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.

Why?

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.

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6 thoughts on “II. Bitch Feminism and Anita Blake, #1 Bitch?

  1. I agree, I just started reading the Anita Blake series and I am on The Killing Dance and Anita is already starting to annoy me. I really liked her in the beginning (standing up for herself and doing things on her own). And so far it seems that Anita looks down on other women (of all colors), but sees herself as better. If this is the type of tone that the Anita Blake series is going to take, I need to find another novel to read that has strong a female (women with color) lead. Do you have any novels you would recommend?

    1. Trust me, its a reoccuring pattern with Anita. The series is nearly twenty books long and she doesn’t have any female friends that she’s close to by Book 19. I’ve heard the L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress series is good but I haven’t had a chance to go get it myself.

      I search and search, but for women of color, its a very small pool to choose from. Since I am writer, I now have to entertain myself, actually. But PLEASE stop by and let know if you find anything worth it, especially if its by women of color written about women of color in paranormal fiction.

      Thank you for stopping by!
      MsQ

  2. Imho Anita is a failed feminist. She rails against the sexist/chavinist attitudes of men around her even when its not there and her own behaviour and attitudes are exactly what she rails against in others.

    This is one of the things that really annoyed me about the series and made me give up on it in the end. Anita is meant to be a strong independant woman in a mans world career wise so her tough feminist attitude seemed realistic for the first few novels but then as the series continued she seemed to become a lot more unreasonable and hypocritical in that behaviour and attitude particularly in regard to other female characters. Anita refuses to let the men she meets treat her as a victim/slut/weak or any of the other derogatary stereotypes commonly ascribed to women. She insists that she is a strong independant woman who doesnt need help from anyone. Yet she regularly views the women she meets as being nothing but victims/sluts/weak/jealous and rarely bothers to get to know them enough to see beyond those views. Its very hypocritical of her.

    She can also be quite unreasonable in her attitude towards men. There are many scenes where it seems as though she goes out of her way to interpret the words and actions of the men she meets as sexist and chauvinistic even when they are trivial or just trying to be polite. The one that most springs to mind is i think from Obsidian Butterfly, though i may have misremembered since its been a while since i plowed through the series. Anita is walking along a corrider with a male detective who, due to having longer legs, reaches the door before her and politely holds it open. Anita then refuses to go demanding that he goes through first simply because she inteprets his holding the door open for her as an act of male chauvinism and would rather he treat her like any other male coworker instead of acting polite cause shes a girl. Predictably they end up arguing about it and the guy is left with hurt feelings which is particularly stupid because he is one of those rare detectives that doesnt mind Anita being a woman or a federal marshall and is grateful for any help she can provide.

    I spent several years at a job where all i did was sit at a desk facing a door and providing relevant information to anyone who approached the desk seeking assistance. It wasnt a very demanding job so i had a lot of free time to observe people walk back and forth through that door and i can honestly say that holding a door open for someone has nothing to do with a persons gender and everything to do with being raised polite. Just as many women held the door open for people as men. About the only people who would always have the door held open for them without having to hold it open for others were the elderly.
    Sorry if this has turned into a rant/wandered off topic slightly i just find it so annoying that Anita would interpret something so trivial like having a door held open for her as sexist just because the person holding the door happens to be a man. It annoyed me enough that it stuck in my mind even after other probably more important details about the series have begin to fade.

    1. I definitely see where you’re coming from here. And having the experience you have with the interactions and exchanges between people in that type of setting, I can say I agree that it seems kind of ridiculous that Anita made such a huge deal in that particular scene.

      I will also say that there are actions and behaviors that perpetuate this culture that idealizes what a man is like, how he should treat other men, and how he should treat women by default which acts as a means to reaffirm his position as dominate and reaffirm his identity as a male.

      I have a friend, who is male and also genderfluid, but is sometimes mistaken for girl because of his long hair and petiteness. He was exiting the building through two sets of doors on campus. A male student opened the first door for him and refused to pass through until my friend, who he thought was a girl, went first. My friend passed through and opened the next door. The male student refused to passed through because, essentially in his mind, a girl was holding the door open for him and he thought the girl should go first. Why the hell did it matter who went through the door and who was holding it to this male student? the question is provocative and frustrating, and to me it already has an answer.

      There are many examples of Anita just being ickkk, you’re right. So in general I agree with you about her attitude overall being plain unappealing, especially towards other women.

  3. Thats interesting about your friend. Obviously whether holding a door open for someone is due to politeness or gender is a mixed issue that probably depends on ones upbringing and various other external influences. In the area where i live politeness and friendliness are encourgaed traits most likely because (until the recent economic decline) tourists were a main feature and source of industry. So holding a door open for some random stranger is influenced more by the need to be polite than by gender but obviously that doesnt hold true for all places/people/cultures.

    Its always interesting to see how the motivations behind seemingly small everyday behaviour can differ from place to place.

    Btw after reading all of your entries on LKH i have been wondering if you have ever read any of the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs? They still have their flaws but are imho good at including characters of different race/sexual orientation/etcetera. Certainly a vast improvement over LKH.

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