Mark Reads ‘Monstrous Regiment’: Part 15

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 it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of transphobia

I SHOULD HAVE KNOW. I REALLY SHOULD HAVE. Y’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.


Polly’s Manipulation

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 that’s the point: Blouse is brilliant every so often, but when he’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 AND— 

“On this issue, at least, the sergeant and I are of one mind, Perks,” said Blouse. “Really, Private, it would simply not work. Oh, you’re brave, certainly, but what makes you think you stand a chance of passing yourself off as a woman?”

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 Polly’s plan to “disguise” herself, but by then proudly stating that all of these soldiers are “too boyish” enough to pass as women. WHICH IS WHAT THEY WANTED TO ACCOMPLISH IN THE FIRST PLACE, OH MY GOD. But honestly, this isn’t even the worst part. No, it’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! Because… oh god, how is this man real?

And I can read an important commentary into this, though I don’t know if it’s intended or just accidental. Obviously, I’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. And—this is important for me to acknowledge as I talk about this—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 you’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 it’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, it’s made clear that this is not a good thing. Granted, that’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 doesn’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: 

“Yes, but he won’t listen, will he,” said Igorina. “I’ll do the best with my scissorth and needle to make a woman of him but—“

“Igorina, when it’s you talking about this sort of thing, some very strange pictures turn up in my head,” said Maladict.

This feels like it relies on making a joke of… 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 hasn’t aged well, especially since Maladict calls these pictures “strange.” This doesn’t normalize this act, but rather makes it out to be weird, and that trope is harmful.


I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THIS PLOT. Surprise, I love stories about faith and religion. (My second book now heavily deals with this, I CAN’T WAIT TO TELL Y’ALL MORE ABOUT IT.) So… 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 don’t know if she’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:

“Anyway, why should she talk to you?”

“Because I listen,” said Wazzer quietly.

“And what does she say?”

“Sometimes she just cries.”

“She cries?”

“Because there are so many things that people want, and she can’t give them anything.”

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?

The Truth

There are SO MANY SECRETS in this book, and I’m so floored by how Pratchett weaves them together. We don’t know where Paul is, and Blouse and Jackrum don’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?


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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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