[personal profile] savage_midnight
I finished re-reading the fourth Fever book the other day and I must admit I'm still having trouble trying to figure out exactly how I should feel about the events that take place in the first part.

I like Jericho Barrons as a character. He's an asshole most of the time and an abusive bastard some of the time, but I find him utterly fascinating.

I make no excuses for him. He treats Mac like crap for most of the series. But Barrons is my Eric. Eric manipulates and uses Sookie constantly, but I think underneath that they sharing a grudging respect that is glaringly absent from Bill and Sookie's relationship.

Barrons respects Mac. I truly believe that. Deep down, in that savage, alien place, I think he respects her strength; the way that she crumbles a little under his tutelage, but never actually falls; the way she holds fast to her pink cakes and rainbow skirts and Tubthumping no matter how he tries to knock the brightness out of her; the way she learns to push her limits and re-define them, even against him.

Mostly I enjoy Barrons' character because not only does he not make excuses for the way he is, Mac doesn't either. She takes his actions and she weighs them against the actions of others, and she choses which will keep her alive the longest. She doesn't stick around for love or lust or even affection, though she may feel these. She's practical. She sticks with Barrons because yes, she maybe totally kickass (and she is, completely and utterly the bomb) but she has limits. I love her because she's resourceful; she uses everything that is available to her to survive, whether it's things or people, and that includes Barrons.

But Barrons as a character also confuses me. I enjoy his character, I enjoy learning about him, and I enjoy every scene between him and Mac because they're always thick with tension or humour or drama.

I just... can't swallow some of the cruelties that come out of his mouth sometimes. I love Mac because she calls him on his bullshit most of the time, and she just flat-out refuses to let him forget that he can be a hypocritical asshole. But the fourth book really treads some pretty dark ground and some of the things he says tends to settle about as well as a grenade.

Firstly, I'd just like to go over one of the reasons I love Mac as a character. Unlike Moning's insistence to make every heroine in her Highlander series a virgin, no matter how improbable, in Mac she's created a strong female who owns her sexuality and has a healthy view/understanding of sex. She recognises the sexual allure of the Fae for what it is -- alien, cold and unnatural. It's rape at it's very core.

V'Lane offends me more as a character than Barrons does. He makes excuses and tries to justify the effect that his presence has on Mac and other characters, believing that because it's natural to his race, he's entitled to use sexual compulsion as a tool and a weapon. For him the idea of consent doesn't even register, because for him the outcome is all that matters. Who cares if a woman says no? Who cares if it's not what a woman wants? She should be thanking him for the twelve orgasms he just gave her.

V'Lane justifies his rape attempts on Mac by claiming ignorance. He didn't know that it would alarm her. He didn't know that she would be horrified and angry that her sexuality was being taken out of her hands and used against her, against her will and without her consent.

I call bullshit. I find it hard to believe that a being who has lived as long as V'Lane has has no concept of rape. No matter the end result, it's the act of having your will taken away and violated that causes the most damage. And everybody, no matter the species, owns and understands the concept of Will and fears the loss of it.

The fourth book unsettles me because it blurs the lines between Survival of Personal Will and Survival, period.

Mac consents to Barrons using Voice on her, knowing he will force her to do things against her will, because she knows the eventual outcome -- learning to resist Voice -- will help her to survive. But by arming herself with another weapon, she also allows for it to be used against her. Barrons abuses her initial consent and she's forced to weigh the consequences of allowing him more power against her against the advantages of allowing him to provide her with more power.

Every smackdown down leads to the same conclusion -- Barrons has to break her down to build her back up again. He has to take away her will in order to provide her with the means to not only survive, but to fight to win her will back.

Which brings me around to the events of part one of the fourth book. Mac has been attacked and gangraped by the Unseelie Princes, has been turned Pri-ya and now exists solely for her Masters and her insatiable sexual appetite.

Barrons' solution to saving her? Sex.

This is where I got uncomfortable. This is where I found I wanted to make justifications for Barrons' actions. This is where I couldn't figure out if it was okay to make justifications or not. I've always believed rape is never a justifiable action, ever. It just isn't. It never will be.

So, let's take a look. Lets assume that Barrons' way is the only way that he could have "saved" Mac. Moning makes it clear that no one has ever come back from being Pri-ya, that they all eventually die from sexual exhaustion, never sated and never complete.

Lets look at how Barrons uses this particularly method to save her. He blackmails her with it, bribes her with it, makes bargains with it, all so she will fight to regain her memories and who she is. He knows that the longer she goes without sex, the more her addiction destroys her. He knows that the reason that women who are Pri-ya wither away is because the Fae, especially the Unseelie, are void of warmth, desire and lust, and live only to steal what they don't have. But Barrons isn't void, he isn't a blackhole, and maybe this is what saves her -- he doesn't need to steal away her sexuality, the desire that makes her who she is, because he has his own.

This all happens without her consent. She has no will to give it at this point. But by doing this he can give her will back to her, by violating it in the process. He has no way of reaching her to ask her permission. He has no way of reaching her to ask whether she would prefer to die or remain as she is or allow him to "save" her. He has to make the decision for her. He has to make the choice that should -- but couldn't -- be hers. Survival of Mac's Will or Survival of Mac, period. He doesn't know if it would be her will to die or to survive at any cost. Would it be cruel or kind to leave her as she is, with no will at all, but oblivious to it?

I want to be able to say, without a doubt, that Barrons' actions were right or wrong. I want to know if I should feel angry or disgusted by him for these things.

I know that later on in the book I feel these things, but not because of his actions. It's the one-liners he drops, references to those months he spent pulling her from her Pri-ya state. He forces reminders of times when her will wasn't hers upon her, taunts her with them, mostly out of deep-seated frustration and anger and regret that he can never stop trying to break this woman because he believes Survival is worth -- and about -- losing everything. He hates that she didn't choose him willingly, even though he's constantly drilling it into her that he's Not That Man, not the one she should build her life around. But she did build her life around him while she was Pri-ya and he loved it. She told him he was her world and he loved that, too. And he hated that he did. He mocks her with those very words and there's regret there because he wanted them to be true. He just wouldn't know what to do if they were.

I do believe he cares for Mac, respects her, and is secretly routing for the Rainbow Girl to survive, no matter how much he tries to bury her. I also know that he isn't a good person, not in that simplistic sense of the word. But I still don't know where to stand after book four. He's one of my favourite characters and I don't want to hate him.



November 2010

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