In the fifteenth part of Monstrous Regiment, Polly pitches her idea to Blouse, and I should have known just how spectacularly it would backfire. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of transphobia
I SHOULD HAVE KNOW. I REALLY SHOULD HAVE. Yâ€™all, this section of the book was a RIDE. A wild, hilarious, and at times disturbing journey, and I still have no idea where the fuck this book is going.
I HAVE THINGS TO SAY.Â
I was unsurprised that Polly had been able to pull off exactly what she set out to do. Hell, half the fun of reading the opening of this split of the book was seeing Jackrum try to keep his cool while clearly knowing what Polly was doing. But thatâ€™s the point: Blouse is brilliant every so often, but when heâ€™s not, he is an unending disaster. He does not realize what Polly is doing to him as she leads him right to the idea she planted within him. So I was thrilled! She was going to get to head into the Keep and look for her brother, and all was well! SHE DID IT, I WAS SO PROUD OF HER ANDâ€”Â
â€œOn this issue, at least, the sergeant and I are of one mind, Perks,â€ said Blouse. â€œReally, Private, it would simply not work. Oh, youâ€™re brave, certainly, but what makes you think you stand a chance of passing yourself off as a woman?â€
Oh. Oh, no. In a moment, this slides into disaster. A hilariously ironic disaster, of course, because Blouse has no clue who he is saying this to. And he continues to dig a deeper and deeper hole, not just by rejecting Pollyâ€™s plan to â€œdisguiseâ€ herself, but by then proudly stating that all of these soldiers are â€œtoo boyishâ€ enough to pass as women. WHICH IS WHAT THEY WANTED TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE FIRST PLACE, OH MY GOD. But honestly, this isnâ€™t even the worst part. No, itâ€™s Blouse insisting that he is the best person to disguise himself as a woman and infiltrate the Keep. Why? Because of the theater. Because he played a woman multiple times in the past! Becauseâ€¦ oh god, how is this man real?
And I can read an important commentary into this, though I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s intended or just accidental. Obviously, Iâ€™ve written multiple times about the challenge of this trope, particularly in how it replicates a gender binary and either erases or insults people who are not part of said binary. Andâ€”this is important for me to acknowledge as I talk about thisâ€”I am by no means an expert on this, nor should anything I say be taken as an authority or without a grain of salt. I do feel like Pratchett subverts the obvious pitfalls of what youâ€™d normally see with this trope. In particular, one of the reasons that Blouse is so wrong is that he really doesn’t understand what itâ€™s like to be a woman. On top of that, dressing as a woman is a joke to him, and multiple times in this text, itâ€™s made clear that this is not a good thing. Granted, thatâ€™s in the context of being in disguise, but I think there is some value in saying that deriving humor from this is not necessarily a good thing. Blouse doesnâ€™t take this seriously at all.
That being said, there was one part that felt odd to me out of context of the scene where it appeared:Â
â€œYes, but he wonâ€™t listen, will he,â€ said Igorina. â€œIâ€™ll do the best with my scissorth and needle to make a woman of him butâ€”â€œ
â€œIgorina, when itâ€™s you talking about this sort of thing, some very strange pictures turn up in my head,â€ said Maladict.
This feels like it relies on making a joke ofâ€¦ well, a few things. Given that Igors and Igorinas have body parts from all sorts of people, this comes off as a joke at the expense of people who might pursue gender confirmation surgery. Did Pratchett intend that? Probably not. But this joke hasnâ€™t aged well, especially since Maladict calls these pictures â€œstrange.â€ This doesnâ€™t normalize this act, but rather makes it out to be weird, and that trope is harmful.
I CANâ€™T GET ENOUGH OF THIS PLOT. Surprise, I love stories about faith and religion. (My second book now heavily deals with this, I CANâ€™T WAIT TO TELL Yâ€™ALL MORE ABOUT IT.) Soâ€¦ who the fuck is Wazzer actually talking to? Look, we know that gods in the Discworld universe are real, and the more intense the belief, the more power they have. So the Duchess has to have some real power? I mean, we also donâ€™t know if sheâ€™s a god or a real person. Is she in the Keep? Will these characters re-think their beliefs by the end of the book? WHO ALLOWED THIS LINE TO EXIST:
â€œAnyway, why should she talk to you?â€
â€œBecause I listen,â€ said Wazzer quietly.
â€œAnd what does she say?â€
â€œSometimes she just cries.â€
â€œBecause there are so many things that people want, and she canâ€™t give them anything.â€
What the fuck does this mean??? Is she actually powerless as a god aside from talking to select people? And how will this affect someone like Tonker, who fully rejects the Duchess because the Duchess has done nothing for them? What if she really can’t do anything?
There are SO MANY SECRETS in this book, and Iâ€™m so floored by how Pratchett weaves them together. We donâ€™t know where Paul is, and Blouse and Jackrum donâ€™t know that Polly has a reason why she enlisted. The soldiers are all in disguise. (Though Jackrum knew this??? FOR HOW FUCKING LONG???) And Jackrum might not be who he says he is, either. Is that even his name? How old is he? Has he been blackmailing his superiors for years to stay enlisted?
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS BOOK?
Mark Links Stuff
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