Sookie, the empowered
There are two vampire phenomena happening right now in entertainment: the Twilight saga, with the popular books becoming popular movies, and the True Blood Series, with the increasingly popular books adapted into an HBO series. Both have a young female heroine who is romantically involved with a vampire. Both are set in present day America.
There the similarities end.
One is set in the Pacific northwest. One is set in the parishes outside of New Orleans. One seems intended for teens. The other very much for adults. But the real difference is in the women at their respective centers.
Carmen Siering writes in Ms. Magazine that Bella, the heroine of Twilight, fails as a feminist hero.
[N]ear the end of the film, Bella must choose between her two suitors. And yet when this big, empowering moment arrives, Bella offers an explanation for her choice that lets her off the hook. Melissa Rosenberg’s script doesn’t have Bella spell things out quite as clearly as Meyer’s narration in the book. Here we have Bella talking in circles about her love for Jacob and what might have been. In the book, Meyer makes it clear that Bella places the blame for her choice on something outside her control….
…[B]y placing the blame for choosing Edward over Jacob on the insane, irrational world in which she lives instead of on her own needs and desires, Bella abdicates responsibility for that choice, making it no choice at all. If the foundation of feminism is being able to choose, as Meyer insists, and one chooses not to choose, then what sort of feminism is that? It may seem romantic to be swept away by forces outside your control, but it’s not empowering.
I'm not a big Twilight expert. I've seen the first movie. The second lurks in a dark corner somewhere in the house, hiding from me. The third, well, I'm not keen enough to compel me to go to the theater and watch all the commercials.
But I do know True Blood.
Let's look at Sookie. Where Bella may seem to "abdicate her responsibility", Sookie refuses to let go of her own. In fact, she won't have others meddling in her business, not without at least confronting them. In the very first episode of the show, we see her pick up a chain from a truck bed and use it to confront a couple of ne'er-do-wells — not out of a misplaced sense of macho or foolishness (though it does feel foolish at the time), but in order to protect someone she's just met and hardly knows. She can't just stand by while someone gets victimized. It's striking how the chain in her hand becomes an extension of herself. Oh, she's scared. But she won't back down — not unless he has to, not unless she's outmatched. And even then, she'll keep the words coming. She's never cowed.
Sookie owns her destiny. She owns her choices in life. When Bill asks, "What are you?" and Sookie responds, "My name is Sookie, and I'm a waitress," she's not being self-deprecating, she's stating the facts. And interestingly, we never sense that she's diminishing her life by not pursuing the usual "success" tracks of college or power career like real estate or movie star. She's too self-aware, too in charge of her own life to feel that.
There's no sense of victim mind in this character who has every right to feel the victim. (I'll spare the spoilers that would be required to rattle off the reasons.) She is empowered. How? Why? I feel that it's because that's how she was raised by her "Gran." It never occurs to her to play victim to the fates.
Yes, Sookie can be foolish and naive at times. But I chalk that up to her innocence and youth, not her sex.
And so I look forward to every Sunday night when True Blood airs.