I got thinking about Twelve Minutes - how did this get financed with the story it ends up having - and I suddenly remembered a highly-acclaimed book I'd attempted to read last year, The Shadow of the Wind, that ended up having the same twist. In turning over that strange coincidence (or is it??) in my mind, I think I've arrived at a potential answer to the big question - but I have to talk about the nature of the twist to discuss it all, so SPOILERS below.

All right, so The Shadow of the Wind is a magical-realism novel that takes place in Spain at the turn of the Franco takeover. The protagonist is the son of a bookseller who, as a boy, is taken to a library that contains all sorts of forgotten & suppressed literature and takes away a book by an obscure Spanish author. He subsequently is hunted by a crazed man whose goal in life is to obliterate the author's work from the face of the planet.

Now, that's interesting, and the prose is well-written, but I ultimately dropped The Shadow of the Wind due to its attitude toward women. This first manifests with a young, blind literature expert the protag consults for more information on Mysterious Author, who, being female, of course describes her enjoyment of Mysterious Author's work in sexual terms, as if the book were fucking her. The literary expert is gorgeous, and Protagonist, who is upon their first meeting 12 or 13, strikes up an ongoing friendship with the idea, kept to himself, that she now belongs to him and will be his girlfriend when he comes of age. This illusion is dashed a few years later, when he walks in on her having sex with her actual boyfriend, a composer she knows. (He stands openly staring at them for a good 30 seconds before the composer notices him and, understandably, fucks his shit up a bit before throwing him out of the house.) Instead of this being chalked up to a part-of-growing-up misunderstanding due to the protagonist's youth and naivete, the incident is instead treated as a Great Betrayal, the protagonist's Grand Awakening to the true nature of the deceitful second sex. I persisted a bit after that, but once the protag hit college and turned his attentions to the sister of a family friend who always treated him like dirt and (we are told) had no redeeming qualities, for the sole reason that she was now hot - reintroduced to the active narrative as trying to hold a consultation with her professor while he tunes out her words as he checks her out, because, as both the narration and the sympathetic protagonist inform us, why else would a professor bother to have a woman in the class? - I said, goodbye.

But back to Twelve Minutes, and here are those spoilers I promised. It turns out that, as I concluded and the typical reader probably would guess, the crazed man pursuing the protagonist is the author himself, now bitterly disillusioned with life and determined self-destructively to eliminate his literary body of work after discovering that the love of his life was in fact his half-sister. I looked this resolution up after discontinuing the book, and I was baffled, because, as in Twelve Minutes, sister-fucking had jack shit to do with aaaaanyyyyythiiiiing that had transpired up to that point. The Shadow of the Wind, in between spates of misogyny, is about literature and the main character's attempts to become a writer and protect books from destruction. Building up to a big reveal about incest makes as much sense as having Game of Thrones be about the Clean Air Act of 1972.

So, I'm thinking, why would a capable author - he had massive problems with women, but he knew how to write prose and structure plots, even if the content was woman-hating - think that this was a sensible conclusion to what came before in the story?

I think that this is due to what the incest represents to a certain audience. The first thing to take into consideration here is that video gaming, despite Gamergate and the stuff with Activision and Riot and any number of things to which you could point, is in some ways a more progressive medium than, say, books or film. It's younger, both as a medium itself and in the population of those who work in it, and by its technologically-based nature, it's all about the new. Film and particularly books, on the other hand, are older, dominated by history, by veneration of the classics and the great authors, some of which and whom embrace attitudes that wouldn't fly nowadays, if examined more critically. These media are more sclerotic. Please understand that I am by no means saying that video games are free of backward attitudes (again: Gamergate/Riot/etc.) or that there aren't factors unique to gaming that draw in our own brand of problem people (how virtual worlds attract those who are socially maladjusted or have problem attitudes or beliefs, for instance). There are, however, elements inherent to the medium that make it in some respects more likely to keep pace with current social attitudes instead of deferring unquestioningly to the masters.

OK, now, take a look at these "I'm in love with my half-sister" twists: how does this revelation function, as part of the story? It's this bolt out of the blue that says - by a cruel twist of fate, for a seemingly arbitrary reason - you can't have this woman. Please understand (I'm using that phrase a lot in this post) that I'm not at all saying the incest taboo is arbitrary. What I'm saying here is that, from the perspective of the participants - specifically, the man, given what I'll be discussing in a moment - there's nothing wrong with how the relationship functions; there's no organic reason to end it. It's just a THIS RELATIONSHIP MUST END slap-down from above. Its usefulness in a mystery/coverup angle aside, I think this explains the otherwise strange prevalence of half-sisters in the twist: it actually serves to intensify the perceived unfairness, as there's not even a long-nurtured familial relationship (as there would likely be with a full-blooded sister) that's being perverted.

Coming back to The Shadow of the Wind: I don't think that the use of the incest twist by an author with backward attitudes toward women is coincidental. This brings me to my grand conclusion here: I believe the incest taboo is sometimes used by authors as a stand-in for other societal restrictions on relationships that they perceive as arbitrary. To those who don't understand consent, or respect for women or one's romantic partners, prohibitions regarding age or power dynamics or willingness of the partner etc. seem arbitrary. (Think of all the Sturm und Drang and "what, I can't talk to a woman now?!" that accompanied the dawn of awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace in some quarters.) These authors expect their audiences to sympathize with "victimization," so to speak, by the "arbitrariness" of the incest taboo, as they imagine many of their readers to have had relationships of their own ended by similar "arbitrary" societal conventions. The incest metaphor even adds a touch of romanticism, in a strange way, through the presentation of its unfortunate metaphoric situation as a cosmic twist of cruel fate, and not, say, the result of an adult making questionable decisions.

This foot-dragging perspective is more likely to be embraced by, say, an author who believes that a 12-year-old can mark a woman as his for a lifetime and that her own selection of a partner as an adult instead of undying fidelity to the unvoiced romance in a child's head marks grand betrayal; he'd expect his audience to sympathize and identify with it more than a normal person would. Likewise, this perspective is more likely to be perceived as reasonable and normal in a medium marked greatly by veneration of older works that frequently contain outdated attitudes than in one obsessed with the new, right now, & au courant, which greeted Twelve Minutes' incarnation of the trope with a "motherfucker, what?"

Now, I'm not saying the above is what the incest angle represented to the dev of Twelve Minutes. I still have no idea as to what was going on on that front. However: at some point, this attracted big-name Hollywood talent with McAvoy and Ridley and Dafoe's involvement, and I can see, given how ingrained the attitudes metaphorized by the incest angle are in the film industry, why no one blinked at this plot development and thought it a perfectly natural, reasonable thing on which to base a work of fiction.

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