Mark Reads ‘Maskerade’: Part 2

In the second part of Maskerade, Agnes tries to settle in while Nanny and Granny do the opposite. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of fatphobia.

Oh, Agnes.

The majority of this book seems to be about her so far, which is surprisingly pleasant for me. Even the Witches’ few scenes in this section gravitate around Agnes, despite that there’s still a couple other subplots at work. This has the wonderful affect of allowing me to understand Agnes much better, and character building is SO IMPORTANT TO ME. But there’s another aspect of this that I can’t ignore, for better or for worse.

Agnes is fat, and Pratchett spends a whole of time telling us of that.

I realize that this might just be something I’m always going to be sensitive about, so I am tempering any critical analysis. I realize that we’ve crossed this bridge multiple times before, and for some folks, Pratchett’s way of talking about fat bodies doesn’t bother them. On the one hand, some of this doesn’t bother me because so much of it is from Agnes’s perspective, and her own words matter so much more to me. I haven’t been skinny or small in a long, long time, so I appreciate it when characters – especially main characters!!! – are larger. Plus, Agnes’s scenes are often about how she doesn’t fit in, how she views herself in the world, and how she’s treated because she’s fat. While that’s difficult to read, I think it’s a necessary conversation to have.

My concern doesn’t really cover Pratchett addressing this in the text. We get to see how the staff at the Opera House dismiss Agnes because of her size; we get a taste for Agnes’s self-deprecation and insecurity; we learn that Agnes might have fit in well in Lancre, but only if she performed a specific role, which is why she moved to Ankh-Morpork in the first place. All of this is done fairly well, is entertaining, and helps set the tone of the book. But lines like this one just feel aggressively weird:

As Nanny Ogg had once remarked, it was an education seeing Agnes turn around. She was light enough on her feet but the inertia of outlying parts meant that bits of Agnes were still trying to work out which way to face for some time afterward.

Like… is this totally necessary? It feels less as if Pratchett is trying to build the atmosphere that Agnes lives in and more like he’s taking an opportunity to make another joke about her appearance. It feels written, if that makes sense. I don’t hear Nanny Ogg here, nor did I read this as Agnes’s internal voice. It sounded like someone detached from the situation taking the chance to go, “Heh heh, she’s fat.”

There are a few more examples in this section (like the “dying for chocolate” footnote), but most mentions of Agnes’s body came across as much more appropriate. The bit about mirrors, for instance. I DEEPLY UNDERSTOOD THAT. Or the dreaded, “But you’ve got a lovely personality!” Y’all, I haven’t stopped hearing that for a long time. I still do! I have had people tell me to my face that my boyfriend is super hot and I’m just “the nice person” in the relationship. (Which has another gross implication of fetishization and over-sexualization of black bodies, but this is not the time or place for this discussion.) I used to hear that all the time about my last ex, who was much more traditionally attractive because he had a thin waist and lots of muscles. I’m always described by personality traits instead of my physical traits. And it’s not that I want to be over-sexualized, either, but when you see other people in society desired in a specific way that you never experience, it can be disheartening.

And seriously, I have a lot more to offer than my kidneys, too.

This is not like my criticism for Interesting Times. I already like this a great deal, and I suspect that y’all are going to see me latch on to Agnes Nitt and REFUSE TO LET GO. I more or less want a conversation because I’d be interested in what your take on this is. I already feel a fierce need to protect Agnes because she is, in essence, my current physical self matched with my emotional state as a young teenager. I was highly emotional and sensitive, nice to everyone I met, and eager to please people. Even if I met people like Christine, I would still do things to make them feel welcomed and appreciated, even if it was at my own expense. It’s clear that Agnes doesn’t really like Christine. Not only that, but her trip to Ankh-Morpork has quickly become more of a nightmare than a dream. That’s such a difficult thing to deal with! I’m reminded of a similar theme in Moving Pictures, except Agnes’s disillusionment has come much sooner. It’s at the beginning of the book, you know? She escaped Lancre because she didn’t want to be a witch or a housewife, and this is what she faces within weeks of arriving.

And I want to hope for the best of her, but I don’t trust any of the Opera House men to deal with her respectfully at all. THIS IS GOING TO BE A DISASTER.

However, as much as she wants nothing to do with the witches, I laughed at how Pratchett managed to get Granny interested in another adventure. Now I understand that earlier scene with the “recipe.” NANNY OGG IS A FAMOUS WRITER NOW. Of “recipes.” WHICH I’M GUESSING ARE NOTHING BUT DIRTY JOKES? Oh my god, I finally get this one:

Weeelll, they starts out as Maids of Honor,” said Nanny, fidgeting with her feet, “but they ends up Tarts.”

HOW DARE YOU SLIP THIS ONE BY ME, OH MY GOD.

Y’all, Goatberger owes Nanny THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, and by gods, Granny is gonna help her get it back. (And perhaps check in on Agnes. Just maybe. Possibly.)

Diane Duane is still offering a massive discount on the first 9 books in the Young Wizards series just to this community, so please take advantage of this deal while you still can:

http://bit.ly/markreadsYW

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! 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 Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. 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.
This entry was posted in Discworld and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.