Content Notes: This piece focuses on a conversation about child sexual abuse (CSA) by Catholic priests and a joke about “Catholic school girls” alongside talking about rape and CSA survivors in the Anita Blake series and how they’re treated. I also reference the fact that Anita is a rapist (in general) that is currently sleeping with a character that was 16 in his first appearance and is currently 19 to her 31/32.
The second I heard that Laurell K Hamilton was writing a book set in Ireland, I actually found myself getting worried about how Catholicism would be portrayed and I’m not even Catholic.
In the Anita Blake series, a recurring historical fact is how the Pope excommunicated all of the animators (people that can raise the dead) due to the belief that only Jesus/God had any right to raise the dead and that anyone that was doing it, was basically fueled by Satan.
Essentially, it’s not an Anita Blake book if we don’t get a kind of whiny reminder about how Anita is no longer Catholic because of how backwards the church is when compared to other subsets of Christianity and how she’s so much better than the Church because she’s ~so accepting~.
(In later books, we even got the image of Anita’s existence as a “good and just” animator/necromancer being validated by the presence of angels which is… problematic not just because of things like her sleeping with an actual teenager, her being a rapist aside from that, and so much murder.)
But I digress.
The important thing to hold on to is that from the very moment that we got the first inkling that Crimson Death would be a book set in Ireland – a book heralded by Anita and LKH’s first trip across the Atlantic – I was prepared for the worst.
And well… within the first chapter, that’s what I got.
Despite somehow being the only worthwhile vampire hunter/expert in the world, that the reason why Anita isn’t initially wanted to help the Irish police with their newest case of unexpected vampires biting people is because she’s a necromancer and Catholicism frowns upon that. So they’re basically trying to ban her from a case they need help on because of their religion.
This means that we start Crimson Death with the idea that the poor, backwards, and Catholic Irish people are more interested in protecting themselves and their own religion than protecting people.
But wait, it gets better:
Anita and her friend Edward proceed to have a joking conversation that hinges on sexualizing Catholic school girls right after talking about the history of sexual abuse in the Church.
This scene, set in chapter four, comes from Edward and Anita talking about how Ireland can be a place where folks claim vampires don’t exist while a powerful millennia-old vampire has a castle somewhere in the middle of nowhere that proves the claim wrong. (Also, it’s silly to have the birthplace of two men that basically created the vampire as we know it in fiction as this vampire free zone. I’m still not over that.)
Anyway, here’s this brief (and super ridiculous) historical lesson where two historical serial killers are compared to (but not confirmed to be) vampires: Elizabeth Bathory and Gilles de Rais.
Near the end of the scene, we get this:
“The vampire community actually thinks that Gilles de Rais sold his soul to the devil after his friend Joan of Arc was burned alive. It sort of damaged his faith in God’s goodness.”
“I could see that,” Edward said.
“You and I both know that even if the devil wanted his soul, the urges that made him a murdering pedophile had to be there all along.”
“Yes, but he used his faith in God to not act on them. It was the theory that the Church used for centuries that you could pray yourself out of pedophilic urges, so become a priest.”
“Yeah, ask the victims of pedophile priests and nuns how that’s worked out.”“I didn’t say I agreed with it.”
“Sorry. Raised Catholic, so it’s a sore point with me.”
“Sometimes I forget that about you.”
“That once you were a good little Catholic schoolgirl.”
“I actually didn’t go to Catholic school.”
“Really, so no little plaid skirt outfit?”
“No. Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Schoolgirl really isn’t my thing.”
“Somehow I didn’t think it would be.”
I could almost hear the smile on the other end of the phone as he said, “I don’t think either of us spends a lot of time wondering what each other’s kinks are.”
“Nope,” I said.
In less than 250 words, Anita goes from being rightfully angry about the treatment of young children by Catholic priests to basically teasing Edward about him fetishizing a mental image of her, as a young girl, wearing a Catholic school girl uniform… and neither character sees anything wrong with that.
I mean they legitimately devote several sentences of their conversation to talking about pedophile priests only to have a little giggle between themselves about how Anita totally wasn’t a cute Catholic schoolgirl. Meanwhile, the image of the “Catholic school girl” is sexualized to unacceptable levels in society and to bring it up as a joke right after talking about how child abuse in the Church is just… nasty.
The Anita Blake series is… problematic at its best when it comes to abuse and rape, but this is just creepy.
And trust me, this series has plenty of creepy moments already
This is a series where Anita is forced to sleep with a sixteen-year-old named Cynric who she later sort of helps raise (he moves to St. Louis where she/Jean Claude are his legal guardians) while she is still intimate with him.
This is a series with Olaf, the misogynistic and racist serial killing rapist that somehow hasn’t been murdered or hit by a bus yet. It’s been like a decade since his first appearance. I’m ready for his death.
Oh yeah, and this is a series where the main character slowly becomes a rapist (that doesn’t respect consent and who uses metaphysical powers to coerce people into having sex) and where almost all of her lovers are also rapists/have raped people in the past.
This is a series where multiple survivors of childhood sexual abuse are either turned into rapists, infantilized, or demonized for their reactions to trauma. None of them are given any safe outlets for healing and moving forward. (You’ll find out more about how this plays out in a future article because it’s happening…)
As you can tell, I didn’t go into Crimson Death expecting the book to handle any sort of issue well, but I at least expected the book not to have the main character joking about sexualizing an aspect of Catholic girlhood right after a conversation about the Catholic Church enabling the abuse of children.
And it’s also (sadly) not out of character for Anita Blake (series or character).
Don’t be like the Anita Blake series, don’t be gross about sexual abuse.