Awhile back I promised I would try to define what a "naked George moment" is. It comes from my master's thesis and from some lush conversations between Deborah
It started with using queer theory as a lens for gender constructions in Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness. From my thesis: Some queer [theory] inquiries might examine gaps, searching for textual words or actions that seem to be significantly absent. For example, when a man named George, happening to be unclothed, finds out that his young male friend training for knighthood is actually a young girl living in drag, he makes her turn away until he can find his breeches; "she obeyed, [but] arguing, 'That's silly. I've seen you naked before'" (Pierce,
Alanna 134). The fact that Alanna has seen George naked before is a shocking fact to the reader -- how could she have been seeing him naked all along without our knowledge? Does this prove her point -- the insignificance of the moment -- or does it open up a whole new category of possibilities? A queer reading of this information gap could find implications both sexual and textual, all allowed by the sudden possibility that things might happen without our knowledge.
So I wrote that, and then Deborah
and I found ourselves saying, about certain moments in other books and other media, "That's a naked George moment." I think what we mean is, that's a moment in which something about sex, gender, or sexuality receives a spotlight via information being revealed that we didn't know before and about which, the very fact
that we didn't know it until now is part of the significance. It's not about unreliable narrators; unreliable narration is a common and fascinating tool in children's lit, but this isn't that. (Although, in some cases, this could be a small, extremely specific subset of that.) This is about when the mode, phrasing, timing, and/or tone of a reveal go directly to queering something. A naked George moment shows something anew somehow, something about sex, gender, or sexuality, without necessarily pinning down what the new truth is. It's not merely a new fact (though the reveal of a fact may be the event); it's a moment that creates queerness by creating questions, by blurring a category or opening up options, by making readers re-evaluate something anew about sex, gender, or sexuality in that text. Or not making us do it but inviting us to do it, and providing a scrap of lush material for that exploration.
What might the original naked George moment mean? I've never written down a list, because none of things on the list are clearly true in the series; the original naked George moment is all about questions without answers. ( But here are (some of) the questions it opens.Collapse )
I'm not being disingenuous: I know it's easy to argue that Alanna is a classic girl-living-in-drag-for-logistical-reaso
ns and that George thought she was male and now thinks ("sees") that she is female and Bob's your uncle. But that naked George moment -- that textual reveal that she's seen him naked all along without us even knowing, without it mattering
-- well, that's something. It's not nothing. At least to me.