I watched a true crime show last night where a pair of truly terrible men kidnapped another man and ducttaped him to the rafters of a barn for six days. The man lost his hands. The police were amazed this man was still alive.
And then we get a description of Anita's kitchen table. She had to get a new table because the old one wasn't big enough for everybody to eat breakfast around. Dr. Lillian, the underground shapeshifter doctor (WHY DOES THIS WOMAN NOT HAVE HER OWN BOOK?) explains that Gregory can't shift because he's still drugged, and if he doesn't shift soon the physical damage to his body, including his ears, will be permanent.
And that brings me to the thing that drives me batshit about this series.
I'm about to divorce a bunch of words from their moral baggage, so bear with me for a second.
In my special version of writing theory there are four character types. Protagonist, Antagonist, Hero and Villian. It is possible to be two of them at once. You can be a villain protagonist, a hero antagonist, or the more traditional hero protagonist, villian antagonist. But the words are identifying different character traits.
The protagonist is the character the audience roots for. The antagonist is the one the audience hopes will lose. Easy enough. But it's the hero/villain definitions that get trickier.
The western hero is defined as a reactive character. Not a "Good" character or a just character, but somebody who reacts to the actions of someone else. Superman waits for a bank robbery, the car thief sits around until somebody kidnaps a family member (thus making his theivery a reactive action). Villians are active characters. They initiate the actions the hero reacts to. When a hero figure becomes the active character--the initatior--rather than the reactive, they become ambiguously heroic. That's why the police in Minority Report felt morally ambiguious to us: The pre-cog police were technically active characters. They were reacting to the pre-cog's vision, which allowed them a heroic label, but their heroism was active because what they were saving people from hadn't happened yet.
This is a subconsious definition, and it took me a LONG time to figure it out. But I have yet to see it defied in either western books or cinema. The traditional hero is consciously defined by his morality, but he is subconsiouly defined by his reactive behavior in response to an active character's bad deeds.
Anita Blake has the moral content of Styrofoam, but she's structured as a traditional hero. Her actions are ALWAYS in reaction to the actions of someone else. At NO POINT in ANY Anita Blake novel I have read to date does Anita initiate an action in response to someone else. She doesn't initiate relationships. She doesn't initiate battles. She never initiates sex. Everything Anita does is reactive. Someone else has to do something to get her off her ass.
The problem I have is not that Anita is reactive; that's traditional story structure. It's that every time LKH wants Anita to start moving, its at the expense of another character's ability.
This is an example: Gregory could have healed on his own. But LKH needs the scene we're about to read to happen. So Gregory doesn't heal on his own. He's too weak, because LKH needs Anita to be strong. The background implication of every action Anita makes is that strength and heroism can only happen at the expense of another individual. That someone else has to fail before Anita can succeed. It turns heroism into a predatory device, and potential heroes into vultures looking down at a crowd of starving antelope, waiting for a chance to swoop in and save them.
Anita is told that if she were "really Nimir-Ra" she could call Gregory's beast and force him to heal himself. It's physical healing as a rape analogue. And then we go off on a "How are you handling maybe sort of being a shapeshifter?" (she isn't) tangent while the wereleopard suffers over in the other room. So this whole thing won't be about Gregory healing. It'll be about Anita being the big bad wereleopard that she might be now (She isn't).
Let me repeat this: The heroine of the story is possibly a wereleopard, and this trumps the brutalization of another human being and his potential deafness.
Richard is the only Alpha in the city who knows how to call a shapeshifter's beast to the surface. Fucking convenient.
Also, there is another option involving drugs, but it is potentially fatal. Dr. Lillian already asked Gregory if he wanted to do it and he already gave his permission, but because he's brutalized, traumatized, and deaf, he's too much like a child to make decisions regarding his own body.
Yeah. Fuck you, Anita Blake.
And then she goes off on a tangent about how "Richard's ideals are going to get everyone killed" and we go off on ANOTHER fun tangent about religion:
“So you would trade all your ideals for the people you care about?” she asked.
“I’m not sure I have any ideals anymore.”
“You’re still Christian, aren’t you?”
“My religion isn’t an ideal. Ideals are abstract things that you can’t touch or see. My religion isn’t abstract, it’s very ‘stract,’ very real.”
This is Christianity you're talking about, Anita. You know, the religion where Christ said "Turn the other cheek" and "If somebody steals your shirt, give them your coat, too" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The religion where, when Jesus Christ was arrested by Romans and Peter tried to save him via slicing off a guard's ear, Jesus put the ear back and told Peter to knock it off. The religion where Jesus Christ died for your sins because you weren't good enough. That religion?
“I’ve held a cross while it flared so bright it blinded me until all the world was just white fire. I’ve seen a copy of the Talmud go up in flames in a vampire’s hands, and even after the book had burned to ash, the vampire kept burning until it died. I’ve stood in the presence of a demon and recited holy script, and the demon could not touch me.” I shook my head. “Religion isn’t an abstract thing, Dr. Lillian, it is a living, breathing, growing, organic thing.”In other words: My religious penis is still bigger than yours. Also, yep, God is big enough to work through Anita Blake. But he also worked through an ass once. I'm pretty sure He could do it again.
You know, at this point I think it'd be impossible for LKH to piss me off even more reguarding my own reli--
“There are Christian witches,” she said.
“I’ve met some of them. They all seem to be zealots, as if they have to be more Christian than anyone else to prove that they’re good enough to be Christian at all. I don’t like zealots.”
Oh, FUCK YOU. Seriously. You just spent several paragraphs praising witches and condemning the church for not accepting them into its everloving arms, and then you just fucking dismiss witches who've managed to reconcile competing belief systems as being "zealots." You follow Silver Ravenwolf, for fuck's sake. You do NOT get to pass judgement on whether or not someone else's belief system is valid. And your zealotry in that department way surpasses mine over in my little corner of the world. I read your blog about finding your joy rune, Laurel, and it reminded me of the ten zillion "God found my car keys!" stories I hear during testimony day at church. (For the record, God finds my car keys all the time. I just don't talk about it because we're both kind of embarrassed about it)
Fuck, I'm amazed a Christian witch would even talk to you about it.
And then Lillian and Anita give each other a little toast and say "Down with zealots".
...I want to lock LKH into a cage match with a lineaged Gardnerian Wiccan. Jesus, you want to talk about zealots...
Lillian leaves, Anita prays. Micah shows up. And now we're going to have a fun little conversation about prayer. So we're not leaving the religious boat any time soon, are we?
In case you couldn't pick up my subtle hints up above there, my version of christianity has some FUN wrinkles in it. Some of them are just great toys, like my tarot card collection (STEAMPUNK DECK FTW) and some of them are real spiritual things that are not toys at all. And the most prickly thing in the toybox is this form of meditation/visualization that is really closely related to guided imagry. It's fun, most of the time, and it is 100% all in my head. I do not claim to have contacted Archangels, for example, but imaginary versions of the archangels are there. Most of the time I've done this, I've stumbled over some spiritual stuff that I, personally, find very powerful, most of the time it's a lot of fun, but every once in a while God, spiritual forces or my own imagination (whatever makes you comfy) decides that He/it has had enough of my bullshit. And let's just say that one fine day I decided the very best thing I could do, after a week of praying and sobbing and asking God why oh why he wasn't letting my book get published, was have a couple sessions of meditation and visualization for the sake of fluffy warmth and comfort so that God could explain why He wasn't immediately doing what I wanted him to do.
And instead of being comforted, I got my self-absorbed ass chewed out by an archangel's glorified secretary. In detail.
In short, boys and girls: THIS IS NOT HOW PRAYER WORKS. God is not the magical slot machine in the sky, and if you treat him like that too often he's going to show you just how good He is with the clue-by-four. And he's perfectly capable of using your own imaginary friends as a wake up call.
But instead of having something of actual value in this book, we get Anita telling her rapist all about the effectiveness of prayer in the right hands.
And then Micah says he has to go rescue his pard's version of Nathanial. You know, the "natural victim".
And then Dr. Lillian tells Anita to be careful about giving her heart to this strange, new man. You know. Micah. The one who raped her.
And then they go to make Gregory shapeshift while Anita tries desperately to believe in miracles.
END OF CHAPTER.
GOD, THIS BOOK SUCKS.