Freudian Friday: Bill Compton

Last week we talked about Eric Northman for Freudian Friday, and this week we’ll continue the True Blood theme with King William Compton of Louisiana.

Remember, this blog post is about the HBO television series True Blood, not Charlaine Harris’s series of novels called The Southern Vampire Mysteries.

I will drink you for breakfast.

Bill’s early life is a wee bit more yawn-inducing than Eric’s, but his actions over the course of the show would have any psychotherapist salivating at the thought of his analysis fees: he certainly bemuses me.

He was born (according to Wikipedia) in 1840, got married, had kids, fought in the Civil War, and had a pretty normal life until after the war. Do-gooder that he was (and sometimes is), he stopped on his way home to help a poor widow… who turned out to be a vampire. She made advances on him, he said no, and for some reason—this being True Blood, after all—that just turned her on more, so she turned him into a vampire.

Bill goes on to live the crazy life with Lorena, his Maker, wreaking death and destruction on several cities until Bill regrows a conscience. Eventually he tires of it—as brooding heroes usually do—and begs for his release, threatening to kill himself if Lorena will not set him free.

Fast forward another 50 years or so, and Bill returns to Bon Temps, his hometown, and home of his many-times great-descendants. He meets up with Sookie and, after she saves him from some baddies and he rescues her in return, spends the rest of the show either saving her, doing the naughty with her, or lying to her. He’s also embroiled in vampire politics so deeply I’d need a shovel, a plumb line, and some night vision goggles just to explain it to you.

I think they're married in real life.

So for the moment, let’s look at Bill’s relationship with Sookie, since that’s the easiest bit to break down for a Freudian context.

The basic underlying fact is that Bill and Sookie love each other, but like so many vampires in love with women in urban fantasy, he lies to her and takes away her choices. Bill kills the uncle who had molested Sookie as a child without asking her permission; he’s constantly feeding on her to save his own life; he cheats on Sookie with his Maker in the single most disturbing sex scene I have ever had the misfortune to watch; he knows that she’s not fully human and never says a word; he deliberately puts Sookie in danger so he can rescue her and she’ll love him more; and the list goes on and on.

But why does he treat Sookie this way?

In his human life, he delayed returning to his own family in order to save a strange woman. But as a vampire…? He kills for fun and necessity, and despite giving up his “murderous” lifestyle, he still kills when he deems it right. This isn’t like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where a demon takes over you when you become a vampire. Sure, you get a lot of wild-animal urges and a nasty temper, but you’re still you.

This tells us that Bill will do anything to further whatever cause he’s working for at the moment. Put off seeing your wife to save a widow? Sure. Kill a queen who has gotten inconvenient so you become king? Okay.

The trouble is, we don’t and have never know Bill’s endgame. He’s ultimately working for himself: he may or may not have designed the original attack on Sookie to make her trust him. She may or may not be a precious resource of fairy blood that he’s working to save because her blood lets vampires walk in sunlight.

He may actually love her and just has a barbarian’s way of showing it.

What do you think, readers? What are Bill’s motivations? Why does he lie to and mistreat Sookie? Is there any justification for his machinations? How does novel-Bill differ from television-Bill? 

Does this image sum up their relationship?

8 thoughts on “Freudian Friday: Bill Compton

  1. It sounds so harsh when you put it that way.
    For what it’s worth, in the books Bill is a more sympathetic character. Yeah, he did move to Bon Temps at the direction of the Queen, who wanted him to seduce Sookie and convince her to become part of her retinue (because she was a telepath, not b/c of her fairy blood). And yeah, he did kill her nasty old uncle. But as the story has progressed, he’s respected her request and left her alone when she’s asked him to, and generally, of all the men/vamps/weres she’s been involved with, he’s the most sympathetic. And I was TOTALLY TeamEric for a long time. Now, I’m not so sure…
    Hope my comments don’t spoil the books for you when you finally get around to reading them.

    • LOL. I was thinking how harsh I was being to poor Bill while I was writing this. He does do some good, too–but in typical unholy marriage of blogger and lit-crit style, I ignored the good to make my point. 😀 And I was a Bill fan for most of the show, until the horrible scene I mentioned in Season 3.

      Now I wondering what made you switch from TeamEric…

    • I’m totally team Eric. Bill is a buzzkill, on the show AND in the books! And Eric is WAAAAAAY hotter. If you’re going to be a “fangbanger,” why settle? Just sayin’!

  2. Abusive Vamp/Girl relationships seem to be the rigor these days. is it a way for the vamp to keep his fangs while being a possible romantic object for the MC?

    • It’s so true. In fact, I’ve just started outlining a future blog post about such abusive relationships… but I could probably do a whole series about it. I don’t know exactly why vampires get away with being abusive to their leading ladies, but it’s extremely uncool.

      Thanks for the comment and the follow!

      • I think it’s the “danger/lust” leg of the romantic triangle even when there isn’t one, or in this case one character represents both legs (the other being the “gallant/nice” leg).

        But that’s just my two cents. 😀

  3. Pingback: Freudian Friday: Sookie Stackhouse « Kristin McFarland

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