Sookie Stackhouse is the worst. She is just plain awful. In the “Southern Vampire Mystery” books by Charlaine Harris or in the TV show True Blood, Sookie is one of the most irritating protagonists I have ever come across.
I guess I’ve had her on my mind lately because I just read the most recent book in the series, and the next season of True Blood is coming out soon. One of the reasons why Sookie annoys me so much is because she was clearly designed to be an everywoman type of protagonist. The reader or watcher is supposed to relate to her because she’s the relatively normal main character who is surrounded by supernatural beings. At the beginning of the series, she is lonely and misunderstood, she’s never had a boyfriend, and everyone thinks she’s a freak. All of these things about Sookie seem to be designed to make readers feel like she’s the adorable underdog we want to root for. But as the book and TV series continue, she becomes less and less likable, as she becomes more of a judgmental shortsighted hypocrite. In the show, she’s a terrible friend to Tara, is constantly putting loved ones in danger, and her priorities seem completely out of whack. In the books, her inner monologue is often her judging and looking down on people for their choices, when hers are just as unsavory. Based on what I’ve heard from friends who read the books or watch the show, I’m not alone in how I feel about Sookie, yet my Sookie-hating friends and I all continue to watch True Blood and read the books. Why?
Some protagonists are meant to be horrible. We can read the book and enjoy the story without loving the protagonist. Humbert Humbert isn’t someone most people would like or relate to, yet Lolita is considered a classic novel. I guess in the case of Lolita, it is possible to love the book simply because it is good writing, not because the main character is likable or relatable. At other times, I have found myself loathing what was proclaimed to be a great book because I disliked the main characters so much. Wuthering Heights comes to mind as one that drove me bonkers. I found all the characters to be terrible people, and it made it impossible for me to enjoy the book. Yet at the same time, I love TV shows such as Shameless and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia precisely because the main characters are so despicable.
I’ve come across some books where I was able to love the story even when I didn’t like the central character. My username here is one I’ve used online since high school. At the time I was obsessed with Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat books. When I first read them I felt a connection to the characters and their world that I had never experienced before. I loved Weetzie and her friends. Once I got to the later stories in the series, I connected most with Witch Baby. I couldn’t stand Cherokee, and I didn’t like Weetzie nearly as much as I did in the earlier books. My favorite weirdo teenager was now the mother of two teenagers, and she couldn’t fix the brewing problems between the two. The problems that I always saw as Cherokee being cruel towards Witch Baby, the sad twisty girl I saw myself in. Why did my beloved Weetzie let this happen in her home? How did she end up raising a daughter as mean as Cherokee and one who felt as alone as Witch Baby did?
In the case of Weetzie Bat, I was able to love the stories just as much, even though the main character grew into someone different that the person I originally felt such a connection to. Why don’t I feel the same way about Sookie Stackhouse? I thought she was an OK protagonist in the first few books, but as the series continues, I find her so obnoxious that it completely ruins the books for me.
What about you, Persephies? Are there books or shows you like despite a protagonist that makes your skin crawl? Are there books you can’t stand because the main character is so obnoxious? And will Sookie Stackhouse make us all throw things at the TV on this season of True Blood?