Mark Reads ‘Witches Abroad’: Part 10

In the tenth part of Witches Abroad, Magrat meets Ella, and Nanny and Granny both meet Mrs. Gogol. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For talk of racism.

Oh damn, so much just happened! LET’S DISCUSS IS BY CHARACTER.

Magrat

So what exactly is Magrat going to do here? Assuming by the name, Ella is Lilith’s Cinderalla, which would mean that Magrat would have a very specific role to play: getting Ella to the ball so the prince could fall in love with her. Except that is exactly what Lilith wants, so how the hell is this going to unfold if Granny finally reveals who is behind all of this? Once she does that, then isn’t it inevitable that they’ll all try to stop a happy ending from occurring?

I like that I can’t quite put this all together, despite that I really am familiar with the pieces. And it looks like Pratchett is going to continue playing off Magrat’s naïveté, given that she’s going to try to help Ella without knowing the full implications of her actions. But what are those? What does Lilith get out of this? If Ella gets her “happy” ending, what’s the end result??? I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS AT ALL. Is Lilith the bad fairy godmother, or is it actually Magrat in this context?

Granny

God, I loved this passage so much:

They didn’t do that in Genua. They cut their heads off so they wouldn’t think of stealing again.

Granny knew exactly where the witches were in Genua now.

They were in charge.

It’s a chilling moment, and it also helps us to understand why Granny has been so certain that the use of magic by witches is a terrible thing. I feel very certain now that Granny is related to Lilith, which would explain the intense bias she has against all of this. (An understandable bias, I should note, because WHAT THE HELL IS THIS PLACE?!?!?!?) Granny is standing within a place that’s full of incontrovertible evidence that power can make people do monstrous things. Like THE SISTERS. Jesus, y’all, they were already unbearably creepy, but seeing them through Granny’s eyes? A MILLION TIMES WORSE. If Granny Weatherwax is unnerved by something? You better believe I’m going to be, too.

PS: I still don’t get Granny’s joke. I KEEP RE-READING IT, AND IT ISN’T COMING TO ME.

Nanny, Mrs. Pleasant and Mrs. Gogol

I suppose that, given recent events in my life, I’m more sensitive to this specific topic, and I don’t think I have a problem admitting that. At the same time, I don’t want that to dilute the point I’m trying to make. I think I understand what Pratchett was trying to do here, but it’s a reach at best, something I can only imagine and hypothesize. Let me first start with these two lines:

Her name was Mrs. Pleasant, she was a cook, and she was the first black person Nanny had ever spoken to.

Followed by the following footnote:

Racism was not a problem on the Discworld, because – what with trolls and dwarfs and so on – speciesism was more interesting. Black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.

So, large parts of the Discworld series are based on British culture and society, and on European society as well, particularly this book. If you happened to get to read my private Patreon blogs, you know that I did not have an easy time in the Scandinavian countries, Germany, and Amsterdam when it came to my brown skin. The month I spent abroad was unfortunately full of some of the most egregious cases of racism I’ve ever dealt with. There was virtually no subtlety at all, and it got to a point that I had to have an outside party confirm it was happening because I felt like I was imagining a surreal alternate universe.

So to have Pratchett decide to knowingly and openly omit this aspect of Europe and Britain feels really cheap to me. The man can skewer so many other things in our own world – sexism, religion, idolatry, death, etc. – but deliberately bows out on this one? Why?

Even in terms of his worldbuilding, this doesn’t make sense. How is it that Nanny has never spoken to someone who is black in decades upon the Disc? Are there no black people in the Ramtops? Why? How can the Discworld break itself along lines of class, gender, and religious belief, but when it comes to race, they’re all just the best of friends? How can Pratchett claim that there’s no racism in the Discworld when the only black character introduced thus far is a gigantic stereotype? SERIOUSLY! She’s a cook, so there’s an invocation of the mammy stereotype because she works in the service industry. She talks in a fairly broken version of AAVE, she does voodoo, and she is honest-to-god mystical, disappearing on Nanny to serve a greater purpose. Erzulie Gogol is not much different in terms of mysticism either, you know? And the big black cock joke is just… what the hell, no. That doesn’t help your case.

My point is this: you can’t claim your fictional fantasy world isn’t racist until you’re certain that your own biases aren’t reflected in the text. It also helps if you don’t introduce your first black character in twelve books, only to have them immediately be used to confirm that racism doesn’t exist.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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