Author Info: Quixotess is a geek of wordplay, numberplay, names, history, easy logic puzzles, IRC, various works of fiction (particularly speculative fiction), certain aspects of theatre, and local geology. Not computers, though. She blogs at Reconcile and has an IRC channel which she would like you to visit.
This is the Suvudu [Cross-Verse] Cage Match, where we may vote on how characters from various speculative fiction works may fare when fighting each other, tournament style. The order and initial matches were chosen randomly.
I think it’s worth looking at, first because you all ought to have a chance to vote. Second, because of the dynamics surrounding the tournament that i think merit feminist examination.
Some questions: How many of the characters are women? How many of the characters are characters of color? How many of the authors are? Now, how many of those characters are winning?
I think it’s pretty clear that in some cases, as with the Jaime Lannister vs Hermione Granger match, the white male character is winning at least in part because of sexism on the part of the voters. Jaime’s a handsome man, oldest son of a great lord, and an experienced warrior (a very male-dominated profession) and Hermione Granger is a girl whose parents are dentists. In fact, look at what Jaime’s author Martin has to say about the pairing on his livejournal.
[Jaime’s] opponent? Well, he’s really pissed off about that. He wanted Conan or Elric or Aragorn. Instead he’s drawn (they CLAIM it’s random)…
Of course Martin frames it as his character wanting to fight one of these kingly heroes (more on that later), but even if Martin himself didn’t care, you can bet that many of his readers–gritty realism fans, a realm also dominated by men–identify with Jaime.
Speaking of gritty realism, Martin’s written up a little ditty on how he thinks the match would really go [TRIGGER WARNING]:
Heâ€™s not going to waste time and effort swatting at birds with his sword, either. Heâ€™s encased in gilded steel. What are they going to do, crap on him? Heâ€™ll rush right through the birds, and go straight for Hermione. A sword is not a knightâ€™s only weapon. While sheâ€™s watching the blade, he will slam his shield right into her face, knock her off her feet. Let her try and mumble those spells with a mouthful of broken teeth.
Martin’s well known for putting a lot of violence in his books, where it fits, but I find it shocking when applied to characters from another verse, especially a young woman. As this piece is written to convince readers that Jaime would beat Hermione in a fight, the effect is not so much “gritty realism” as “alarming glee.”
I don’t mean to pick on Martin (even if he deserves it) because I know that various fandoms as boy’s clubs is familiar to all of us. I see that pattern playing out here.
I think it’s equally interesting to look at those cases in which there is a genuine imbalance of power. For example, see Hiro Protagonist vs Gandalf and Lyra Belacqua (called Silvertongue) vs Cthulu. No points for guessing who’s winning those fights.
Look at how many of the characters in the tournament are gods, messiahs, patriarchs, or kings. I don’t know all of these verses, but I see Aslan, Dumbledore, Gandalf, Cthulu, Conan, Aragorn, and Rand al’Thor. The women and characters of color are likely to be knocked out in the first round here because they’re going up against characters who their authors made all-powerful.
How much we enshrine ultimate power! Most of those with unconventional powers are going down to a very male idea of strength or intelligence; those who win are those for whom sheer power is a big part of their characters. (for example, Arthur Dent lost, narrowly, to the Shrike.) Look also at how many of these characters have some sort of Grand Destiny–that trope which makes it okay to have been born a farmboy, or living in exile, because in reality you are still more important than others in the fabric of the universe. In this sense it’s worth looking not just at the characters’ demographics, but at their abilities and means of power, and the intersection thereof. I’m talking about the difference between conventional marks of heroes and villains–destiny or control over the cosmos–and unconventional powers–like access to information and lying, as with Lyra, or improbable luck, as with Arthur Dent.
Many people in the comments have complained about the inclusion of Cthulu in the contest, predicting that it will come down to a battle between him and Aslan, because who can stand against those two? They might be right, but why? What’s with our preference for these mighty male forces of nature or chosen ones of gods?
What do you think?