Sleeping Beauties: Chapters 3-5

[Sleeping Beauties Content Note: Trans Exclusion and Erasure, Misogyny, Violence Against Women]

Sleeping Beauties Recap: When this book first popped up on my radar, I expressed some concerns about the content on Twitter. This week, I purchased the book and read through it. As I read, I live-tweeted my thoughts on Twitter. This is a compilation and expansion of my tweets. The live-read will be spread out over multiple posts.

Sleeping Beauties, Part One: The Auld Triangle. Chapter 3-5

(Tweet Link) Update: Chapter 3 is where the horror starts and Stephen King is good at horror so Chapter 3 is good so far. Rejoicing! (Also, I peeked at the reviews and a bunch of men are angry that this book is "man hating" so that helped my flagging interest.)

Eve pretty clearly is the Christian mythological Eve, which fixes a lot of my issues with her? Like, once you're a mythological figure in the flesh, you're not misrepresenting mentally ill people. Be as manic pixie as you want. (Oh god, I think the women are literally being mothballed. I think they're being stored in cocoons so... I'm not sure. Eve can kill the men?)

To my surprise and delight, the narrative is ripping into Domestic Violence guy. I didn't expect that. Yes. Good. If your narrative needs a Domestic Violence Guy, explaining why he's awful and how he could be not awful is a good thing to do.This is genuinely heartening for me because I hated the last S.King story I read because the MC engaged in domestic violence, so seeing an author improve on an issue and clearly "show their work" on why a thing is bad? Very good. Progressive means progress. [Note: It was not. I was being trusting and naive, and got burned. Turns out the Domestic Violence guy is just a big softie who needed a little counseling and to get away from his shrewish wife.]

The horror in this is good, imo, and King's reputation is deserved. There's all these nice little tidbits about moths that the characters are quite reasonably ignoring but you're like OH GOD OH GOD WTF. Like! I, too, would not be super concerned over a couple moths in a musty storeroom but here something is clearly Up and it's nerve-wracking.






*burns my entire house down, just to be sure*

Oh no. The Domestic Violence Guy is black. He may be the first black character; skin color has been hard to nail down for everyone. I'm frustrated. Why would you do that? I don't feel like that was necessary. There was literally no reason for him not to be white. He makes more sense white, dammit. I've been reading him as white! His wife is black too, though, and I like her a lot. So there's that? I guess? (I think all the men are going to be awful? So?) [Note: We are not supposed to like his wife.]

He's... driving to an expensive gated community to violently confront the Mercedes-owning driver who hit a cat that morning. I feel like that would be dangerous for a black man to do in a rural community located in West Virginia. Chapter 3 ends with a black man trying to kick in the door of a wealthy white plastic surgeon and then loudly, violently, and publicly defacing his Mercedes in the middle of the day in an expensive gated neighborhood without anyone noticing or calling the police.

SIGH. Chapter 4 opens with a dig at "pain" (scare quotes used) clinics where opioid drugs can be obtained on demand without scripts.

On the morning Evie Doe (so recorded by Lila Norcross because her prisoner would give no last name) visited Truman Mayweather’s trailer, most of the fourteen thousand or so females in Dooling County awoke as usual and started their day.

Then... okay, back to the gender stuff. There's some weird things here.

I can't tell yet if King is using "females" (rather than "woman") to include girls of all ages, or if he's trying to do that thing cis people do where they want to call trans men and AFAB (assigned female at birth) ebys "female sex" despite our gender. If the latter, then that would put us back in the realm of a weird biological plague that is not affecting all the women. IF THAT IS THE CASE (not sure yet!) the premise is instantly misgendering: Eve is not the only woman awake, lots of women are awake. God, and there's a real horror novel for you: being a trans woman in a world where merely being awake outs you instantly as trans.

The other surreal thing is they're calling it the "sleeping" flu and focusing on sleep when the main symptom is extruding a face cocoon. The fact that the victims are asleep whilst doing it is the least interesting facet of this disease. How is it not called Mothface Flu?????

Imagine if you're in the movie Alien, right? And you see Kain with a facehugger on his face, right? You wouldn't be like "this is worrisome--he shouldn't be asleep in the middle of the day". You'd be like FUCK THERE'S SOMETHING ON HIS FACE. This is like calling someone with a facehugger on their face "Aurora Stricken" because they won't wake up. Like. Who would... why?

A tiny, cocoon-swaddled face rested against each of her breasts. She was screaming like a fire siren, bringing doctors and nurses running. “Someone help my babies! They won’t wake up! They won’t wake up for anything!”

I'm not even exaggerating, that's literally how people are describing the face cocoons: as being unable to wake up! I just don't understand how humans would fixate on sleep as the problem worth describing rather than the MASSIVE FACE COCOON.

Only news, and all of it was about the mysterious sleeping sickness, the one that affected only those with the XX chromosome.

Oh fucking hell, there it is: "the XX chromosome". So, yeah, "females" is going to here be used to mean trans men and AFAB enbys.

Okay, pause while we break this down.

One: Trans men are going to be affected by this chromosomal biological plague. Since you cannot tell who is a trans man and who isn't by looking, early reports of the plague should have included reports of afflicted men. Because men are afflicted, dammit. Trans men are men. But even the most cis-centric trans-hostile news source would report them as men, at first, because they wouldn't know to misgender them. They wouldn't know they were trans men, and therefore wouldn't know to misgender them. Clear?

Now, okay, later, doctors might start adding up that all the men in their care were trans men. They might even breach patient confidentiality to say so. But the first wave of news about the scary encroaching plague would've been "it affects almost all the women and some men". Those reports of men would be important and not glossed over, because those reports would communicate to a frightened populace that no one is safe. Understand? Even if cis men are safe, they won't realize that until much later (if at all).

Two: This entire premise, wherein men are alone in a world without women, is now bunk. There's lots of women awake. Life is now going to become terrifying for them because they have to decide whether to closet themselves--which will be impossible for some! For example, a public figure like Caitlyn Jenner can't re-closet; she's famous enough that the men will still remember she's a trans woman.

Additionally, private individuals wouldn't know they need to re-closet immediately, so there would be reports of immune women up and walking around. Because there are immune women walking around! Trans women are women! But you can't tell who is cis and who is trans by looking. And it would take time to realize all of the immune women aren't XX. It could take months or even years to realize only XX chromosome people are affected, depending on how much power the governments have to force waking women to submit to tests.

Third: The magical mythological Eve has now lost all impact for me because whatever magic is behind this doesn't know about trans women. How can I be scared of a mystical Christianesque god figure who doesn't know trans people exist? I can't be. Impossible.

octothorpe scares @thelittlepakeha  not to mention a ton of different chromosomal abnormalities. does the disease affect XXY people? what about XY with androgen insensitivity?

Fourth: Even setting aside trans women, not all cis women are going to be affected by this plague! Not all cis women have XX chromosomes! Chromosomes don't work that way! And I really don't understand why the plague is chromosomal anyway; you already have blatant magic, so why not make it magic?

Fifth: As I pointed out in a reply elsewhere, there's no way they've tested the chromosomes of all these patients yet, so the news can't report that only XX chromosomes are afflicted. You can't tell someone's chromosomes by looking at them!

Sixth: A man coming down with mothface flu would be reported! It's terrifying! MEN ARE NOT SAFE. You can't write something like this and just handwave that no one talked about the trans cases. We'd be sensationalized. A sleeping man would be reported on the news as proof that men aren't safe and we have no idea who will be next and omg omg omg hide. A waking woman would be reported on the news as proof that not all women are doomed and the human race isn't going to die out. Yes, these would be trans men and trans women but we wouldn't know that right away. You can't tell transness by looking at us.

Coming back to the book, some women are still awake, so I'm not sure if the timeline is jumping around or if the ad copy was wrong. Lila is still awake and is taking Eve to the prison to see her husband, Clint, the psychiatrist. Apparently Eve herself arranged this by pretending to be a self-harm risk, which means Eve knows Clint is the protagonist. This troubles me. All the women in the novel (save Lila, who is troubled by his secret daughter) talk him up a lot more than I talk up the men in my life. So there's some Protagonist Syndrome going on, and Eve seems to know it if she's arranging to be his patient. *strokes chin*

“It’s real, Mom, and it’s any woman. Elderly, infant, young, middle-aged. Any woman who sleeps. So: don’t go to sleep.”

Ah, okay, so you have to GO to sleep first, like the Body Snatchers illness. "Don't tell anyone...pandemonium" is kinda touchingly naive when everyone will know in roughly 24 hours anyway.

“I mean, they aren’t waking up. They’re forming these—they’re like cocoons. Membranes, coatings. The cocoons seem to be partly cerumen—ear wax—partly sebum, which is the oily stuff on the sides of your nose, partially mucus, and . . . something else no one understands, some kind of strange protein. It reforms almost as quick as it comes off, but don’t try to take it off. There have been—reactions. Okay?

The "no removal" thing has been hyped up a couple times now, so I'm hoping it'll be suitably satisfying when some hapless man tries.

Is it strange that a national TV news reporter is pulling the "don't tell anyone" card? She's not government or medical personnel. Why would she even know? I guess... the medical people contacted the news crews and politely asked them not to tell the whole story? She's also an up-and-coming journalist clawing her way to stardom! She has the scoop of a century and less than 12 hours to use it! It's going to come out, and she's going to sleep and succumb, why wouldn't she want to make her last report her swan song?

Pretend you know--you know for a fact--that you are dying of a plague. Do you spend your last hours lying meekly about it or record yourself going out in a blaze of glory? Every dogged news reporter filming a kaiju attack on NYC while it happens or whatever hopes their footage will be found! Why is this news starlet not lining up to broadcast 24/7 while she valiantly fights sleep and describes her symptoms to a national audience?

I think I'm sublimating my upsetedness over the trans stuff into this, but this is not realistic! This is breaking the Journalism Character rule. If you have a West Virginia sweetie who ambitiously clawed her way to the top ranks of TV journalism, she doesn't bury stories! I can SEE the movie, for god's sake: 

SCENE: The determined spunky reporter barges into her boss' office (camera man trailing meekly behind her) and slaps the desk.

"Mika, what the fuck," the boss says, spilling coffee on his expensive tie.

"The story of the century is here," she yells perkily. "We're going to a live-feed broadcast of me interviewing people while I try not to sleep."

Then we end up with Mika behind a desk narrating her symptoms for the audience as she tragically falls asleep to the horror of her viewers. The Reporter Starlet stock-character is ambitious and good-hearted, willing to sacrifice herself for a good cause but also fame.

Okay. Sorry. I'm sorry. I got worked up and there was sugar. I'm good now. Back to the book.

And you’re going to have some hard decisions to make. You need to figure out what you’re going to do with your prison.” “With my prison?” “Your inmates are going to start falling asleep.” “Oh,” Janice said. She suddenly did see. At least sort of.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd I'm immediately confused again. Why would this even come up? Literally every woman on earth is about to fall asleep, there's nothing Janice CAN do. I'm trying to imagine phoning my mother with this news. "Stay awake," I'd say, "get to a doctor. Not Dr. Bob, but the hospital. There's a new test [there's always rumors of a new test] that they're trying. Have them check you out. Put you on a drip. STAY AWAKE."

You'd want to:
- prevent the event horizon (i.e., keep her from going to sleep)
- ensure physical safety (i.e., get her body to a safe location)
- arrange for medical care (i.e., get in line to try for a cure)

I just don't see "consider reorging your workplace around this" to be a priority here, esp. given how we dehumanize prisoners in general.

Curt said, “I wish there was a magic potion to put girls to sleep so you could bang em without having to butter them up first.” “There is,” Eric said. “It’s called roofies.”

[TW: Rape] I was afraid we would come to this idea. I mean, it goes along with the premise: every woman on earth in a coma means every woman is vulnerable to physical harm. Which.... I really really hope is handled with care because. Because. Yeah. Do not want. ....Okay, apparently it looks like the cocoon coverings will eventually be "full body" and not just face, so maybe we'll have no rapes. Yay! ("Of the sleepers," xie adds with a start, suddenly remembering there are awake people to rape and Man Planet plots tend to go there. noooo.)

[TW] ....there is literally a rape happening right now. Why did I ever have hope. I know better than to have hope, I do, and yet I did and now I feel foolish. An officer who was mildly scolded by the lady warden for sexual harassment is now forcing himself on a prisoner.

The officer lives and we cut away to the news doing something... really fucking weird. Mika now is reporting the outbreak but in the weirdest, most circuitous way possible: via reporting on a Waco-esque cult. Specifically, a Waco-esque cult has sent in a video tape of their leader bitching about their women being cocooned by the Feds. This is a world-wide phenomena. Earlier we saw cellphones in North Korea used to break open news re: an earthquake, so we know cell phones exist and that means people are recording and uploading video that isn't, well, this. Why, in the face of a world-wide phenomena any asshole with a cell could report on, would you care about what 2017 Jim Jones thinks?

"Of course the Weird Cult has a Weird Cult spin on this," we would think. "Get me actual doctors on the news, not raisin bran." Doctors would not be in short supply to report on this! The feds can't keep every doctor from speculating on national television! The whole setup introduces us to the Bright Ones cult early, which I know will be important because they were in the Cast of Characters, but it's jarring because this is 100% how you would never ever ever report on a situation like this. Ever. [Note: The Bright Ones are never ever mentioned again. I cannot fathom why they were in the cast of characters, especially when at least one woman--who gives birth to a baby!--is not.]

Also, this conflicts with Mika's earlier insistence not to tell anyone, so. I just. Why? At what stage do you think, "you know, maybe we should tell everyone, but let's do so via the ravings of a dangerous cult leader"? "That will keep pandemonium--which I'm established as caring about--to a minimum!"

Oh god, it's even worse than I thought; the Bright Ones footage is being used because they tried to remove the cocoon sheeting. I mean. I don't think this will reduce panic, but it might keep people from trying it at home. I can't say for sure because the scene cuts away. For as much as "don't remove the webbing!" is being hyped, I'm expecting laser vaginas. Anything less will be disappointing.

Okay, apparently the women go feral when disturbed and beat men to death with plastic cups. Anton the Pool Boy is possibly dead. I'm disappointed on multiple levels. .....Yes, Anton is death #3. So we now know that the confusingly laid out Cast of Characters was not in order of death. So ends Chapter 5.


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