In the eighteenth part of The Last Continent, Rincewind reunites with a friend, escapes, then meets some contemporaries. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of transphobia/transmisogyny, homophobia.
Well, these two plots are sort of coming together now! I don’t have a solid idea what Pratchett is doing with the two timelines, and I also don’t have much of this book left. How is this going to be wrapped up in just forty pages?
Neilette and Friends
So, I still feel weird about of all of this, and it’s the way that these drag queens are framed and how the text talks about them. I know I’d feel different about this if this were not the only scene in the entire series with drag queens in them. The Disc is overwhelmingly straight and cis, and this is the closest we’ve gotten (aside from that one dude who works with the seamstresses that is mentioned in passing) to anything that deviates from that. Pratchett is coy in describing much of this, though, and it’s that lack of context that bothers me.
Are these drag queens, or are Darlene, Letitia, and Noelene trans women? That’s an important distinction, and we don’t get it. As far as the text is concerned, these are men who dress up in women’s clothing. For what reason? I feel like Pratchett saw The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, borrowed ideas from it, and otherwise divorced it of some very necessary context. Are these people headed to some drag show? Are they just joining this random Galah parade for the hell of it? Why do they keep going to places where homophobic and transphobic insults are hurled at them? Is this meant to suggest that there are large parts of Fourecks that are openly bigoted towards non-straight, non-cis people? (Not that that word appears within the world, but it seems anyone who deviates from their expected gender roles or from gender essentialism is punished and berated by other people.)
Then there’s Noelene. Are they a drag queen? Do they love wearing dresses? Are they gay? Noelene and Neilete’s father was certainly bigoted enough to not leave the brewery to Neilete’s brother because of his love for wearing dresses… I think? And then to top it all off: Neilete is actually a woman pretending to be a drag queen, which is probably something that seemed like a good joke at the time, but feels super sketchy to me.
Here’s the deal: part of Pratchett’s brilliance for satire and parody comes in how well he understands complex things. The fun in Soul Music and Masquerade, for example, comes from the fact that you really get a sense for how completely he gets things like rock n’ roll, live music, live theater, the opera, etc. They feel complete. This? It comes off as a half-ass attempt, where the surface details are explored but nothing further. There are holes and unknowns and it ended up giving me a million more questions rather than the satisfaction of a good joke, a fantastic character, or a witty turn of the plot.
I love the idea that there’s one of everything all about the Disc. Fourecks has a Dibbler, and they have an eerie mirror-image version of the wizards, too. But did they come into existence because of the Ankh-Morpork wizards? Is that why they’re there? Okay, that’s probably a silly theory, but the wizards speak about anticipating Rincewind… for what? What are they going to do with him???
There is something beautiful about how the extant magic after the creation of Fourecks has allowed the sole inhabitant of the continent to create life through drawings. Honestly, it’s pretty fucking cool. Unsurprisingly, the wizards completely ruin the moment with their bickering and the really condescending way that they speak about the man as if he isn’t there. (Free tip: don’t refer to people who aren’t white as “tanned,” I swear to god.) They create a creature in the ensuing argument that I think is a duck-billed platypus??? I was going back over the scene and was like… okay. A “bird” that walks on the ground and is flat and has a bill like a duck? Gotta be that.
Which means I will end this review with my favorite video currently: hand feeding and snuggling a platypus. You’re welcome.
Mark Links Stuff
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