Post by Mattheus Oliviera:

Although incest in particular isn’t a core concern of mine, a lot of my interests lie in how people imagine non-normative and explicitly taboo romances. It really is an interest in how we want our romantic writing to look. This paper is then not an exploration into any actual romances that we could find out there in the news, online, or through coded rumors. More importantly, this is not an argument for or against. Rather, it is a survey on how we creatively imagine these romances to play out. I am currently looking at incestuous romances as they occur in television, film, novels, novellas, manga, and graphic novels.  The some of the current relationships under question are siblings, twins, uncle and niece, cousins, and the shaky step-relation.

haha incest

The meme makes light of an otherwise commonly grim concern – generally – for many people while capitalizing on Star Wars fandom. Without much effort, we could find expansive conversations where fans debate the potential romantic relationship between Luke and Leia despite the romantic conclusion of Leia and Han Solo’s pairing at the end of Episode VI. With the new lead Rei’s missing parents a hot question amongst fans, we see this conversation come up yet again. Yet despite the heat generated in these conversations, it’s a minor concern as we bite our fingers in anticipation of more information on this new group of sith lords wreaking havoc on the galaxy.

Stepping back from Star Wars, however, the taboo against incest is well observed and quickly jumped upon when any relationship bubbles up into the public sphere. All well and good and a concern for an entirely different project. Despite the relatively scary conversation that happens in real life, a cursory glance at work we give high school students to read such as The God of Small Things, The Metamorphosis, and the programs we air on television such as A Game of Thrones and Card Captor Sakura lead me to believe that incest is that horrendous. And I think the porn companies would agree with me. And the fandoms.

My preliminary observations haven’t revealed anything particularly astounding, although works have started to reveal trends. Some works have the anti-incest agenda slathered across all of its writing, with the clearest example found in Flowers in the Attic. These texts treat incest as the main subject matter, and are the ones that offer a – oftentimes problematic – stance. It is most certainly the case that the family is suffering, but all the pain we see comes from the paranoia and greed of the grandmother and mother. Alternatively, Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary throws away all paranoia and illustrates us a narrative where brother and sister have to escape not only divine Christian judgement for their love, but a messy revolution that takes places over a series of reincarnations. Setsuna and Sara are most certainly the core of our concerns, and the heaven and hell war narrative only pushes the readers towards a peaceful resolution for them.

Works that treat incest alongside a host of other taboos are less explicit. Yun Kouga’s Earthian concerns itself with combating homosexuality, and incest comes up as another taboo amongst other characters. The repetition of arguments in defense of homosexuality get most notably re-appropriated by Lucifel in her defense of her affections for Michael, her twin brother. Elvira’s rapid physical growth in response to her love for her father can be juxtaposed as a romance without a need for arguments. Every imagined stance can be contested in these works. More stateside narratives show similar narrative practices. Game of Thrones most certainly draws us in over and over with Cersei and Jamie’s romance, but beyond intentionally vague arguments Cersei makes over the seasons, the writing reveals no inherent judgement on her relationship. It’s difficult for a host of very obvious reasons, not because it’s deemed as evil as a certain village of systematic incestuous rape (granted the village gets treated like a problem-of-the day rather than a consistent subplot).

Finally we have works that just have incestuous relationships but leaves them ignore or vague. Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things doesn’t particularly care that the twins sleep together, but does care about how their personal relationship changes in general. CLAMP’s Card Captor Sakura showered audiences with adorable outfits and sweet magical hijinks, but didn’t spend too much time on Tomoyo’s open love for Sakura. Incest is there yet it doesn’t have any weight as a narrative catalyst. A Marxist revolution and the chaos of a freed deck of destructive spirits seems to be a bigger concern.

It should be pretty obvious now that my research has largely divided itself into Eastern and Western thinking. As it stands, the cultural differences between the two – incredibly generalized – spheres of thought have not clashed in these preliminary notes. I have yet to decide where there is a space for fan works in general, although I feel that there are strong merits to include the types of relationships fans are imagining/reading. My work now is the meticulous one of categorizing and wrapping my head around the research of other writers. If anyone has questions or suggestions (even as we are about to jump into the new semester) I would be eager to hear them.