Saturday, June 23, 2012

Southern Vampire Mysteries vs. True Blood #2

So as you may remember from last week, the very cool Kristin McFarland and I have cooperated on a series of blog posts comparing and contrasting True Blood with the books the show is based on, The Southern Vampire Mysteries. We're alternating blogs - last week's post was on her blog, with just a teaser on mine. You can find the whole post here

Now this week, we take on Sookie. I'm going to get out of the way and pick the conversation up where last week's post left it...
LR: I noticed in your comments that you cite Alan Ball’s vision and Eric…I mean, and “the sexy men”, as reasons for watching the show. You managed to NOT mention the main character. What’s up with you and Sookie? Is she too Mary Sue for you?

That’s interesting! You may convince me to read the books through yet. Part of what turns me off about the show is the continual darkness. It’s just so… grim. Anyway, that’s probably a topic for another question. Sookie does bother me a bit. Wikipedia says a Mary Sue is “a character whose positive aspects overwhelm their other traits until they become one-dimensional,” and that describes Sookie. She’s kind, she’s sassy, she’s hot, she’s loving… She’s everything. The trouble is, she’s just so trusting and naïve, at least at the beginning of the show, that she drives me up the wall. She wouldn’t end up in half the dangerous situations she does if she would just question the motives of the people around her. She’s so busy trying to save everyone, though, that she never really holds them accountable for their actions.

On the other hand, maybe that’s part of her charm, like Rose on Doctor Who. Just when you think she’s the blandest person ever, she’ll go and hug some supernatural creature most of us would run away from. It’s both her greatest strength and her weakness, but maybe I’m not sentimental enough to identify with or love that trait.

Her relationships with the men in the show trouble me, too, and I could probably write a whole blog post about that… Oh, wait, I have, haven’t I? Three of them! It seems to me, though, that she’s part of an insidious fantasy trope that places trusting, innocent, sweet women in juxtaposition with a secretive, violent man. Sookie’s almost the archetype for that: she has power, but she’s afraid to use it, and I hate to see that in a female protagonist.

What about book-Sookie makes her a strong enough character to carry a first-person, twelve-book series? There has to be something there.

LR: Ah, Sookie…she’s every girl with a twist. For a look at the essential Sookie, you have to read Club Dead. She starts out getting dumped by Bill, which is one of the saddest break-up scenes I’ve ever read. Then she finds out Bill has apparently been kidnapped (vampire-napped?) and Eric proposes that she travel to Mississippi to rescue him.  She agrees because it’s the right thing to do, and because part of her wants a chance to tell Bill off.  Eric arranges for Alcide to travel with her – a situation Eric later comes to regret because of the chemistry between them, but that’s for another essay.

There are two scenes in Club Dead that really illustrate her personality (spoiler alert!). First, she gets badly injured in a bar fight and taken to the home of the vampire King of Mississippi. There’s a guy there who can heal her, but it’s gonna hurt. Eric has turned up and says he’ll take the pain away but she has to give up control. See, one of the things that vampires find so intriguing about Sookie is that they can’t control her mind the way they do with other humans. She lets him help her, and then, after the healing’s done, almost gives in to his other, more romantic, demand. In the nick of time they get interrupted by Bubba, the Elvis Vampire, who points out that Mr. Bill would likely be unhappy to find Mr. Eric laying on top of Miss Sookie.  Sookie gets a handle on herself and pushes Eric away.

This is perfect Charlaine Harris, pushing you to the brink with her characters, then pulling away with a dose of humor. I still giggle every time I read it. The later scene doesn’t have the humor but is no less satisfying. It’s the last scene in the book, when after a hugely traumatic stretch of werewolf attacks and evil Debbie Pelt experiences, they get back to Bon Temps. Both Bill and Eric are in Sookie’s house, and she’s mad at both of them, so she rescinds their invitations, forcing them both to leave. There’s some fire under that bouncy ponytail, and she lets them have it.

In re-reading your analysis of the TV Sookie, I’d say that I don’t think the book Sookie is naïve and trusting as much as she is lonely. She lived a lot of years with everyone around her thinking she was crazy, and now she’s found a community of people who look at her differences and see strength instead of weirdness. She couldn’t date a human, because she’d always know what he REALLY thought of her outfit. Then she meets Bill, and not only can she relax around him because she can’t read his thoughts, he teaches her how to shield which gives her peace of mind around the rest of the world. She’s not a complete pushover, but she does enjoy being around men who think she’s got something to offer. And supernatural women like her, too….

Which brings up the subject of Pam. Of all the casting choices Alan Ball made, she’s my least favorite, because the book Pam was more like Alice In Wonderland with fangs. She’s also Sookie’s only vampire friend. What do you think of Pam? Is she a friend to Sookie?

'Kay gang, you'll have to check back next week to see what Kristin & I think of Pam. Thanks for playing along.

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  1. You did a great job of explaining Sookie as she's written in the books, Liv. I have to agree that she comes off as a much stronger character in the books than in True Blood. I like watching the show, but like Kristin states, it is so grim and can be quite gruesome to watch. Loving this series - looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Great read. Just nominated you for the Liebster Blog award.

  3. Here's the link

  4. I think POV is the key difference between the books and the TV series, Tami. Because the books come from Sookie's POV, she's necessarily more complex and well-developed than she is on TV. IMHO.
    Thanks for the positive feedback!

  5. Thanks for the nomiation, Zrinka! It's very much appreciated.