Friends, before I start this week’s discussion, I want to mention that in real life, you should not murder your abusers and burn down your family home where the abuse took place. That’s illegal. You will go to jail.
That being said, this week’s SHADE is about, you guessed it: burning down the house, or why we don’t have to forgive our abusers.
If you’ll recall my True Blood recaps, I had a major issue with Tara’s final storyline. Aside from it being mind-bogglingly stupid, it concluded with Tara and her mother making final amends before Tara moved on to the great beyond. Because not only did Tara forgive her mother for the abuse; Tara also blamed herself for her the abuse she endured as a child.
This is, in technical terms: bullshit. Tara was a child. She had no control over her situation, and while her mother was also victim in that situation, she was still an abuser. Of course Tara can make amends with her, and try to put the past behind her. Of course Tara’s mom can try to make amends. But Tara was in no way obligated to give her mother a carte blanche. Of course, that’s exactly what the show made her do, but it’s True Blood and that being said, it was already a mess.
So how does that factor into this week’s SHADE? Well, if you’ll recall, my SHADE for episode 6 was all about believing the abuser over the victim. And this week, we got a really interesting look in watching an abuser unravel, and the extremes that some people end up at.
Let’s be perfectly clear about something: Christian lied to Coulson. In this episode, he goes from having told Coulson that there is no well to blaming Grant for it to finally confessing. Let me make another point: Christian, like Lettie-Mae, was a victim as well as an abuser. Grant is not obligated to forgive him. Did Grant go to an extreme? Absolutely. But in all honesty, I was more disgusted when I thought he gave Christian that carte blanche I mentioned.
Allow me to explain. Grant Ward is not, in terms of fiction, a ‘good’ victim. His lifetime of abuse has hardened him and deadened a lot of his emotional sensitivities. He says, “I let you all hollow me out.” Tara blamed herself for not shooting her father, and so her mother turned to alcohol and abuse. Grant didn’t stand up for himself, and became a shell of a person from a childhood of not just abuse, but as Christian mentioned, torture.
They were children. They had no control over the situation, but they still, in many ways, blame themselves for the abuse they endured.
However. Grant acts in a way that makes a lot of viewers uncomfortable. Aside from the show jerking his morality around (he’s currently very firmly at “Jason Todd”) he lashes out in a way that people don’t like to see. Remember how I mentioned that abusers say to their victims, “No one will believe you?” And then, guess what: that’s what happens.
People, especially people who have never been victims, lack empathy for this sort of situation. No one wants to have to handle someone else’s emotional burden. And so when Grant lashes out and punishes his brother, a lot of people might say “Hey! You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to forgive him, like a good victim.” If a victim doesn’t fit the exact parameters of good behavior, they must not actually be a victim.
That being said, again, I want to mention: murder and arson are extremes. That’s the jerking around of morality I was talking about. They want us to know that whatever Grant is, it is not nice. It is dark, and it takes. Is it Hydra? That’s very unlikely. It’s whatever Grant wants it to be.
I also want to mention that the viewers and the members of Coulson’s team have dangled a moral high ground over Grant when there is none. This is a team of spies. Grant might not be a good victim, or an upstanding citizen, but there’s blood on both sides of the argument. And treating Grant like he’s the end-all ‘evil’ of the show when he’s just as morally grey as the rest of the show is not only the wrong thing to do, but it ignores a lot of the nuances the show is trying to incorporate. The only difference is that Grant seems to be willing to accept his moral grey matter.
And guess what? We don’t like morally grey. We don’t like victims with bite. Grant Ward is a conglomerate of things that make people uncomfortable. But that’s what abuse does. That’s what lashing out does. We need to look at this story from all angles. At the extremes he went to in order to be believed, to feel like he was free from abuse.
I’m not saying you have to be like “Oh, you’re right, it’s a good thing he burned his house down!” Especially since I’ve explicitly stated that said sentiment is not the point of this SHADE. “But Rachel,” you then ask. “What is the point?”
The point is that forgiveness is not automatically given when an abuser ‘sees the light.’ The point is that you can’t except a victim to just become instantly fixed, to be stable as soon as the abuser confesses their sins. That’s not how it works. And I, for one, appreciate that the show seems to understand that.
Also, fuck True Blood.