More sharp but wistful criticism for Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series.
I got through Hamilton’s Bullet, Anita Blake Vampire Hunter 18. I was surprised by a lot of what I read, particularly the scenes involving Richard–I too never thought that that would ever happen. However, Anita is the one I’m kind of disappointed with.
There are very few people of color in the Anita Blake series who take center stage from her point of view and the ones that are there are often villains ,so evil that she has to kill them, or victims that Anita leaves behind and/or has to go back and save. Like Vivian for example. Vivian is described as technically African-African but practically white in the Irish way with straight hair and gray eyes, characteristics few Black people can lay claim to. She is violently raped and beaten by a Vampire Council member, the Master of Beasts, and his son. And…Anita leaves her behind initially to be abused some more.
In Bullet, Vivian’s posture is visibly huddled, she’s saying she wants to have a baby with her white boyfriend, and she’s obviously still recovering from the abuse. Forever concerned with appearing weak or showing any kind of emotion like worry, vulnerability, or stress (which I totally understand but still), Anita adjusts her body posture while standing with Micah and says she doesn’t want to “huddle like Vivian”. Micah gallantly and lovingly reminds Anita that she will “never huddle like Vivian” (p. 34 of Bullet). Never mind that Vivian is a survivor of sexual violence and physical abuse at the hands of masters and other weres–Anita’s gotta be strong! Everybody outta the gotdamn way! Big-Balls-All-Go-No-Quit Anita Blake is coming through!
I actually kind of liked her as a character until I realized something: No one can be on her little express train to dominance except the people under her. Does she get an ego boost out of being Ms. #1 Bitch & Protector I wonder? Why is she portrayed this way?
I’ve thought a lot about it and I’m still struggling with my understanding of her. Its always changing as the series goes on and I understand that every position she finds herself in requires her in some way to be the way that she is, but as a fictional person constructed by another person I find it hard to accept that everyone around her (maybe except Edward, or, that is, “Ted”) is submissive to a degree to her personality. Sociopathic, half-white, half-Mexican, presumably (upper) middleclass, necromancer-federal marshal-vampire executioner-Nimir Ra-Regina-multi little queen-lupa badass with almost a dozen lover/boyfriends and sex partners. She’s a powerhouse and there is no equal sadly.
Being somewhat of that strong independent nature myself, I wish there was a different way to portray the so-called strong female character. I rationalize Anita’s lack of strong female friends by telling myself that there can never be more than one bitch in the room. But why does she have to stand alone be so individualistic in terms of female companionship? She has all these guys around her but no solid consistently reappearing female friends except Ronnie and Claudia. Is Anita Blake a post-feminist bitch feminist archetype?
In my initial issues with Hamilton’s series, I point out my purely selfish need to see a woman of color stand toe to toe and side by side with big bad Blake. That hasn’t changed and I guess that’s why I’m taking the villainizing, victimization of, and the on and off again appearances of women and people of color in the series so hard.
The closest we really get to people of color regularly in this series is Richard’s eroticized exoticized tan and Hamilton/Blake hinting at his “darker” ancestry which I take to mean that he has indigenous ancestry. Heaven forbid he have some Black in his white, middleclass blood.