Episkopos Rev. Alixtii O'Krul V, TRL (alixtii) wrote,
Episkopos Rev. Alixtii O'Krul V, TRL

Mmm, 'Cesty: Incest and the Adolescent Fantasy

Consider some texts, all of which count as fannish on my flist (if nowhere else):
  • Veronica Mars: A sixteen-year-old girl defies parental authority in many ways including, but not limited to, having sexual relations with three different individuals. (Admittedly this behavior led to her death, but the show consistently portrayed Lilly Kane in a mostly positive light.) After her death, her best friend defies parental and civil authorities by engaging in a series of investigations bringing many things to light. Ultimately, these authorities learn that the best course of action is to let Veronica run her course: upon finding his daughter in a coat closet, Keith remarks, "Yep, that's mine," and upon her graduation Van Clemens admits that he doesn't know if her absence will make his life easier or harder.
  • Matilda: A six-year-old (in bookverse) girl defies parental authority by playing a series of practical jokes on her parents and, when they are forced to flee the country, convincing them to sign over guardianship to a Miss Jennifer Honey, with whom in movieverse Matilda has a relationship of equals.
  • The Secret Garden: Defying the parental authority of her uncle and guardian Archibald Craven, as well as his surrogates Mrs. Medlock and Dr. Craven, Mary Lennox enters a forbidden girl garden and carries on a secret relationship with her cousin Colin, effecting his cure in the process.
  • A Little Princess: Even before Sarah Crewe is forced to withstand the authority of Miss Minchin, the text takes pains to underscore the girl's adult nature and the egalitarian character of her relationship with her father, who treats her as a miniature adult. It also uses the word "queer" a lot.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Four children defy the authority of the parental surrogates by hiding in a wardrobe, where they wage a war against the evil witch Jadis and save a magical world, becoming Kings and Queens in the process.
  • The Parent Trap: Two twin eleven-year-old girls defy parental authority by secretly switching places and living each others' lives. In the process, they manipulate their parents into meeting and falling in love again.
  • As You Like It: Two cousins defy parental and civil authority when they enter the forest to escape the rule of the evil Duke Frederick.
  • Harry Potter: Not that I've ever read the books, but a twelve-year-old boy defies the parental authority of his aunt and uncle by becoming a wizard. At the school of wizardry, three children operate outside of the school authority, continually disobeying the explicit directives of their professors, and in the process triumph again and again, presumably culminating in the defeat of the Dark Lord. While what the professors were thinking is debated, one theory is that it was their plan from the beginning to let these children run loose, recognizing they would be able to succeed where adults would fail. In any event, the disobedience of these children is celebrated by the professors as the children win the House Cup year after year.
  • Robert A. Heinlein: Where to begin? From Podkayne to Peewee to Laz and Lor, this is a multiverse chock full of supercompetent teenagers who either operate outside the bounds of, or are forced to defy, parental authority.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Another case of "Do I really need to say anything here?"
All of these texts act out a specific type of wish-fulfillment fantasy: the usurpation of parental authority by a child who is revealed to be more intellectually mature than her adult counterparts. It is a fantasy that pings powerfully for me (as well as many others), even now that I am no longer quite a teenager. It is an especially potent expression of the will to power, being beyond all authorities because one is just that good, ubermensch.

It is no coincidence that Sunnydale and Neptune each has one good parent, Joyce Summers and Keith Mars respectively. (Actually Neptune, while including a huge number of bad parents, isn't quite so bad as Sunnydale. Both Wallace and Jackie have parents who all, in the whole, good parents, and the Mackenzies and Sinclairs are not really bad parents despite their inability to meaningfully engage their respective [adopted] daughters.) Parents in this type of fantasy are like governments: King Log is to be preferred to King Stork, and the parent who parents least parents best.

This is the context in which fictional incest thrives. While "in the real world" (how I loathe that phrase!) incest, cross-gen, and mentor/teacher relationships all are problematic due to issues of consent, these difficulties disappear in the face of the radically autonomous children of the adolescent fantasy. Of course Lilly, Veronica, Matilda, Mary, Sara, Susan, Annie, Hallie, Rosalind, Celia, Hermione, Podkayne, Peewee, Laz, Lor, Dawn, and all the rest are capable of consent--the very nature of the fantastic world in which they exist assures they are capable of anything.

Keith/Veronica, Matilda/Jenny, Mary/Neville, Crewecest, Peter/Susan, Annie/Hallie, Rosalind/Celia, Hermione/McGonagall, Laz/Lor, Dawn/Giles: these are not pairings that Ari and I invented in our minds. For me (I won't speak for anyone else), the sexualization of these relationships is a response to--and a reaffirmation of--the fantastic element which attracted me to these texts in the first place: the radical autonomy of the pre/teen characters.


And I really should finish that "Buffy as Nietzschean Ubermensch" essay.
Tags: buffy, harry potter, heinlein, lit & history 1902-1950, meta, nothing to see here, parent trap, textual analysis, veronica mars, will-to-poweriness
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