Last time on our House of Night review of doom, we discussed Marked, its protagonist, Zoey Redbird, and their unabashed mutual loathing of women. Today, we’re going to take a look at Marked as it addresses a wider variety of social issues – and then fucks them up brilliantly! Should be fun!
Occasionally, we hear praise for House of Night as a feminist series.
No, really, we’ve read that. The sheer amount of slut-shaming, jealousy, and girl-hatred that pretty much defines Zoey, her friends, and their relationships with other girls alone is enough to put that praise in doubt, but the more intriguing part is, even Marked itself seems to want to dispel that idea.
“We got the names from Greek mythology. They were the three sisters of the Gorgon and Scylla. Myth says they were born as hags who shared an eye, but we decided that was probably just bullshit male-dominant propaganda written by human men who wanted to keep strong women down.”“Feminist? Me?” Marked cries, scrambling wildly backwards to avoid being tainted by the vile feminazi cooties. “Never! Don’t you see what I did there? That’s a feminist – those angry, man-hating harpies who have theories and opinions about oppression and history and stuff. Not me! Zoey’s the hero, and she thinks all that stuff is weird and stupid and soooo not cool! So we’re good now, right? Don’t let the girl-in-power stuff scare you in to thinking I’m some kind of radical feminazi propaganda! I promise, this is not a book about equality or how awesome vaginas are! In fact, I think vaginas are pretty icky! Especially when you use them!”
“Really?” I didn’t know what else to say. Really.
“Yeah,” Deino said. “Human men suck.”
“They should all die,” Enyo said.
On that lovely thought the music suddenly started, making it impossible (thankfully) to talk.
That’s pretty much what we heard in our heads after reading that passage. Seeing these statements coming from the villainess’ evil-and-oh-yeah-skanky-too hench-women not only perpetuates that Straw Feminist trope with even more contextual negativity, but also shits on an understanding of patriarchy and oppression and cultural narratives that are a big part of normal feminist discussion. It’s troubling to us that many girls’ first introduction to these ideas is one that encourages them not to consider their implications, but to blithely dismiss them as unimportant, strange, and off-putting; as something that only bitter, angry, uncool girls would ever bother thinking about.
But hey, you know what, this is absolutely within her rights as an author. Cast is free to awkwardly espouse whatever viewpoints she likes with her sixteen-year-old hand puppets; it’s her book. Luckily, we are equally free to find said book dumber, repulsive, and more insulting for doing so.
But really, when you think about it, Marked is one big wasted girl-positive opportunity. Admittedly, it has an interesting premise, and the set-up for the world is rife with possibility for great powerful characters, new dynamics, and unique portrayals. But as it is, what little girl-power or socially “progressive” stuff we get is lip-service. Despite the matriarchal society, there’s not even a whole lot that’s different about the way the world ends up running on a local level.
Gender roles are still essentially the same – babies aren’t an issue, of course, because vampire – but the women are still the priestesses, the magic-wielders, the healers, and the men? They have one role, and it’s very strictly defined:
“What we know is that just because a society is matriarchal, as ours is, it does not automatically mean that it is anti-male. Even Nyx has a consort, the god Erebus, to whom she is devoted. The Amazons were unique, though, in that they were a society of vampyre women who chose to be their own warriors and protectors. As most of you already know, our society today is still matriarchal, but we respect and appreciate the Sons of Night, and consider them our protectors and consorts…”WE DON’T HATES THE MEN WE PROMISE. And okay, fine, cool, a matriarchal society doesn’t have to inherently devalue dudes; there is plenty of duties men and women can share. But OH WAIT, that’s not how this works, because the men are the protectors.
You lay claim to the Amazons as a vampyre culture and then promptly dump on them with “Lol oh those warrior women, they are so adorable and not commonplace! Why should they be? We have the mens to protect us and sex us,” and that is literally all they are good for.
Should they fail to live up to that expectation? Prepare to have your ass kicked right back into line, soldier:
“Elliott, you are, of course, failing Lit. But what’s more important, you’re failing life. Vampyre males are strong, honorable, and unique. They have been our warriors and protectors for countless generations. How do you expect to make the Change into a being who is more warrior than man if you do not practice the discipline it takes even to stay awake in class?”Lol, Elliot, you are FAILING LIFE by not being UNIQUE like all the other male vampires. But yes, Elliott, how do you expect to fulfill our society’s expectations of your manhood if you continue being so weak and unmanly? It’s totally okay that we shame you this way, and to push you towards a role that other people have set for you.
Again, this shit isn’t here to be interrogated – as if House of Night ever aspired to such depth. It’s here because this is how the world works, and it’s AWESOME and EQUALITY, RIGHT? Uh no. A truly equal society would, oh, I don’t know, allow female and male vampires to fill whatever fucking roles they felt like! Female warriors, male priests, male healers, female fencing instructors, etc. It wouldn’t put women on pedestals for their magical religious awesomeness, nor would it need, want, or force men to “protect” them. This isn’t a glamorous, progressive society – it’s a run-of-the-mill cult.
At any rate, we’ve gone on about the women and society and whatnot, but don’t worry kids, there is plenty of shit to go around! House of Night is an equal opportunity hate-fest, and there doesn’t seem to be one group that Marked isn’t cool with casually slamming, because apparently it has to meet some sort of asshole quota. Let’s see, how about we take it from the top?
House of Night on:
Do vampyres play chess? Were there vampyre dorks? How about Barbie-like vampyre cheerleaders? Did any vampyres play in the band? Were there vampyre Emos with their guy-wearing-girl’s-pants weirdness and those awful bangs that cover half their faces? Or were they all those freaky Goth kids who didn’t like to bathe much? Was I going to turn into a Goth kid? Or worse, an Emo? I didn’t particularly like wearing black, at least not exclusively, and I wasn’t feeling a sudden and unfortunate aversion to soap and water, nor did I have an obsessive desire to change my hairstyle and wear too much eyeliner.AHAHAHA WE’RE LAUGHING SO HARD RIGHT NOW YOU GUYS. Be careful there, Cast, you might end up alienating your fanbase. OH WAIT, I’m pretty sure most Goths and Emos have more sense than to read this shit.
“And Morgan has clearly begun losing her mind, which is why she’s piercing her…” I glanced at Heath and reconsidered. “Her body and smoking [pot]. Tell me someone normal who’s smoking.”Too much fail…in one sentence…we just…can’t…SERIOUSLY?
“Don’t you think baby corns are scary? There’s just something wrong about their midget bodies.”Oh Cast, you and your casual use of slurs as descriptors.
There is, of course, the frequent and infamous use of the word “retard” – classy – but we’ll discuss that more in later books.
Oh, but here’s the very best: House of Night on EATING DISORDERS:
She wasn’t thin like the freak girls who puked and starved themselves into what they thought was Paris Hilton chic.
Right. Will you excuse us a moment?
FUCK YOU UP AND DOWN THE FUCKING HALL, ZOEY.
Anorexia and bulimia? NOT just a way that “freak girls” diet. They’re medical and psychological disorders that have a lot of other emotional complications that go along with them, and they are NOT something people do for fun. Any human being with a brain and a soul knows this, and most probably know someone who has or is suffering from it – we certainly have. So, fuck you, Zoey. And you know what? Fuck you, PC Cast. People struggle with this, and there is enough shame involved with eating disorders out there without a popular YA book calling girls who suffer from it “freaks”.
By the way, there is absolutely no reason for any of these comments. They serve NO purpose in the text. Like the digs on women, they’re just rude, superfluous quips made to put people down, and presumably attempt to be funny, and that’s not fucking cool. If you’re not going to engage with a subject or say something important about it, don’t fucking bring it up at all.
Not that engaging a subject for more than a millisecond worked out terribly well, either. Take our token gay character, Damian, for example. This is how he’s introduced:
“And this is the token guy in our group, Damien Maslin. But he’s gay, so I don’t really think he counts as a guy.”Oh Stevie Ray, your ignorance is adorable. But wait, there’s more!
Instead of getting pissed at Stevie Rae, Damien looked serene and unruffled. “Actually, since I’m gay I think I should count for two guys instead of just one. I mean, in me you get the male point of view and you don’t have to worry about me wanting to touch your boobies.”OF COURSE. There you have it, kids. This is what the book thinks of gay men in a nutshell. This pretty much encapsulates both Damian’s personality and his function in the story: he is the perfect “gay BFF”. He exists purely to serve Zoey and her friends, to be the “brains” of their operation, and the defining point of his existence is how he relates to the straight girls – he can give them boy advice without wanting their boobies! Omg you guys, he is the BEST ACCESSORY EVER!
Damian is “acceptably” gay – he doesn’t get angry when his “friends” tell him that he doesn’t count as a guy, he isn’t a “swishy girly-guy” (Zoey’s contribution), or “too weird and girly”, which is what Stevie Rae deems every other gay man that attends the school. He is just gay right.
Fuck you, House of Night.
As for lesbians?
“There’re a few girls who are lesbians and totally out, but even though a couple of them are cool and hang with the rest of us they mostly stick together. They’re way into the religious aspect of Goddess worship and spend most of their time in Nyx’s Temple.ALL THE LESBIANS, guys. They are a hivemind, you see, incapable of having separate personalities and interests. All the lesbians are goddess-loving lesbian priestess stereotypes.
Fuck you, House of Night. Christ, we wish Nyx had given her super-special awesome goddess touch to one of them.
Then there’s Shaunee, our token black character. And wow, does the book want you to remember that. In the scene where Shaunee is first introduced, we hear about her blackness not once, not twice, but five times, mostly in loving, exotifying detail. Observe:
She was the color of cappuccino (the kind you get from real coffee shops and not the nasty, too-sweet stuff you get from Quick Trip) and all curvy with pouty lips and high cheekbones that made her look like an African princess. She also had some seriously good hair. It was thick and fell in dark, glossy waves around her shoulders. Her eyes were so black they looked like they didn’t have any pupils.Zoey’s insipid aside aside, really? African princess? Zoey actually calls her this (“Do not make me cut that Jessica Simpson look-alike blond hair of yours off in the middle of the night,” the African princess said), before she learns her name. Lovely. Note that Stevie Rae, Aphrodite, and/or Erin are never “the Anglo princess”. And of course, she has cappuccino/mocha/some-form-of-coffee colored-skin, as usual. How utterly original.
This whole introduction, to us, screams, “EXOTIC! – EXOTIC, YOU GUYS, Shaunee is SO EXOTIC, you get that she’s exotic and different, right? I have a non-white character, that is so UNTYPICAL. I DEMAND INCLUSION COOKIES!” It’s especially obvious when you compare the descriptions of Shanuee to the ones we get of her “twin”, Erin. She is either just “an extremely white girl” (Damian) or a “ridiculously pretty blonde” (Zoey), while even casually, Shaunee is always at least “of Jamaican decent and a lovely mocha color” (Damian). Aw, what, no food descriptions for Erin? Skin like liquid creamer? No?
Shaunee and Erin, by the way, are pretty much the same person. In fact, that’s their schtick – they love ALL THE SAME THINGS, OMG, and awkwardly refer to one another as “twin” at the end of every sentence. It’s SO FUNNY, LOL, and totally not, say, a way of avoiding the creation and maintenance of a separate and unique character! Anyway, we’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason we get the endless descriptions of Shaunee’s “blackness” during her introduction is because the book wants to make damn sure that you don’t forget those inclusion cookies. WE’RE SO DIVERSE, Y’ALL.
Bonus drive-by racism:
Two girls were standing behind her, dressed in much the same way. One was black, with impossibly long hair (must be a really good weave), and the other was yet another blonde (who, on closer inspection of her brows, was probably, I decided, as much a natural blonde as I am).Oh Zoey, you complete and utter racist fuckhead. Notice the blatant double-standard there, by the way: Shaunee can have amazing hair naturally, but one of Aphrodite’s evil posse? Must be a weave. Oh god, we can’t believe that actually came from the “heroine”.
Also, implicit cattiness much? LOL SHE DYES HER HAIR, WHAT A FAKE LOSER. Speaking of which, how about we talk about House of Night and ugliness? This should be good.
This first time we got an inkling of something being amiss, it’s in Zoey’s description of her mother’s prayer tree. She says:
Within thirty minutes our house would begin to fill up with fat women and their beady-eyed pedophile husbands.Ahahaha, you see, because all
Further on, we get more concrete proof of this hypothesis.
“They want us to eat healthy for the same reason they make us exercise every day―so that our bodies are as strong as possible, because if you start getting weak or fat or sick, that’s the first sign that your body is rejecting the Change.”Ah, so yes, ugly is literally bad, it’s a bad sign. Fat and/or weakly, sick vampires? Death sentence. Only beautiful vampires ever make the change, because Nyx cannot be represented by the fatties, okay. She has a reputation to uphold.
Naturally, the book is kind enough to even give us a living, breathing example of this horrifying phenomenon known as “ugliness”. Everyone, meet Elliot:
This one had his head down on his arms and he was sound asleep, which I knew because his chubby, way-too-white-and-freckled face was turned in my direction. His mouth was open, and I think he might have been drooling a little.
Oh, great, that annoying redheaded Elliott kid was slouching against the wall kicking at the sawdust floor. He raised enough dust to make the girl standing closest to him sneeze. She threw him a dirty look and moved a few steps away. God, did he irritate everyone? And why couldn’t he use some product (or perhaps a comb) on that nappy hair?
The hood on the dark cloak fell back, and I was shocked to see bright orange-red, bushy, unattractive hair and a pudgy too-white and freckled face.We get it Zoey, you think he’s ugly. No need to mention it every single time you see him.
Elliot is a constant object of ridicule and source of disgust for Zoey, right up to – and even following – his death. Every time she mentions him, it’s to comment snidely on his gross hair, his disgusting coughing (how DARE he!), or how annoying his general presence is. He does absolutely nothing throughout the book except be disgusting, and snap a homophobic slur at Damian, most likely thrown in so that Zoey doesn’t look like a superficial asshole for hating him on sight. He is completely dehumanized. No matter what is going on with or happening to him, neither Zoey nor the text shows him any sympathy.
Her reaction to finding out that the Dark Daughters used him as a “refrigerator”, essentially a vampyre water cooler?
I drank blood―that horrid Elliott kid’s blood – and I’d liked it!Not, “Oh my god, this kid was reduced to an object for other people’s use,” but, “Ewwww cooties,” and “Ewwww, sexuality metaphor!!!”
As he’s hacking himself to death in the classroom:
Elliott’s coughing got worse, and with the rest of the class, I turned to give him a dirty look. I mean, please. Could he not get a cough drop or a drink or whatever?Oh Zoey, you are a font of boundless empathy. Truly, you deserve this exalted position that Nyx has put you in.
And finally, the response to his death:
“No one liked Elliott, and somehow I think that makes it worse,” Stevie Rae said. “It was weirdly easier with Elizabeth. At least we could feel honestly sorry she was gone.”
“I know what you mean. I feel upset, but I know I’m really upset that I saw what can happen to us and now I can’t get it out of my mind, and not upset that the kid’s dead.”
Okay, I admit that I hadn’t liked Elliott ― no one had. The kid was annoying and unattractive (and his ghost or whatever seemed to be carrying on those traits), but I was not glad he died.Ahahaha, you guys are assholes. No seriously, this is how the text treats the only character that isn’t drop-dead gorgeous. Zoey says this herself – “he was annoying and unattractive” – not “a homophobic prick”, but “annoying and unattractive“. That is why it is perfectly acceptable for everyone to treat him like sub-human rot.
Fuck you, House of Night.
It’s telling that Elliott goes on to become one of the few Red Fledgelings who chooses to stay evil.
But that’s House of Night for you. It plays at being progressive and socially enlightened (omg, we has a gay! and a matriarchy!), but any sort of thoughtful evaluation quickly proves otherwise. That’s the problem with the kind of absolutist shit that PC Cast just sprinkles thoughtlessly throughout this new world – people are not absolutely anything. To say or act like all of any group of people is (blank) – especially historically oppressed groups – is to rip off your trousers and expose your stupid ass.
It’s also bad writing, but luckily, that’s the subject of tomorrow’s post…