Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's the deal with incest?

I watch True Blood, so I think those of you out there who watch it know where this blog post may be heading. But first, a few words. As far as the vampire series goes, it took a long time for me to really warm up to it. But there's just something hypnotic about all that white southern trash as a vampire setting. Girls walking around in Daisy Dukes with some hoodoo in the bayou and protagonists with awesome names like Sookie. And let's not forget Jason Stackhouse who's in the series for one reason...to be naked.
Eric and his sister just got done having sex while Bill (on the right) listened in.
So in the premiere on Sunday, Eric Northman banged his sister. And it makes me ask the question, what's the deal with incestuous storylines? In Game of Thrones, Jamie Lannister has an incestuous relationship with his sister Cersei (both are HBO Series by the way). Are writers using incest because it's shocking?

RECENT OBSERVATIONS:
I've heard Cassandra Clare has an incestuous relationship in her novel City of Bones (which will probably be turned into a movie one of these days).

In a Big Bang Theory episode, Howard Walowitz tells everyone that he lost his virginity to his cousin.

On one episode of Boardwalk Empire (another HBO show), a flashback-heavy installment revealed a sexual relationship between Gillian (Gretchen Mol) and her son, Jimmy Darmody (Michael Pitt).

So anyone else notice that incest seems to be cropping up a lot lately? Or is this an old hat and has been explored for decades and I'm only just noticing it?

I remember when I was much younger overhearing a conversation in a store where a high school kid playing a video game in an arcade bragged to another kid that he was having sex with his own sister. I remember feeling quite repulsed by that statement. And I still think I'm a little repulsed by it.

I guess I should try to be more open-minded. But yeah, each time I come across one of these plotlines, it shocks me.

Are any of you writers out there using incest in your books? If so, why?

And to celebrate the return of True Blood I give you the following gifs :)))
Lafayette staring down Alcide. Too awesome for words. Go Lafayette. For those that don't
follow this show, Alcide is frickin' huge. Like seriously...take an MMA fighter at the peak of their
fitness and you'd have Alcide. He's also a were-wolf.
Jason Stackhouse playing Rock Band. He seems undamaged psychologically
from the fact that he was raped for an entire day last season by were-panthers.
In True Blood, sex with anyone, anytime goes hand-in-hand with grits in the a.m. 

46 comments:

  1. I've been noticing incest a lot too. I've never used it in anything I've ever written, probably because incest is one of those subjects that can take over a story line. And I don't know if that makes me weird or not, but I don't feel like writing a book that has incest as a major plot point.

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  2. Ah crap! Spoiler alert needed for those of us not in the USA who haven't seen the new series yet ;)

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  3. I knew what this post would be about based on your title alone. Love the gifs, especially Lafayette.

    Cassandra Clare leads her readers to believe there's an incestuous relationship but (SPOILER ALERT) they turn out to be not related after all. Unless she revealed something new in a book I haven't yet read.

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  4. Yeah, I personally am not into incest at all. I don't want to read about it or see it on the screen. CREEPY.

    I don't get the fascination with it in literature and on TV.

    Re: Game of Thrones, well, they had to do that 'cause it was in the book, right? :) Guess we have Martin to blame there!

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  5. I don't know how I feel about the incest in True Blood. For starters it isn't true incest as they're not biological brother and sister, they're both made by Godric. But it served no purpose. We already knew from the previous interactions between Eric and Nora that they were close and would risk their lives for each other. It seemed like pointless sex for the sake of it, and possibly like you said, for shock value.

    Regarding the incest in Game of Thrones/ ASOIAF - I think it's justified for the Targaryens and for Jaime and Cersei.

    The Targaryens did it to keep the Valyrian bloodline pure - kind of like the pureblood in the Harry Potter series did when they intermarried, though that didn't work out too well for Voldemort's mother/ The Gaunts.

    Jaime and Cersei are a special case, they're each others counterparts. They're almost like two halves of a whole.

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  6. I actually use incest in my November 2011 NaNo novel that I'm currently editing. I use it as comment on the corruption in the society of my novel, and the lack of morality in the characters themselves. And, of course, in literature, those who sin usually get their come-uppance in the end.

    It's like any taboo; it fascinates and repulses in equal measure.

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  7. In the examples of True Blood and City of Bones, the couples are not actually blood related. As soon as I typed that, it occurred to me that Eric and dark-haired girl both share Godric's blood as a Maker.... Another similar example: Charlaine Harris has a step-brother and sister relationship in the Harper Connelly series. It's been optioned for television.

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  8. It's not fun stuff for sure at least not for people who find incest revolting, and not something that would give me happy thoughts to write into a novel. There can be no happy ending.

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  9. Haven't noticed it more, but I'm with you - it's sick.

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  10. I missed the season premier? And Eric has a sister? And had sex with her? Damn! And re incest...even decades after being grossed out by Oedipus, the idea of sex with family members still doesn't lay well with me. I guess familiarity breeds.

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  11. Maybe if I had HBO I would notice that. It is gross though. I remember reading "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving and the part where the brother and sister spend a day fucking in a hotel room is pretty nasty.

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  12. Man... haven't noticed it at all.. great, now I'm going to be aware of it! *shivers*

    I LOVE Sookie and that whole series. The books are SO entertaining!

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  13. I think the shock factor is the main reason stories use it, but it's been around so long, it really shouldn't be that shocking anymore. I never cared much for reading about incest. It's gross and once you get over that 'what?' moment, it's not nearly as interesting.

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  14. I think incest has been tantalizing and titillating people since the days of Oedipus and Caligula. The Egyptians preferred marrying relatives to keep the dynasties pure and usually looked elsewhere for relationships only to secure treaties and establish alliances. But I think you have it right: Incest is one of the strongest taboos still out there and so writers use it for shock value.

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  15. I'm not actually sure what to say about this topic other than that incest is another of those things that Americans get way more upset about than people in other parts of the world. I was reading an article recently (about a brother/sister couple in Germany(I think)), and it talked about how incest is legal and accepted in most of Europe.
    Also, the legal prohibition of marriage to cousins didn't even come about in the US until sometime in the last century, so that used to be much more accepted here, too.

    At any rate, I don't know how much of that is just based on our Judeo/Christian background.

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  16. Perhaps it's one of the last bastions left to explore. Everything else seems to have shocked us into submission already.

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  17. I really liked season one, and season two was okay, but I could not keep watching after season three opened with that ridiculous scene from the fae world. Ninja, please.

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  18. I read an article somewhere asking the very same question. The writer of that agreed with you--it seems to be more prevalent lately.

    Some people like to push envelopes. I guess this is a better topic than cannibalism. (Not going to read a story that features either, thank-you-very-much.)

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  19. If I overheard someone saying he was having sex with his sister, I'd be EXTREMELY repulsed and probably contact authorities (assuming the two involved are under aged). But then I've known a couple survivors of incest and they're fragile, damaged human beings.

    For me, incest has way too much of an ewww factor to write about it. It can be very relevant to a story and there are famous historical cases, still for me it'd be like looking at a close-up photo of a tarantula -- I don't wanna look and I don't want details.

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  20. I don't really know what the deal is, but it does seem that we're attracted to things that are taboo. The irony is that with the recent Paypal snafu, etc, they were banning incest or pseudo incest (like step-brothers, etc) erotica that sold a few titles a month, meanwhile large shows like the ones you're talking about show incest without a problem (at least, from the censors).

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  21. I've noticing incest cropping up again, but I'm not sure why. I think taboo things tend to run in cycles.

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  22. "Are writers using incest because it's shocking?"

    Yes. Yes, they are. That's exactly why. Here we all are, talking about it. If you think TV is formulated in such a manner to inspire water-cooler talk the next day, you'd be correct, sir.

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  23. As one of the great taboos of our culture for a long, long time, I think it's deliberately used to portray the characters who perform it as lacking somewhat in mental stability or to ostracise them for breaking social decorum. It's a deliberate shocker to make you dislike the character.

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  24. I haven't really noticed it, but I'm sure now I will. I guess like most things in writing it would only belong if it had a purpose. . . a really good purpose. Or if it was just a terribly repulsing book.

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  25. I don't think you have to be more open minded about it. There are a lot of publishers that won't take books with certain topics. Incest is one of them.

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  26. I don't think I could write about it myself. It probably is a cultural thing, that as Americans we're more repulsed by it than other places, but I still don't want to get more open minded about it. Plus my brother isn't any great catch, so there's that. :P

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  27. I've noticed this theme as well--mostly in YA, but other age groups use incest. I do think it's disturbing, and the frequency makes me think it's used for just that shock factor. Which doesn't really do much for the overall story; it seems there are more effective methods of keeping an audience.

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  28. Most of the romance/erotica e-pubs have a strictly "No incest" policy.

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  29. I blame Oedipus and Hamlet...javascript:void(0)

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  30. apparently incest of all kinds is part of human history, not often written about, except perhaps for shock value, but dates back to pre-cave man days...

    it may be more prevalent in today's books/tv/movies because the shock value has lessened?

    i suppose there is 'love' of some kind involved in consensual incest; if it's rape, it's about control, same as in non-incestuous situations...

    i guess it can be brushed aside with the snide, shit happens, comment

    often just mention of it seems to garner more sales/viewers, and is likely to continue til something else takes its place, though i doubt it'll disappear altogether

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  31. I think with it being a major taboo, it's all about the shock factor. True Blood, for one, is all about shock factor (which is why I like it!), and I've heard similar comments for Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones (both of which I'd like to start watching). It's hard to shock people anymore...incest is one thing that still seems to have that effect.

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  32. Ok, first, I have never been a fanatic about anything, but I completely am obsessed with this show. And, for the record, Eric and that woman weren't biological siblings, they only had the same maker. Any excuse to get him naked though, I'm totally in! And Alcide (excuse me, I think I drooled on the keyboard.)

    The incest thing... gross. I put a raping serial killer psycho in one of my books and I couldn't imagine going to the incest thing. ICK. But I have babies of my own and the thought is totally repulsive.

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  33. One word...YUCK. I don't watch these shows (yes I live under a rock, lol) but I would think (hope?) that fans of the shows would speak up and say they weren't cool at what was going on. But maybe not...

    Yeah, I'll say it again...yuck.

    Angela

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  34. I think if two people truly love each other then who am I to judge? As long as they are not hurting themselves or others in the process. However, the feeling of disgust over incest is an evolutionary function of sorts. It is meant to keep us from procreating with siblings for obvious reasons. It's a difficult subject. I also agree with Cherie in that the taboo probably runs in cycles. I remember 15 years ago or so when a day time soap opera (Guiding Light or Days of our Lives, I forget) had two of their characters fall in love and on the eve of the wedding find out they were brother and sister.

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  35. Ick. I don't watch many things from the channel you mentioned because the content is so nasty.

    I haven't noticed it, but then I'm persnickety about what I watch.

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  36. The first time I read a story with incest in it, it was a sci-fi story, and I don't remember the name, but I do remember it wasn't true incest. But it was shocking, and it was hard to wrap my mind around.

    More recent examples don't shock me like the first one did. I'm still trying to figure out if I'm shocked because I'm conditioned to be shocked by the violation of a cultural taboo. I suspect there are worse things in the world than what some adults do with each other, though.

    Honestly I wasn't too shocked by it in Game of Thrones. Their view on the matter was pretty old-school Royalty, wasn't it? All about purity of bloodlines. Didn't siblings used to marry in the royal family in ancient Egypt?

    And cousins having kids together isn't as unusual as you would think. In "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" for example, Henrietta marries her cousin and has several dozen kids with him. This wasn't so very long ago, and was not unusual then.

    I think I remember reading that we actually tend to be attracted to people whose genes are more similar to ours, although we tend not to be attracted to people who were around while we were growing up. I wish I could find where I read that. Have you heard of this?

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  37. @Callie: I hadn't heard this. I'm off to google it. Here's a link to an article that appeared in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/may/24/genes-human-attraction

    Thanks for the comment Callie.

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  38. Let me know if you find something interesting. I am fascinated with genetics studies.

    That's an interesting article! Here's one that's not quite what I was talking about http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=when-incest-is-best-kissi

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  39. Kwanten and Skarsgard... that could be too much of the blond perfection for my poor ticky ticker...

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  40. I've also been noticing a lot of incest and the only thing I can think of is that everything else has been done so they've decided to jump on this bandwagon. (Though the True Blood thing was only vamp incest so that's different, right?)

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  41. I wouldn't write it and I don't want to watch it or read it.

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  42. Actually... I tried to understand what's the deal, but as far as I know... Eric Northman's biological family was killed.

    So how does he have a sister? Easy. Vampire bonds. That means the way they are related is because they have the same maker. And from what I have seen, a lot of makers have sex with the vampire they made. So in a way, they have sex with their child.

    So no, I'm pretty sure Northman's sister is his sister because Godric made her too.

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  43. @Arawanach: Thanks for stopping by. We should compare notes more often regarding True Blood :)

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  44. Flowers in the Attic anyone? Petals on the Wind? I really did love those books when I read them and felt the incest had a purpose. It was also brought about in a believable way with the brother and sister being trapped in paternal roles with each other through their adolescent years. The books also clearly showed how the two tried to avoid it, especially the sister. The books are a little older so I don't think they fall into your current trend.

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