guardians_song: A crop from FE7's Arcadia CG showing Nergal and two villagers chatting over scrolls. (analytical)
guardians_song ([personal profile] guardians_song) wrote2013-10-08 12:43 am

Observation about Generic Fantasy Worlds:

Humans are actually disabled compared to the Other Races baselines. They're physically disabled compared to the beefier races, cognitively disabled compared to the Ancient and Wise races, and metaphorically disabled compared to the magically-strong races.

The reason it doesn't show is that the "A For Effort" mentality, rather than being derided for ignoring actual standards, is full-on enshrined in describing why Humanity Is Best - or, if the author doesn't go in for H.I.B., the human protagonists all coincidentally being exceptional members of a 'disabled species' is treated as right and proper rather than Political Correctness Gone mad, and it's hinted that indeed humans are underestimated.

This is noteworthy as far as a blatant example of privilege. Because the audience has inbuilt biases towards humanity being a top-tier species, they completely accept often over-the-top portrayal of humanity as worthy of celebration and value despite its limitations, but people disabled compared to the "average" human are treated... well, as people without privilege. People scream bloody murder over the "average" human being treated as inferior, but people with disabilities being treated as inferior? Myep, that's just being realistic, shaddup with your political correctness interfering with ~*reality*~. Similarly with the frequent emphasis on humanity having upsides over the other, seemingly-superior races because of their own strengths, alternate worldviews, or wisdom gained through hardship - such also gets dismissed as "unrealistic glorification" when applied to the disabled in contrast to the 'abled', but is treated as insightful and Having True Meaning when applied to humanity in contrast to the other races.

(Note: I say "average" human rather than able-bodied/able-minded because it has a fat lot to do with the baseline of the target audience. In social-interaction-focused fiction, subpar empathizer skills are grounds for disgrace. In science fiction, people without any systemizer skills are treated... less than seriously. If the target audience does not include intellectuals, the author(s) will often include potshots at Those Souless Eggheads Who Think They're Better Than Us. If the target audience is largely nerds, the author(s) will often include potshots at Those Mindless Sheeple Who Can Never Understand Our Ways.

Point being, able-mindedness is subjective depending upon the cognitive strengths and weaknesses of the target audience. A fair number of science nerds would not scream bloody murder over those innumerate, touchy-feely humanities-lovers being treated as inferior. A fair number of humanities nerds would not scream bloody murder over those cold, soulless scientists being treated as inferior. Hence "average" human... relative to what the audience considers "average".)

Now, you could say all of this means squat because those other fantasy races don't actually exist. But I think that's half the point. When people even contemplate the possibility of beings on average superior to humans, they almost always give humans some leg up. The elves are fading. The orcs are idiots. The goblins are fast and plentiful but weak and stupid. The dragons are strong and wise but slow and rare. (Petty note: I always note when Group A is portrayed as superior both to Group B and to Group C for completely opposite reasons. It usually signifies that great bullshit is afoot.) Whatever the circumstance, humans come out the victor.

...Now, about a work in which this is infamously NOT true...

It's interesting in this context that the message of Twilight that's most deeply hated and called out is not "less able people suck", but "HUMANS suck". Because really, it IS less able people. Rosalie and Emmett are portrayed as second-tier vampires compared to Bella, Edward, and Alice (and Zoidberg Jasper) - and coincidentally, they don't have special powers. Esme is a nonentity - what's that? No powers? Jasper, despite having a frighteningly powerful gift, is borderline-first/second-tier - oh, he has a disability regarding human blood? Well then. Carlisle, for all that he's supposed to be the head of the Cullen clan, is given secondary priority over Edward's tantrums and Alice's vision - oh, his only power is compassion, and the application of that talent is the only time he becomes important? Weeeell then!

In context of Quilete-bashing, let us note that all werewolves have a canonical cognitive disability - they have a high chance of going berserk if driven into a rage, much as Jasper has a high chance of going berserk around blood. And Leah, the worst-treated of the Quilete werewolves, is possibly infertile while not acting as a baseline-human and is thus not able to carry on the bloodline, a canonical crucial feature of the werewolves. La-dee-dah, nope, we're not seeing a pattern here.

And remind me, what are the Volturi condemned for? NOT their "Gotta catch 'em all!" nature, no - Carlisle's recruits are just as "Gotta catch 'em all!" as the Volturi, remember. No, it's that they're human-drinkers... whiiich, despite the power advantage that supposedly grants them (which never comes into play in canon - NEWBORNS are a class unto themselves, remember?), makes them poorer at forming bonds, maintaining a stable lifestyle, and generally controlling their impulses. In fact, they're only able to maintain as much stability as they are because they're under mind-control from Charmion (a.k.a. Chelsea), and a fat lot of them are addicted to some vampire's pleasure-giving power, according to the Illustrated Guide (as I recall from Mervin's YouTube logs of that entry). So they're essentially incapable of a functional lifestyle and are brainwashed drug-addicts. Yeah. Less-abled, as I said.

Put frankly, this hierarchy ever persists amongst humans in Twilight. Eric is mocked for social awkwardness, Renee because she apparently has trouble functioning in day-to-day life. Bella's first sign of Specialness is that she's more able than her mother. And her supposed maturity and intelligence are two of the reasons she's supposed to be so much better than other mere mortals - to say nothing of her special mind-shield, which is so very much more abled than the general population that even Aro coos over it. Her flaws, meanwhile, are her mortality, her clumsiness, and her inferiority to the super-abled vampires - and what gets corrected ASAP when she becomes a vampire?

It's really about 'the more-abled rule, the less-abled drool'. But all the complaint is about human-bashing... or about Quilete-bashing, if it's directed towards Leah. Guys, there's a Grand Unified Theory going on here...

(*Incidentally, this implies that Carmilla-verse vampires would not be treated as Superior Beings in Twilight. Neither would vampires from canons where sunlight, garlic, and/or crosses are overwhelming weaknesses. Carmilla herself essentially has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome during daylight hours and experiences overload when exposed to religious chants. Sunlight-vulnerable vampires would lead restricted lifestyles and be at genuine risk of death in conditions perfectly acceptable to humans. Twilight-snarkers: Can you really see either sorts of these beings, easily-arguably inferior to mere hyoooooomans, being treated lovingly by Meyerland? Really?

Similarly, no-downside shifters would. [Be treated lovingly, that is.] Notice that, when Jacob becomes Alpha and later imprints, thus stripping him of both his obedience to the Pack and all less-than-Meyer-blessed aspects of his personality, he suddenly gets treated rather better than before? Well, aside from his subservience to the super-duper-ultra-able Renesmee, but in all fairness, Renesmee is so super-duper-ultra-able that even Bella and Edward, the goddess and god of the Twilight universe, slaver over her.

'Tis all about able-status or lack thereof. The matter of which groups overwhelmingly hang higher on the hierarchy of able-status than others is secondary to the hierarchy itself.)

redwoodalchan: Silly Drifloon from "Red Sun" fic (Default)

[personal profile] redwoodalchan 2013-10-08 01:35 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, so the problem in a lot of fantasy (possibly up to and including Twilight) is not so much "humans suck" but rather "humans are okay as long as they're exactly like the target audience and have no problems the target audience wouldn't immediately recognize and understand," then? And supernatural creatures are inferior too, if they have problems or illnesses (for lack of a better word) the hero can't relate to? Interesting....
lliira: Fang from FF13 (Default)

[personal profile] lliira 2013-10-08 03:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't think "have different competency skillsets" translates to "disabled" at all. But I haven't read much "generic fantasy world" stuff, though I do read tons of fantasy. All I can think of are D&D and Eragon... and maybe Star Wars, though in that it's presented as humans being privileged and the setting being racist, at least by Bioware. I suppose Star Trek can be seen as a partial example of this, but since that was driven by budget considerations (and by actors not enjoying many hours in the makeup chair), I dunno. As someone with very little experience with "generic fantasy worlds", I would guess they're just copying Tolkein, tbh, without understanding why he did what he did. Namely, he was trying to show that physical and mental power and beauty did not translate to goodness or even true power; that true power is in the heart. Also, that sometimes horrible, unfair things happen to large groups of people through no fault of their own. And it was the hobbits who were actually presented as the best of all -- definitely not the humans.

Twilight does have the message that humans suck, that no human can ever be as good as a vampire ever period, and it's part of the overall extremely depressing theme that life sucks and that the real world isn't a tenth as good as Meyer's silly fantasy world. Then, certainly, within supernatural creatures there is a hierarchy, as there is within humans as well. Because there is a hierarchy for absolutely everything in Meyer's world. As a disabled person, however, I am uncomfortable with seeing it compared to ableism -- which, I'm not sure if you're actually doing that, or if I'm misreading, but I have seen other people do it and it bugs me. That Bella's mother is a flutterhead is not a disability of some kind; it is a character trait. I don't want to fall into Meyer's trap (which I see cropping up generally more and more these days) of putting abso-frickin'-everything into a hierarchy.

Twilight-snarkers: Can you really see either sorts of these beings, easily-arguably inferior to mere hyoooooomans, being treated lovingly by Meyerland? Really?

Meyer would never write vampires with those issues, period. They would not be treated by Meyerland on any level, any more than actual humans with actual disabilities are. They simply do not exist in her universe. Bella herself would have a disability with her incredible clumsiness if it were treated consistently and realistically, but since that only exists as the plot demands (or as Bella herself demands as an in-story explanation), it looks like more of a fetish for being helpless.