gehayi: (reviewer destroyer of worlds (rex_dart))
gehayi ([personal profile] gehayi) wrote in [personal profile] melannen 2017-02-21 12:48 am (UTC)

Spoilers for Mists of Avalon

Voting K for The Mists of Avalon. Yes, it is key in the fantasy genre, but it has the following problems:

1) The arranged rape of both Morgaine and Arthur. The high priestess of Avalon arranges for Morgaine to be the virgin priestess who has sex with King Arthur and therefore mystically marries him to the goddess and the land, not telling her OR Arthur that "hey, this means you're going to be fucking the sibling you haven't seen in seven years." It's also clear from context that neither of them would have gone through with this if they had known in advance.

2) Viviane (aforementioned high priestess and Morgaine's maternal aunt) sets this up because "You are of the royal line of Avalon; so too is he. Could I have given you to a commoner? Or, could the High King to come be so given?"

So yeah. It comes down to purity of bloodlines. I really, REALLY dislike that concept these days.

3) The spelling of Guinevere. Or, as Bradley puts it, Gwenhwyfar. I hate that spelling so much. It rasps on my brain.

4) The way that Bradley treats Gwenhwyfar. Gwen is a shy, agoraphobic, devout Christian who was raised in a convent. She wanted to be a nun, and until her marriage was not familiar with any pagans. She also marries Arthur because she's part of a deal her father made to provide Arthur with horses, and Lancelot (or, as Bradley would have it, Lancelet) is the first man she sees that she's attracted to. She's really not a bad person.

But Bradley hates her.

Morgaine, who is Bradley's mouthpiece, is constantly impatient with Gwen's Christian piety, belief in sin, and reluctance to have sex with Lancelet. The narration more often than not portrays her as a prude, a fool, and fundamentally useless. She is basically the embodiment of every emotion and belief system that Bradley does not like. You've heard of straw feminists? Gwen is a straw queen.

5) And then there is this part, which, in view of her husband's pedophilia and her own incestuous rape of her daughter, is VERY uncomfortable:

Every man she had desired had been too close kin to her-Lancelet, who was the son of her foster-mother; Arthur, her own mother's son; now the son of her husband ...

But they are too close kin to me only by the laws made by the Christians who seek to rule this land ... to rule it in a new tyranny; not alone to make the laws but to rule the mind and heart and soul. Am I living out in my own life all the tyranny of that law, so I as priestess may know why it must be overthrown?

In other words, incest isn't wrong; it's just illegal by the laws of those tyrannical Christians!

I didn't like that even before I found out about the sexual abuse of her daughter. Now it just reads as an Authorial Tract.

6) There's a great deal of ableism. Gwen is regarded with contempt for her agoraphobia (the narration treats her mental illness as something that she could overcome if she just tried), Kevin (one of the Merlins) is often seen as repellent because he limps and he's a hunchback, and so on.

7) People who are small and dark of hair, eye and skin are seen as kin to the Fae, i.e., not quite human. Again, I'm not very comfortable with dark-skinned people being dehumanized these days.

It's better written than many books. But it also has some poisonous ideas and attitudes. I didn't enjoy the mix.

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