A few weeks ago I was bitten by some sort of weird OCD bug. I spent half a day trawling the internet, attempting to piece together the process by which Alan Ball stole Eric’s hair before proceeding to tell us a bare faced lie about how he actually did no such thing.
I wasn’t going to post any more about this, because I feel like I go on about it obsessively. Obsessive? Me?
But the new promo pic today has sent me into Hair Meltdown yet again. So screw it, I’m posting.
In this week’s edition of “Eric’s Hair Makes Me A Raving Fucking Lunatic”, I want to share with you all why it matters so much to me that the crowning glory of this most revered book character has gone from this…
From my previous rants on this subject, it’s evident that there’s a proportion of people who aren’t bothered by Eric’s unfortunate encounter with a Clairol bottle, as long as he still looks hot and badass. To those people, I admire your ability to just go along for the ride with Ball – really I do. And I can do that too, at least to some degree. When the story of Eric’s maker was changed so radically on True Blood, I was cool with that. Alot of book fans were, and why was that? Because the changes didn’t betray the essence of Eric’s character. Book readers know Eric as intensely loyal and protective of those he cares about, and the Eric we saw in those episodes was one that we all recognised. Even though the storyline itself wasn’t canon, the Eric/Godric arc on True Blood was faithful to the spirit of the book character. So we were happy to go along for the ride.
But so help me Alan Ball, I am drawing a fucking line in the sand with this season 3 hair. RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW.
My objections to a dark haired Eric are not about what Alexander Skarsgard looks like on screen when he is playing the part.
It’s not about a personal preference for blonde hair; I have never had a blonde partner and blondes don’t normally attract me. It’s not based on some anal retentive, Misery-style purism that causes me to want every detail of True Blood to mirror the books. And it most definitely is not about a fondness for the season 1 wig that looked like roadkill peeled off a Louisiana backroad in 99 degree heat.
Eric’s hair is sending me off the deep end for one reason:
Eric’s long blonde hair is integral to the spirit of his character, and it is symbolic of his connection to Sookie. Take that long blonde hair away, and it feels too much like a symbolic severing of the potential for that connection. And I am deeply suspicious as to why Mr Ball would want us to feel that way.
The fact that Sookie and Eric’s hair is the “exact same colour” is referenced multiple times in the books, and references to Eric’s blond hair specifically are more numerous than I care to count. Harris doesn’t emphasise the similarity between Eric and Sookie’s hair colour because she wants us to suspect that they are distantly related, or that there is some accident of genetics at play to be revealed further down the line. She makes a point of it because it is a metaphor for their spiritual connection – for the fact that whatever Eric and Sookie are made of at their core, it is the same.
Since time immemorial, hair – its colour, its length and its style – has held symbolic meaning in stories. From Rapunzel in fairy tales to the biblical Samson, hair is a physical manifestation of both emotional states and character traits.
Long hair on men has long been a symbol of strength, virility, and romanticism. Fabio lookalikes don’t adorn the cover of those Harlequin romances by accident – the image of a muscular, virile man with long flowing hair speaks to a romantic ideal that women recognise right down to their ovaries, whether they want to admit it or not. Hair is a strong sexual emblem, and in western cultures we tend to assign certain personality traits to the man who wears it long and unrestrained. Subconciously, we see these men as operating outside the normal social constraints. We perceive them as free thinking, rebellious and in control of their own destiny. Sound like anyone we know?
Let’s be clear – True Blood and the SVM are nothing more than contemporary fairy tales. And in fairy tales and myth, blond hair has always been synonymous with goodness and purity. I am not going to sit here and tell you that I think Eric is a force for all that is right and good in the world. The vampire is a vampire, not a saint.
While Eric doesn’t quite embody the conventional “white knight” so often seen in the black and white morality of the fairy tale world, he is turning out to be a force for positive growth and change in Sookie’s world. Against the dark-haired Bill, whose presence in her life ultimately brought her a great deal of undeserved pain and hard learned lessons, Eric is unwittingly teaching Sookie about mature love and trust even as he learns about these things himself. Sookie has trusted Eric with her body for a long time. She’s trusted him to protect it from harm, to heal it, and to make love to it. Yet she has always found it much more difficult to trust him with her heart. Ever so slowly, that seems to be changing.
Eric’s long, blond hair is a subtle clue to us about his benevolence in Sookie’s world – against the more maelevolent, dark (haired) character of Bill. Compare and contrast. Darkness and light. Do I need to fill in the blanks here? Can you even imagine Bill Compton with blond hair? It’s just as wrong.
Since Dead Until Dark, Charlaine Harris has used contrasting language in her descriptions of Bill and Eric to prompt the reader to think about differences in their character. We examined this in detail in the Loved by a Vampire posts a few months back. Harris draws a stark physical contrast between Bill and Eric – Bill is dark haired, dark eyed and broody; Eric is fair haired, blue eyed and lively – while at the same time drawing strong physical parallels between Eric and Sookie. Blond haired, blue eyed Sookie shares a similar lust for life as the viking vampire with whom she has such a complicated relationship. It’s a simple device used to further highlight the fact that Eric and Sookie are similar, and Bill and Sookie are worlds apart.
Eric and Bill are archetypes – symbols that a lifetime of fairytales and storytelling and cultural identification have taught us to recognise.
Archetypes are sacrosanct when you are telling (or reinterpreting) a story. Even if you’re putting your own spin on things, there are some things that you just do not fuck with. In the reinterpreting of this story, there has been too much messing with archetypes already.
Aah, season 3 is going to be a blast.