Mark Reads ‘Maskerade’: Part 5

In the fifth part of Maskerade, Agnes meets the Phantom of her specific Opera. Sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Trigger Warning: For talk of body image and fatphobia.

Goddamn, this was a GREAT section!

The Phantom

I love that while I can recognize the obvious reference/parody of The Phantom of the Opera, I can’t figure out why there is a mysterious (and possibly masked) person hiding about the theater in this book. I get the sense that the person loves the theater and opera, but as for killing people? I don’t see the motive! (Well, I might have seen it, but I haven’t made the right connections.) When Agnes runs into André upstairs in this section, I then had to wonder: had I already met Maskerade‘s Phantom? Are they a character I haven’t actually met yet?

I don’t think it’s a stretch, though, to suggest that this mysterious figure is the person who visits Christine’s room to teach her how to sing. In an exciting twist, Pratchett has Agnes take the signing lesson that was meant for Christine. But he doesn’t do so without addressing a heartbreaking reality:

“Don’t you want to be the best singer in the opera?”

“Oh, Perdita is a lot better than me!!”

There was silence for a moment, and then the voice said: “But while I cannot teach her to look and move like you, I can teach you to sing like her.”

It is brutal. It’s a painful reminder that people do not value Agnes because of her size. It’s also bullshit. You can teach people how to dress differently. You can teach fat people to dance. It’s a matter of interest. No one wants to spend time with Agnes for one reason only, and I guarantee you that it’s not because she cannot be taught. Which is the beautiful irony in all of this! Agnes maintains the illusion that she is Christine so that she can be taught ENTIRELY OUT OF SPITE. Now, look, my friends: this is a character after my own heart. Spite is a POWERFUL FORCE OF MOTIVATION WITHIN ME. That’s especially the case in a situation like this, where someone denied Agnes an opportunity because she’s not thin.

But how is this going to work??? If the Phantom thinks they’re training Christine, they’re going to realize it’s not working since… well, Christine can’t sing. At all. So how are they gonna get around that?

Henry Slugg

I’m still uncertain how much of the witches’ story will affect the greater plot, but don’t take that as a criticism of the text. I actually like these little tangents. From Granny’s scene with Death to Henry Slugg’s characterization, Pratchett is telling these tiny stories within the larger one. They’re like vignettes, you know? And in this case, perception and identity collide in Henry Slugg, who, like Agnes, knew that he wouldn’t be able to do what he loved because of other people’s perception of him. His name isn’t cool, so who would ever go see a “Henry Slugg” sing?

I believe that the witches – especially Granny – are well aware of the power of perception. Hell, Granny does what she can to maintain the illusion in front of Henry’s manager, and I respect that. She understood why he was so thrilled to eat food that wasn’t from Brindisi. (Which I’m guessing is a stand-in for Italy? Sort of? Pasta and squid… mmmm, now I’m hungry.) But my brain is going to other places. First of all, I can’t help but see a parallel between Agnes and Henry. That’s an obvious one, of course, and Pratchett doesn’t hide it from us. Both characters changed their names in order to seem cooler.

But what if this is a book about a shifting identity? I’m thinking of the mysterious “Ghost” in the theater, who does weird shit out of some love for Opera. (Well, except they might also be killing someone. THERE’S THAT.) I don’t think it’s an actual ghost; I think it’s someone in that theater who is just trying to make the experience better. But why take on that identity? And how do they live with it? What toll does it take on their life? And if anyone understands dual identities and presentations, then Granny is certainly that person. So now, she’s heading to Ankh-Morpork to check in on Agnes, and I wonder what she’ll think of the whole affair.


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:

Mark Links Stuff

– 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.
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