Friday, February 13, 2015

Michelle Remembers, Chapter 11

This is another fairly short chapter. I'd bundle it into the next one; but despite having a low page count and not a whole lot going on, it still manages to be packed so full of fail that it warrants a post to itself. So. Let's get the talking points out of the way, one at a time:

Exhibit A: This book is racist.

     These things do exist in the world. Dr. Pazder knew that from his own experience. In Africa he had encountered beliefs and practices that, had he not observed them directly, he would not have believed could exist within humanity--sacrifices, cannibalism, rituals of every sort that responded to inconceivably complex psychological or mystical requirements. And in his own work as a psychiatrist he occasionally had patients with dark drives and fears and desires that, if encouraged by persons similarly afflicted, could surely have been manifested in bizarreness and cruelty on this order.

All the reasons I hate this paragraph, in no particular order:

1. Class act, that Pazder. He doesn't come right out and say that he thinks native African religious practices are the products of diseased minds, oh no! He just alludes to them as part of his past experience, making them sound as awful and creepy as possible. Then he describes in the very next sentence (non-African) patients of his who totes would've done the same sick things if they'd had gross uncivilized people around to convince them to give in to their unnatural urges, and leaves us to make the rather obvious inference.

2. Tarring a whole continent with the same brush is not cool. While there is cannibalism in some African cultures, not all cultures practice it. Also, did you know that one African country has been a predominantly Christian nation, with a large Jewish population (two religions I'm pretty sure don't practice cannibalism) since the fourth century? You'd never know if you asked Pazder, who seems to think that the place is just crawling with nothing but gibbering be-loinclothed people-eaters.

3. Traditional African faiths =/= Satanism.

4. Yes, some African religious beliefs do indeed lead to problematic crap. Know what other set of religious beliefs can lead to problematic crap, Pazder? Your own beloved Roman Catholicism. Assholes justifying monstrous behavior with religious ideology is a problem for every race and culture, not just something antiquated and strange that those ethnic people do.

5. Look at the map above. That map is the result of attitudes like this (Africans are savage and backward; their "religions" are the product of mental illness) taken to its logical conclusion. Notice how very few areas are marked "independent?" Well, when you're a white person bringing the light of civilization to those poor benighted African peoples--who naturally need you to save them from themselves--you've got to keep an eye on them to make sure the lesson takes, right? So go ahead; park yourself there and declare yourself in charge! Nobody will mind--nobody who can stop you, anyway. And if you can make some money as part of the deal, then it's a win-win proposition for you! Just try not to cause the deaths of too many native workers, though, or history will hate you (though you'll still be rich as fuck. Because there is no justice in the universe.) 

TL;DR: One of the authors of this book holds some cringe-worthy views on native African religions, and I die a little inside every time he alludes to his experiences in Africa.

Exhibit B: Too much of this book reads like a bad romance novel.

He realized that her pain was affecting him deeply. It was not just her pain now, it was also in some measure his pain too. He was suffering with her. And he felt instinctively, like Michelle, that he too must cry, must give vent to his own feelings.

He had entered her pain and was there inside it with her.

Dr. Pazder did not look on her then as an attractive twenty-eight-year-old woman...Sometimes she would have her head on his shoulder. But he was careful about the way he touched her. 

You're not fooling anyone, either of you. This is some abstinence porn bullshit that puts Stephanie Meyer to shame and I'm getting sick of it.

Exhibit C: Michelle continues to have inexplicable sacredness-sensing superpowers.

The last scene of the chapter shows Michelle being forced to defecate on a cross and a Bible. We're told that she's "horrified" when she finds out what she's done, and tries to clean the objects up a little while the nurse's back is turned to avoid "falling apart from the guilt." I hate to beat this point into the ground, but...why? You told us that Michelle was raised without religion, book. Then you tell us she's overcome with horror at defacing holy symbols, for no other reason than the fact that she recognizes them as holy somehow. You can't have it both ways.

Exhibit D: The villains continue to be dunderheads.

After the scene at the graveyard, the nurse takes Michelle back to the house where the lump woman was killed in her unexpectedly and inexplicably cool car ("long and black with running boards and a silver statue of a springing cat mounted on its hood") and forces Michelle to walk with her. Like, literally forces Michelle to walk with her, as in she keeps the kid glued to her side and forces her to move her leg in synch with hers. The book says that they moved as if "they were joined together for a three-legged race," though it doesn't specify whether they're actually tied together.

Huh. I wonder how long that lasted. Did the nurse go to her day job (she must have; how else could she pay for her sweet vintage car?) with Michelle hobbling along beside her? How did she explain that to her colleagues? "Oh, it's Bring a Battered Child Captive to Work Day. It' obscure western Canadian thing. You wouldn't understand."

Also, the nurse keeps trying to teach Michelle stuff:

The nurse read to her frequently, but in a language she didn't understand, reciting passages over and over again...

Hey, rote learning! Raise your hand if you had a teacher in school who tried to get you to learn something by repeating it to you--or making you write it--over and over again. Now keep those hands up if you hated this teaching technique with the screeching fury of a million demon-possessed electric guitars wielded by the vengeful ghost of Jimi Hendrix and promptly dumped whatever knowledge that teacher was trying to beat into you from your memory forever out of pure spite.

Oh. Just me, then? Huh. No wonder I still suck at math.

     "Denounce God," the nurse said to her. But Michelle did not know what "denounce" meant.
     "I don't know how," she told the nurse with a trace of defiance.
     "Well, you'd better learn," the nurse told her. "If you don't learn now, you'll be in big trouble later."

ASDFGHJKL;ASDFGHJKL; YOU ARE THE TEACHER, WOMAN. If Michelle does not "learn now" because you jump in with thesaurus a-blazing, using big words that the six-year-old child doesn't understand and then don't bother explaining them to her, that is entirely your fault.

By the way, nurse, you could have avoided all this trouble if you'd just been thinking. If only you'd bought yourself a newborn baby and raised it in your faith, you'd already have a child who knows exactly what to do when ordered to denounce God and you wouldn't have to wrangle some stranger's recalcitrant, clueless six-year-old.

Then again, given your and your colleagues' level of competence so far, you'd probably find a way to make a hash of that, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment