In the twelfth part of Moving Pictures, characters are stereotyped, Ginger confronts Victor, and Ankh-Morpork burns. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of stereotypes.
Without knowing the endgame for this book, I do sometimes struggle to understand where some of this fits in with the greater narrative. That’s always an issue, of course, given the way that I read books for this site. In this case, though, I don’t always know what Pratchett’s trying to say. I sort of spoke of this before the last time we got some gags about the trolls’ stereotypical behavior, though that was more about the implications of the metaphors he was writing. I bring that up because I can see a continuation of those ideas here, but I’m curious to know where this belongs in the story.
At the opening of this section, while Victor is trying to decide how to confront Ginger about her sleepwalking, we get a fairly long sequence in which the trolls and the dwarfs speak openly about being typecast and stereotyped. There’s a lot of good commentary here about this experience, one that can easily be extrapolated to marginalized populations in our own world. For instance:
“Now look here,” said Rock, his voice winding up like a pitcher’s arm. “What you’re saying is, is OK for trolls to be shown bashing people with clubs, is not OK to show trolls have finer feelings like squashy humans?”
That’s real. That’s something many non-white actors complain about within the industry! When the dwarfs voice their concerns about stereotypes and misrepresentation, it also works as an analogy for real-world typecasting. But where does this fall within the text? If the power of Holy Wood compels people to an inflated sense of self-importance, does that mean that these characters, defending their right for fair representation, are merely being self-important? Are they acting of their own free will or are They compelling these characters to act this way?
I ask this because it seems painfully (and hilariously) clear that Dibbler’s desperation to raise revenue for his company is part of the absurdity that Holy Wood inspires in others. Sure, it makes sense that Dibbler, of all characters, would be willing to write an ad as crass as the one here. That’s what he does, you know? But it’s truly shameless in a way that’s egregious, even for someone like Dibbler:
“That’s not interfering,” said Dibbler stolidly. “I don’t see how that could be considered interfering. I just polished it up here and there. I think it’s rather an improvement. Besides, Harga’s All-You-Can-Gobble-For-A-Dollar is amazing value these days.”
“But the click is set hundreds of years ago!” shouted Soll.
“We-ell,” said Dibbler. “I suppose someone could say, ‘I wonder if the food at Harga’s House of Ribs will still be as good in hundreds of years’ time–‘“
Utterly ridiculous. But it needs to be.
It’s undeniably disturbing to think about how Holy Wood is affecting these people, particularly Ginger. Earlier in this book, I got the sense that things were moving quickly, but I can now see how much of this is a slow burn. While the reader is quick to catch on to things, Ginger and Victor take two hundred and fifty pages to finally speak openly about what this place is doing to them. Victor’s theory? The soul of Holy Wood is controlling them.
“It’s the sort of soul of a place. It can be quite strong. It can be made strong, by worship or love or hate, if it goes on long enough. And I’m wondering if the spirit of a place can call to people. And animals, too. I mean, Holy Wood is a different sort of place, isn’t it? People act differently here. Everyone else, the most important things are gods or money or cattle. Here, the most important thing is to be important.”
Unlike my slight confusion or uncertainty towards previous metaphors Pratchett has employed, Pratchett makes it clear that there’s nothing bad about wanting to be important or popular. It’s this place that amplifies them. It’s the “wild” ideas that make it easier for Them to enter the Discworld’s dimension.
So how the hell do you stop something like this? Let’s say that Victor is successful in preventing Ginger from sleepwalking and trying to open the Door. (I don’t know how he’ll do that, given that Gaspode couldn’t stop her.) Who’s to say that Holy Wood won’t just get someone else to do it? How do you stop an entire machine as relentless as this one? Countless people are unwittingly complicit in this, and convincing each of them that they’re being controlled is an impossible task. Who else is aware of all of this? The resograph is increasing in frequency, Ankh-Morpork’s likeness has been burned, and Blown Away is nearly complete. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Why was it necessary for Dibbler to make Blown Away? What haven’t I figured out???? TOO MANY THINGS.
The original text contains use of the word “mad.”
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