NRA: A lesson for the ladies

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 153-156

It’s Hattie Durham’s turn in the spotlight. Here in the middle of the third book of this series, the authors are taking time to reintroduce several of their peripheral characters, reviewing and revisiting their roles and histories in multi-page flashbacks.

Hattie’s Official Character Summary in these pages comes through the point-of-view of Rayford Steele, which echoes back to how we originally met her, through Rayford’s eyes, in the opening sentences of the first book:

Rayford Steele’s mind was on a woman he had never touched. With his fully loaded 747 on autopilot above the Atlantic en route to a 6 a.m. landing at Heathrow, Rayford had pushed from his mind thoughts of his family.

Over spring break he would spend time with his wife and 12-year-old son. Their daughter would be home from college, too. But for now, with his first officer fighting sleep, Rayford imagined Hattie Durham’s smile and looked forward to their next meeting.

Hattie was Rayford’s senior flight attendant. …

She was, from the opening page, defined by her relationship to Rayford and by her effect on Rayford. But this is never reciprocal. “Hattie was Rayford’s senior flight attendant,” but Rayford is not Hattie’s pilot. The possessives, like Hattie, belong only to him. Hattie is portrayed as the temptress distracting Rayford from his family, but he is not portrayed as the married man stringing her along.

For a brief instant in that first book it seemed like this might lead to something interesting. During the initial panic of the Rapture, we meet Hattie again from Buck Williams’ point of view and she’s nothing like the home-wrecking hussy Rayford described. Buck actually seems impressed with her as she struggles to maintain order and her composure in the face of a disturbing, bewildering crisis.

It seemed like the authors might be signaling that Rayford’s perception of Hattie was unreliable — distorted, unfair. It seemed that maybe they were suggesting that there was more to this woman than what the narcissistic pilot was able to see.

Alas, though, it soon became clear that such subtleties are not part of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ approach to storytelling. In their view, it was Buck who was mistaken about Hattie when he first met her. He couldn’t understand her, the authors suggest, because he did not yet know Rayford, and Hattie is defined by Rayford. She is “Rayford’s.”

The multi-page reintroduction and review of Hattie’s story here could have been a chance to shift away from this awful, reductionist portrayal of Hattie Durham. LaHaye and Jenkins might have softened that a bit in the retelling, or suggested perhaps that both Rayford and Hattie have grown since we first met them at the beginning of the story. But instead the authors double down, reinforcing the worst aspects of their Hattie-hatred by repeating it all in concentrated form. Once again we see that she is defined by Rayford Steele. She is the “other woman,” and nothing more.

The scene starts with what I think is meant to be a piece of advice for godly married men. Rayford wakes up in his New Babylon palace quarters and prepares to meet Hattie for dinner:

He certainly didn’t intend to stay out long with Hattie Durham. He dressed casually, just barely presentable enough for a place like Global Bistro, where Hattie and Nicolae were often seen.

As a good Christian married man, it is imperative that Rayford not create the wrong impression for Hattie or for anyone else who may be watching. By appearing “just barely presentable,” he clearly signals his disdain for her so no one gets the wrong idea and Rayford doesn’t jeopardize his good Christian witness. It’s fine that the entire world knows him to be a loyal servant of the Antichrist, but he can’t have anyone suspecting he might be an adulterer.

Due to his eavesdropping on the plane, Rayford knows Hattie is no longer officially the “personal assistant” of the Antichrist/potentate, and he assumes this demotion is what she wants to talk with him about:

He would have to let her play the story out with all her characteristic emotion and angst.

Re-encountering the condescension and contemptuousness toward Hattie in this section, my initial thought was that someone should have reminded LaHaye and Jenkins that women would be reading their book too.

Women, after all, make up a big chunk of the audience for Christian-brand fiction. Just from a marketing perspective, it seems like a bad idea to alienate so many potential readers with dismissive caricatures. Most of this section has the awkward tone of those “you know how women are” jokes told at men’s prayer breakfasts — the kind of thing some men say about women when they’re sure that no women are listening. So why didn’t the authors realize that women are listening to this passage?

But then it hit me. The authors haven’t forgotten about their women readers. This passage is intended for those readers. It’s directed toward them. This whole survey and summary of Hattie’s history is meant to be a lesson for the ladies.

He would have to let her play the story out with all her characteristic emotion and angst. He didn’t mind. He owed her that much. He still felt guilty about where she was, both geographically and in her life. It didn’t seem that long ago that she had been the object of his lust.

Rayford had never acted on it, of course, but it was Hattie whom he was thinking of the night of the Rapture. How could he have been so deaf, so blind, so out of touch with reality? A successful professional man, married more than 20 years with a college-age daughter and a 12-year-old son, daydreaming about his senior flight attendant and justifying it because his wife had been on a religious kick! He shook his head. Irene, the lovely little woman he had for so long taken for granted …

Write this down ladies. These are your options: Hattie or Irene. You can be an “object of lust” or you can be a “lovely little woman.” You can be a wanton floozy working for a living and leading good men astray, or you can be a mother and a homemaker who has her priorities straight.

Hattie was 15 years his junior, and she was a knockout. Though they had enjoyed dinner together a few times and drinks several times, and despite the silent language of the body and the eyes, Rayford had never so much as touched her. It had not been beyond Hattie to grab his arm as she brushed past him or even to put her hands on his shoulders when speaking to him in the cockpit, but Rayford had somehow kept from letting things go further.

Remember, ladies: No touching! Irene was allowed to touch Rayford, but that was only because she was prepared to bear his children.

The responsibility to ensure that no touching occurs is entirely yours, ladies. That’s why the authors can say that Rayford never touched Hattie even when she touched him. And why Rayford’s “necking session” at an office Christmas party doesn’t count against his spotless record and his claim that he “of course” had “never acted” in response to the wiles of these seductresses. (If Rayford had groped Hattie, you get the sense the authors would have described it by saying, “It had not been beyond Hattie to press her breast into his outstretched hand as she brushed past him.”)

Rayford reminisces a bit more about the awkward dinner at which he had attempted to convert Hattie to the Rapture Gospel after awkwardly attempting to apologize — and to demand/receive an apology from her — for their prolonged non-affair of “the silent language of the body and the eyes.”

And here is the final lesson for you ladies: If any untoward touching, glances or body language occurs, you must forgive without qualification and you must apologize for your role in provoking it. And you should probably also apologize to the man you’re forgiving for allowing him to place himself in the uncomfortable position of having to ask for your forgiveness.

Rayford and the authors again lament Hattie’s failure to embrace the One True Gospel as it was presented to her in Rayford’s “earnest and focused” proselytizing. And they again attribute her rejection of this gospel to her willful hardness of heart and not to the horrifying context of having to sit through a passive-aggressive sermon from a creepy old married guy.

Less than two years later, Hattie was the personal assistant and lover of Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist. Rayford, Buck, and Chloe were believers in Christ.

So let that be a lesson to you all.

  • FearlessSon

    I wonder what L&J must think if they knew that my girlfriend has twelve years over me.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    (faintly) Bill O’Reilly?

    That distant crashing sound you just heard was my karate headdesk.

  • glendanowakowsk

    I would guess that the participants in the Guaranteed Overnight Theatre put more care and forethought into their short plays than LaHaye and Jenkins put into the entire Left Behind series.

  • j_bird

    Way back in 2003, Fred wrote:
    “(Eldridge Cleaver could have written volumes trying to unpack all the Southern sexual myths crammed into that name.)”

    The observation was so apt that the phrase “southern sexual myths” stuck with me all this time and I was able to find it by googling.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2003/10/18/left-behind-pretrib-porno/

  • j_bird

    Good God, has it been ten years?!

  • Daniel

    I remember him saying that, but frankly it sounds a little like “the GIRAT doth protest too much”. He had a girlfriend in college and she dumped him for being too slow to make a move on her, after which he realised he’d never really liked her anyway because she wanted to drain his vital essence. From Buck’s general behaviour I think he actually did make a move, and the problem was very much the opposite of being too slow. I think that’s what all the denim, range rovers, general aggression and insistence that he’s the best ever is all about. I think women scare him, a lot.

  • Daniel

    Really? Viv Ivins? That’s spectacular. I hope there was at least one person who read that book and had to have her name explained, otherwise all the effort that went into it’s creation was wasted. Finding out McGillicuddy is not the stupidest name in these books has really cheered me up- something to look forward to. Thanks!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Nice find. Thanks. :) And how interesting it’s practically the very first post Fred ever made about Left Behind. :)

  • Daniel

    what a shame we can never find out how Rayford would have responded had the roles been reversed.

  • Panda Rosa

    Ooo, so Rayford is [i]thinking Bad Thoughts[/i] while he carries out his duties serving the Antichrist! That’s showing ‘em Ray-Ray! You’re really putting your life on the line with that one!

  • Panda Rosa

    Shouldn’t that be a Short Circuit court? (couldn’t resist)
    And now I’m seeing a Little Person in black robes with a gavel.

  • Panda Rosa

    Sure you don’t want to be a brazen hussy? Or how about an impudent strumpet? How about a shameless trollop? Couldn’t you settle for being far better than you ought to be?
    Kids these days… :-)

  • aunursa

    Short Circuit judge? This is what immediately comes to mind.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I think it’s a message to the ladies that we’re supposed to feed mens’ egos.

  • themunck

    *thinks* …Does she -ever- say or do anything of importance? Forgot moving her lines, just cut the damn character.

  • flat

    feeding my ego personally I think it tastes like ham when my ego got fed, so here is ponyo/nostalgia critic expressing my feelings.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbWpSklVzm4

  • rizzo

    Hattie and Nicolae hang out at Global Bistro? Hot damn these guys were phoning it in big time…

  • Charity Brighton

    I don’t think so. She does have some mild plot-related stuff when Nicolae tries to frame her (postmortem) for being a traitor to the Tribulation Force* but that has no real effect on the story. I think you really could just excise the entire character from the story without having to change anything else.

  • Ben English

    Paradise: the eternal state in which Jesus carves up your brain and removes your own emotional agency.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Pretty much. The only purpose she serves is to give Rayford ALL THE ANGST over whether OMG SHE IS A TRAITOR.

    (Naturally, she totally wasn’t and Nicky Buttes was just being his Evil McEvilson self. Speaking of which, have you noticed how ineffectual his personal evils are to the Tribbles even as he wreaks havoc across the globe to unnamed billions?)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Short Circuit court? Number Johnny Five, judge presiding. :P

  • Ben English

    He’s mostly just messing with their heads. It’s not like he actually needs to take decisive action against them since they’re not in any way a threat to his regime.

  • aunursa

    Hattie Durham enjoyed the delectable secret that she was not quite as ditzy as she seemed. How people reacted to her–particularly men–she had recognized so many years before that she couldn’t remember not using it to her advantage. Women seemed to baby talk to her, as if because she was a beautiful blonde she couldn’t have a brain…
    She had never seen herself as a home wrecker, though Captain Steele was hardly the first married man who seemed eager to throw away his family for her…
    But Rayford. He was something different. It had not been lost on her that he had been more than careful… It was clear that he was not happy at home… Yet it was his very discipline that had attracted her… not to mention his striking appearance…
    She knew enough to let Rayford make the next move, and from what she could tell, he was well on his way…
    Hattie’s goal was nothing short of claiming Rayford as her own… He would have to be willing to divorce his wife and pursue her to the altar.

    Prequel #3, The Rapture, pp 261-263

  • Ben English

    That does not gel with the passage Fred just dissected at all. Hattie, for all the hatred the authors want to pile on her, was not actually interested in Rayford. It’s like someone pointed out that Rayford came off a lot worse than Hattie so they decided to make Hattie’s intentions specifically malicious in the prequels.

  • Charity Brighton

    They could have done that with Chloe or another character though.

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    I would like to point out that Jenkins wasn’t even writing Gil Thorp. His son was secretly doing it.

  • http://kadhsempire.yuku.com/ Matt

    OMG, now everything Rayford says comes in the voice of Snagglepuss. Thanks, I think.

  • aunursa

    Snippets from later in this book…

    “How long could Rayford justify in his own mind that the benefits of being able to eavesdrop and spy on Carpathia outweighed his own culpability in abetting the work of the evil one?”

    “Rayford stared at him. He willed himself not to say the obligatory, ‘You’re welcome.’ He nodded and stood.”

  • Panda Rosa

    It could be worse. It could be — GLENN BECK!

  • Trixie_Belden

    Oh my goodness! That was an amazing retrieval! Thanks.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    You know, two things:

    1. Two of those newspapers have front-page headlines about something that’s going on about women in the catholic church.

    2. WHat the hell were they thinking putting Fisher Stevens in brownface with a fake indian accent? You could still get away with that crap in the 1980s? (Because I was a kid, I didn’t notice the racebending when I watched this movie. It was only like 10-15 years later that I had cause to look up Fisher Stevens’s IMDB page and discovered that, holy crap, that was him playing Ben. WTF.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I don’t think it’s fair to attribute their terrible erotica to their sexual repression. Writing readable smut is really hard difficult and should be left to people who are experts at that sort of thing.

  • FearlessSon

    Oh, no question that writing even halfway decent smut is difficult, but I had to wonder if, shall we say, they were unpracticed at it.

    But I think it is more of a kind of enforcement of “sex sells”, therefor they feel the need to put in a sex scene. But as you said it is hard to do a good one, and knowing when skimp on the details is important in maintaining good text. The whole embrace-and-fade-to-black kind of thing works as well in literature as it does in movies.

    Heck, I remember a (possibly apocryphal) quote from Tom Clancy saying something about how he was surprised that one of his books was better received than usual despite not having a sex scene in it. More likely, it was better received in part because it did not have a dull sex scene shoehorned in.

  • Carstonio

    Ellanjay most likely believe women should do that, but the passage doesn’t read like instruction for them. It reads instead like numerous advertisements aimed at men, where the woman is one more accessory, a visible symbol of his masculinity like an expensive car.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah, you could. I was a teenager back then and I didn’t think anything of it. I honestly thought the guy was legit South Asian (or as we said back then, “East Indian”).

  • Seraph4377

    She isn’t saved, and the only characters for whom we get to read their thoughts are the saved ones

    Indeed, I think their imagination is so limited that they don’t know how to show the inner workings of characters who aren’t Saved…and the characters who are Saved only think in a particular way: as if they were born and raised in L&J’s subculture. The globe-trotting Man of The World is not only a virgin at 30, but considers hand-holding an intimate act. People who’ve never had contact with an evangelical church know the lingo and the mores as if born to them. L&J just can’t imagine being Saved looking like anything else.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Ooh, that’s like not saying “thank you” when the cop hands you your speeding ticket. Positively seditious. No wonder these guys are the heroes.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Though the alliteration is a bit much, Fred missed an opportunity to title this post, “A lesson for the lovely little ladies.”

  • http://oldmaid.jallman.net/ TheOldMaid

    Indeed. I mentioned elsewhere the problems of ageism, one of which is convincing people of the existence of ageism. Some people believe in it, and some don’t, often those who have not (yet) seen it. Both (to use the official terms) “hostile” ageism and “benevolent” ageism exist.

    Ageism shows a lack of respect for a fellow human
    creature by tagging someone for some personal quality that 1) they can’t help, and 2) there’s nothing wrong with it. People have to learn from each other, or why would there be so many differences in the world?

    Don’t misunderstand me: I do object to an age difference
    in three situations:

    1. Incapacity. This includes mental, statutory, or other.

    2. Predatory.

    3. Gross immaturity that does not fit the definition of
    incapacity but nevertheless does not fit the reasonable standards of the community.

    This is why readers of the “Left Behind” series tend to
    point to Chloe (age 20 when they meet) and Buck (age 30) as examples of one or more of the above exceptions. In contrast, readers may express concerns over the marriage of Rayford (ca. 42-44 plus 2 weeks when they meet) and Amanda (“early fifties”)—but never have I heard anyone, be they fan or foe, ever express any concern over the age difference between them. It simply is not an issue.

    Anyhow, Daniel, the reason LaHaye and Jenkins called a
    character “Viv Ivins” is so that her name could spell VI VI VI, or 666 in Roman numerals.

    ..

    Ben English: “I think basically any character in Left Behind except maybe Ray Jr. would be more interesting than Irene.”

    They’re both in Book 16 ( http://oldmaid.jallman.net if Disqus is being naughty). Judge for yourself (if ye dare). Not a mama’s boy anymore.

  • EllieMurasaki

    At some point I am writing a story involving a threesome between characters named Danielle Cameron, Leah Xander, and Valerie Ingersoll. (Or some such things.)

  • http://oldmaid.jallman.net/ TheOldMaid

    Split among three people, eh?

    Out of curiosity, how many people here learned handwriting, Roman numerals, and all the things that typing and texting supposedly replace?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah. (Look, I made a funny.)

    Aren’t they only just now phasing out teaching cursive in schools? My baby sister learned cursive, and she’s starting ninth grade in the fall. (Unless attending summer school to get the phys ed and health requirements out of the way counts as starting ninth grade.) I haven’t heard that anybody’s phasing out Roman numerals at all, and frankly I’d be astonished if they did.

  • Daniel

    “I hope there was at least one person who read that book and had to have her name explained”
    I wasn’t making a point about ageism there- I haven’t read the books to know who Viv Ivins is, so I have no idea how she is portrayed. I also fully accept ageism is a problem. My point was that “Viv Ivins” is a very, very, very obvious use of “666″ and that because the writers clearly think they have been very clever in “encoding” it I hoped for their sakes at least one person had to have that explained. Never mind the tortured variant of “Evans” which if not spelled in an anglicised form is “Ifans” rather that “Ivins”- would a parent be so cruel as to name their child Vivian if this was their surname? It was a dig, once again, at the dreadful writing of Timkins. Also, it should have been Vi I Vins, depending on which Beast they are referring to. And that’s even worse.

  • http://oldmaid.jallman.net/ TheOldMaid

    @Daniel: I know you weren’t talking about ageism as a part of Viv Ivins. I just started with that first because … (counts) … Ruby Tea, Sue White, Ben English, Fearless Son, christopher_y, flat, Lliira, This fellow right here, and back to Ruby Tea (and you, in there) mentioned possible ageisms in L.B. and how some heads might go boom if compared to the real world.
    Also, sometimes I just combine post-thoughts in one post because
    1) because time constraints;
    2) because polar bears;
    3) because Disqus.
    Sorry for the confusion.
    But since some translations of the Bible tag the Deplorable Number as 616 and 216, those pop up in the series as barcode numbers or some such. So there aren’t characters named after the variants; there are trivial pursuit answers named after the variants.

  • EllieMurasaki

    216 has never been a That Number as far as I know. LaJenkins used it because it’s 6 * 6 * 6 see aren’t we clever.

  • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

    In a “can men and women be friends” discussion back in school, some of my classmates said no, they couldn’t “unless he’s gay”. Because the man’s orientation and sexual desire matters; it seems that the woman’s doesn’t.

    TRiG.

  • Pacal

    “Rayford Steele’s mind was on a woman he had never touched. With his fully loaded 747 on autopilot above the Atlantic en route to a 6 a.m.”
    “his fully loaded 747″?! Well that one way to refer to it.

  • melissia

    “He couldn’t understand her, the authors suggest, because he did not yet know Rayford, and Hattie is defined by Rayford. She is “Rayford’s.””

    I think this might need a trigger warning: domestic abuse…. I felt a cold shiver down my spine just reading it… and then I almost retched when I realized the author of Left Behind _meant_ it, and wasn’t just trolling.


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