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.

  • purplekitte

    First?

    Poor Hattie. Her own flashback section is still about Rayford. Mostly about how bad a person he is, of course.

  • Tara, antisocial social worker

    Are there really men who think women want to be called anyone’s “little woman”? “Rayford was Irene’s lovely little man, and Hattie’s senior pilot….”

  • Tara, antisocial social worker

    There’s something missing from this passage. Shouldn’t Hattie get a phone call with Buck,just to round out her character?

  • hidden_urchin

    You can be an “object of lust” or you can be a “lovely little woman.”

    But I want to be a kickass Action Girl.

    Seriously, though, it’s so clear that women can’t win in this world. Can you imagine if Hattie had dressed in such a way that she was “just barely presentable enough”? She wouldn’t be expressing a lack of interest in Rayford, oh no, she would be “letting herself go.” If, however, she takes pride in her appearance then she is being a vain little harlot who needs to be put in her place by a manly man.

    And of course she’s only described in relation to Rayford. He’s the dominant male in the series. All women belong to him and he chooses which he will favor.

    This is just so disgusting.

    I wonder how this fit in with the theater post since Fred mentioned that one was a tangent.

  • Lori

    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?

    It’s also the kind of thing some women say about other women when they know full well some of them are listening, because they want to make sure everyone knows that they “aren’t like that”. Those are the women who read and love these wretched books. L&J don’t know good writing and they don’t know good theology and they don’t know from being a good person, but they do know their audience.

  • http://kingdomofsharks.wordpress.com/ D Johnston

    Not that it would ever happen, of course, but this section would be greatly improved by the addition of Hattie as a POV character, if only temporarily.

    Hattie is constantly treated as this inscrutable figure, treated by Our Brave Heroes with a mix of pity and contempt. She clearly has a fair amount of power, and really has to be considered a villain (possibly a tragic villain, but still). So why is it that we never get an opportunity to see what she’s thinking? It has to be more palatable than the thin gruel we’re getting – sorry guys, I’m not buying Buck and Ray as the interesting ones in this cast.

    I would love to get some insight on this story from one of the misguided pawns. Any would do, but Hattie has been with us from the start. The only reason Hattie never gets a chance to speak for herself (other than L&J not wanting to write for a girl) is that it might distract from the Mary Sue “heroes.”

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

    Pretty much exactly. The misogyny drips off the pages of this book series. Even if the authors never come out and say it, they show in a thousand ways that they don’t think much of women and can’t be bothered to give Hattie any roles that truly challenge gender stereotyping. She ineffectually attacks the Antichrist and dies in the end, for example.

    And the authors make her undergo far more pain and agony than they would let any of the Tribbles undergo because she’s Rayford’s ‘whore”, not his “Madonna” (Amanda or Irene). She has a failed pregnancy and undergoes all five months of the tortures visited by the Abaddon-beings, etc.

    PS. Thanks for the late LB Friday post :)

  • Dogfacedboy

    Two more reasons LaHaye & Jenkins wouldn’t let Hattie become a viewpoint character: 1) She isn’t saved, and the only characters for whom we get to read their thoughts are the saved ones, 2) L&J consider Hattie a dingaling, so what would be the use in showing us her thoughts?

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

    Yep, all the women in the series are entirely defined by some man’s dick. And people like LaHaye and Jenkins like to claim they respect women. Pfft.

  • Vermic

    A welcome return to form by LaHaye & Jenkins, who round off the last few chapters of unremarkable tedium with some truly classic reprehensible misogyny. It’s as if they realized that they hadn’t been really terrible in a while and wanted to prove they still had their chops.

    What’s the opposite of fanservice? When writers add something gratuitous as if to specifically rouse the passions of the readers who hate them? Because LaHaye & Jenkins have cooked us up a bowl of grade-A hateservice this week.

  • DavidCheatham

    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.

    Almost everything in that paragraph is wrong. Firstly, Hattie _isn’t_ the personal assistant of Nicolae. Secondly, how does _he_ know she’s the ‘lover’ of Nicky? (Yes, I know lover can just mean ‘girlfriend’, but I’m sure getting the ‘has sex with’ vibe from that sentence.)

    And lastly, no fair lumping _other_ people into your side of the comparison, Rayford.

    Let’s try it a bit more honestly:

    Less than two years later, Hattie was girlfriend of Nicolae Carpathia, a man who secretly was the Antichrist. Whereas Rayford, as a believer in Christ, did know Nicolae was the Antichrist, yet choose to serve as ones of the Antichrist’s personal staff because, uh, some reason. Rayford most recently was an accessory before the fact to mass murder, but he is willing to cheerfully ferry the Antichrist around for any crime against humanity, of which he knows the Antichrist will commit dozens. Rayford has chosen not to tell Hattie what’s going on.

  • P J Evans

    And for some of the backstory on Jerry, try http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/15/1216351/-Books-So-Bad-They-re-Good-Raptured-by-Gil-Thorp

    He can’t write comic strips very well, either.

  • Sue White

    “Lovely little woman”??? Seriously? Excuse me while I hurl. How is it even possible to write like that?

    Who would want that role anyway, she just ended up being taken for granted until Jesus whisked her away to eternal celibate bliss.

  • GDwarf

    Trolling?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    They respect them, just not as people. And therefore they pay them the utmost respect that it is fitting to pay to a sub-person. I bet they respect their pets the same way.

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

    I think it is very telling that Chelsea Noble decided to play that role. She’s Kirk Cameron’s wife, by the way.

  • Sue White

    I thought she played Hattie the Hottie.

  • Tara, antisocial social worker

    Thanks, I was gonna post that link if no one else did. And down in comments the author refers to Slacktivist as a “national treasure.” (Without Nick Nolte, presumably.)

  • Panda Rosa

    Don’t be silly. A Proper Pet (one that does not purr) is always right there, at the ready, submissive, obedient, staring up at their adored Master with silent, unblinking eyes, wishing but to please, knowing they are not worthy. The big problem is that almost none of the Sex Having Just A Womb Not A Penis can live up to that sacred, sacred Need To Be Unquestionably Adored As Is Their GAWD Given Right.

  • Panda Rose

    Well, it might fit a beautiful Little Person.
    Ever watch Pit Boss? She does make mistakes, as she will persist in being human, but in regard to saving dogs Ashley is one Beauuuuutiful Little Person.

  • Sue White

    Now I’m picturing Irene with Buck’s tiny friend.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Enemyservice?

  • SisterCoyote

    I want to scream when I hear that coming from women. They will never let you into the clubhouse. Please, please – stop trying to stand outside their clubhouse looking cool, and help us build the bonfire. Because they will never let you in. No matter how Not-Like-Other-Girls you are, they will never see you as As-Good-As-the-Guys. Ever.

  • ChristianPinko

    I think this post calls for this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LEJ6tZI7_k

  • SkyknightXi

    The men in the clubhouse need to let go of their fatalism, then. At least, the way you phrase makes it sound like they already see themselves at an eternal zenith.

    …So, in addition to abjuring the sorrows of Fate and similar lies, they need to know Humility…

  • SisterCoyote

    Getting into the Supernatural fandom recently means that “Abaddon” makes me think mostly of the character of the same name, which, in turn, makes me think – what would this series be like if the Powers That Be reached in and switched Nicolae out for Crowley?

  • EllieMurasaki

    A hell of a lot more snarky and a hell of a lot more fun to read. Though I observe that Crowley’s driving force is what’s best for Crowley, nothing else, which means which side he’s on is variable.

  • Lori

    His phone?

  • Charity Brighton

    Crowley would probably love it. He’s not as strong as Carpathia, but he’s much smarter and he’s used to fighting with people who actually try to fight back.

    The meek compliance of the Tribulation Force would be preferable to the defiance and deception of the Winchester brothers.

    Honestly, I don’t think they’d even fight. Crowley would offer Rayford and Buck a job and they would take it. They would grumble about it, of course but they would carry out every command faultlessly.

  • SisterCoyote

    Heh. Crowley is the reason I started watching – too many awesome gifs scrolling across my dashboard. He remains my favorite character, with Bobby a close second, and I think I would pawn my favorite hiking boots to read, watch, or in some way observe him curb-stomping the Tribbles.

  • arcseconds

    I’m wondering how the Guaranteed Overnight Theatre originally fitted in to this…

  • Trixie_Belden

    Foeservice?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross
  • reynard61

    Trigger warnings: Slavery, rape.

    “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.”

    It’s like someone who had no qualms about being a murderer and the world knowing about it, but objected to having a reputation for stealing candy from children.

    “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?”

    Probably for the same reason that the Rethuglicans keep passing (at least on the State level) unrealistic and unconstitutional abortion laws that have the effect of reducing women to baby factories. They just don’t think that women are as *Human* as men. The “3/5ths of a person” clause in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution may originally have applied to “(…)all other persons(…)” — i.e. Black slaves — (the irony being that *free* women were, at the time, counted as whole persons even if they weren’t actually allowed to vote), but a disturbingly large number of Rethuglican-controlled state legislatures and Governors seem hell-bent on reducing their State’s female populations to what would effectively be “3/5ths” status.

    “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.’)

    And this is why it’s *always* the victim’s fault whenever a bully gets his fists pummeled by their face, or they force their vagina onto that poor, innocent rapist’s penis.

    “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.”

    The lesson that I see here is that RTCs are a bunch of chauvinist scum that I should make every effort to avoid lest I be tempted to use The Chair Leg of Truth to pound some Brotherly Love (or at least a little sense) into them.

  • SisterCoyote

    Oh man, all of the thumbs up for Spider Jerusalem.

  • reynard61

    I regret that I have but one “^” to give to this comment.

  • reynard61

    “hateservice”.

    Yeah. I like that one.

    Pardon me while I indulge in my daily two-minute hateservice…

  • P J Evans

    Without the caps, I wouldn’t worry. When they start capitalizing ‘national treasure’, it’s time to leave.

  • FearlessSon

    I am not sure a bonfire will be enough. We ought to be blockading any supply routes into the clubhouse, and chopping down nearby trees to assemble into battering rams, trebuchets, and siege towers. Erect the fortifications and give the sappers their petards, one way or another that club house will be breached!

  • Eric Boersma

    Great link! It was an interesting bit, but the author is too verbose by half. There’s a whole boatload of stuff in that column that’s totally irrelevant and seems to be there simply because the author wanted to pad digital inches, or something.

  • FearlessSon

    Getting into the Supernatural fandom recently means that “Abaddon” makes me think mostly of the character of the same name, which, in turn, makes me think – what would this series be like if the Powers That Be reached in and switched Nicolae out for Crowley?

    Being in the Warhammer 40,000 fandom makes me think of the other character named Abaddon, the Despoiler, most favored of the servants of the Ruinous Powers, master of the Black Legion, and a being capable of reducing anything which gets near him to a fine pink mist despite being an armless failure.

  • FearlessSon

    The last paragraph in that link, about Protestants and Catholics being now more alike in their feelings about gender than unalike in their theology, reminds me of something Fred said a while back about the religion of misogynists being misogyny itself. About how they will latch onto any clobber justifications from their ostensible religion to reinforce their misogyny, no matter what their ostensible religion actually is, and in any theological conflict that potentially refutes their misogyny they will just side with the interpretation that supports it.

  • Ben English

    I’m just choosing to take it that Irene was a Hobbit. The books never tell us she’s NOT a Hobbit.

  • FearlessSon

    I was assuming that the author was just trying to go for an authentic Jenkins feel to the writing.

  • Ben English

    Shaddup. It’s still a better story than Left Behind.

  • Ben English

    Didn’t Nicky announce that Hattie was pregnant with his hellspawn just before they got on the plane?

  • Ben English

    Not all the women.

    There’s Verna Zee. (Really wish I could use the Hay Guyz emoticon right here.)

  • FearlessSon

    Does anyone have a Male Privilege Detector that I can borrow? Mine started flaring up when I began reading about this section of the book, and quickly overloaded and burned out.

    I get the feeling that L&J do not believe that men and women can have platonic relationships, everything is framed in coupling terms to them among characters of different gender. I honestly pity them. What is it like to have such a narrow view of the world?

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

    And you can see what a hatchet job they do on her. Buck beats the shit out of her car when he drives it, and it’s trashed to the point where it’s probably undrivable or needs major repairs after the fact, and then nears up at her with a “guided from God” piece of blackmail about her being a lesbian to get her to shut up about seeing Buck and Chloe at one of those special Christian churches.

    And that doesn’t even count all the other pieces of total lack of respect Buck has shown for her.

    (And in the end, never mine that Nicolae already knows pretty much the entire deal about the religious faith Buck and Rayford have, the Tribbles want to play-act as badass moles for God)

  • Ben English

    Do we really want the old misogynist club house, though? It was built on a toxic waste dump, after all.


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