My last post was prompted by a new novelette by Madeline Kelly, Olympic Hearts: a tale of two goddesses, which is a romance between Aphrodite and Artemis. (I have only read the beginning and this is not a review.) I have, of course, no difficulty with the idea of Aphrodite falling in love with Artemis, but to have Artemis fall in love with Aphrodite? While I suppose it’s possible to reinterpret mythological Artemis as a sapphic goddess (It’s only men she rejects – who knows what she gets up to in the forest with her handmaids…), in cult worship she was a protector of children. (The sacrifice of Iphigenia to Artemis is an echo of the rite of passage into adulthood.)
Artemis is no child, but she is eternally a maid – and ruthlessly protective of that status. The parallels between Artemis and Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy are many, and (although the latter’s ultimate fate is a little ambiguous) both can be interpreted as aromantic asexual: loving and fiercely protective, but not attracted romantically or sexually to anyone.
This was on my mind leading up to Valentine’s Day, and then on the 13th there was a post by Sara K., Ace Tropes: Ace/Aro Immunity:
In fiction, there are sometimes magical abilities which exploit characters’ sexual and/or romantic urges. … But what if somebody does not have any sexual or romantic urges to exploit? If a character is asexual and/or aromantic, are they immune to those magic abilities which exploit sexual and/or romantic attraction/desire?
Thus my little story of Aphrodite: Hephaestus and Ares cannot be swayed by her power because their passion for her is absolute; and Artemis cannot be swayed because she is absolutely immune. But I’m talking about gods, and gods are allowed to be absolute.
Immunity is an established trope. Sometimes it’s tangential: In Lord of the Rings, Tom Bombadil is immune to the power of the ring, but this has no impact on the story. Sometimes it is a percentage of a population who are immune – to a virus, for example, as in The Stand – and the story focusses on those who are immune. Or one person is immune to a virus (or to zombie or vampire bites, perhaps) and that one person must be brought safely to the lab where an antiviral agent can be developed. Sometimes it’s someone who is Immune to Mind Control.
Or immune to a love spell.
But being immune to danger is not in itself interesting as a story (unless the story is about a frustrated longing to experience danger). Imagine Odysseus, lashed to the mast while his sailers row with their ears plugged with wax; when the Sirens call to him, offering him all the wisdom of the world, their voices are foul and the falseness of their words starkly apparent. What is often interesting is why someone is immune. Something about their genetics, perhaps. Or their training. Or a magical talisman that they carry.
Love spells are powerful. They don’t care about gender, or orientation, or even species. A love spell made Titania, Queen of the Fairies, fall in love with ass-headed Bottom! Love spells can turn straight people gay, and gay people straight. (Although not in Heartless, it seems.) One good reason for being immune is: “You can’t use magic to make someone love you if they already love you.”
But to make an analogy in the real world: Imagine a married couple, celebrities perhaps, certainly wealthy, educated and intelligent, who use their powerful charisma to seduce and manipulate whoever they like. Men and women alike, gay and straight, fall for their deceptions. But there’s one person (a Clara, perhaps) who has zero interest in their seductions… It’s the premise for an interesting story, and reminds me of a poem I wrote once: Imaginary Love.
There are people in real life who possess this natural immunity, but whether this immunity can be extended to magical influence depends entirely on what kind of magic it is. If Galadriel had taken the ring, all would have loved her and despaired.
Except Tom Bombadil, perhaps.