Ever since I started watching True Blood, I’ve had a hard time believing Sookie Stackhouse as a feminist icon. Sure, she kicks a lot of butt, sometimes seeking danger out herself (taking down the Rattrays when they milk blood from Bill in the car park of Merlottes), is in charge of her sexuality, if that means staying a virgin until the right man comes along, and doesn’t take shit from anybody. But… she’s just so damn annoying!
So is Glee’s Rachel Berry and most of the Gossip Girl cast, and they could be seen as icons of feminism for the texting set. However, instead of whining to her teacher, withholding sex from her boyfriend or plotting revenge against her nemeses, Sookie is just the opposite. She may be blonde, virginal and innocent in every sense, but she is also very much like Buffy Summers, who was created with bucking the horror movie victim stereotype in mind.
Speaking of characters who act before they speak, Tara Thornton comes to mind.
True Blood is all about juxtaposing discrimination against the blacks and the gays against the discrimination of vampires. The book True Blood & Philosophy, which I reviewed last week, mentions that Sookie and Tara were both raised—for the most part—by Sookie’s grandmother, yet Sookie is “admired, protected and coeveted by every heterosexual male main character and loved by a sweet, nurturing grandmother” while “Tara is blunt, sarcastic, morose, love-starved and goes home each night to an alcoholic mother” and gets caught up in Maryann’s spiral of lies and magic. Racist stereotypes or social criticism?
And while we’re on Maryann, she seems to embody “certain stereotypes of late-1970s feminism”, both in the clothes she wears (floaty, feminine and ethereal maxi dresses) and the hedonistic, maenadic lifestyle she espouses. Given her obsession with taking down Sam, using Eggs as her partner in crime and erecting the meat-statue in Sookie’s yard (not to mention her “hunter’s soufflé”!), she really embodies the “feminist as man-eater” ideal.
While these are good examples of other, non-blonde/innocent/virginal heroines in True Blood (and while we’re at it, let’s not forget Pam, Lorena and Sophie-Ann), I would also like to examine Sookie in relation to the men of Bon Tempts. Let’s look at True Blood’s Nest again:
“… Bill and various other hot men are always rescuing Sookie from certain death, or so it seems. But remember y’all, it was her that tried to find the town serial killer, not the useless cops. It was her that killed Rene the Killer with a shovel to the neck while the menfolk bumbled around the graveyard uselessly. It was her that decided to go to Dallas in order to get Lafayette out of Eric’s icky dungeon, AND she wanted money and a driveway as part of the deal. Once again the menfolk spluttered and marvelled at her bravery and sauciness, and lusted after her even more for it. She is the mistress of her own kick ass destiny while Bill, Sam and even Eric can only follow in her wake, hoping to be of some use.”
The original title for this post was “What is it With Sookie”, and seriously, what is it with Sookie?! By the end of season three, we have found out that Sookie’s appeal to the “menfolk” may be because of her fairy heritage, not because of her physical attributes or personality traits.
This is unfortunate for Bill, because it is plain to see that he does love Sookie for who she is, not what she can do for him. But I will say that the fairy blood storyline is an intriguing one; did Sookie’s blood allow Bill to crawl, albeit with his flesh charring with each movement he made, to her rescue in the graveyard at the end of season one? Is that also why Eric wants her?
But when you take away their supernatural abilities, Bill and Sookie’s relationship is one with issues that I’m sure a lot of modern day couples face: Bill has old-fashioned sensibilities in wanting to protect his lover, while Sookie struggles with the concept of maintaining “independence in sexual relationships”, which second- and third-wave feminism have told us we must do. Nothing illustrates this conflict (and metaphorical backlash?) than the second episode of season two, when Sookie storms out of Bill’s car after a fight about said independence and protection only to be attacked by a mythical creature for her efforts!