Being seen by others

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  • RooKRooK Admin Emeritus
    So, can I interest anybody in a discussion of queer coding ? In Agatha Christie or more generally ?

    Fuck yes. Or talk about this rusty motherfucking spoon I'm using to amputate my leg instead of gouging out my eyes.

    Seriously though, I'm curious about your insights about queer coding. I'm familiar with the term, but I have little confidence in my ability to parse it. How does one sift it from wishful thinking or projection?
  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    @Doublethink, any chance you have seen the Expanse? I would generally recommend it though not for its portrayal of queer characters.* It's excellent sci-fi based on what mediocre at best books, IMO. Portrayals of race are interesting in that though BIPOC are distributed everywhere about equally there is a new set of people (Belters) who are the equivalent in their society. In that regard, I would say it does a good job showing and addressing some of the problems we see in society today. (@lilbuddha I would be particularly interested in your opinion on that show too, if you've seen it.) I thought of it though because I was so sure one woman was supposed to be lesbian or at least queer. Right up until they set her up with the show's lead white guy.** She flirts with women in later seasons too and would be a great example of an excellent powerful funny wonderful queer woman. Except for that fact that she's sleeping with the most hapless guy in the show and shows no sign of stopping.

    @Doc Tor, since you were talking about sci-fi and portrayal by teams earlier, I presume the team making decisions on the Expanse is mostly white guys since that's mostly true of most the industry. I feel like the Expanse might be a good example of decent portrayal of a variety of people.

    *It's pretty mediocre at queer characters for just a generally enlightened and excellent show.
    **Yes the lead is a white guy, and a rather mediocre one at that though I gather he's way more obnoxious and even more useless in the books.
  • So, can I interest anybody in a discussion of queer coding ? In Agatha Christie or more generally ?
    Her casual racism is a bit bothersome and I have not read too many of her books, but I'm game to discuss the concept.


  • mousethief wrote: »
    I believe it is important that we have books about all kinds of people, not only, but certainly partly, because children deserve to see people like them, in whatever ways they themselves decide is like them, in the books they read.

    There's a recent news story about that, but with advertising (Yahoo). A little boy, around 2, and his mom were in a Target store. There was a big poster of a boy in a wheelchair, wearing Target clothes. The two-year-old also uses a wheelchair. He became fascinated by the poster because he'd never seen another kid like him. His mom noticed, took a pic, and posted it. Went viral. And there's even more to the story.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    @Doublethink, I don't know enough about Agatha Christie, but I am curious about queer coding or subtexts in 1950s fiction -- that was when Patricia Highsmith began writing and her Talented Mr Ripley is a good example of a closeted and amoral adventurer who seems more bothered about people thinking him gay than suspecting him of murder. Highsmith, as I'm sure you know, wrote one of the first open and positive accounts of a lesbian affair in The Price of Salt, using the pseudonym Claire Morgan.

    Recently I reread Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and was struck by the theme of 'mannish women and feminised men' as well as the intensely coy and flirtatious relationship between Theodora and Eleanor, with aspects of twinning and mirroring as they wear one another's clothes and claim to be sisters.
  • Does queer coding mean that Agatha Christie was deliberately sending out signals to the LGBT community, or that, regardless of her intention, that community can identify with aspects of her characters? (I guess to an extent one's answer would depend on one's view of 'death of the writer'.)

    I hadn't particularly thought about it, but I vaguely recall Poirot is compared to a fussy old woman on more than one occasion, and I guess Miss Marple is in a somewhat 'mannish' role.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    Or is it that you are meant to read a character in a certain way? I came across a blatant example in a 'Golden Age' detective novel which I've now stopped reading. A character with a rather pretentious English name, good looking - but in the wrong way, by turns bullying and sycophantic, avaricious - and in case you haven't caught the drift, the viewpoint character thinks 'Ikey Mo'.

    (The same novel features a village Bobby named James Bond, so, besides the racial stereotyping, you are brought up against sentences such as 'James Bond got off his bicycle and leant it against the hedge')

  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    Nothing of what you have just said contradicts anything I have previously said.
    Except that it does. You are saying the market follow potential money and I am saying that the market has to sometimes be forced to take that money.
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    Even if you were correct, it doesn't change that white people writing POC should write them with authenticity.

    Again, I have never suggested otherwise.

    Yeah, but:
    Saying
    Being white is, uncontroversially, just one aspect of a character. That they are white doesn't mean they are anything "like me". We share a skin colour. Yay.
    and
    My culture is human
    doesn't indicate to me a proper understanding of how being of the culture works.
    I applaud your doing research, too many authors don't. But not talking to people representing the groups you write about? I would not write a Jewish character without talking to Jewish people.
    If one is writing culturally generic people and randomly assigning colour, the I suppose no interaction is needed. But if culture is a part of the depiction, I think it is.
    And after reading more books with poor depictions of people like me, I think I have a reasonable point.

    Everybody gets to read lots of books with poor depictions of themselves. You're not special in that regard. I do actually understand how being of the culture works, and that (as I've said repeatedly, and you've said repeatedly back at me as if I haven't said it) being human is the connecting factor between cultures.

    It's entirely up to you who you write about - I have and will continue to do the same (including Jewish characters - noting that my Jewish agent did not object in any regard to my depiction of Jews).

    I'm done with this part of the discussion, not least because everyone else wants to beat their brains out with mallets. I'll leave the last word to the very talented Zadie Smith, who has given me much to think about here, and elsewhere.
  • Gwai wrote: »
    @Doc Tor, since you were talking about sci-fi and portrayal by teams earlier, I presume the team making decisions on the Expanse is mostly white guys since that's mostly true of most the industry. I feel like the Expanse might be a good example of decent portrayal of a variety of people.

    Well, actually...

    I've neither watched the series, nor read the books (although I'm told by people I trust that they're very good). It seems that one of the strongest forces behind the screen adaptation is Naren Shankar.

    I don't know either Abraham or Franck (authors), but the days are long gone when a spaceship full of English-speaking white people became anything other than the exception. How well this is done, and how well I've done it, is up to the reader to parse. (I'd highly recommend the Zadie Smith link I posted above on this matter.)
  • For another view on sensitivity readers, here's KJ Charles (who writes absolutely fantastic historical romances, mostly about people who would have been marginalized in one way or another).

    I've heard several writers express defensiveness about using sensitivity readers and I just don't get it. What's the problem? You aren't bound to accept any of their suggestions, all they can do is make your work more accessible to people who are different from you.

    White British people often complain about how badly Americans write books set in England, because we don't know any of the details of what it's like to live there. People from minority communities saying you got their culture wrong is no different from that.
  • GwaiGwai Epiphanies Host
    Always glad to be wrong when I assume non-diversity. I do think the show succeeds in showing diverse points of view well too, so something is working out for that team.
  • For another view on sensitivity readers, here's KJ Charles (who writes absolutely fantastic historical romances, mostly about people who would have been marginalized in one way or another).

    I've heard several writers express defensiveness about using sensitivity readers and I just don't get it. What's the problem? You aren't bound to accept any of their suggestions, all they can do is make your work more accessible to people who are different from you.

    White British people often complain about how badly Americans write books set in England, because we don't know any of the details of what it's like to live there. People from minority communities saying you got their culture wrong is no different from that.
    Here is an example of what a small bit of proper representation can mean.
  • Ricardus wrote: »
    Does queer coding mean that Agatha Christie was deliberately sending out signals to the LGBT community, or that, regardless of her intention, that community can identify with aspects of her characters? (I guess to an extent one's answer would depend on one's view of 'death of the writer'.)

    I hadn't particularly thought about it, but I vaguely recall Poirot is compared to a fussy old woman on more than one occasion, and I guess Miss Marple is in a somewhat 'mannish' role.
    Queer coding is not necessarily intentional. And when it is intentional, it is not necessarily a message to the LGBTQ.
    Queer coding has been used to write characters that are gay, but in a situation were the author cannot, or does not wish to, explicitly state this.
    Queer coding can be inferred, rather than implied.
    Queer coding can be used to underscore a characters villainy, such as Scar in The Lion King.
    This article gives a good introduction.
  • @Doc Tor thank you for the zadie Smith essay. Indeed, well worth reading.

  • For another view on sensitivity readers, here's KJ Charles (who writes absolutely fantastic historical romances, mostly about people who would have been marginalized in one way or another).

    I've heard several writers express defensiveness about using sensitivity readers and I just don't get it. What's the problem? You aren't bound to accept any of their suggestions, all they can do is make your work more accessible to people who are different from you.

    The KJ Charles article was really enlightening. It makes a good case, and I have realised the approach has similarities to how academic work is developed in my field - there will be research, public sharing and private expert critique before the text is finalised.

    I also wondered if the resistance to this kind of process is associated with the identity work of authors, which may involve their own creative practices and conceptualisations and the idea of authorial voice. Perhaps the author sometimes wants their ‘take’ to be seen in the text, either deliberately or unconsciously, for this reason?


  • Thanks Doc Tor for the Zadie Smith link - a great article
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Queer coding is not necessarily intentional. And when it is intentional, it is not necessarily a message to the LGBTQ.

    How can you code save intentionally? Others may read a queer message into a character, a message that you had never thought of, but that does not make it queer coding.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Queer coding is not necessarily intentional. And when it is intentional, it is not necessarily a message to the LGBTQ.

    How can you code save intentionally? Others may read a queer message into a character, a message that you had never thought of, but that does not make it queer coding.

    Most forms of literary analysis that utilize concepts like queer coding and others take it as axiomatic that an author’s intentions matter for very little. If one can make an argument using the text responsibly and thoroughly, then the reading stands, regardless of authorial intentions.

    This is one reason why theorists and critics get increasingly cautious the further back in history they go, as different cultural norms make for successfully building such a reading increasingly difficult.
  • Doc TorDoc Tor Admin
    edited February 2020
    Cameron wrote: »
    Perhaps the author sometimes wants their ‘take’ to be seen in the text, either deliberately or unconsciously, for this reason?

    The author always wants their take to be seen in the text, deliberately. Otherwise they wouldn't be writing a book.

    I appreciate it's not coal mining, but the effort involved is real nonetheless. I'm not doing it so that someone else's take gets seen.

    (eta)

    Editors exist so that the author's take is best transmitted to the page. They point out problems and ambiguities in the text, so that the author can choose to fix them.
  • Gee D wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Queer coding is not necessarily intentional. And when it is intentional, it is not necessarily a message to the LGBTQ.

    How can you code save intentionally? Others may read a queer message into a character, a message that you had never thought of, but that does not make it queer coding.
    It is how the phrase is used, As far as I know, it is how the phrase has always been used.
    It basically means that a character can be read as LGBTQ even though that is not explicitly stated. Intention is not part of the condition.

  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    If you're talking about something that isn't intentional, then CODING is entirely the wrong word for it.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    orfeo wrote: »
    If you're talking about something that isn't intentional, then CODING is entirely the wrong word for it.

    That's exactly what I'm getting at. What lb and ECraigR are referring to is how some people read a book (etc).
  • Gee D wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »
    If you're talking about something that isn't intentional, then CODING is entirely the wrong word for it.

    That's exactly what I'm getting at. What lb and ECraigR are referring to is how some people read a book (etc).

    Right. Weren’t we talking about books and other media?

    Also, why does coding require intentionality?

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    It requires deliberate intent by the author - an intent to conceal what is in fact being written. The reading is a deliberate action by the reader.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Gee D wrote: »
    It requires deliberate intent by the author - an intent to conceal what is in fact being written. The reading is a deliberate action by the reader.

    Exactly, because that's what a code is. A device for restricting understanding of something to only those who have the key to the code.

    Talking about an unintentional code just doesn't make any sense. You can't unintentionally code a message.

    You can, however, decide for yourself that there's a hidden message when an author had no intention of hiding one. In which case you're not being clever, you're actually being wrong. It's rather like insisting that a cloud deliberately looks like a man riding a bicycle and not allowing for the possibility of accidents and coincidences, or just that your brain is seeing patterns where none was meant.

    There was a book some years ago called The Bible Code all about how the scriptures were full of amazing hidden messages revealed by counting every 7th word backwards or that kind of thing. Couldn't possibly be accidental... until people demonstrated that you could get the same result with all sorts of books that didn't have mystical and spiritual overtones that were being ascribed to the Bible.

    Seeing queer characters isn't queer coding unless the author actually meant you to figure out the characters were queer or was at least conscious of the queer characteristics. Anything else isn't coding, it's reader fantasy.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Might I add, any suggestion that various actions are inherently queer and must be read that way regardless of what the author wanted pretty much goes against every effort that ordinary queer people have been making to present themselves as ordinary, everyday human beings who generally go about behaving in similar ways to everyone else.

    I don't find reading secret queer messages into texts a worthwhile exercise. I find it pretty well insulting. If I get represented, I don't want it to be in some shadowy half-light only uncovered by academics who are obliged to find something so that they can write a paper about it.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    For those writing in societies in which homosexuality was criminalised, 'coding' was a way to write about topics and relationships under the radar. The obscenity trial over Radclyffe Hall's Well of Loneliness made publishers wary of publishing any overt lesbian fiction: Virginia Woolf wrote Orlando as a teasing alternative, and the lesbian content of Rosamund Lehmann's Dusty Answer was downplayed. Another earlier social deterrent was the prosecution of Oscar Wilde for indecency: it has been argued that this kept Henry James and EM Forster in the closet for fear of attracting negative public attention.

    I do think intentionality can be a slippery concept and I'd talk at times about a queer subtext in certain writers. Gerard Manley Hopkins would not have identified as 'gay' in any modern sense of the word, but there's no doubt he had intense feelings for other men and a deeply conflicted struggle over celibacy and sexuality. Nineteenth-century women writers who had 'crushes' on other women and wrote about close friendships between women (Willa Cather comes to mind) may now be read as inadvertently revealing an eroticised tension we would identify as queer.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    KJ Charles' comment '...areas of other people’s lives that we not only don’t know about but don’t know that we don’t know about' struck a chord. (Link given above by @Antisocial Alto. )

    It took one satiric essay in Granta in 2005 to change how Western and Europe-based writers and journalists wrote about Africa and give Western readers an idea how their favourite tropes and unintended stereotypes about the Dark Continent sounded to readers in Africa. The late Binyavanga Wainaina wrote How to Write About Africa as a pissed-off email to a friend who suggested it become editorial. Within weeks, editors and publishers were forwarding copies to staff and reminding their travel writers and interviewers to do it differently. That piece is still the most accessed and forwarded essay ever published by Granta.
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    orfeo wrote: »
    ... that's what a code is. A device for restricting understanding of something to only those who have the key to the code.

    Talking about an unintentional code just doesn't make any sense. You can't unintentionally code a message.

    Sure you can. People talk and act in coded ways without realizing it all the time. "Code" has a broader meaning than cypher-like language. Any system of symbols used for communication is a code; not all codes are secret. And people may tap into the codes available to them quite unconsciously. I seriously doubt Hemingway set out to give psychosexual cues about what was going on with him, but once you start paying attention to things like Brett Ashley's short hair and fitted crewneck sweaters in The Sun Also Rises, you gotta wonder.

    More often, though, I think people undestand code like this half-consciously. Bill Clinton was "a new Democrat," i.e., a centrist, not a liberal. He and his messagers knew exactly what they were saying, while many Americans just heard "electable" and "not Jimmy Carter."
  • RicardusRicardus Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    I think one can talk about 'levels' of authorial intent.

    I remember we had a discussion in Purgatory a few months ago about Lord of the Rings. Some people thought it was obviously about addiction. Others said it was a subtle Christian allegory. Personally I've always thought it was obviously about nuclear weapons, or at least the idea that the good guys' best option is to amass the most powerful arsenal possible.

    I think if Tolkien had made the book so that it was explicitly and unambiguously about exactly one thing, then it would be a poorer book. As it is, he has (intentionally or otherwise) managed to tap into some kind of human universal that has resonance across a range of situations.

    (OTOH if he did intend it to be explicitly about one specific thing, then he failed, so screw him.)

    That said, if a supposed interpretation of a book is only possible through the mediation of a literary critic (as opposed to a historian), then that literary criticism is only distinguishable from fanfic in that fanfic is more readable.
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Interesting. Tolkien explicitly addresses, IIRC, the nuclear weapons question in a preface, or possibly elsewhere. He makes the point that the material that makes people think the book refers to that was written before he had any awareness of the atom bomb or it’s like. Most of Lord of the Rings was written and the ending fully planned before 1945 revealed the atom bomb to the world at large.
  • BroJames wrote: »
    Interesting. Tolkien explicitly addresses, IIRC, the nuclear weapons question in a preface, or possibly elsewhere. He makes the point that the material that makes people think the book refers to that was written before he had any awareness of the atom bomb or it’s like. Most of Lord of the Rings was written and the ending fully planned before 1945 revealed the atom bomb to the world at large.

    Yeah sorry, I should have put 'obviously' in scare quotes - what I meant was that on a cold reading of the text, if you'd asked me what it was about, I would have said nuclear weapons, and been absolutely convinced that no-one could think it was about anything else - and I get the impression that the shipmates who said it was about addiction would have had the same degree of certainty.

    In terms of what was actually going through Tolkien's mind, I am clearly wrong, and I suspect he was not thinking of addiction either, but the text is nevertheless an interesting text because it does have these resonances.
  • DafydDafyd Shipmate
    I think coding here is an academic term derived from Russisn linguistics meaning language in a broad sense. That is, any system of symbols somebody could use to convey a message or to express themselves or influence other people. So a code can be a language or a manner of dress or a set of images expressed in language.
    The point is that when you have a set of symbols arranged in a way can be used to convey a message they still convey that message to the reader no matter how they got to be arranged that way.
    If a public speaker inadvertently utters a double entendre the funny thing is that they said something they didn't mean or intend.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Ruth wrote: »
    I seriously doubt Hemingway set out to give psychosexual cues about what was going on with him, but once you start paying attention to things like Brett Ashley's short hair and fitted crewneck sweaters in The Sun Also Rises, you gotta wonder.

    No, you don't "gotta" do anything of the kind. But people being what they are, that kind of speculation is endlessly entertaining.

    The problem is, much of it is pretty much nothing more than gossip dressed up as academia.

  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    Dafyd wrote: »
    I think coding here is an academic term derived from Russisn linguistics meaning language in a broad sense. That is, any system of symbols somebody could use to convey a message or to express themselves or influence other people. So a code can be a language or a manner of dress or a set of images expressed in language.
    The point is that when you have a set of symbols arranged in a way can be used to convey a message they still convey that message to the reader no matter how they got to be arranged that way.
    If a public speaker inadvertently utters a double entendre the funny thing is that they said something they didn't mean or intend.

    Putting those last two sentences together merely illustrates my point. You talk about "conveying a message". Are we seriously suggesting that "something they didn't mean or intend" constitutes a message?

    Apparently we are. This is far from the first time I've encountered such ideas. I still think they're fundamentally wrong.

    I fully accept that there are all sorts of reasons why what a writer or speaker is intending to convey doesn't match what readers and listeners have conveyed to them.

    But to speak of what the reader/listener receives as a "message" or any other similar term and then say that it has this status regardless of authorial intent is, in my view, tackling the problem in entirely the wrong way. The mismatch in communication isn't solved by pretending that one end of the exchange doesn't even matter.

    A far better approach would be to use language that accepts that, when it comes to things like literature where a back and forth with the author isn't possible to clarify, we can't know for sure what the author's thinking of. And that is language focused on what we get out of something, without using terms like "message" or "code" that convey an idea that we're talking about communication between the author and us. We're not. We're just talking about what we think when we read.

  • orfeo wrote: »
    A far better approach would be to use language that accepts that, when it comes to things like literature where a back and forth with the author isn't possible to clarify, we can't know for sure what the author's thinking of. And that is language focused on what we get out of something, without using terms like "message" or "code" that convey an idea that we're talking about communication between the author and us. We're not. We're just talking about what we think when we read.

    Perhaps taking the approach that it is a dialogue between the reader and the text, rather than the reader and the author? One comes to the text with questions / prejudgments, and it affords certain answers that may provoke other questions if/when the text takes us in unexpected directions. I find that approach (from Gadamer) makes sense to me.

    But texts may be more or less ambiguous and require more or less creative and interpretive work from the author, as Barth describes. In addition, the author may be aware that some will be able interpret their text in a way that is hidden to others who are less earnest, for example.

    I agree that the text may contain something that the author did not intend to convey, but it may still ‘be there’. Some expressions are freighted with cultural, social or political assumptions that reflect our particular community’s stance. For example, if I was to write about Belfast as a city in Northern Ireland (the most common description used in GB), that would signal something quite different to writing about Belfast as a city in the North of Ireland, which seems equivalent on the surface.


  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Hmm. As a Brit I just read Scar as (to adapt the terminology) Brit-coded, which seems to me to be a common propensity for Hollywood villains.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    Hmm. As a Brit I just read Scar as (to adapt the terminology) Brit-coded, which seems to me to be a common propensity for Hollywood villains.

    Quite. Seeing Scar, and Jafar from Aladdin as queer says more about the critics pointing this out than it does about the films. Which is kind of my point.

    There are a lot of people armed with hammers actively looking for nails.
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Cameron wrote: »
    orfeo wrote: »
    A far better approach would be to use language that accepts that, when it comes to things like literature where a back and forth with the author isn't possible to clarify, we can't know for sure what the author's thinking of. And that is language focused on what we get out of something, without using terms like "message" or "code" that convey an idea that we're talking about communication between the author and us. We're not. We're just talking about what we think when we read.

    Perhaps taking the approach that it is a dialogue between the reader and the text, rather than the reader and the author? One comes to the text with questions / prejudgments, and it affords certain answers that may provoke other questions if/when the text takes us in unexpected directions. I find that approach (from Gadamer) makes sense to me.

    But texts may be more or less ambiguous and require more or less creative and interpretive work from the author, as Barth describes. In addition, the author may be aware that some will be able interpret their text in a way that is hidden to others who are less earnest, for example.

    I agree that the text may contain something that the author did not intend to convey, but it may still ‘be there’. Some expressions are freighted with cultural, social or political assumptions that reflect our particular community’s stance. For example, if I was to write about Belfast as a city in Northern Ireland (the most common description used in GB), that would signal something quite different to writing about Belfast as a city in the North of Ireland, which seems equivalent on the surface.


    This all seems perfectly reasonable to me. If we talked about reader's engagement with the text we would definitely improve things.

    To be clear I'm not denying that authors do consciously frame things in particular ways. The problem is when someone starts telling me it doesn't matter whether the author was doing something on purpose or not. It matters a hell of a lot. The implications and conclusions from something you can verify the author did deliberately are completely different from what you can derive when it's just what the reader is getting out of the text, or arguably putting IN to the text, from their own perspective (and which other readers, without the same perspective, won't generate).
  • orfeoorfeo Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    To turn back to villains that are being read as either queer or British: basically the characteristic being observed is a certain archness.

    People are then attributing that characteristic to whatever they're familiar with.

    And yes, there is a gay stereotype that definitely incorporates being arch. It doesn't logically follow that queers somehow own this characteristic and any example of it is queer coding. But if you know some very catty gays, that's who you'll be reminded of.
  • In passing, it has occurred to me that the re-appropriation of terms also has an effect on how coding is interpreted. The most obvious example for me is the word 'queer', which is now a term of theory (as in 'queer coding', the current focus of discussion) and used in self-identification. However, when I was growing up I was only likely to hear the word as a term of abuse that provoked a fight or flight response (well, for me, realistically: a flight or flight-even-faster-response).

    Returning to the main feature...

    I think a really interesting twist in relation to coded signals and villains is the first appearance of Moriarty* in the TV series Sherlock. In this case the signals (gay and a British accent) are used to hide rather than reveal the villain. This is drifting away from (literal / literary) texts, but this would have been in the script.



    *the YouTube clip is only 4 minutes, but the point is made in the first 2 and is explained above.

  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    orfeo wrote: »
    To turn back to villains that are being read as either queer or British: basically the characteristic being observed is a certain archness.

    People are then attributing that characteristic to whatever they're familiar with.

    And yes, there is a gay stereotype that definitely incorporates being arch. It doesn't logically follow that queers somehow own this characteristic and any example of it is queer coding. But if you know some very catty gays, that's who you'll be reminded of.

    Queer coding of men in Christie is generally seen in their having attributes seen as feminine at the time, taking two much care of their appearance, liking fine arts and gossip, having slender fingers and “womanish” hands etc. Being ‘arch’ is a very close match for what many brits would describe as being ‘camp’ - which is a of performing gender that used to be (and to an extent still is) a way British men would signal homosexuality.

    Likewise many people have argued the portrayal of the goblins at gringotts bank in the Harry Potter novels is implicitly anti-Semitic because it creates a fantasy analogue of anti-Semitic tropes and mocks them. (Likewise the way people comment on the implicit racism in Tolkien, cos bad things are dark coloured and come from the east, and the male chauvinism because look at how the female characters are portrayed or absent - despite no one actually saying overtly nasty things to or about women in the book.)
  • But how on Earth are you supposed to know what an author was or was not doing intentionally?

    Unless you have a piece of writing saying “I wrote this to mean this,” then you don’t really have any means of establishing an author’s intentions. And there are instances of author’s doing just that and it turning out to be ironic, like Eliot’s annotations to The Waste Land or Twain’s 3 sentence preface to Huckleberry Finn. There’s no reliable way to be able to talk about what an author intended to convey or not. And that’s just talking about conscious intention, never mind subconscious intentions, if they could even be called such.
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Well in golden age detective fiction it really is not that subtle.

    This is from The Moving Finger
    ‘Mr. Pye was an extremely ladylike plump little man, devoted to his petit point chairs, his Dresden shepherdesses and his collection of period furniture.’

    I mean, what do you think she was trying to convey with this description ? It was in much later novel in 1963 where explicitly had a character identified as queer - social attitudes had changed a lot since the early part of the century when her career began.

    Elsewhere, whether the author is doing this consciously or not is not really the point. (If we are talking about what a reader sees of themselves or their identity when they read the book.)
  • DoublethinkDoublethink Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    I think there are three *representation* problems; one is a lack of accurate portrayals of people with various characteristics (so portrayals are absent or massively stereotyped / limited), the second is negative portrayals - gays are villains, Jews are grasping, black people exist only to pass on ethnic wisdom to white saviours etc, lastly is when every difference must be a plot point - you can’t just exist as say, a person with dwarfism, just because such people exist in the world.

    Many villains are queer coded, or facially disfigured, mentally ill etc as if difference itself has moral value and that value is negative. (James Bond films often seem to do this.)
  • The problem of people from minority communities getting access to create, market and portray in books and onscreen is a slightly different - but obviously related - issue.
  • Authors don't own a book after it's been published. Whatever it is that we may have been trying to say consciously, or inadvertently saying subconsciously despite ourselves, is more or less beside the point. The book is now the reader's.

    Sometimes the curtains are blue to represent the character's immense depression. And sometimes they're just fucking blue - that's fair enough, but there will always be unintentional leakage between the text and the author's psyche. I've stopped trying to second-guess myself and just see what turns up.
  • I think there are three *representation* problems; one is a lack of accurate portrayals of people with various characteristics (so portrayals are absent or massively stereotyped / limited), the second is negative portrayals - gays are villains, Jews are grasping, black people exist only to pass on ethnic wisdom to white saviours etc, lastly is when every difference must be a plot point - you can’t just exist as say, a person with dwarfism, just because such people exist in the world.

    Many villains are queer coded, or facially disfigured, mentally ill etc as if difference itself has moral value and that value is negative. (James Bond films often seem to do this.)

    Trying to clarify what I’m saying about plot points, it’s as if every character who is not white, straight, sans visible difference and able is somehow Chekhov’s gun.
  • CameronCameron Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    Authors don't own a book after it's been published. Whatever it is that we may have been trying to say consciously, or inadvertently saying subconsciously despite ourselves, is more or less beside the point. The book is now the reader's.

    Sometimes the curtains are blue to represent the character's immense depression. And sometimes they're just fucking blue - that's fair enough, but there will always be unintentional leakage between the text and the author's psyche. I've stopped trying to second-guess myself and just see what turns up.

    The point that authors don’t own (the meanings of) their texts after publication is in agreement with several posts above. No argument here.

    However, they remain responsible for them and their potential effects (as in certain categories of law, in extreme cases). So it may matter to consider what the intentions were, and whether they were conscious - as strongly inferred in the example provided by @Doublethink - or unconscious.

    An interesting example of the difference for me is ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, where the stereotypical masculinity of the principal protagonist early on is important for the plot development, but the use of masculine pronouns for androgynous characters (rather than neutral or female terms) as a ‘default’ might be attributed to cultural norms when the novel was published (1969).

    However, I do agree that it may not be important to treat every text in this way and that sometimes curtains are just fucking blue.

    [Edited to add - took me a long time to compose this and @Doublethink’s post above, with which I agree, appeared in the meantime]
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