Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cassandra Clare proves that all Inclusion isn't Good

There are two problems we see a lot in looking at Urban Fantasy from a social justice mindset. One is the defenders of books and series rushing in to decry any criticism of their precious - and I can understand that. We fanpoodle in Kevin Hearne’s name after all. But when fanpoodles deny that there are problematic and prejudiced elements in their favourite works, they diminish and demean the damage these portrayals can cause and internalise them without thinking

The second is the repeated acceptance of token characters - even high problematic token characters - as being proof of inclusivity. Just having a POC/GBLT/Disabled/Female character is proof that the book/programme is inclusive and wonderful. Would that it were true, but as we’ve discussed before sometimes erasure is better than some inclusion.

Which brings us to Cassandra Clare’s novels that are repeatedly hailed for their gay inclusion and any questioning of the portrayals has been vehemently opposed. And as we did with similar sentiments expressed about Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, we have to speak on this. Because this inclusion? This is not all good.

Alec exists to serve the straight people around him. Despite being older, he has far less kills than Issy or Jace (and Clary mocks him about this about him being weaker) and it is said this is because he exists to protect them. There are at least 2 occasions in the books where he severely risks his own life to protect Jace. Alec being gay is used as a reason for him to fawn after Jace, jealous and desperate - it’s an old trope and it’s a dull one that needs to end.

If Magnus were portrayed as any more flamboyant he’d wear rainbows and shoot unicorns. Alec, similarly, is portrayed as self-effacing, whiny and weak - especially compared to Jace and Issy. Though we are told repeatedly that Magnus is an extremely powerful being when the straight people call (Read: Jace and Clary) he is quick to not only respond to their requests, but comply. Like Alec, he exists to serve the straight people even though he normally charges a considerable amount for his services. The only time he is portrayed as dominant is when he is juxtaposed to Alec, thus making him the top and Alec the bottom.

Alec & Magnus’ relationship has much of the “weak child/male parent” dynamic that is so common in slash circles (trying to clumsily impose clumsy gender dynamics or grossly offensive yaoi style “ukes” and “semes” into gay male relationships). Especially in the last book, Alec is whiny, childish, pettish and inclined to sulks and tantrums while Magnus chides him like a sulky child.