Fealty and Feelings Divided

IMPORTANT PREFACE TO POSTS HERE – Examine your own internalised misogyny and what is considered truly “fair” regardless of what’s between your legs, and how women and men get actual equal treatment. Also, it’ll stop you getting yelled at in the comments by an angry PMR. No one else has seemed to have liked it so far, and I doubt you want me to wear an avatar mocking and jeering at you. Felipe’s crimes must not be overlooked. I apologise to my dear anon – whom I lied to. It’s past Tuesday, and I’m very sorry. I offer you this very funny recap of a chapter of the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey in penance for my lie. I’d shoop you a picture, but that would take more time. 🙂

Now, this one is on Eric’s journey throughout Deadlocked. As previously noted, there’s a whole heap of references to people and the dichotomy in them – and the role of choice. For Sookie, we have her home life with all the mundane things, and the politics of vampire Kings and Queens. For Eric, we have a dichotomy about his identity, and that’s what I’m going to focus on – there were a lot of facets to plots, and this one, I doubt is getting any focus.

One of the principle reasons why I think the fandom is never going to consider this is because Eric is very much considered to be perfect. So if you’re here and you think that way (oh God, why are you here of all places) you’ll find this post extremely confronting and bad. If you like your Eric stereotypical “alpha” (and now ‘oh God I hate that term’) male, then this won’t make any sense to you. Eric has layers, and if you believe just that he hates his maker, this will be incomprehensible. So for those of you that think that way, I have a gift. Now is the time to say “OMG – that’s not true – CH has been writing Eric OOC since [choose your book here – I recommend DAG as the popular idiot’s choice]” and press that little red X.

Much is made in the fandom of Sookie changing – almost everything – to be with Eric. She has to learn to love killing, do what she’s told and realise she’s a supe – even die to be with him, and acknowledge him as Master. She has to ditch all her friends and make like she appreciates staring at the four walls of Eric’s house every night. It’s sickeningly sexist, but that’s what this fandom is. Rarely is any attention paid to the struggle that Eric goes through – you know, cause he’s the perfect boyfriend any woman could want…when you ignore the hard bites, torture references, and the fact he’s a killer vampire politician who is also a workaholic. But Eric has had more problems with resolving their relationship than Sookie has.
Firstly, let me make it clear that Eric wasn’t really being all that forthcoming with Sookie in the book. He wasn’t really letting her in on his choices. And with Eric, you always have to think and rethink what you think he’s saying. Take Sookie’s advice:

You had to be on your game when you talked to Eric.
From Dead to Worse, p. 151

Sookie is absolutely right. Whenever there is Eric dialogue, it should be scrutinised for every skerrick of meaning. Just like “You’re my wife in the only way it matters to me.” wasn’t just a throwaway line. Luckily in this book, we get enough snippets to tell what the hell is going on with Eric. And it’s not upfront and outright told to Sookie – because it is Eric’s internal struggle, not hers. Sookie can’t make a decision for him. So the closest she gets for an outright statement is this:

If it were only one woman over another … it’s you I love.
That’s a given, not a choice at all. But it’s not that simple.

Deadlocked, p. 288

It isn’t as simple for Eric just to choose to be with the woman he loves, and I’m going to set out why. It doesn’t even have to do with the practicalities of the situation – which is more about Eric trying to convince himself it’s practical for his survival. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s practical for Eric, and a fucking death sentence for Sookie. The reason it’s not that simple is because of who Eric is, who Eric is supposed to be, what Eric wants, and what he’s supposed to want. This is a real crossroads for his character, and it had to happen.

It was actually a quote by Niall that made me hearken onto what was going on with Eric in this book:

“He created the perfect vampire. Eric’s only flaw is you.”
Deadlocked, p. 306

And this is the crux of the problem with Eric – this is why he’s not so sure he should be resisting the marriage to Freyda. It gives me a sense of perversity that this doesn’t seem to have come to anyone’s attention yet – that Eric is the perfect vampire, but for Sookie. At least as far as vampires are concerned.  Why perversity? Because now Eric will be exhorted to be less supe – whereas Sookie is constantly scorned for not realising how supe she is. Ah, double standards and shallow thinking, how your acolytes come apart.  It means it can’t be discussed or explored, because peeps will look like sexist hypocrites. 😀 Yay for not ragging on women all the time that I can discuss it.

Now, in order to examine what the perfect vampire is, I’m going to go the route JanineMNM has been clamouring for – we’re going to look at the polar opposite:

Bubba has some bad habits, because he was a bad vampire;
he’d been too soaked in drugs when he’d been brought over..

Dead Reckoning, p. 254

All of the things that Bubba is are the absolute opposite of what the perfect vampire should be. You see it in Bubba, and that has no place in what makes the ‘perfect’ vampire.

One of the principle things that makes Bubba a problematic vampire is the fact that he’s out of control with his emotions. It’s up to all the rest of the people around him to make sure they don’t call him by his real name or let him get agitated – or Bubba will lose his shit. In fact, control is a thing Eric values all the way through the series – although he comes closest to losing it based on what Sookie’s doing. This means that he should know that his flaw is Sookie – the woman he cares so deeply about. It’s because of his strong emotions:

“He’s never been so entangled in his emotions.
He’s never been at such a disadvantage.”

All Together Dead, p. 91

Being entangled in your emotions is not a vampire thing – and it’s not a valuable quality in the vampire world. Lest you blame this on Sookie in the comments, and get yelled at for your trouble, Sookie had already told Eric twice exactly what he had to do to date her, and Eric didn’t do it. In fact, at his first opportunity, he merely married her. And that hasn’t solved his problem. Eric still has the same issue of being caught up in emotional moves:

“But if he’s worried about you, he won’t react the same as he would – as he should…”
“If I weren’t in the picture.”

Dead in the Family, p. 86

And it’s not just being tied up with worrying about Sookie’s safety either – this is not the sole cause of Eric’s problems. He’s virtually obsessed with thinking about Sookie and how he feels about her – safe or not:

“Can you believe I’m not thinking of you while I work? When my eyes
open, I think of you, of every part of you.”

Dead in the Family, p. 83

Yeah – this is not the greatest idea for a vampire. At work, he’s got to deal with killer co-workers and bosses. He can’t really be daydreaming all about his wife. Thinking of your wife when you work, when you open your eyes, this is not good. It’s not focused. It’s not on task. Thinking this way is not a route to the thing vampires love the most – power. It’s almost the antithesis to power, and not at all helpful. Yes, Sookie might be a powerful pawn to have, but that doesn’t mean that mooning over her is a helpful thing.

You really think after living so long in the vampire world, Eric doesn’t know exactly what he should be? Because I think he does know exactly what it takes to be the perfect vampire. Eric certainly hasn’t been aspiring to be the perfect friend, perfect father, perfect husband – whoa boy do we know that. He’s been aspiring to being the perfect vampire. And it’s not as if Eric is a self-hating vampire:

“Eric loves being a vampire. He loves it more than anything.”
Maybe more than he loves me, I thought, surprising myself.

Small Town Wedding, The Sookie Stackhouse Companion, p.65

Eric loves being a vampire – and he has done it well for years…until he met Sookie. Then he started making what could be conceived as ‘mistakes’ for a vampire. Again – we’re not taking Sookie’s perspective here, but how to be what you are. And even Pam has noticed it’s a problem. One only need to look at Bubba to see how oppositional he is to Eric. Eric is all about the political manoeuvring, while Bubba can barely take care of himself:

Soon he was saying things like, “He’s a sacred trust,” and
“You don’t know what you’re biting off,” into the phone.

Club Dead, p. 233

Can you imagine the look on Eric’s face if someone called him a sacred trust? Lol – just the imaginary face of a stormcloud should do it. Eric would not be pleased about that one. Bubba is the exemplar of the damaged vampire – he’s very direct, he tends towards kindness and smiles. This is the very opposite of what Eric should be.

Now, how do I know this is what Eric is struggling with – his identity and what he should want as a vampire? For one, Eric holds fast to the idea of what Appius wanted him to do and be:

“‘I’m just obeying orders.’ Come on! You can’t hide
behind Appius’s wishes, Eric. He’s gone.

Deadlocked, p. 289

I know, I know – he’s the guy that Eric apparently hates with all his might. But as I pointed out with the last book, he’s giving Appius and his wishes all due respect. Like a good vampire. Vampires obey orders – there can be no doubt about that. There is honour in obeying orders, not just compulsion:

“And of course, he was my sire. I had to obey.” Eric shrugged.
“Is that a mystical thing or a made-up rule?” I asked,
curiosity finally getting the better of me.
“It’s both,” Eric said.

Dead and Gone, pp. 89-90

Much is placed on the idea of what Eric says next – being desperate to get away, but it can’t be ignored that Eric thinks of it as a made-up rule – and one that you follow, or you’ll be forced to follow it. This is essentially the double bind that vampires find themselves in. Not only do they have to obey their makers, but that’s the rules. Looking at everything from greetings etiquette with handshakes, all the way to judicial sessions, it’s easy to see vampires love rules and protocol. It’s mentioned quite a bit that this is important to them, and Eric is no different:

Eric looked away to hide his appalled reaction to such a lack of ritual.
Deadlocked, p. 322

Following rules and having rules to fit your life is what vampire life is all about. They all follow the rules – and they have lots of them. Hell, Eric even expects assassinations of his underlings to follow fucking rules:

“…I can’t stand still while someone is trying to kill my people
for no good reason – and without previous discussion with me.”

Deadlocked, p. 78

So Eric yields to practicality and rules even when it’s the lives of his underlings at risk – and the vampires in his area. Truly – even when he was worried about losing Pam due to Miriam’s death, Eric still followed the rules. He didn’t go outside of things and innovate. And that’s why Sookie’s been of great benefit to him all this time – she thinks outside of the rules Eric’s been following for too damn long. It’s made him unbelievably uncreative in his solutions. That’s why he should be talking to Sookie about Freyda, but I’m waiting for some anvil to hit him in the head to get that through his thick, high handed skull.

But that’s why this is not about Sookie, and his love for her, but rather where those rules come from. Appius really is at the heart of the decision. All the way through this arranged marriage business, Eric has been throwing up Appius’ desire for him to get married – every single time. That’s why it will be incomprehensible to those who believe that Eric just hates his maker. Because he doesn’t. He’s the man who taught Eric to follow the rules, and be what he is:

“Ocella taught me everything about being a vampire,” Eric said very quietly.
Dead in the Family, p. 309

Eric follows Ocella’s teaching every single day. He’s the person who taught Eric what to be. Appius didn’t just teach him the basics – how to bite people and hide. It was really more than that – years and years of indoctrination on how to be the right kind of vampire. Not to be weak, not to be emotional, not to be kind. It wasn’t just about changing the equivalent of a hundred baby vampire nappies – like anyone who has created a new life – you impart more to them than practicalities. You show and tell them what is right.

Yes, Appius was an unexceptional and awful maker who raped Eric and liked raping young boys, but that doesn’t mean that Eric stepped outside of himself to really assess what was going on there, and wished for a better maker. Whatever Appius did, Eric is still alive 1000 years on, and had a great influence on Eric. Just like Eric isn’t big on looking at the Vegas takeover and wishing it was all changed – there’s nothing to be gained by looking back and being all unhappy now. Much like abused children still love their parents, and want to do them proud, well Eric had a far more complicated relationship with Appius – it went on for well over 1000 years. It should not be discounted with just “Oh yeah, Eric loathed him”. Seriously – people are not that damn simple, and CH’s characters are not that simple.

I’m betting that even though Appius was not much of an exceptional vampire, he had goals for Eric – wanted Eric to be the perfect vampire, so that he could bask in that reflected glory:

I looked at Ocella without anger, without fear, for just a few seconds,
and I saw a man who, finding himself an outcast and lonely,
looked for the most outstanding “children” he could find.

Dead in the Family, p. 165

After all, Appius thought it was a damn good idea to marry Freyda – and I’m betting that while he was in Shreveport, he was telling Eric how it was going to be, and for what good it would be. ‘Rid yourself of the filthy human woman who makes you weak, and take a position that will reflect well on me.’ And Eric listened, because he was certainly not putting it to his maker how he wanted to stay with Sookie and refuse the marriage. He considered it a fait accompli by the time he made the statement about Sookie being his wife in the only way that matters.

Concerning the anon who asked if Eric lacked empathy or was a narcissist – no that’s not his problem. His problem is that he was made into a vampire by a complete narcissist, and Eric follows rules. He has empathy, and he’s not a narcissist. If he didn’t have empathy, he would act like this is easy, and if he was a narcissist, then he would be concerned with what makes him look better. In both cases, if he was either, he’d go with Freyda. But going against the rules that Appius taught him is what gets to Eric. He’s concerned with doing what is best and right – and that doesn’t always match up with human goals. Just like he’s not Sheriff because it’s all about protecting humans. Eric is a vampire – and he has vampire goals and vampire friendly policies.

Eric’s struggle is not to be like Bubba – not to want to do things, be coddled to, taken care of, being kind to random people – all of these are traits that Bubba has. Bubba is ostensibly the vampire – the bad vampire – who doesn’t change, doesn’t get anywhere good in the vampire world. He’s not the perfect vampire – he’ll never rule the state, he’ll never have power and prestige. Eric wants the opposite of what Bubba wants. He wants to be that perfect vampire, and he struggles with not doing that, not being that. Not following the rules and directions his maker gave him.

Now, where have we seen Eric’s struggles with himself before? In the line most fangirls consider a hilarious joke no sane person laughed at:

“Should I just bite you, and end it all?” he whispered. “I would never have
to think about you again. Thinking about you is an annoying habit, and
one I want to be rid of. Or should I start arousing you, and discover if
sex with you was really the best I’ve ever had?”
I didn’t think I was going to get a vote on this.

Dead as a Doornail, p. 219-220

Ask your average fangirl – they’re sure he was going to have sex with Sookie and didn’t mean the torture bit – it was a hilarious joke. And seeing as Sookie didn’t think she was going to get a vote on what was going to happen, then the sex bit would count as rape, ya know. Neither sounds particularly funny or romantic or hot to me. I suspect like Viv and Cheri in the latest book, they don’t have the imagination it takes to see how bad that could get. This is Eric at – I would wager – his most dangerous to Sookie in the series. Boy was Eric lucky to have Mickey burst in to stop him making one monumental mistake at that point. Neither choice was a good one.

But it illuminates Eric’s thoughts on what is right – and it’s not right to have some human fouling up your thoughts. Thinking of a girl that you like steals your focus – and is an “annoying habit” not “tentative love-making fantasy”. See – you should have red Xed above. Eric has a big struggle throughout the books to battle against being ‘opened up’ by Sookie’s regard. The myth of Eric as the perfect guy ready to fall in love with Sookie the moment he saw her (ostensibly half the time in fanfic it’s “Love via Boning Continuously”) and would just do right by her if she let him is such shit. It’s been shit throughout the books, and it’s still shit now.

And that’s what we’re seeing when Eric is being extremely cold to Sookie. When Eric doesn’t like how deep he’s getting, when he’s not being practical, when he’s worrying about a human, then this is one of his previous responses:

Eric looked down at me. He seemed to have a hickey on his neck.
I opened my mouth, and then shut it again. Better not to comment.
“I don’t like having feelings,” Eric said coldly, and he left.

Club Dead, p. 199

Usually, this is tied somehow to being Sookie’s fault that he doesn’t like feelings – because she’s all saving Bill and hurting him. But it’s really about Eric’s struggle to be practical – not about his caring for Sookie or what she thinks about him going off with Bernard – the real little one. See, in the general course of things, Eric wouldn’t have a twinge of conscience at going and having sex with Bernard at all – he’d do it because it’s necessary and practical. Now he’s actually having feelings for Sookie and not wanting to go off and have practical sex to distract him from noticing anything off about them.

Extrapolating the ‘not wanting to’ bit out – it’s easy to see how if Eric follows his feelings and stays with Sookie instead of going off with Bernard, he’ll surely die. The Queen will torture him, even if Eric is happy for a week or two. So as a result, Eric hates having feelings – it’s obvious to see that feelings will get you killed. And so he – at this point – resolves to do what will save their lives and hides. It seems to have been turned around shocker to be something about Sookie carelessly wanting to save Bill, and thus, her fault. But there’s really no fault of Sookie’s that Eric doesn’t want to do what is practical and will serve his purposes.

See, the only way to go through history doing what is necessary is to have no feelings. Limit yourself to practicality, and not think about the moral implications and emotions involved. All of the vampires are like that – not because there’s something wrong with them (although undoubtedly there are some of them with something wrong with them separate to vampirism) but because in order to do the hard practical things required to stay alive, you just have to. Any vampire that makes it over fifty years has been conditioned to save their lives. It works much the same with real life killers and criminals. Take it from a criminologist – we know. Not everyone is just born a psychopath – the odds aren’t that great. The average criminal just does what is necessary – just like Sookie forces herself to clean Debbie’s brains off her kitchen floor – it’s necessary, and you do what you have to to save yourself. Fake it ’til you make it.

This is the route to shutting off that it doesn’t matter – that you can do what is necessary, regain your focus and act like you should. Let me just say that like Sookie – yes, this is all understandable, but that doesn’t make Eric a fucking prince. He’s the one doing this to his wife – and if he wants to be with her, he better move quick unless she decides that it’s all over for him. This is not something Eric should get praise for resisting. He should get scolded for behaving like a hurtful baby because of what he feels inside. He’s a thousand years old, and he should stop dribbling his emotional crap all over Sookie:

He cast a look over his shoulder. I hadn’t seen that expression on his face
since we’d met, when he’d regarded me as just another disposable human.

Deadlocked, p. 290

Seriously – he’s so lucky she didn’t give him up as a bad job months ago. He’s fucking absolutely blessed that Sookie loves him – because if she didn’t, she certainly wouldn’t put up with this crap. But this struggle is most obvious in Eric in Deadlocked. He finally has a real choice – the vampire way or the human way. And Freyda tells us it’s the vampire way to believe you have feelings, and go against them, working on to achieve some bizarre goal:

“But he does love me.”
“I am sure he thinks so,” she said, still with that eerie calm. “And perhaps it’s even
true. But he won’t forgo what I have to offer, regardless of what he may feel.”

Deadlocked, p. 172

See – Freyda is a pretty impressive vampire in herself, and it is stressed to the reader just how much she and Eric have in common. Freyda is the aspect – the vampire conscience of Eric without the love. She tells us importantly why this hard choice exists in Eric. She knows that it’s not the done thing to eschew the power, choose the route of love that will leave you with nothing but a corpse in the end. It’s not just that she is offering him power – she’s offering him what it is that he is expected to do. And she makes a point that many men are like Eric – that they will go with what will give them the most. Eric’s not quite there yet – but this is the essence of his choice.

He’s also torn, because Eric has been trained by this thousand years to go for what he wants. He’s not so used to denying himself things. If he were the martyr type, he would have eschewed Sookie years ago for her own good. Being the beloved of any politically minded vampire is not safe. Eric pursued it anyway, because he’s selfish and not used to saying No to himself if he wants something. That’s what’s produced his struggle. He’s been doing this all the way through the books – fighting both urges – the urge to have what he wants, and what he wants being not what he should want.

Finally he comes to a choice in the latest book, and he’s paralysed, and wants to not make that choice. Eric internally was just as deadlocked as Sookie:

He should love me enough to simply refuse Freyda.
It was like he wanted the decision out of his hands.

Deadlocked, p. 313

Whereas by the end of the book, Sookie broke her deadlock and used the cluviel dor, Eric is not breaking that same internal deadlock – he’s not seen Freyda off, and he’s not definitely committed to Sookie. He wants someone else to make that decision. And we see Eric all the way through the books driven forward not by his need to be proactive on loving Sookie, but on his need to stop other less desirable consequences.

I know, I know – he’s seen as Mr. High Handed In Charge Guy. Except when it comes to Sookie. Eric’s been dragged kicking and screaming into it – further down the rabbit hole – because he can’t stand the alternative. So when they bonded, was it because Eric actively chose to bond to Sookie because he really, really wanted to do it that moment in a hallway in a hotel in Rhodes? No – it’s because he didn’t want her bonded to Andre. When they married, did Eric chose that because he really had his heart set on a surprise office wedding and he dearly wanted Victor to witness his love? No – it’s because he didn’t want Sookie in Nevada. I’d ask you about when he dated Sookie…except he hasn’t.

I’m not saying that Eric didn’t ever want those things, but he hasn’t ever made big commitments to Sookie based on his own free will and timing. And that’s because Eric is – as he promised – opportunistic. He’s also incredibly impulsive. Anyone who looks at Eric and really thinks he’s on top of everything? Well then, why the hell doesn’t he have his shit together? Why is he always painted into a corner before he actually does stuff for Sookie? This time, he has to choose it without any threat to his relationship with Sookie, and he’s reluctant because he’s never done it before. He’s never made an active choice where he wasn’t under pressure of losing that chance forever.

This time, Eric has to make a choice – and he’s not sure he should choose Sookie. It’s not what vampires are supposed to do – they’re not supposed to make choices based on who they love – they’re supposed to go for money and power. They’re supposed to go for what gives them more over the long term – and as Sookie said:

“I think you could get out of this if you hated Freyda. But you don’t. She’s beautiful.
She’s rich. She’s powerful. She needs you to watch her back, and the reward will be lots of the stuff you love.” I took a deep, shuddering breath. “All I got is me. And
I guess that’s not enough.” I waited, praying to hear a rebuttal. I looked up at him.
I saw no shame. I saw no weakness.

Deadlocked, p. 289

It’s not got to do with Freyda herself – it’s the offers of all the trappings of what Eric is supposed to want. And the mere fact that he didn’t just jump on board with it should say a lot. But it should also be noted that he’s not really giving his all on getting out of it and keeping his options open with Sookie – because he’s actually supposed to want this. I do believe – much like Sookie – that Eric does have a choice. If he didn’t have a choice to resist, he’d already be in Oklahoma, and this would all be over.

Finally, in this book, it all comes to a head. We no longer just get little snippets of Eric wrestling with himself – we get full on freezing inability to move forward, because Eric isn’t really sure he should be going against a thousand years of conditioning. Yes, when he breaks this deadlock, he’ll probably be able to get Sookie, but he’ll have more freedom to be who he is than ever before.

When looking at Bubba, no, he’s not the perfect vampire, but he does what makes him happy. He sticks around Bill because he cares about him, he goes all over the place not caring what other vampires think of him. I would argue that if Eric could see just how much more freedom Bubba has, then he’d really see the route to independence is not following rules your maker taught you a thousand years ago, but going with what you want in an actual piece of freedom.

He’ll actually be empowered and have control over his life as much as anyone can in the world of the vampires, outside of romantic goals. That’s because he’ll be choosing not just to have the illusion of independence Freyda tells us he loves, but because he will be independent of expected trajectories. That’s of course, if he chooses right. If he chooses wrong, Eric is fucked, and stuck in a rut. Here’s to hoping he never realises if he doesn’t choose right, because 500 years between making good choices – his odds aren’t the best.