Victoria Powers (the redhead on the right) is the only child of Brenda Powers, a single mother who lives in a trailer park on the edge of Belford (the town where Hometown is set). In 1994, at the time Hometown begins, Vicki is just shy of eighteen years old. Brenda is thirty-five.
In stark contrast to Angelina, Vicki is one of Belford’s Bad Girls. Not that she’s ever hurt anybody (okay, there have been a few brawls, but they totally started it, and she only ever fights people who can fight back) or stolen anything, or done anything unduly destructive (at least by the standards of a bored small-town teenager). She does like to drink and smoke (smoke what? What’ve you got?) and screw (more on that later), but those things are incidental, really. She’s the daughter of a drunken trailer park slut and an unknown or run-off father. She was always going to be one of the Bad Girls. People (mostly her classmates, but they’re certainly not alone) have been calling her a whore since she was in seventh grade. Authority figures from teachers to police officers consider her a troublemaker who needs to be put in her place.
With all of Belford against her – including her mother (when we first meet Brenda powers, she throws a glass at her daughter’s head. Vicki dodges it easily because she knew it was coming) – Vicki has been forced to develop three traits: an iron will; the ability to fight; and a fierce, sometimes violent, loyalty to her friends. Especially her best friend, Valerie Robard.
(She didn’t have to develop a habit of sticking up for the underdog that often gets her in further trouble, but she did anyway.)
Her particular nemesis is Natasha Van Dyne, one of Belford High’s primary social bullies. Natasha is rich (by the standards of a small milltown) and pretty, and seems to feel that someone in her position has a bounden duty to keep all of her social lessers in their place…which of course runs afoul of Vicki’s tendency to stick up for the underdog. Mostly, Natasha just harasses Vicki at every chance she gets, but sometimes it comes to blows. Regardless of the form their conflict takes, both of them know that Natasha has the power structure of Belford on her side.
As you can imagine, Vicki hates Belford with fiery passion. Her greatest dream is to escape Belford, run away to New York City, and become a star on Broadway. She knows that it’s a long shot, if not quite how much of one, but she believes that she’s preparing for it: she is one of Belford High’s most dedicated and talented Theatre People, taking every theatre class, auditioning for every play, taking part in every way that she can, from make-up to scenery building. This is how she becomes friends with people outside her social class, including some of the people in Angelina’s circle: the “Theatre People” of Belford are a community unto themselves, with values different than the town around them (which, among other things, earns the men among them the title “Theatre Fags”), and neither Vicki’s social class nor her bad habits are held against her.
More than just an escape, theatre is a true passion for Vicki. She knows more about theatre as a subject than just about anyone would be willing to give her credit for, and she loves to talk Shakespeare with the owner of the local coffee shop, who just happens to have a PhD in Shakespeare.
Unfortunately, like many people who seek stardom on the stage and screen (or who seek greater control over their own life), Vicki has developed an eating disorder – an occasion of her iron will turning against her. She tells herself (and anyone who dares to ask) that the stage demands a certain “look” if you want to get any parts. And she’s not entirely wrong. Still, skipping as many meals as she can, eating as little as she can get away with at the meals where she can’t, and smoking to still the hunger pangs is going to catch up with her eventually.
I mentioned earlier that I would get back to the screwing. As with most teenagers, a lot of Vicki’s attention is taken up with matters of love and sex, even in a dire situation like the events of Hometown. After all, the story covers a period of months, and she’s not in danger every minute of every day, now is she?
In a lot of ways, Vicki has the opposite problem from Angelina on this issue. Vicki has sex and enjoys it (most of the time…though she occasionally wishes that the boys would hang around more afterward), but that doesn’t mean her relationship with it is healthy. Between the men her mother would bring home, the soap opera-like dramas of the trailer park itself, and the “games” the other children would play, she grew up in a hypersexualized environment, and had her first sexual experience at fourteen. Well, her first intercourse; there had been “sexual experiences” of various kinds for several years before that.
And some of her sexual experiences, well…I was thinking of Vicki and several of the “Bad Girls” I knew in high school when I wrote this post about a year and a half ago. If you didn’t follow the link, or it was all tl:dr for you, here’s the salient section, which is an excerpt from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson:
Visiting the offices of those visor-clad brutes to file a report against Nils Bjurman for sexual assault did not even cross (Salander’s) mind. And besides—what was she supposed to report? Bjurman had touched her breasts. Any officer would take one look at her and conclude that with her miniature boobs, that was highly unlikely. And if it had actually happened, she should be proud that someone had even bothered. And the part about sucking his dick—it was, as he had warned her, her word against his, and generally in her experience the words of other people weighed more heavily than hers. The police were not an option.
She left Bjurman’s office and went home, took a shower, ate two sandwiches with cheese and pickles, and then sat on the worn-out sofa in the living room to think.
An ordinary person might have felt that her lack of reaction had shifted the blame to her—it might have been another sign that she was so abnormal that even rape could evoke no adequate emotional response.
Her circle of acquaintances was not large, nor did it contain any members of the sheltered middle class from the suburbs. By the time she was eighteen, Salander did not know a single girl who at some point had not been forced to perform some sort of sexual act against her will. Most of these assaults involved slightly older boyfriends who, using a certain amount of force, made sure that they had their way. As far as Salander knew, these incidents had led to crying and angry outbursts, but never to a police report.
In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.
There was no point whimpering about it.
For the record, Vicki’s on-again off-again boyfriend, Rodney Dupre, prefers to use alcohol rather than a certain amount of force. He’s abusive in other ways as well, but as a young woman of her time and place, Vicki doesn’t recognize his behavior as either rape or abuse. She has definite ideas as to what those things entail, and her own experiences don’t match them – and any suggestion that they do is dismissed as the silliness of naive, sheltered virgins. Rodney is just an asshole, and while she usually doesn’t put up with his shit, sometimes shit just happens. That’s all. It’s just shit that happens.
Vicki actually spends much of the book struggling to come to terms with the idea that she deserves good things too. Fortunately, there are people there to help her with that, in the form of Val, Angelina and her friends, and particularly one Marc Elliott. More on him later.
Other Interesting Facts About Victoria Powers:
- Vicki’s name continues, in a much more subtle way, the “angel” theme I started with Angelina. Anyone can see the “Angel” in Angelina, but how many people know that the Powers are one of the nine choirs of angels? Of those that do, how many would make the connection? Don’t bother to look for angels in the other characters. I only did it for our two protagonists, so I could be reminded that underneath all their differences, our heroines were fundamentally the same: creatures of power, glory and goodness.
- Like Angelina, Vicki is based on someone I used to know – in this case, a high school acquaintance. Unlike Angelina, she doesn’t have many of that old acquaintance’s character traits. Physical appearance and an interest in the theatre are about it. Beyond that, Vicki is her own person.
- Vicki and Val engage in regular insult contests, which Vicki usually wins because she has a back-up supply of Elizabeth insults from reading Shakespeare.
- The illustration actually fits my personal picture of Vicki quite well. But I don’t want you to be bound to the illustration, so here is her description from the book, when she’s introduced to us at a summer night party: “Her glorious red hair, her favorite feature, was done up just enough to look wild. Her makeup accentuated her delicate cheekbones and her huge, blue eyes. She was wearing her shortest, most painted-on daisy dukes in order to showcase her legs (at five-ten, she certainly had enough to show) and her ass, and the tightest, briefest tank top she could find in the hopes of making something of her somewhat less-impressive tits.” Later in the story, she cuts her hair pixie-ishly short.