Voice of the Earth #15
May. 1st, 2010 @ 04:00 pm
Fresh sporkage! Oh joy.|
We begin with Pod-Person Toph ruminating on her pregnancy: in the previous fic, her Earthsight ability got an utterly ridiculous power-up; she can now see Zuko almost as clearly as if she wasn't blind, because she can see all the salts and minerals in his blood, bones, and various other body parts. I do believe he was described as looking in her head like a glittery statue or some such nonsense. Toph wonders if this power-boost will apply to her son after he's born. I'll give credit where credit's due, here-- the power-up is kinda odd, but it's perfectly reasonable for her to be worrying about this. One point to you, author.
You lose five points for this, though:
"Everybody had a good night's sleep for once," Katara stated gratefully. "Even Jet and Mai slept in—together." The tone in Katara's voice practically shouted gossip alert and Toph sat down to listen as Katara filled her in.
LIEK OMG teh wimmins just luuuuurve gossiping! Teehee!
Katara brings Toph some lunch and they discuss stuff. They wake Zuko up so he can eat. The chapter dwells on Zuko's convalescence for a while, so I'll skip to the important stuff. The Swamp healer finds it strange that Zuko is recovering so slowly. Zuko angsts a bit over being so sick, and over his impending fatherhood. He's concerned about what sort of a father he'll be. Okay, again, fair point. Except for this:
Now Toph was having his baby. She was going to be his baby's mother.
There it is again: his baby. Not theirs, his. It's subtle, but oh so aggravating.
Now we get some Jet angst. He's angry at himself for being "weak". *insert side-rant on how misogyny occasionally hurts men as well as women.* I'll quote the whole thing, because it's just that gross:
He'd woken up that morning when he felt Mai stir against him. For a second, it felt so good to simply hold her--then he realized what he'd done.
The night before when they'd finally reached the village, he'd felt numb with hopelessness. They were trapped. He truly hadn't been thinking straight when he lay down with her in his arms.
But it had felt so good to hold her, to cling to her in his sleep, to use her soft presence as a shield against the nightmares.
He should never have done it. She'd been tired and emotionally exhausted and wasn't in any shape to resist. He'd taken advantage of her in a vulnerable moment simply because he couldn't face another night in that place alone.
Once awake, somehow he'd managed to extricate himself from the narrow cot, aware that he needed to speak to her, to apologize, but unable to bring himself to face her. He was furious with himself for being so weak.
Apparently, the Foggy Swamp is a Jet/Mai shipper:
But he was even angrier at the swamp, this terrible land of dreams and shifting terrain. It was like the place had spent the entire past week trying to drive him insane by giving him either terrible nightmares or enigmatic dreams about Mai.
But when she actually showed up, it got even worse. He couldn't spend every day thinking about how it felt to kiss her in his dreams every night. He couldn't talk to her in real life while she laughed at him in his sleep.
So, he tried to escape, but the swamp rearranged itself to keep him there. With Mai in his arms.
He thinks that the swamp must have an interest in Mai, and that's why it won't let them leave. He also admits that he was a nasty-ass sleazebag in the chapter before last:
That whole ploy with the ambush had been an excuse to get close to her and he knew it. He could have easily played it another way—a way that respected her.
But he'd wanted to push that dream, to see what the reality might be like. That experience had taught him one thing--he was losing all self-control where Lady Mai of the Fire Nation was concerned.
Am I being oversensitive, or is that last sentence kinda creepy? We find out exactly what the Bandit Leader said that flipped Jet's rage switch: ""I'll see Lady Mai again," the one-eyed little man had hissed beneath his breath and something had snapped inside Jet's head. He'd found himself kneeling on top of the man, whispering savage threats in his ear as his dagger pierced the man's neck." Creepy, right?
His angst progresses to whining about Mai being so much higher up on the social hierarchy. She's an important diplomat, she's from a noble family, etc, and he's some random orphan who's been living a nearly feral lifestyle for most of his life. I can't fault the author for this one, either, for more reasons than one. You'll see what I mean at some point down the road. ;P Anyway, Jet thinks that there's no reason for him to be in her life. Oh, but wait! Maybe he could be her bodyguard, in case Bandit Leader shows up in Omashu! No, wait, that won't be necessary. After all, he got a taste of Mai's ass-kicking skills when they took down the bandit gang.
Then the author proceeds to RUIN EVERYTHING FOR ALL TIME:
Then he remembered the ride home. Not even her martial skills were proof against this place.
He remembered how tightly she'd held onto him as they rode, as the warrior turned into the woman.
as the warrior turned into the woman
as the warrior turned into the woman
Because "warrior" and "woman" are mutually exclusive, apparently! Katara, Toph, Suki, the rest of the Kyoshi Warriors, Azula, Ty Lee, Jun, canon!Mai, and all the Fire Nation female soldiers who fought on the front lines would like to have a word with this author. Hell, Zafirah would like a word as well. FFFFFFFFFFFfffffffffffff---
Jet agonizes some more over the fact that he and Mai don't have a future together. Again, can't fault the author for that. He resolves to spend the remainder of their trip keeping a distance between them appropriate for their current status as employer/employee. He even resolves to start treating her with respect! "He would apologize for his conduct, and thank her for saving his life. Then he would remember himself and treat her with the utmost of respect and professional distance" Aww, what a guy! *rolls eyes*
Meanwhile, Mai's watching Jet do his Manly Angsting. We get a nice little bullshit excuse for the way Mai fell to pieces in the previous chapter: the swamp saps people's independence!
The previous day had been long and rough and the evening had been disturbing. She'd been deeply exhausted when they got to the village, and it had felt so good to let Jet take the lead.
All her life she'd made her own way—for good or for ill. As a Fire Nation representative, she was used to making decisions, staying friendly yet impartial, and generally leading an independent life.
But this place seemed to sap the independence out of a person, to sap the will. She'd been a passenger for the entire trip, going where the others had gone, waiting around uselessly while the others had helped Zuko. She didn't like being useless.
Bah! Such a cop-out. Anyway, Mai had enjoyed riding through the swamp and fighting the bandits, because it put her back in control. She also got an "unexpected thrill" from pretending to be Jet's girlfriend. But then, on the ride back, "she found herself losing the will to fight. She'd begun to have trouble controlling her mount, primarily due to her own lack of resolve."
It had felt good to allow Jet to take control and take care of her when they'd arrived back at the village, and it felt good to wake up cuddling with him. But alas, what if Mai was just "a convenient distraction from the darkness?" Oh drama! The chapter ends with Mai confronting Jet:
Now he stood in the doorway, still in the rain, still unwilling to meet her gaze. "Well," she finally began, "what now?"
So, to summarize: we're up to Chapter 15 already, and almost nothing has happened. Everything that has occurred thus far could easily have been condensed into half the length, without losing anything other than the word count. We've had an entire chapter of Katara performing surgery on Zuko's leg, and now an entire chapter of Mai and Jet angsting repetitively. Damn, and I thought I was long-winded!
I agree that misogyny can hurt men too - it's just not as visible because male privilege means people assume it's just naturally the state of affairs for men and boys to act in certain ways. Unfortunately those ways can harm emotional development and... oh geez, never mind, Isaac Asimov wrote about all this way better than I ever could :P
Take it as read that I agree with your sidebar.
Oh, and my "Sigh" was about the fanfic, not your commentary. :)