In the sixth part of Maskerade, Agnes gets a stunning offer from the theater… sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For talk of fatphobia.
THE GHOST DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE. How can the Ghost secretly teach Christine to sing and want to murder random members of the crew? I don’t mean that as a logistical question, for the record. Obviously, one person can do both of these things. But in terms of motivation, I’m perplexed. Why??? Why do this? WHO WRITES OUT LAUGHTER LIKE THAT? What possible purpose could it serve to do this?
Well, one of my questions has been answered, and MY HEART IS BROKEN BECAUSE OF IT. Agnes had so little time to cherish (in her own way) the lesson she got from the Ghost, and now it’s been twisted in a way that makes her feel awful. You know, I’d gone into this part thinking that maybe Christine would sing the part that night and totally ruin it. And that maybe, because of this, Salzella and the others would realize that they should stop discriminating against Agnes and just give her the part. Granted, that’s not something I expected to happen any time soon, but on that same note, I didn’t expect their cruelty to get worse.
And really, this is cruelty. These men offer Agnes the chance to sing the part of Iodine, but only if she’ll “ghost” the part, allowing Christine to get the credit and praise. There’s a lot about this that infuriates me in a general sense and a personal one. Again, I’m not Agnes’s size, but I’ve been treated terribly for not being skinny in ways that reminded me of this. Like the time I worked for a gay fundraiser and was told that I had to stand in the back of the photo because they didn’t want to send the message that organization was “unhealthy.” (Motherfucker, I can run two miles in the time it takes you to run one. Shut up.) Or when I was asked to write a performance instead of act in it back in college because I “didn’t have the right look.”
Here, Agnes is told to hide herself while simultaneously using her talent to elevate someone else. The very idea is humiliating, of course, but I was more pissed off by the way that these men just couldn’t tell her the truth. They darted around the obvious, claiming that ghosting was very common, as if the reason Agnes would be doing it was the same as sickness or drunkenness. There’s a huge difference between a one-time thing and asking someone to ghost for an entire run. (I don’t think they’ll ask her to do this just once, FYI.) Then, Agnes points out the obvious: Why don’t they just ditch the entire ridiculous set-up and just have her sing the part?
The men looked at one another, and then all started talking at once.
“Yes, but you see, Christine is… has… more stage experience–“
“–apparently lyrical ability–“
“–fits the costume–“
They’re talking about someone who joined the troupe at the literal same time as Agnes. She cannot have more experience than Agnes! But the bullshit is easier for them to say. That is, until Agnes leaves the room.
“Amazing,” he said. “Do you think she knows how fat she is?”
Yes. You tell her every goddamn time you treat her differently than all of the thin people around her. TRUST ME, SHE KNOWS.
I was just as surprised as Nanny was that Granny Weatherwax not only knew the women at Mrs. Palm’s, BUT HAD BEEN THERE SO MANY TIMES THAT SHE WAS WELCOMED WITH LITERAL CHEER. Oh my god, this is the BEST TWIST OF THE WHOLE BOOK, I’M ALREADY DECLARING IT SO.
Up to this point, it seemed as if the Ghost’s murders were all random. I could find no single reason for the Ghost to target any of these people. And what if that was the point??? What if this Ghost was just an agent of chaos, you know?
But after Agnes gave her first run through the “Departure” aria, Dr. Undershaft knows that he cannot put Christine on stage:
He believed in voices. It didn’t matter what anyone looked like. He never watched opera with his eyes open. It was the music that mattered, not the acting and certainly not the shape of the singers.
YES. YES. YES. YES. YES. And what’s so great about this is that there’s a textual way for Pratchett to address this bigotry (suspiciously lacking in Interesting Times whomp whomp) that’s still within character for Undershaft. The man cried when Gigli performed “Departure,” so what does it mean when Agnes sings better than her?
Now, I had a theory that the Ghost was taking out people who might try to stop their plan to put Christine on stage. Indeed, Undershaft fits this motive, except he didn’t tell anyone what he was thinking. So unless the Ghost is also a mind-reader? I’m back at square one.
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