Friday, 15 July 2011

The end of an era

Well, it's not exactly the end yet, but I think that this:

is the first glimpse of the end. In it Charlaine Harris mentions that she is two books from the end of her Sookie Stackhouse series.

Vampire stories have been around for centuries, if not millennia. There were legends before Stoker wrote Dracula. In the beginning they all seemed to include variations on the theme that young women were perfect victims, they could be lured into danger because passion, compassion and even curiosity could be used to entrap them.

I'm not sure why it is that this form is the one in which many authors repudiated the "female as victim" theme, but they have done so with a vengeance. One of my favorites is _Those Who Hunt the Night_ by Hambly. The main female character shares the stage with her husband, but she is no shrinking violet. She has brains and backbone. (Wonderful book.)

Then we had the entire Buffy universe. When I first heard about the series I rolled my eyes and refused to watch it. A friend talked me into watching the hyena episode and I was hooked. This was at a point in my life when I was profoundly disappointed in the way young women had turned their backs on feminism. I heard college students say that they could not be feminists because they liked men. I like men, what does that have to do with wanting to be treated with respect, to be allowed to follow my dreams, to receive a living wage for my work? I was around in the 1970s, I knew that feminism was not a repudiation of being feminine; but somehow popular culture seemed to have adopted that viewpoint. Then there was Buffy. She wanted to be popular, she was shy around handsome guys, she lusted after the pretty prom dress... and she could kick a^#. She was a fresh archtype, a girl who was strong and who wanted friends and family, a woman who was competent and who wanted to be loved. I don't actually think that this was a new archtype. I think that this is exactly what we were fighting for when we wanted mothers who stayed home with their children to get Social Security AND wanted women who wanted to be firefighters to be allowed to get an interview and take the physical test. We never wanted to deny half of ourselves, but Buffy gave young women of this generation a model, so that they could see that those attributes could exist in one person.

Then there was Sookie Stackhouse. I'm looking forward to the next two books, but I'll be sorry that they are the last. Sookie is a telepath coping with a strange world. She has grown so much during the series. What I've loved most about her is that she cares for others, but also stands up for herself. She can be hurt; but she does not cave, she stands back up and refuses to be a victim. I love her strength.

Much has been made of the Stephen King quote:
"Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."
— Stephen King

I haven't read Twilight, so I can't comment on that. I hope that the vampire novel narrative is not going to cast women as victims of love once more... we've come a long way and I hope that we can stay far away from having to choose between our passion and our strength. I do like this quote by Reba MaEntire:
"To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funnybone>"

I hope that we'll see a generation of female protagonists who have all three.