A Failing Grade

Well, I watched the season five premiere of True Blood last night. I was kinda dreading it really, because of spoilers. I have read “Fuck Sookie” and “super snatch” about fifty times since it premiered in the US. I figured it was going to be a whole episode of cataloguing how shit Sookie is. She may be silly and not empowered, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend an hour of my life seeing her verbally abused just to see the expressions on Anna Paquin’s face. Luckily it wasn’t too bad, and it’s just the fandom that overblows the chick hating and fastens onto it like a lifeline. Alan Ball is so much more subtle about his hatred and contempt for women. I thought I might need an Alcide stress ball  but the word getting most on my nerves is “factions”. One vampire does not make a “faction” and writing a political storyline does not mean you get to do what you want, and then justify getting away with doing it because “factions”. Good politics are complex and subtle, they have consequences and you use up influence if you do what you want, not this hamfisted jackassery wherein you kill someone and then back it up with “I can do what I want, whatever! FACTIONS!”

I did like that Bill got the creepy job of Fanfic Pam – narration on the sex scene too. So fucking creepy, seriously – yet Pam does it all the time because she’s exactly the same blockhead in fanfic. Since AB garners from fanfic, it was nice to see he knows how a proper sidekick acts. I was also “pleased” to see that Sookie – like fanfic Sookie – did something wrong right out of the gate. Now Sookie’s doing wrong by her friends too. I mean, Tara had the option to be vamped up when Franklin Mott showed up in her life – and I do believe she smashed his head in with a mace as suitable reply. So I’m sure she’ll be happy to see she still doesn’t get to make choices about her life – or fuck, even her death. Meanwhile, Alcide can sell the line that Tommy has a right to “choose when he dies” and Sam will protect Alcide for respecting Tommy’s autonomy. Sigh.

That’s relevant because there seems to be some kind of belief going around the fandom that Eric doesn’t have a choice in whether or not he wants to marry Freyda. I’ve been going over the Freyda bits again and again – and I feel like I have an edge with which to work on – but I have to ruminate on it some more. What I did notice along the way is that the only party in the Freyda debacle selling this as inevitable is Eric.

The truth is that Freyda will never enforce the issue in that she’s giving Eric no choice. There are a few reasons for this. The first reason is the requirement of the vampire marriage ceremony:

“Russell Edgington, King of Mississippi, do you agree to this covenant?”
“Yes, I do,” Russell said clearly.

All Together Dead, p. 166

Marriage ceremonies do not rely on someone tipped out of a burlap sack in the vampire world – they rely on someone being willing to say “I do” to agreeing. In the end, if Eric truly wanted to resist, he’d have that one last thing he wouldn’t say. And without it, the marriage cannot be made. If he didn’t sign contracts, no amount of forcing would make him do so. If there was a time when blib blab blib meet the Sun blah Eric would come into play – it would be this moment. But that’s not real Eric – he’d rather divorce than die. He’d rather skip punishment and get a reward.

Even Freyda doesn’t make it sound like a foregone conclusion that is inevitable. She doesn’t come into the whole marriage deal with the idea that signing a contract means it’s all inevitable – no – she thinks Eric will make a choice based on the inevitable, and it is Sookie who’s holding firmly onto this foolish notion that Eric loves her more than he loves power. She doesn’t even think the contract she made is all about the binding either:

I decided it would be well to have some hold over him to
induce him to consider my offer seriously.

Deadlocked, p. 174

Taking an offer seriously is not a foregone conclusion. If anyone thought that it was inevitable that Eric take the marriage, it really should be Freyda. Freyda seems to think that this contract is not something that Eric can get out of – but rather that will make him stop and think and take her seriously. She believes like everyone else not that Eric will acquiesce to a piece of paper that isn’t binding, but rather that he will actively choose to take what is on offer:

“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

The only person going on about a binding contract he can’t get out of is Eric. Freyda is talking about choice. That he will choose to take her up on her offer because it is too good. There is no fait accompli here – everyone except Eric is going on about how he’s going to choose this – not that he will be forced into it.

It should also be noted that Felipe is relying on Eric being willing to undergo this great boon. If Eric were to whisper things in Oklahoma’s ear – as Sookie tells us is the most likely thing for him to do – then Eric has to be willing. If Felipe had the aforementioned sack and bundled Eric up into it to transport him to Oklahoma, then Eric certainly wouldn’t have anything positive to say about Felipe and Louisiana. Indeed, forcing him in any way will get him to resent Felipe’s empire, not support it. Felipe will use subtle tactics to get him into this situation, rather than giving him an ultimatum which forces him. In that case, Felipe needs to keep in Eric’s favour if he’s going to Oklahoma – not being a royal arse and hurting him.

But I did notice that the validity of “love tests” Eric puts on Sookie are also rigged. They’re tests that she’s failed before – and I can’t help but think that Eric set it up exactly that way, to make himself feel better if he does decide to go with the allure that is Freyda. What test did she fail before that easily compares this time? This one:

“We could go back to your house. I can stay with you always.”
<snip>
He would be a false version of Eric, an Eric cheated out his true life.
Dead to the World, p. 214

Sookie refused Eric – because it was better for him to go back to his old life. The life that he wanted. Sookie didn’t want to make a decision that would rob him of what he wanted – and she didn’t. What do you know – the second time around, she’s still letting Eric choose what he wants to do with his own life. Sookie’s letting Eric do what is best for him – not factoring in herself. All that she has offered him is love – no power, no money – just love. Same thing she could offer him last time. So Sookie seems absolutely destined to fail Eric’s test.

I wouldn’t wonder if Eric subconsciously set it up like that too. I mean – using magic to keep your life the same – Eric can’t be blind to the similarities. I doubt he’s forgotten the time when he offered to stay with her. And this time, she wants him to stay with her, and he’s fartarsing around. Of course, that’s at least part of the problem – last time Eric did go on with his life and leave her behind. She never said a word about it – she didn’t try to impede him returning to normal by telling him all about how he made all these promises. He left her – and while it wasn’t his fault – he kinda didn’t think about how Sookie fared in all of this.

Even the most forgiving theory about why Eric wanted to know is all about Eric’s right to know about their relationship. I’ve read the EPOV about how Sookie selfishly kept their relationship from him, and how Eric shed many tears over not knowing. And I’ve read the theory on forums that Eric really was pushing Sookie into telling him what he wanted to know because he knew he was happy and until she admitted it, he wouldn’t be happy again. Ironically, this masking of Eric’s selfishness is just selfishness by a different colour. Either way – every single permutation of this theory has been about Eric’s selfish need to see to what he wants, and fuck Sookie and her feelings – she just happened to be there and now he can blame her for all his pain.

I just think that Eric was being out and out selfish and wanting to know and didn’t care all that much about what Sookie thought – without tears and without wistful wishes they could be together. I think he wanted to know merely because he was looking for advantage, and has no hidden nobility in his motivations, no romantic agenda. Eric made it very clear that he wanted Sookie – and that time they had together, Eric had her. Looking for the key wasn’t some impromptu forced counselling session for Sookie’s good – it was selfishness. Eric would get what he wanted and Sookie would cope with it.

In fact, that’s what happened after Eric went back to his life – Sookie was the one who coped alone. Pam coming along to bully Sookie to make Eric happy isn’t actually support. Eric for his part certainly didn’t offer her any more succour – he was more likely to pop out of the woods, end up saying something nasty, and then melting back into the darkness. So Eric still isn’t caring about how Sookie fared, and when history repeats itself, Eric will make sure that yet again when he abandons her, he won’t be very supportive about it all. I mean, unless I totally skipped the chapter where Eric sent Sookie flowers to let her know that even though he was chatting with his fiancée and getting intimate with other women, he was totally concerned with her and how she was faring.

Last time, Sookie didn’t use the magic to work in her favour, so she could get what she wanted; and here she’s doing it again. Eric gets to make his choice on what he wants, and then Sookie will cope with the fallout. Eric’s not a stupid man – I’m sure he could see that Sookie would never ask any man to give up what he wants more than he wants her. After all – she broke up with Quinn because she couldn’t ask him to ditch his mother in favour of not putting her in the hole with vampires any more. Eric knows about that – and he knows about the time Sookie sent him back to his usual life when she could have had everything she wanted with him before.

So I can only draw the conclusion that either what Eric wants subconsciously is for Sookie to fail; or that what Eric wants is too high a bar to set for the woman he’s supposed to know and love. I mean, he’s supposed to be thinking about what sort of woman Sookie is – rather than the generic blonde he’s banging this century. Love means knowing that person – even the dark raw of their soul and understanding it. Not asking them to be more than they can manage. Sookie’s got that one down. If Eric did make this ultimatum, then I’m not so sure he does understand the woman he professes to love. Since I think he does, well it seems like he planned for her to fail just like she did last time she could have used magic to keep him with her. Sookie doesn’t roll that way.

Eric makes out like it is Sookie who has the choice to use the cluviel dor, but everyone else but Eric is going on about choices – that it is Eric’s choice to make. And I have to say that I don’t think that the cluviel dor was actually an appropriate test. Eric must know just how rare they are, and he has noticed all the shit Sookie has been through right? Like the scars on her back from a Maenad, the hole in her side from a stake, the scar on her shoulder from a gunshot, the scar on her thigh from torture. Those reminders are still around in case he has a memory like a goldfish. The cluviel dor was made for much more urgent concerns in her life than her romantic life. Eric was the cause of two of those scars – he can hardly think she won’t get hurt again. And now she has Fae torturers to scare the living shit out of her and remind her that it’s always a good thing to have a “Get out of jail free” card. After all – Eric himself is a fan of salting away resources for when you need them – a rare and old knife with which to get married, anyone?

I also think that if Eric intends to use Sookie saving Sam as some sort of tacit consent to hurt her, then that’s also a stretch. After all, he’s already tested her on whether or not she will prioritise Sam over him:

“You’re sweet on him?” Eric said.
<snip>
“He’s my boss,” I said. “We’ve been friends for years. Of course I’m fond of him.
<snip>
Eric pulled out his cell phone, giving me a very grim look as he did so. I could see a war starting, another war. More deaths. More loss.
“Wait,” I said. “I’ll talk to Sam.”

Deadlocked, p. 201

So if Eric uses that as his excuse as to why it’s unacceptable to prioritise Sam’s life over Eric’s wants, then that dog won’t hunt. That’s Eric finding it convenient to use it as an excuse. It would be Eric being wilfully obtuse, so that he can act like he’s the injured party. I personally don’t think Eric ran away forever over Sam getting saved by the cluviel dor – this is Eric’s modus operandi for a lot of endings of the books. He’s a busy man, and while he might be in a huff, I have a few words of advice for him on the subject:

“My lover, don’t let your pride get the better of you.”
Deadlocked, p. 74

Equal treatment means something to me – and if Sookie has to swallow her pride in a situation where Eric was killing someone, well he’ll just have to suck it up when it’s his turn now, won’t he? And if he doesn’t, well, Eric is still putting his own needs first.

I happen to think that this situation is an opportunity for growth for Eric – that he needs to be forced into a corner to actually change anything. Like I’ve said in the past, the whole Freyda thing allows him to do that. It’s essential – after all, nobody but Sookie has been selling the line that he’ll stay with her, and she’s starting to lose faith that he will. If no one else thinks he’s really interested in being with Sookie, then it’s not some weird vibe that Sookie is getting – it’s how Eric appears. It’s how he appears on page too. Not being committed is a big problem. Sookie can’t stand by Eric if she thinks that he uses her to fill a spot until something better than love comes along.

I have faith that Eric will make the right choice. I mean, Sookie called Bill and Sam her friends in this book – to their faces. She wouldn’t even let Quinn come visit. There is no one else to slot back into the suitor spot. But nor can she resolve to actually settle with Eric if she truly believes that just like last time – and the time before with Bill – he won’t choose her. He’ll choose himself and his life. Eric is selfish enough the majority of the time that he needs to show some commitment to Sookie. If he can’t give two shits about the Fae living in her house, and their politics, and her concerns enough to actually listen and care about it, then he needs to show his commitment to her wellbeing in another way. I await on him to do just that. But either way – this is a choice that Eric has to make – and everyone except Eric keeps talking about it that way. He will own his success and failure on this – whichever way he chooses. He will not be a whim of fate, but master of his destiny. Whatever happens, Eric has a say in it. Setting up tests for Sookie to fail won’t take that away.

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