Frida Kahlo’s “Wounded Deer”
Done by Sean Arnold at Alchemy Tattoo in Silverlake, CA
submitted by http://thechargingsky.tumblr.com
It took Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts 12 years to round up and murder 6 million Jews, but their Teutonic cousins, the British, managed to kill almost 4 million Indians in just over a year, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill cheering from the sidelines. Australian biochemist Dr Gideon Polya has called the Bengal Famine a “manmade holocaust” because Churchill’s policies were directly responsible for the disaster. Bengal had a bountiful harvest in 1942, but the British started diverting vast quantities of food grain from India to Britain, contributing to a massive food shortage in the areas comprising present-day West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar and Bangladesh. Author Madhusree Mukerjee tracked down some of the survivors and paints a chilling picture of the effects of hunger and deprivation. In Churchill’s Secret War, she writes: “Parents dumped their starving children into rivers and wells. Many took their lives by throwing themselves in front of trains. Starving people begged for the starchy water in which rice had been boiled. Children ate leaves and vines, yam stems and grass. People were too weak even to cremate their loved ones.”
Remembering India’s Forgotten Holocaust.
Sarah Waheed notes: “One of the students in my modern South Asia history class a few years ago, was extremely upset that the book we were reading referred to the Bengal famine as a holocaust, calling the author ‘biased’. When I asked him to clarify and elaborate upon what he meant by ‘biased’, he exclaimed, inflamed, “There was only one holocaust!” The rest of the students were, however, more open to the idea of the 20th century being a century of multiple holocausts. The terms ‘holocaust’ and ‘genocide’, however, continue to elicit trauma envy.”
I first heard of British crimes like this in Mike Davis’ Late Victorian Holocausts which talks about how imperialism affected the Indian subcontinent’s food supply. The system which could feed everyone, even during hard times, was “centralized” to be “more efficient” by the British administration, leading to skyrocketing poverty and famine and a destroyed local ecology.
I thought Alice was bad.
(Cut for spoilers, which no1curr, but cut for yelling, and trigger warning, assault and general vileness and inchoate incoherence. THIS IS NOT META I AM JUST THROWING WORDS IN LIEU OF THROWING PHYSICAL THINGS.)
I thought Alice was bad.
Let’s start with her! My first best girl, who has never seen nice narrative treatment, not from beginning and not to end, my original darling talent. The best magician in her year, by leaps and bounds, which is the first thing we learn about her. The second? That she’s not meant to be at the school. That she wasn’t invited, that the world didn’t send her a letter, didn’t crack open like an egg for her, oh, heavens, no. She is a lady in a Lev Grossman novel and he will make that bitch buckle first. Got to prove her place in the world, got to shed tears and blood and possibly tears of blood.
But wait, hang on a tick—she’s better at magic than Quentin! (A lot of people are!) And you’re telling me they didn’t want her? When they sent him an envelope and all he had to do was follow a piece of paper and was instantly given a new life and new home? (Even though he was foundationally adequate exactly where he was, even though he’s the only person in the novel whose “foundational magic unhappiness”—no really, quoth the dean I think you’re magicians because you’re unhappy—did I mention that this is the worst magic mythos ever—ANYWAY—whose intrinsic existential despair has…no actual cause? O KAY.) But pish tosh, Quentin is the hero of a magical framework, which means it wouldn’t be the saaaaaaaame if he had to toil-and-trouble his way to the world of magic. We might start doubting he deserved it. (More.)
And ‘sides, all these ladies hanging out being more talented than our hero must have done something really eldritch to get where they are. I mean, they’re ladies. And Alice is, like, fuckable under all her social maladjustment, and maybe if she spends enough time around Quentin she’ll come round to wanting to fuck him—so let’s give her reasons to hate herself as much as he hates himself! Let’s emotionally torture her so her soul can be cracked enough that she may someday sleep with him and think that’s a good idea! Rad framework.
So, the story of Alice’s schoolcoming:
Alice comes from a magical family (who are horrible and estranged to each other)
grows up knowing about magic
and watches her brother go off to school
where he dies essentially from a magical overdose
which is—as these things go—a fairly accidental/self-inflicted death
but apparently (and this is only ever ALLEGED slash ~intuited by quentin but it’s as good as we’re getting) the faculty was like “WHOOPS SO—LET’S NOT INVITE HIS SISTER.”
ACCIDENTS ARE GENETIC.
WE KNOW THIS. WE’RE WIZARDS.
so no magic school for little magician child Alice!
who is mourning her brother and has to deal with the loss of her whole identity
who goes, understandably, FUCK IT
and packs off to school
has no supplies
just gumption and grief
and shows up out of the fucking woods a week later half-starved and half-wild and is like I’M HERE
and is met with the horrified eyes of the faculty
“how did you get here? WHY ARE YOU HERE?”
and they take her
because she passed a test that wasn’t even supposed to be a test because it was impossible
(She is understandably fragile about this in the telling. Quentin’s literal reaction is OMG—SHE’S A PERSON TOO!!)
So, Alice. Who was never given a thing from the narrative. Who is objectively the most skilled person but who never gets credit for it—it is uniformly “Alice and Quentin” who are commended for achievement, despite Quentin being demonstrably worse; it feels as if he’s getting fast-tracked through the story for plotty reasons (it is painfully obvious how much Lev Grossman wants out of the magic school story even as he’s writing it) (WHY ARE YOU WRITING A BOOK THAT MAKES EVEN YOU BITTER) (YOU DOUCHE), despite their treatment of him being patently ridiculous because MEANWHILE ALICE EXISTS.
(First classroom scene ever:
TEACHER: Show us some magic, Quentin!
QUENTIN: *lulz* *does some sleight of hand* *shit-eating grin*
TEACHER: LOL k. How about you how us some magic, Alice.
ALICE: *levitates marble* *illuminates marble*
Next week: THEY BOTH GET FAST-TRACKED TO SECOND YEAR! OKAY!)
Anyway. They’re the weird wunderkinds of the school and every move Quentin makes gets lauded and every time he’s like “wow this is fun okay they know I am full of shit right damn I wish I was Alice O WELP” and meanwhile Alice is working on her own and achieving actual results and he’s like “…that is actual fucking magical proficiency” and it merits little global remark by compare. Okay. But they’re weirdo wunderkinds together who talk and are basically each other’s only possible friends and develop mild obvious codependencies about it and then he fucks her when they’re turned into foxes and it’s weird and animalistic and very much about Him Pinning Her Down And Fucking Her Because She’s In Heat It’s Okay This Is Fine It’s Fine, who needs consent when you have fox anatomy. Okay! They move seamlessly and unchallengedly into a relationship, and it’s terrible because Quentin is terrible. O. Kay. They stay together after school, he goes out every night and flirts with other girls and drinks himself into a daze; she gets a job and goes to sleep at night and he’s like UGHHHHHHH SHE’S SO RESPONSIBLE I HATE MYSELF I’M SUCH AN ASSHOLE BRB DOING THE ASSHOLE THINGS I DO BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONLY THINGS I KNOW HOW TO DO—AND THIS MUST SOMEHOW BE ALICE’S FAULT, RIGHT? Sleeps with another lady.
She finds out. He never apologizes. Not once! She was right, a thousand times right, but if he could just make her see what he saw—if she could only put things in proper perspective. Fucking women. Yes, it’s actively her fault even when it’s not, because she exists and is within five miles of his bottomless unhappiness.
She, understandably not having it, tells him she is not taking his blame, punches him in the fucking face, is like NO, YOU GET OFF ON YOUR OWN UNHAPPINESS, and sleeps with another dude. Which she promptly regrets, and comes round to being basically abashed that she just had revenge sex with someone: fair ‘nough. She even tries to apologize, which he really does not deserve, but whatever, guilt is as guilt does. Quentin flips shit, though. He vilifies her for the entire rest of the narrative, is all BOILING RAGE and BITTER SOULS and shitting ridiculosity like that. Makes her pay. Wants to make her pay. Thinks about nothing but demeaning and degrading her. Lifts all of the sins of the relationship onto her. Is basically a class fucking act about it, obviously.
(Actually, it’s worth noting that while his most constant rage is at Alice, his most intense rage is reserved for—the girl with whom he slept! She was a vampire. She preyed on healthy love and made it sick and crippled. ACTUAL QUOTE. NEVER MIND THAT UM WE HAVE SINGLEHANDEDLY SEEN HIM DESTROY HIS OWN DAMN RELATIONSHIP. Which like, yes, I understand how unreliable narrators work, but the whole text is his POV? Unstintingly? Suffocatingly? (Trust me when I say suffocating. Like, the first thing you know about every woman there is the relative amount that Quentin wants to feel their breasts. Sometimes it’s the last thing you know about them.) So there’s no relief to this, he’s just objectively wrong and objectively terrible and the only person here. And he’s like THIS WHOLE THING IS ALL THESE BITCHES’ FAULT. I’M NOT LIKE PEOPLE. I’M UNHAPPY!!)
UNTIL! The last, oh, ten pages of Alice in-book. At which point she admits to being scared of the fact that they’re in horrible dystopian monster Narnia, he’s like WELL FUCK YOU NOBODY ASKED YOU TO COME and she goes I came to take care of you asshole and he’s like “oh” and then they make out. And he’s NEVER LOVED HER MORE!!
AND THEN THEY GET ATTACKED BY CANNIBAL MONSTER GOD PETER PEVENSIE (basically) AND SHE DIES
NO SHE DOESN’T JUST DIE
SHE SACRIFICES HERSELF
she subsumes herself into a being of pure magic (the same o.d. that her brother did, self-elected) that burns her out from the inside to sacrifice Quentin from being chewed in half by Cannibal Monster God Peter Pevensie
you want to know who else dies? NOBODY. NOBODY ELSE DIES. (Oh except for some chick who was guiding them down. Whatever, who cares about her, right.) BECAUSE ALICE SACRIFICED HERSELF FOR THEM ALL. BUT REALLY FOR QUENTIN.
The theme of this narrative (other than “Alice is a stunning bitch”; she is) is: the ladies bear the trials. The dudes survive to mourn them. The ladies bear the sins of the group and die for the sins of the group—because, because why? Because, I suppose, they bring it on themselves. The ladies who matter most are never part of the elect. They have to bleed all the way through it, until they’ve bled out.
No, that is what it’s like. Because at the same time, Julia exists in The Magicians as Quentin’s original human friend/thwarted lust object who took the wizard-school exam and didn’t get in. And shatters. And learns magic, as we see her, through tooth and claw. The little we see of her, she’s hanging onto both magic and sanity by the skin of her teeth. (She offers to sleep with Quentin if he teaches her magic! And he, in his lofty exalted state, gets to refuse ~the girl of his dreams~ with dignity. Ugh ugh.)
Yeah, so Magician King lets us spend some time with Julia.
Julia is a being of stunning, near-godly power by that point. But GREAT POWER COMES AT A PRICE!! …especially if you are a narratively significant woman in these books, in which case you will have all the power physically and none of the power narratively. But it can’t get worse than Alice, right?
Oh yes it fucking can.
See, Julia never even made it to magic school. She learned it ~~OFF THE STREETS~~ which means magic-hobo safehouses and occasionally basically prostituting herself? Prostituting herself in emotionally graphic detail—not the sex, but how degraded she feels by it, how alienated by her own body, etc. O fucking K. The point is, she wrenches magic into her possession; she’s resilient above all and more than a bit cruel; she survives on her own terms. She’s brilliant, see. Shown, over and over again, this brilliant crackling mind, seen from the inside, seen what it’s capable of doing, from within. And she’s tested, over and fucking over. She’s in a constant cycle of proving herself, which is fascinating—Julia’s brain in action!—and BRAND NEW when laid up against the main narrative (WOULD YOU LIKE A QUEST, QUENTIN? HOW ABOUT NOW? LOL K I GUESS). She has command over her own life? (BRAND NEW.) BECAUSE SHE HAS TO, THOUGH. THE WORLD GLOBALLY FUCKS HER OVER.
The best thing is, though, she’s never unsure of herself. Clinically depressed, yes, narratively debased, oh for suresies, but the inside of Julia’s head is equipped with glittering focus and clarity. She does not doubt her capability. She knows better. Hell, we know better. And finally, she cracks the last test, proves herself throughout more secretive and sharply honed magical undergrounds, and ends up among friends, friends who become family to her, even.
Done? NAH. We know better.
So Julia and her friends decide to approach the godhead, to summon a god. Hang on, no. Julia does not fucking decide to summon a god, Julia is a rigorous rationalist, but her cabal of friendos—led by a dude—is already fixated before she arrives. So she gets talked around because she loves them, goes with the ceremony against her better self, and comes to believe in the goddess they believe they are summoning. To find hope in her, comfort.
JOKES: they summon a trickster god who kills all her friends before her very eyes. All but one! And Julia—you guessed it—sacrifices herself for her friend.
Do you know what that means?
JULIA GETS RAPED BY A GOD.
JULIA GETS RAPED BY A GOD.
THE RAPE—AS DISCUSSED AS SUCH IN-SCENE, HORRIFICALLY—IMBUES HER WITH EXTRAORDINARY POWER, WHICH SHE ADMITS TO HERSELF IN POV, SHAMEFULLY, FEELS WONDERFUL.
THE RAPE IMPLICITLY TEARS HER SOUL OUT OF HER WOMB LINING.
I think it has gotten worse.
Later, this whole godhead shebang almost causes an apocalypse—oh those crazy kids! all dead and/or absent but Julia, who gets to thus singlehandedly shoulder the blame and get patronized by Our Hero Quentin. But Julia achieves ~apotheosis next chapter, when she saves Quentin from the underworld (for the record most boring underworld scene in all of literature, gotdamn) by filling up with power and thus calling down the actual goddess and being turned into a demigoddess through all this—
literally, textually, she says, because she went through something terrible but knew she had to use it to make her stronger.
(Do you know when you’re not allowed to try for rape reclamation narratives? When you’re Lev Grossman, whose protagonist is a vile repeatedly-shown misogynist, who breaks all his female characters on a narrative fucking Catherine wheel. I could have spat.)
So then, much like Alice, the remnants of human Julia are burned away from within. Julia still exists within their magical world, but she went off to go live in a tree. Because she was remade, you see. And she made herself, did she? Yeah because SHE HAD TO BECOME ~STRONGER~ AFTER SHE GOT VIOLENTLY RAPED BY THE GOD SHE NEVER WANTED TO SUMMON IN THE FUCKING FIRST PLACE.
(we are not even talking about how that scene was written; we are not)
the ladies are never given their place
cos the ladies can’t handle their power
so the ladies die for everyone else’s sins
because what the fuck else are they even going to do in this ‘verse
other than be scrutinized through an exclusively sexualized lens
their power and personal resiliency be damned
because Quentin Coldwater exists
And. This shit. Is the only ~genre piece getting ~~srs literary commendation right now. How.