Weeping Willa

This is the post that I referenced in the comments concerning the likeness to Scarlett O’Hara here. When I started this post, it was with a phrase as the title from Dead to the World. It lead me on an interesting little tour. Now, the requisite quote – where “Weeping Willa” appears is here:

I sighed, and my eyes watered, as they so often did
when I thought of Bill – Weeping Willa, that was me.

Dead to the World, p. 51

What this was going to be was a complaint about all the screaming, yelling and most pertinently, fucking crying Sookie does in SVM fanfic thanks to True Blood. I’ll cover that, but then I want to get onto what I found in my search. Book Sookie just doesn’t cry the way she does on television. On television, all the action halts while Sookie has some good screaming cry and everything stops in the meanwhile. And more importantly, Sookie falls to pieces in front of other people. It’s such a well known thing, there’s even auto-suggest on google images, and you find all manner of Sookie crying pictures:

It’s not a good finale if Sookie isn’t crying for some reason. Every single season’s end has had her having a good screaming cry. I’d say that that’s a trend about season finals, except that Sookie is forever fucking crying the rest of the season as well. It sticks in the mind so well because Anna Paquin is unbelievably shit at getting me to sympathise with her because her performance is so overblown. I think it must be the director’s issue – because she didn’t cry so badly in X-Men – so the director must like the contorted ugly crying or something. Because it’s not just Anna – it’s Askars and SMoyer too, who have that contorted ugly hammed-up crying – and they’re actually good actors. I can’t say the same about Anna, as I just watched her in the end of this movie, and she was not discernibly different from her Sookie acting. The same cock of the head, the same questioning looks, the same angry talking – it was like watching Sookie acting with another groom. Much like Nicholas Cage channels Nicholas Cage for his acting style. By the by – do not watch that movie, as going by the end, both women are complete doormats. Ugh.

If it’s not pecan pie that’s making Sookie weep, it’s the Maenad, or being stuck in the Fellowship basement, or seeing Bill and Eric roasting on a stake or whatever. True Blood Sookie is forever crying. It drives me up the wall, but the purpose is to weaken her character and make her non-relevant to the action. She’s too busy sitting in the corner having a good sob, so she’s doing something other than just standing there while men solve her problems. Crying is a time wasting stage direction, because just standing there will make her lack of relevance more visible. If someone is crying on screen, they’re really doing something while ostensibly doing nothing.  I mean when Show Sookie is in the Fellowship basement, crying and screaming explains the reason she’s just standing there, not doing anything to save herself. She’s busy.

Book Sookie cries – sure – but she doesn’t do it in the middle of an action scene, and she doesn’t fall to pieces for an extended crying scene. She waits until everything is over before she has a good cry – before that, she keeps it together and does not fall apart on the spot. For example, when she’s under pressure to not only take care of Eric all on her lonesome, but also look for Jason who is missing:

Tears welled up in my eyes. I wanted my grandmother back.
I pulled over to the side of the road and slapped myself on
the cheek, hard. I called myself a few names.

Dead to the World, p. 71

If this was Show Sookie, there’d be at least two minutes of watching her cry, and then possibly go to Eric to fix it for her, and like a giant doofus she’d create debt to a vampire who wants to own her arse. You know – the sensible course of action…not. Of course, in the books, Eric, the vampire, is in her house and does not offer to try to track Jason from his house – even knowing that Sookie is worried about her brother. So not only does he not care that Sookie might die from harbouring him, but he’s so not interested that he’ll go in the dead of night over to Jason’s place and track his whereabouts. Which just adds up the things for Sookie to actually have a breakdown over.

In particular, Book Sookie waits until danger is actually over to sit down and have a good cry about things. One of the things that gets on my nerves most is this transference from Show Sookie, who is largely absolutely fucking useless under pressure, versus Book Sookie who brings herself up short. When I see it in fanfic, it just makes me roll my eyes that it seems people have forgotten – replaced True Blood canon with SVM canon, and make Sookie a dickhead when she’s not one. It’s the bonding scene that always sticks in my mind:

Eric said, “Sookie.” He looked at me intently.
I looked right back at him. I understood what that one word was saying.
There was no way out of this.
No struggling or screaming or refusal would prevent this procedure.

“Eric,” I said, and tilted my head to one side.
All Together Dead, pp. 177-178

There’s no screaming and crying – there’s resistance – as there should be. Being a submissive lamb to vampires is stupid and dangerous – they don’t stop in their demands if you just go along with them. But Sookie didn’t hold fast to the idea that if she threw an epic tantrum, it would make everything better. In fact, I still see Sookie’s infamous fits of temper referenced, and I’ve yet to find them in the text. In the bonding scene, she tried to calmly talk her way out of it, and then played nice when she was given an alternative. It doesn’t mean she thought it was nice, but she didn’t make an arse out of herself. Sookie didn’t intend to drink vampire blood that night – and there’s no reason to think that she should be all happy about it. And when it was appropriate to cry – usually in private for Sookie – she did just that:

The collar was stained with my blood. Tears began flooding my eyes, and I
sank to my haunches on the landing of that bleak staircase in a city far from home.

All Together Dead, p. 181

If Sookie really was the type to break down screaming and crying in the middle of the action – this would have been the scene. Obviously, sharing her blood wasn’t something she wanted to do. As an aside – this is usually brushed off – that Sookie is upset about the bonding. Yet, here she is, stuck in a situation with Andre where she has to have close contact – an unbreakable link – with a man who cared for her with his memory gone, and who left her. That’s just sort of glossed over, like that wouldn’t feel invasive, awful and hurtful. Sookie moved on with Quinn – tried to make something work with him – and as great foreshadowing, the vampires came in and fucked it all up with him.  Instead Sookie is hauled over the coals for not wanting to share something intimate with her ex-boyfriend – something that is so intimate it involves the swapping of bodily fluids. But we can’t have empathy for her, now, can we? It might somehow hurt Eric if he’s not pandered to.

Sookie is always breaking down – not in the middle of the relevant fight of the time – but rather afterwards. In terms of adrenaline, it really doesn’t make much sense to have Sookie respond to the fight and flight mechanism by sitting down to have a cry. Running or fighting, yes, but not sitting down to have a good cry. In fact, one of the first killings she takes full cognisant responsibility for – again – she doesn’t cry immediately:

“Another drink?” Eric asked.
“Sure. How do you feel?” I was numb myself.
His smile was crooked. “Weak.”
I got him more blood and he drank this bottle more slowly.

Then he looked at me.
“I know, I know, I did terrible!” I said. “I’m so sorry!”
I could feel tears – again – trailing down my cheeks.

Dead to the World, p. 259

As an aside – the tears she feels again – that’s referencing Sookie crying after the Witch War is over – which is before she got home and shot Debbie. Sookie just doesn’t cry until it’s appropriate to relax her guard. She doesn’t just cry because there has to be an excuse why she is letting Lorena kill her – she’s too busy standing there crying. The bullshit of Sookie crying in the middle of everything? That’s really just there to have her doing something other than standing there looking like an obvious doofus, waiting for some beneficent man to spring down and save her arse. One thing Book Sookie never has had problems with is saving her own arse – she’s done it a lot.

Might I also point out that in these crisis moments, there’s no feet stamping, no temper tantrums. Sookie puts her shoulder to the wheel when bad stuff is going down – when she’s being bonded to Eric, does she delay the moment by acting like an untenable baby? No – she does it and waits until afterwards to make her feelings heard. When she shoots Debbie, does she have an epic bitching session about how wrong it is? Nooo….she seems to apologise for not protecting Eric. What an unreasonable woman. The shit that goes on about this stuff with Sookie is a conjunction of bad fanfic writer and Alan Ball’s mind control bullshit seeping into the memory of what Book Sookie is really like.

But enough of my generalised complaining about why people do what they do, and specific rage at bad memories and those easily swayed. I found something that was absolutely fascinating was the reference to Weeping Willa. Thank God this pissed me off. I googled the phrase, thinking it was something Southern or American – meaning I have no clue to the cultural context. Like I had to google “Poor Pitiful Pearl” or “Little Debbie cinnamon roll” – neither of which exist in Australia. And what I found was BONANZA on a subject that people often complain about in the books.

Weeping Willa is a reference to raising kids. It’s all about those teenage girls who cry and worry all the time over things. Show Gran should have given Show Sookie some learnings from this book. It’s all about the excessive worry that some teen girls do – to the point that it upsets them and they end up weeping over it. Even more fascinating is that the treatment is the “Scarlett O’Hara technique” – meaning that these girls are supposed to stop worrying and crying all the time, and put off thinking about it until later. To verbalise their worries and concerns a couple of times and then put it aside to think about later – while focusing on the positive stuff. That raises their self confidence as a result. It’s a pretty good idea.

Moreover, the “Scarlett O’Hara technique” stops kids obsessing about things to the point that they upset themselves.

This all happens as a result of escape learning. They eventually learn
that they can escape the ordeal, but the only avenue of
escape is to radically limit obsessive worry.

How to Raise Kids You Want to Keep: The Proven Discipline Program Your
Kids Will Love (That Really Works!)
by Jerry Day (2007), p. 249

I mean, it’s one thing to have problems, but you don’t actually make them all better by focusing on them all the time, and stuff that you can’t change. Worry is something that amps up your anxiety, but it doesn’t actually lead to solutions to your problems – it keeps you buried in them, thinking about them. Not solving them, or doing anything constructive – but rather just obsessing and keeping anxiousness at the forefront. So I think that this is a good technique to teach any kid – any person for that matter – not just keep going over and over things you can’t change.

Yes, there are puzzles to be solved. Sookie has plenty of puzzles. But that’s not the sort of worrying I’m talking about. I’m meaning the worry you can’t actually do anything about things. There are things you can change, and things you can only dwell on until you feel like shit. A good example is Sookie’s rape in the trunk by Bill. I’ve spoken before about how she’s resolved that one – and about how victims don’t have a universal experience. Great scores of readers want – I’m not sure what – with Sookie. They want her to catalogue every single move that Bill made, and the fact that she doesn’t do that means that she somehow hasn’t actually dealt with it. But what good would that actually do? I mean, does it make any actual difference to the eventual outcome that she knows what happened? No. It doesn’t. Since she doesn’t remember a time of happiness and rainbows in the trunk:

I’d been in a car trunk before, and it hadn’t ended well
for me. It was a memory I blocked out resolutely.

Dead Reckoning, p. 249

If she knows it didn’t end well, she’s not in denial. She knows it didn’t end well. The opposite of denial. What could serve her by saying a word “rape”? What could actually change about that time if she talked about it in the way that readers seemingly want her to? I’m never sure what they want Sookie to think about it. Should she unerringly use words she’s not comfortable with? Or should we actually believe that CH is trying to put us in Sookie’s headspace, as if she’s a real person? I prefer the real headspace, where Sookie’s thoughts are the thoughts she has.

Considering that CH is a rape victim, and would know that few women catalogue every moment of what happened to them, this is sensible. Even when CH wrote A Secret Rage, she didn’t actually catalogue the rape scene – she said “And then, he raped me”. Even if she said “And then he made my worst nightmare come true” it wouldn’t change what happened – “rape” isn’t actually a better word than “worst nightmare”. I kinda think it’s just that little bit disgusting that readers expect a real life rape victim to go into massive details about rape – but well…isn’t that their complaint in the first place? That the rape victim doesn’t spell out the act and how it made her feel in totality. Huh. Wonder where the fuck Sookie gets her technique for dealing with it? Could it be that the real life rape victim CH doesn’t want to spell out the details? Geez. These readers. You want details, read court documents.

But it is not logical to dwell on things like this. What purpose could it possibly serve to have Sookie say what readers want her to say? That during the middle of discussing Kelvin and Hod and their intended abduction of her, right before the Victor death planning session, the text would have been so much better, and Sookie so much healthier to say:

“I’d been in a car trunk before wherein Bill had raped and drained me brutally, left me bloody and damaged, and didn’t once say sorry for it. He had had sex with me against my will, and hurt me awfully. I had a scar from where he’d bitten me so brutally on the neck, and neither vampire offered me blood to erase that scar. I suppose it fitted in with all the other vampire bite scars. We’d worked towards just ignoring it – I didn’t want to hear my rapist’s opinion on things, and he didn’t want to talk about mine. Of course he’d never said sorry for raping me after he’d dumped me, even though he’d apologised for dumping me. But he wasn’t going away any time soon so I just had to deal with it. Probably by remembering it in stark and minute detail every single time I saw him. That’s healthy right?”
Dead Reckoning, the stupid and unnecessary exposition edition

You think that with the above paragraph that Sookie would be magically healed? That it’s healthy to do this shit? Or is that not enough detail for you? I mean, Jesus. I don’t understand what is the obsession – what readers want her to say. Because this to me sounds like someone who’s stuck in the moment, and reads like a writer who doesn’t understand brevity or how not to summarise the character’s history over and over every time it’s mentioned. I don’t see what it solves to have Sookie revisit what happened in the trunk every fucking time she mentions Bill.

In fact, leading down these sort of segue dalliances into this sort of thing is incredibly unhealthy. If the rape is at the forefront of your mind all the time, that’s not in fact, healthy. It should be something you get over and not recall every second – not something that you obsessively reference all the time, in exceptional detail. That is not healing jackshit – it’s constantly re-opening the wound. Denial is making out it didn’t happen at all, but this is a medium ground between obsessive ripping the scab off and denial. It’s the actual healthy way of dealing with it.

Particularly when Sookie is a worrier by nature – as evidenced by the Weeping Willa reference – then worrying about this problem would not solve it. There’s no thought process to going back and being not-a-rape-victim. Once you are, you are. No matter how you think about it, you can’t change that fact. Dwelling on it, trying to be all better not-a-rape-victim doesn’t actually work. Even if you use the survivor dialogue – which as I’ve said before is debated amongst rape victims, which is okay, because they get to define their experience, not others – that doesn’t mean that you transition from rape survivor back to woman-who-hasn’t-been-raped. Rape victim, rape survivor – both are a title for life.

So instead, Sookie puts things aside. She states what bothers her – ie. a car trunk – and then puts that aside. Stops focusing on it. Focusing on it wouldn’t make it not happen. Nor would it change any of the other myriad of things that are done and over and that she’s had to deal with. It means that she doesn’t get overwhelmed by the following list of bad things that have happened to her – and this is just since the books have started – and what comes to my mind:

almost beaten to death; co-workers killed; grandmother murdered; Bill trying to kill her; someone trying to kill Bill; threats from vampire mob boss; vampire murdered on top of her; almost eaten by vampire mob boss; beaten and stabbed and attacked; cat dead; brother jailed; attacked by maenad; exposed and drank from while unconscious by acquaintances and strangers; attacked by priest at airport; threatened by vampire mob boss in another state; attacked in a church and had cheekbone cracked and knee permanently injured; attempted rape in church basement; car crash; massacre; watching Bill date other woman; saw people she knew from birth naked and having sex; attack by maenad’s madness; boyfriend left her; attack by a werewolf at her work; vampire mob boss comes round to threaten to torture her; attacked by a gang of werewolves in a bar; staked in a bar; had stake removed in a strange house and wound sucked on; rescued tortured man; killed vampire; raped and drained in a car trunk; negotiated to free a vampire from being burned; attacked at a gas station; beaten up at home.

Phew. I’m tired already, and I haven’t even started on Dead to the World. But you get the hint, right? There are a whole heap of physical and sexual injustices that happened to Sookie way before the rape – and quite a few emotional injustices I didn’t bother to mention. She dealt with them by not sitting down and meditating on them for a couple of months, but by just not trying to dwell constantly. Should she list this litany of abuses daily, until the list – which is this long with three books, and infinitely longer now – becomes so overwhelming, too much, too scary and too consistent until she decides suicide is the only answer? Might I also point out that the song in my little music box down there points out quite artfully that there’s no such thing as downtime – all you’ve got is lifetime – and this from a survivor of some serious child abuse – an idea Henry Rollins subscribes to wholeheartedly. You can’t dwell, bring yourself down and sit around wasting time with this shit when you can’t change it. (And hey, maybe you’ll listen to a guy if you won’t take a woman as knowing what she’s doing). CH and Sookie aren’t the only ones who use this technique.

And what would she say to Eric – “Nope, sorry, can’t go to Dallas. I’m meditating on the crimes against me. Get back to me in a couple of months.” Oh, that one would have gone down like a lead balloon. I don’t recall Eric asking her if she could get time off work for going to Dallas or Mississippi. Probably because he didn’t give her a choice. The vampire world generally doesn’t – I mean, Victor didn’t give Eric a three month time out because his wife had been tortured, right? The idea that anyone will show you an ounce of kindness – lol. Like the readers who sneer at Sookie and CH, except much much kinder because they have more at stake than say how the books end as they wish, and cover what they want covered. Riiiiight.

Sookie has had to do this all of her life – put aside things that concerned her. Because of her telepathy, it was a sensible technique to teach a child who can’t effect changes in the lives of others. She’s pre-trained in putting aside things she can’t change. For example, this one:

He was lining his own pockets whenever he got a chance, and he made sure the
chances came along pretty frequently. Alcee Beck confined this practice to the
African-American community, operating on the theory that they’d never report
him to the other white law enforcement personnel, and so far he’d been right.

He was very clever about keeping his activities under control and
hidden from anyone with the power to intervene. And I wasn’t
too awful sure that Bud Dearborn didn’t know.

Dead to the World, p. 63

It’s obvious that Sookie can’t change it. She has no proof, and all that she does have is what she hears in people’s heads. They’re not coming forward, so again, what proof does Sookie have to affect change? Her good reputation? Pffft. She can do a sum total of nothing – since she’s unlikely to get a skin colour change (to become a victim of Alcee herself) and because inserting herself into the lives of African Americans to tell them she knows all about their thoughts? Say hello to a girl who just became way too scary and whose house might get set alight at night to get rid of the freaky girl who knows things you didn’t tell anyone.

Apart from the myriad of crimes, there’s also all the infidelity, the jealousy, the nasty little plans that don’t actually break the law. There are unintended consequences for a variety of things Sookie hears from those around her. What if she reported a woman who had a thought about drowning her baby, and then the baby was taken away and the mother killed herself? What if she accused the wrong person of sexually molesting someone? Fantasies are different from actions – what if the victim was only a victim in someone’s head? What if a husband gaslighted his wife until she believed that she was really crazy, and when Sookie told her that she wasn’t crazy, that made her cling harder to her abuser?  And there’s far more – things that people think about doing but don’t actually do:

“Do you really want to run away?” he asked.
This was definitely an “oh shit” moment.

“She was really mad,” he muttered.
“Moms leave their kids.”

Dead in the Family, p. 145

People think things they don’t actually do. All the time. They think about running away from responsibility, or stealing, or murder. They don’t actually do them. Since no one elected Sookie the thought police, who gets to make rules about what to think, and doesn’t à la The Invasion of the Body Snatchers point out the people to be arrested, then all she can do is worry about it – not actually change it.

Considering just how scary some thoughts would be – and perhaps fantasies of murdering your wife, or dumping your kids, raping your neighbour, or cutting your husband’s dick off – then you’d have to have a way to put that aside. You can’t change it. You can’t prevent it. It might not be real. Even if it was, I can assure you that police have way better things to do than set up watch outside your house to stop crimes you might commit. Sookie couldn’t possibly take on the responsibility of fixing the world as a five year old – no more than Hunter can. So you teach her not to hold onto worries.

In that way too, she’d keep Sookie’s self esteem up. Being a telepath doesn’t mean that now what you get is the blow to the self esteem that is being responsible for everything turning out right. It’s way too unreasonable to expect some thirteen girl to make sure she put her own mental health last and make sure every single person she meets is flying right and totally happy. On top of that, all the crap Sookie heard about herself – all the insults and bad stuff that she heard about herself in other people’s heads. It wouldn’t be sensible to dwell on that stuff either. Until you believe the worst about yourself – how every single bit of you is lacking until you’re ready to top yourself. It’s a far superior technique to put it aside and not dwell on it.

I think CH has put a lot of thought into Sookie – and what she would need to get by. She made a believable telepath – not one that was perfect, but one that was tweaked enough to survive and stay strong. One who could get through an incredible amount of adversity and go on out the other side without serious neurosis, and with her sanity. There’s no one who would listen to all the tales of the people in the town – all the bad thoughts they have that you can’t change, and no one will do anything about. There’s no one going around thinking fluffy thoughts to bolster self esteem. Dwelling on the bad things in the world that can’t be changed is not a healthy mindset for anyone. The archetype of Weeping Willa – and the Scarlett O’Hara technique of putting it all aside is essential for making a working telepath, and a healthy human.