your own. Incorporating them into your world, re-imagining the familiar to make it new and building a world that is unique. It’s not as simple as slapping Sookie on Scarlett, Rhett on Eric and retelling the whole story – there are heaps of popular culture references, and probably more that I don’t recognise or haven’t recalled for this post. I’m not even going to deal with CH’s love of Jane Eyre even naming it her favourite book, and other non-vampire literature.

It doesn’t mean that Sookie is going to end up with Eric walking out saying “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” – because I’m pretty fucking sure it wouldn’t be a change from the Eric “desperate to make it work” by biting Sookie hard, selling her to Dallas, rending her emotionally when he feels rejected or who says he married her for strategy. If that’s how the series ends, it’s basically same old, same old, not Sookie’s just desserts. CH says she wants to give Sookie a HEA – and she is the main character whose journey we have followed. It’s not going to end up sad for Sookie, and happy for Eric – if he’s happy it’s because he’s making Sookie happy.

P. S. If the Alex Trebek ending happens, I totally called it. 😀

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