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Paeans to the Patriarchy, part 4 of 4 - Nothing New Under The Sun
(the ARX acta diurna)
Paeans to the Patriarchy, part 4 of 4
And, finally, here is the promised example of cultural comparison and dialect rendered in The Dragon Lord, because it was requested, not because I'm cruel. After all I'm sparing you "her cleft was weeping sweetly" - well, not that one, but pages and pages and pages of more like the previous, and even worse as Rose gets over her conviction that it must be sinful of her to enjoy being raped so much, because women aren't supposed to get anything out of sex, and becomes joyfully empowered in her total submission to her unwanted new husband:

...Rose joined him.

"No doubt your uncle will cause trouble, but we are prepared nevertheless."

"Think you he knows about our marriage?"

"Nay but it will be interesting to note his reaction once he is told."

Dominic studied the MacTavish clan through narrowed lids. They looked uncivilized, he thought, surprised by their manner of dress. They were clad in fur and leather, from their crude tunics down to their hide boots. They were large men, probably descendants of Vikings, those fiercest of all fighters.

"They look like savages," Dominic said. "How could that tribe have produced your gentle mother? Point out your uncle."

"Uncle Murdoc is the one riding the pure black horse. He is just now dismounting."

Dominic studied the huge Scotsman with curiosity, noting little resemblance between Lady Nelda and her brutish brother.

"Uncle Murdoc is not so bad," Rose allowed. "He always treated us well when we visited him."

The Scotsman looked up at Rose and stretched out his arms. "Rose, lass, come greet yer uncle."

Dominic remained alert and on edge as Rose walked down the stairs and was instantly encompassed within the brawny arms of Murdoc MacTavish.

But when another, younger man stepped toward and embraced Rose, it was all Dominic could do to keep from racing down the stairs and tearing her from the young Scotsman's arms. Who was he? Though Dominic noted some reluctance on Rose's part, she appeared to know him well.

Dominic heard Rose say, "'Tis cold out here, Uncle. Bring Gunn and your kinsmen inside, where you can warm yourselves by the fire."

Dominic stood aside as Rose and her uncle entered the keep, silently counting the men that followed them inside. He counted thirty clansmen, not all of them as young and vigorous as the man that had embraced Rose, but every man carried weapons of one sort or another. Instinct warned Dominic that Murdoc had come to claim the fortress.

Dominic trailed behind the Scotsmen, noting as he strode across the hall that his own knights were alert and watchful. A nod from Eric of Carlyle put his mind at ease as to the loyalty of Lord Edwyn's personal guardsmen. Dominic knew that no Englishman of worth would allow a Scotsman to claim any part of English soil without a fight.

Dominic stood nearby as Rose seated herself before the hearth. Murdoc paid him little heed as he accepted a mug of ale from a servant and plopped down in the chair beside Rose. Murdoc's kinsmen took their ease on benches at the trestle tables, drinking ale and talking among themselves.

"I heard about yer father's death, lass," Murdoc said after drinking down half the mug's contents in one swallow."I came as soon as I could to help yer dear mother in her time of need. I understand John Lackland ordered Edwyn's death."

"Aye," Rose bit out. "He had no just cause to kill Papa. Papa was no traitor."

"Dinna fret, lass, yer Uncle Murdoc stands ready to take charge. As yer only living male relative, 'tis my duty to see to the care of yer family and yer lands." He glanced around, spied Gunn and motioned for the young Scotsman to attend him.

Dominic's fists clenched as the brawny young warrior grinned at Rose in an intimate manner Dominic thought inappropriate. But Dominic was not yet ready to identify himself. He wanted to learn what Murdoc was up to first.

"Where are yer mother and sister, lass?" Murdoc asked. "I would offer them words of comfort."

"They both entered the convent after we received word of Papa's deathbed," Rose explained.

Murdoc became immediately alert. "What, and left ye alone? That does not sound at all like my sister. I know yer the heir, and that yer twin's dearest wish was to become a nun, but I canna believe Nelda would leave ye alone to manage a holding as large as Ayrdale-"

" 'Tis true. Mama and Starla are both gone."

"Ah well," Murdoc sighed, " 'tis fortunate I arrived when I did. Ye can rest easy, lass, for I bring an answer to yer problems."

"What problems, Uncle?"

"Surely ye dinna think yerself capable of managing Ayrdale on yer own, do ye? As yer guardian, 'tis within my rights to arrange a marriage for ye. My stepson is the man I have chosen for yer mate. Gunn will protect both ye and Ayrdale from the English king."

Gunn planted himself before Rose, grasped her shoulders in his huge hands and pulled her upright.

"I've always wanted ye in my bed, Rose," he said in a voice that set Dominic's teeth on edge. "Now I will have both ye and yer land. We will produce fine heirs for Ayrdale."

Dominic heard Rose gasp and decided it was time to step in and stop this farce.

Release her!" His voice held a note of menace. "Gunn was so startled, he instantly released Rose. Murdoc, on the other hand, leaped from his chair to confront the knight who dared interfere in such private matter.

"Who is this man, Rose? I dinna recognize him as one of yer father's knights. Apparently he doesn't know his place."

"Perhaps you will recognize my name," Dominic said as he went toe to toe with the Scotsmen. "I am called the Dragon Lord."

"Dragon of Pendragon," Gunn muttered beneath his breath.

"The king's lackey," Murdoc spat contemptuously. "What brings ye to Ayrdale?"

"The demesne you refer to as Ayrdale is now called Dragonwyck, and I am the new lord of Dragonwyck."

"John Lackland gave Ayrdale to ye?" Murdoc croaked.

"Aye. Both Ayrdale and Rose are now mine by virtue of holy wedlock."

Murdoc spun around to confront Rose. "Is that true, lass? Did ye wed Dragon?"

"I had no choice, Uncle. Blame the king. He commanded that I wed Lord Dragon."

Gunn turned on his stepfather. "Ye promised me Ayrdale! Ye said Rose would be mine!"

"Silence!" Murdoc roared. He turned back to Rose. "How long have ye been wed, lass?

"A few days. What does it matter? The marriage was officiated by Father Nyle and is perfectly legal; there is naught I can do about it."

"Mayhap there is," Murdoc said shrewdly. "Has the marriage been consummated, lass? Did the Dragon take yer maidenhead?"

Rose realized her uncle was angry, but she had hoped he would accept her marriage without a confrontation. A shudder passed through her at the thought of being wed to Gunn. She had known him since they were children. He was handsome enough, but he was a bully with a cruel streak she could not condone.

...not because they're bossy or greedy or arrogantly chauvinistic, seeing as Dragon is all three--

Returning her thoughts to her uncle's question, Rose said, "Aye, Uncle, my marriage to Lord Dragon has been consummated."

"Bastard!" Gunn spat angrily. "Rose's maidenhead belonged to me! Murdoc spoke with her father years ago about a betrothal. Edwyn must have neglected to tell Rose."

"Nay! Not true," Rose denied. "Papa would not do such a thing. He knew I would not agree to marry you."

"Gunn, dinna lose yer head, lad," Murdoc advised.

"You and your kinsmen are welcome in my home as long as you cause no trouble." Dominic warned. "Dragonwyck and Rose are mine; you can do naught but accept it."

Rose watched Murdoc warily. She knew he had a fierce temper and did not like to be thwarted. As soon as she got Dragon alone. she would tell him to exercise caution in his dealings with her uncle.

"How long will you stay, Uncle?" Rose asked. "I havena decided," Murdoc said, aiming a sidelong glance at Gunn, who was still glaring malevolently at Dominic. "Much depends on the weather."

"I will have chambers prepared for you and Gunn," Rose said. "The others can bed down in the hall or the barracks. If you will excuse me, I should check our stores and confer with the cook."

"I too, must leave you and your kinsmen to your own devices, unless you care to watch my knights engage in mock battle," Dominic said. "I train with them every day regardless of the weather.

"My kinsmen and I would enjoy watching the great Dragon Lord train his knights," Murdoc said in a mocking tone of voice.

The men left, and Rose hurried off, praying that no further trouble would develop, and that her uncle's visit would be of short duration. She knew, however, that her uncle had come with the intention of seizing Ayrdale and wedding her to his stepson. With a foothold in England, Murdoc would be in a position of power rarely granted to a Scotsman.

Rose shivered when she thought of how close she had come to wedding Gunn. With her father gone, there was no way to prove or disprove Murdoc's claim that a marriage had been arranged between her and Gunn. And since Murdoc was her closest male relative, he would have seized her lands and taken charge of her life to suit his own purposes.

--ahem. We are also omitting pages and pages of increasingly-implausible plot, in which Uncle Murdoc arranges for Stepson Gunn to rape Rose so that Dragon will drop her, but she is rescued before it goes That Far by Raj, and then Tragically Mistrusted by Dragon, creating more UST and Angst; which increases when Lady Veronica shows up to the Christmas party and Makes Trouble; Bad King John orders Dragon to go off to fight on the Welsh marches, where he is dreadfully wounded, and Rose must nurse him back to health, whereupon they both admit Their True Feelings For Each Other; oh, and Bad King John orders Rose to become a hostage at court, where she and Lady Veronica snipe at each other until in a truly-boggling development, Rose and Starla switch places so that Rose can go back up to the North and look after Dragon, while Starla plays her place at court; Rose is kidnapped by her uncle and held prisoner in his castle in hopes she will renounce Dragon, until she convinces her pitiful downtrodden aunt to release her, and eventually Magna Carta comes along and everyone shouts "Huzzah!" and lives happily ever after, and Rose has a little baby boy and Dragon is of course the proudest papa ever - and Wicked Uncle Murdoc shows up to grovel for forgiveness and explain that he has married Stepson Gunn to a "Highland heiress," so no hard feelings all right? esp. as he is there with Aunt Robina who has forgiven him for his beating her for being barren since he was so sorry, and now surprise! she's expecting, too! It just doesn't get any better than this, does it? And of course there is more dialect awfulness, but not as bad as the melodramatic Victorian cheese...

I just hope that Mason never does any stories set in Ireland - or, bozhemoi, in Latin America.

Seriously, though, apart from all the "throbbing manhoods" and "honey-sweet centers", from all the historical howlers and lack of knowledge of how mundane things work and/or worked in the physical 3D world, all the hostages given to Thog in this and other books like it, they're not the real problems with The Dragon Lord and its ilk. A well-written paean to the patriarchy would be a much worse problem - these are, ultimately, along the lines of spelling flames or ad homs, even though they do make the examining of the gender tropes in these stories less insufferable, giving us something to laugh at as we tear our hair in frustration. A tale of truly-empowered, intelligent women and decent, intelligent men which was written riddled with malapropisms, ridiculous "boingy boingy boingy" sex scenes, historical and other factual errors, and dependent on the most absurd ex-machinas and literary cliches to move the plot along - would be depressing and infuriating in its own way, but that would not invalidate any of the egalitarian ideals embodied in it.

Elegantly-written sexism, racism, or other bigotries are more dangerous, if not as common. Thus it behooves us to seek for these pernicious tropes where they are to be found thickest in the wild, so to speak, and tackle them there. --I should perhaps qualify my claim that rampant errors and implausibilities are ultimately irrelevant: they do, after all, betoken a lazy mind, unconcerned with anything but emotional satiation and actively in rejection of reality. No wonder there is no critical examination of hidebound conventions and stale sexual stereotypes, really.

But this is but explanation, not excuse - and after all Mason is aware enough of the outside world that she has to put in a pretense of independence and grit for Rose (she has a sword!), and sketch a sham of decency and progressive-mindedness for Dominic (he has a darkie!), in order to avoid making it obvious that this is a viciously-anti-egalitarian worldview being promoted here with but a sticky layer of erotic fondant to try to make the Handmaid's Tale mentality palatable.

These things are self-reinforcing, spiraling in and out of the currents in a constant moebius pattern of memes breathed out by the culture, inhaled by the author, and respirated once more in concentrate form to further validate, whether it be the overt machismo of the Clancy-esque genre or its corollary, this "romantic" propaganda for conservative women who like to smoke dope enjoy cunnilingus and birth control, but are not merely happy to buy into the tropes of "bad girls," and "good girls" not merely as whores vs. virgins, but as autonomous women who stand up for themselves against male presumption and end up with nothing* vs. the Truehearted Heroines who are nothing but self-giving and therefore like Griselda after much (soft-pedalled and rather minimal) suffering end up winning the (rich, this is important) and handsome prince. It's emo porn for Rules Girls, is what it is - and it both depends on and reinforces the lies of our sexist society: that it's okay to be bullied and raped by a guy, so long as he's REALLY hott! - that a woman's no doesn't REALLY mean no, so long as he's really hot - that so long as you suffer selflessly for your man, your nobility will be materially rewarded in this life; that black men exist** to show off how generous and unprejudiced we are, and to help us selflessly too, we of course being white as the driven snow, or as we are bourgeoise; that all men are arrogant, selfish, helplessly-lecherous commitmentphobes, who just need the total surrender of a beautiful and feisty-yet-tameable "shrew" to turn them into perfect dads and husbands who no longer even dream of being unfaithful, and whose selfishness magically evaporates when they find the perfect cunny...so long of course as they are handsome as sin!

Actually, even The Rules are more realistic than this, since they explictly advise you to make sure you won't mind if your husband screws around on you, so long as he's rich enough, if you know he's a cheater, given that it's unlikely he'll change just because you say, "I do"...

Anyway, I don't really think this is designed to be propaganda for the Concerned Women of America - but it could hardly be more like such a thing, if Minitrue were real. And these attitudes which are thus embodied and perpetuated in the genre do have an impact on our everyday lives: paperninja has a dreadful account of how a man propositioned her in public, got violent when she persistently turned him down, and how the older woman who witnessed it told her she brought it on herself while a younger one took advantage of the scenario for her temporal gain. In the worldview of the Romance novel, only Bad Girls say "no, go away" - and mean it.

* When Nora Roberts' Bad Girls aren't Sadistic Lesbian Vampyres, they're exes who get bored waiting around for boyfriend to remember they exist and take off on their own. What's so awful about this, you ask? Well, if they were True Women they'd just Be There all the time for him, and never nag. To make it obvious that they are Bad Girls and not just We Didn't Work Out, We Were Too Different, Oh Well, they also are haughty snobs to our poor Irish scullery maids etc, right out of central casting - very subtle.

** This is also true of gay guys in 21st c. romance novels, on the decreasingly rare occasions when they show up as extras, to be a loyal "girlfriend" to the heroine. Lesbians, as we have seen, are Eeevil; and women of color don't seem to exist at all.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
evilstorm From: evilstorm Date: July 9th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
A friend once gave me a trashy romance novel as a jokey kinda gift; looking back on it now, I'm actually damn grateful that she picked that one out for me. The female protagonist is headstrong and loony and, this is the important bit, punches the guy when he gets too uppity with her--twice! She's a Mary-Sue, it's a family of Mary-Sues, but goddamn after reading this rot you've put up I think I could grow to really enjoy that story.

Jesus christ, I'm glad I take self-defense classes.

(Switching accounts FTL! Sorry about that.)
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: July 11th, 2007 02:03 am (UTC) (Link)

That sounds very atypical for the genre --

Usually when a heroine hits the hero for getting fresh, it's so the author can point out how feeble and girly she is vs. how muscly and strong and superior the guy is, plus how forbearing since he doesn't break her jaw for standing up to him. It's like a mandatory scene in the "unwilling bride" subgenre.
evilstorm From: evilstorm Date: July 11th, 2007 04:00 am (UTC) (Link)

So I gathered

But she draws blood the first time, and leaves his nose sore for a while the second. And she beats him at cricket.
From: sajia Date: July 9th, 2007 10:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Er, did I do anything as bad as that in any of the fiction I've showed you? (The first two sections of my script are on my journal, friends-locked, in case you missed it)
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: July 11th, 2007 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)

oh no,

believe me, your dialogue sounds perfectly natural and sane (for a zany urban-adventure genre story) whereas Mason's stuff - well, it's better than the worst of the fanfic out there, but that's all you can say about it (and how much of that is due to the fact that it's been proofread professionally sort of - should have caught "postulate") & in fact it is pretty darn close to a lot of bad LOTR (let's have Mary-Sue forced into marriage with Legolas!Bloom by Evil!Thranduil!) fics extant and out there...

tlachtga From: tlachtga Date: July 10th, 2007 02:37 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow. She sure ain't Sharon K. Penman...

Also, can I just say how incredibly grating it is to keep reading "Dragon Lord" or "Pendragon" and not (outside of rape) have anything to do with Arthur or Uther? (Or the idea that a guy with a name nicked from Welsh legend is sent off to fight the Welsh? I know the appropriation of Arthurian elements is like appropriating Tolkien in D&D (or vice versa, Arthur being older, I know), but it still annoys the hell out of me.)
evilstorm From: evilstorm Date: July 10th, 2007 11:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Brackets within brackets! *pointless observation* I like that.
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: July 11th, 2007 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Pendragons but no Grails...

and Plantagenets who are never so named - maybe this was actually written by one of those computer programs, and not a real person, because surely no literate human being would just pick "Pendragon" without any Arthurian association or allusion whatsoever, right?
tlachtga From: tlachtga Date: July 12th, 2007 03:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Pendragons but no Grails...

surely no literate human being would just pick "Pendragon" without any Arthurian association or allusion whatsoever, right?

Well, it would explain "Starla".

If I keep banging my head against this wall, it'll eventually start to feel good, right?

You know, I'm in the middle of A Distant Mirror. Granted, it's about 150+ years after this... book... you're dissecting, but nevertheless, it's amazing just how... unmedieval this all feels.

(And how do you set a book during John's reign and not reference anything other than what seems to be the author's weird dislike of anything actually Celtic like Wales or Scotland? I know it's a romance novel and so historical backdrop isn't the primary focus, but good lord, if you're setting it in a specific time and place--especially one as busy and confused as King John's--at least bring up, oh, I don't know, Runnymede, the Interdiction, France, Eleanor of Aquitane, Arthur's murder (oh look, an actual Arthur--that might upset naming her character Pendragon)... Hell, I'd have settled for Robin Hood of all things at this point.)
From: deiseach Date: July 10th, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Pot, meet kettle

There's a certain grim amusement to be derived from watching Dominic get all steamed over Gunn (? again with the names! I might buy Gunnar but Gunn?) putting the moves on HIS PROPERTY!!!! when we've just spent pages watching Dominic treat Rose in exactly the same manner, but it is depressing.

How dare Gunn touch what belongs to another man? Oh, yeah, and the chick -she's a dratted nuisance but an unfortunately necessary appendage to the really important thing, which is the estate.

Boys, just go and play-fight with your big swords out there in the practice yard, then when you're both all nicely warmed up and sweaty you can go bathe naked in a stream or something, and be much, much happier together. And it would be a relief for the poor ragdoll female getting pulled this way and that by the pair of you, neither of whom cares a straw for her as a person.

If Veronica wants him, I'd be inclined to let her have him. And the horse he rode in on.

But this is why, in the end, these 'romantic' novels are too depressing for words: Rose is property to be fought over, and the victor gets the spoils. I won't even dignify the rest of it (the abused aunt who eventually fulfils her womanly destiny and pleases her man by getting pregnant - yeah, that's likely).
bellatrys From: bellatrys Date: July 11th, 2007 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Hey, there really is a Clan Gunn!

? again with the names! I might buy Gunnar but Gunn

and if it's a real tribal name, then surely you can use it as a first name, right? They're interchangeable like that nowdays, so don't you think it didn't matter then either? I mean, sure, MacTavish is a sept name of the MacGregors and the Frasers, not of the Gunns, but who's going to know or care? It's not like the Scots today are a wee bit fanatical about doing family genealogy and researching connections or anything!

If Veronica wants him, I'd be inclined to let her have him. And the horse he rode in on.

That's another weird thing - Rose knows about Veronica somehow (I think she gets it through the castle grapevine from his followers) and instead of going "oh grammercy, once he has an heir he'll leave me the hell alone and hang out with her," she's all jealous and insists that she'll never tolerate him sneaking around behind her back - even when she's still determined not to like him at all, let alone has discovered the wonderful world of marital rape.

How dare Gunn touch what belongs to another man?

Budweiser beer did a "humorous" commercial with that theme, using the tagline "Man Law: You Poke It, You Own It" last year...
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