I really thought my vampire thing was over. I read all Anne Rice’s books through middle school and high school. And I’ve been completely obsessed with Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel for years. Like let me sing you the musical, go out cosplaying, and attend fancons obsessive. Then my friend Gretchen insists I watch True Blood.
Both Charlaine Harris’ The Southern Vampire Mysteries books and the True Blood TV series have their flaws. They aren’t high literature by any means, and clearly fall into the category of beach-reading for the novels and trashy-TV for the show. The actors constantly drop their accents and Harris goes on and on about Sookie’s less-than-stylish outfits. And I’ve take to randomly calling out “Buuhill!” and “Ssucky” in mockery.
The first season of True Blood basically follows Dead Until Dark‘s plot. I whipped through the book knowing what was going to happen around every corner. Some of the little changes I liked better than others. When I got the second book, Living Dead in Dallas, I stumbled a bit with it, and likewise, I felt the second season stumbled. I’d been warned this was the weakest book in the series.
But what I couldn’t get over was the homophobia in Living Dead in Dallas. This book made me forever grateful for Alan Ball’s flimsy second season fixing the missteps the book took. Neither are gems, even in the vampire-porn genre, but True Blood‘s Season Two isn’t as offensive.
In Chapter One, Lafayette Reynolds’ body is found in Detective Andy Bellefleur’s car. It wasn’t until this scene that I consciously realize Lafayette is the only gay character and the only black character Sookie considers a friend and has regular interactions with. (As far as other black characters, Tara Thorton and Eggs are not introduced until toward the end of this book.) And Lafayette’s dead. Whereas in the TV show, Lafayette’s alive and one of the main characters, who has his problematic stereotypes, but is enough of a fixture to be a fan-favorite.Now onto the book’s main plot, when the Dallas vampires have mind-reading Sookie investigate the missing vampire Farrell, it’s quickly apparent that Farrell’s gay. (However, it’s still problematic that the only gay character would be somewhat inherently evil — or at least inhuman. Because Bill seems to be the only decent vampire in Sookie’s world.) Turns out Farrell was an associate of Godric (called Godfrey in the book).
In the TV show, Godric is the missing one and Eric sends Sookie after him. Godric is Eric’s sire and implied lover. Also, its pretty implied Godric is gay. Over two thousand years old, Godric is wary of being a vampire — he cites that vampires do not evolve — and attempts to step into the sun to teach a lesson to the anti-vampire church, The Fellowship of the Sun. However, he’s stopped by Sookie and others. Later, he does commit suicide, but with only Sookie watching him.
Overall, Godric’s TV arch is very moving and possibly the best thing about Season Two. The actor playing him is incredibly talented, and his connection to Eric brings dimensions to the character of Eric we hadn’t seen. Not to mention, Godric never threatens to kill Sookie or her friends. Which makes him the only vampire, besides Bill, to do this. In fact, AfterElton.com readers voted Ball as gay TV writer of the decade, in part for his writing gay characters on True Blood. (Also on Six Feet Under.)
And on the completely opposite ‘what the f***’ hand, you have the Living Dead in Dallas plot where Godric converts to Christianity because he believes his soul is damned. Why is it damned? Well, he’s not only gay, but he’s also a pedophile who then makes his male child victims his dinner. And Godric’s been doing so for two thousand years plus with no plans to stop.
Godfrey sniffed the blood on me, and his face was swept with longing. I knew that look. But it was devoid of lust. He didn’t care a thing for my body. The link between blood and sex is very strong for all vampires, so I considered myself lucky that I was definitely in adult form.1
Worse, yet, we find that the reason Farrell’s missing is because he has the same predilections as Godric and Godric wants him to repent. Like a good Evangelist, Godric wants Farrell to burn in the sun with him, no matter what Farrell wants.
Both Godric and Farrell are the worst gay stereotype: that all gay people, especially gay men, are pedophiles. We can forgive our favorite fictional vampires for killing — even killing children — but only God can forgive them for raping children.
Sookie, our narrator, while she defends human-vampire love, she never fully condemns the church or Godric’s involvement in Farrell’s kidnapping. Even after the church kidnaps her. Yes, she rallies against them burning her — an evil vampire-loving human — tied to Farrell. And maybe it was kind of bad they kidnapped Farrell, but since Sookie isn’t attached to him (and he’s an evil child rapist), he doesn’t matter.
Further more, Sookie later muses on just how much Godric deserved to die and how perhaps even some innocent people were behind bars, falsely accused of Godric’s crimes. But how he saved her, so wasn’t it good he sought forgiveness with God.
For his centuries of molesting and killing children, Godfrey had deserved to die. I wondered how many humans were in jail for crimes Godfrey had committed. But Godfrey had helped me, and Godfrey had carried with him the most tremendous load of guilt and grief I’d ever encountered.2
Then all the vampires proceed to grieve over Godric’s death as he was so resolute in dying, in repenting for his sins. There’s a definitely an implication that all vampires should repent to God for their sins. And that there’s something beautiful and sacred in this. Sure, every text about vampires deals with the horror of killing humans for food. Some drink animals’ blood (Angel and Spike); some try to only eat the really bad (Lestat); some are vegetarian and sparkle (Cullens); others feel really bad about it (Louis); and some drink only tiny amounts from the willing (True Blood vampires and Cassidy). Even texts which mention rape (though not of children) and killing of children by vampires, none of the characters or the supporting characters judge the vampires worthy of a death sentence. Especially since we all know murder and rape, especially of children, is horrific and we have already judged them. But here, Harris seems to feel we need to have an anviliciously strong reason to want Godric’s death.
Of course, Living Dead in Dallas‘s problem isn’t the condemnation of serial killing pedophiles, but its lack of any other representation of queer people. We have the dead Lafayette in Chapter One and dead Godric, who meets the sun, and Farrell, who’s killed in a human attack on his nest, by the end. Oh, and then we have Eric pretending to be gay (though the text hints Eric’s bisexual) to accompany Sookie to a human orgy. (Don’t ask, the Maryann plot was even more tacked on in the book.) Specifically, Eric pretends to be flamboyantly gay in a hot pink tank top and leggings that are swirling pink and aqua.3
While I don’t believe Harris is intentionally homophobic, Living Dead in Dallas still kills all its queer characters and makes two of them serial killing pedophiles. Thankfully, Ball changed the text for True Blood to keep Lafayette around, ditched Farrell as an extraneous character, and gave Godric moving storyline without pedophilia and murdered children. But seriously, these books are supposed to be my light reading, my beach reading, and not ones I write rants about on my blog.
1 pg 158 from Charlene Harris’ Living Dead in Dallas
2 pg 202
3 pg 247
Edit: As of September 2010, I have read all the Sookie Stackhouse books. (Or at least the published ones.)