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    The Bene Gesserit in public opinion

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    The Bene Gesserit in public opinion

    Postby SandChigger » 11 Feb 2008 09:08

    Crossing swords with Nebiros on his opinion of the BG and their portrayal in his fanfic has had me wondering for a while about the perception of the BG among the general Duniverse populace at different periods. At the beginning, at the time of Dune, they are viewed with some suspicion and distrust and referred to as "witches" yet some of the elite, like the Emperor, seem to have no problem sending them their daughters for training (Shaddam was coerced into it to a certain extent, no?) and others, like Leto I, go to them for consorts.

    In the later books we readers are given a fuller view into the organization and workings of the BG, but how do you think the popular view changes as they come to play a larger role on the political stage?
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    Postby Omphalos » 11 Feb 2008 11:42

    Well they certainly were NOT a bunch of useless sluts, that's for sure. And for those of you who have not encountered Nebbish's masterworks, that is where I get that concept from; not from my own twisted imagination.

    I think that a better way to examine the effectiveness of the BG is to do a pretty straightforward feminish criticism of the author's work: Kind of like looking outside the story to see how effective FH was in doing what he did with the BG. IOW, how well did FH use "traditional" views of femininity to accomplish the goals of the BG? And on that, I am torn, because it seems at first glance that they FH actually adopted a male-centric outlook for the BG. I know that there is more to it than that, though. I just have not done the work to know how yet.

    As for their roles in the later books, it would seem that FH was shooting for a maternal relationship between the BG and the unwashed masses. At least that is what I get from the context of other relationships, such as that of Teg and the BG, and Duncan and the BG. But I dont think we have enough evidence to support that any further.
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    Postby Pardot Kynes » 11 Feb 2008 16:07

    I always thought of the BG as more like the evil harpy of a wife that some men get stuck with. They know what's best, whether it actually is or not, and god help you if you argue. They'll just slap you harder.

    And then, if someone shows them up, or does something better than they can, the BG get absolutely enraged, and decide to kill them all.
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    Postby Simon » 11 Feb 2008 20:19

    The BG are constantly caught up in the whirlwind of their own hubris as a group, like acolytes from all eras seem somewhat prideful. Though there always seem to be a few level headed ones that save the hens from themselves.
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    Postby Omphalos » 11 Feb 2008 20:23

    Simon wrote:The BG are constantly caught up in the whirlwind of their own hubris as a group, like acolytes from all eras seem somewhat prideful. Though there always seem to be a few level headed ones that save the hens from themselves.


    I always thought of them as a group of hyper-competent politicians with superpowers who were foiled sometimes because of equally competent opponents.
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    Postby Simon » 11 Feb 2008 20:25

    Omphalos wrote:
    Simon wrote:The BG are constantly caught up in the whirlwind of their own hubris as a group, like acolytes from all eras seem somewhat prideful. Though there always seem to be a few level headed ones that save the hens from themselves.


    I always thought of them as a group of hyper-competent politicians with superpowers who were foiled sometimes because of equally competent opponents.


    I agree.
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    Postby Phaedrus » 12 Feb 2008 00:03

    I assume that at the time of Dune, popular opinion was against the BG. Or at least suspicious. I don't think things get much better for them through the Jihad and Leto's reign, as neither ruler had much fondness for the "witches."

    However, it seems that they're generally accepted as legitimate "rulers" by people as of HoD. Well. Not exactly rulers, but definitely a force to be reckoned with. All the rulers seem to fear their "punishments." The priests on Rakis deem them holy. Miles Teg seems to have a great many loyal soldiers scattered all across the Old Empire. Was it a secret that he worked for the Bene Gesserit? If not, then they're probably rather revered among a great portion of the populace, but who knows? Their ways probably remained mysterious to the average person...
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    Postby SandChigger » 12 Feb 2008 00:14

    That's kind of the impression I got from the later books...known, but not really well.
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    Postby Crysknife » 12 Feb 2008 00:41

    I view them as a powerful and steadfast faction within a turbulent universe. They seemed to be a common thread throughout the books as a source of humanity.... a group of motherly consorts through the millennia. Perhaps in the earlier books they were mysterious and not unlike a black widow spider ready to pounce, but that seemed to change as the books (and perhaps Frank's own relationships) seemed to progress.

    It's almost like a natural progression from youth to adulthood. When you are young, your mother may be quick to correct you, sometimes with a healthy dose of pain in your backside, but later in life, a mother becomes a sort of advisor and guide.

    I'm a big fan of the BG. They sometimes slip up, but they somehow manage to keep the wheels turning.
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    Postby GodEmperorJason » 12 Feb 2008 15:13

    I think that in the time of Dune they are definately viewed as a necessary evil by the power players of the Imperium, 'witches' was both a derrogatory term and a term of resentment, like the Spacing Guild they were necessary and ever-interfering or inhibiting, and like the Spacing Guild they were not understood, and people fear what they don't understand.

    By the time of GEoD they are essentially just a faction, I think that few people knew of them, just the power players in Leto's court.

    By HoD they had inherited the Old Empire, I think they ruled a lot of it probably in a loose manner, providing a blanket of protection via their millitary arm, but loose enough that these worlds were easily overrun by HMs, Handlers, FDs, etc. from the scattering. To these populaces, they were probably still looked at as secretive but less so, they act directly instead of behind the Great Houses, the populous likely only dealt with the military wing at most, but they were a more aware populous than the previous periods.
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    Postby halcyo » 17 Feb 2008 14:57

    Omphalos wrote:I always thought of them as a group of hyper-competent politicians with superpowers who were foiled sometimes because of equally competent opponents.


    I know that Other Memory is not exactly easily explainable, but I personally feel that the BG do NOT have SUPERPOWERS.... I stand by the possibility that such skills and talents could be developed through selective breeding and INTENSE physical and mental training.

    The BG are impressive, in my opinion. They represent what is possible with long term planning and execution. In almost the entire series, they are the 'shapers' of the human universe - only Leto II only took their inescapable influence away, and only for a time....
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    Postby Mandy » 17 Feb 2008 15:48

    They probably appeared to have superpowers to the average person, I imagine they fostered that image intentionally.
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    Postby Omphalos » 17 Feb 2008 15:53

    Mandy wrote:They probably appeared to have superpowers to the average person, I imagine they fostered that image intentionally.


    This is what I meant. I was not saying that they were Marvel superheors.
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    Postby Mandy » 17 Feb 2008 16:04

    That's what I thought you meant, since the thread is about public opinion of the BG. I know if I was just a regular person in the Dune world I'd be scared shitless of them. I don't imagine that they minded being called witches either. Anything that would keep people in awe of them was most likely promoted.
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    Postby Mr. Teg » 17 Feb 2008 19:31

    Omphalos wrote:
    Mandy wrote:They probably appeared to have superpowers to the average person, I imagine they fostered that image intentionally.


    This is what I meant. I was not saying that they were Marvel superheors.


    They are now according to Kevin and Brian say with Byron's support :roll:

    I think it was one of the short stories in Eye the women turned out to be the ones running things politically behind the scenes for generations across numerous planets. I always thought this is what Frank had in mind (enough that he repeats the theme in his short stories) not the magical world created by the drug enduced neuronic misfirings of Brian magnified by the grandiose inner child fantasies of Kevin.

    Rant aside...in the original Dune Frank really presents his women characters in a new light, they are the ones with the power, but a natural ability (up to a point). Some people may be scared by them but there would be a certain level of natural respect for someone of abililty. Whereas, if you give them superpowers, such as Pinky & the Brain, you would never have that same kind of respect, but more importantly, saying they have 'power' based on supernatural abilities I think undermines Frank's original intent as far as presenting his women characters.

    Sorry this was really typed on the run...
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    Postby halcyo » 17 Feb 2008 20:35

    Agreed. If the BG were written to seem supernatural, it would be very hard for an audience to respect and admire them - it would antagonize them to be seen as UNFAIRLY acquiring all of that power, talent, skill, etc.

    But because Frank wrote them to be very much NOT superhuman, we suddenly can respect their influence and powers, because we can recognize that their abilities have been built and cultivated for a LONG time, and with much concerted effort.


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    Postby chanilover » 21 Feb 2008 09:47

    I'm reading Dune again and during the conversation between Paul and Mohiam, she mentions that many men have tried and died trying to take the truth drug. Is the drug used by truthsayers the spice?

    Just wondered.
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    Postby GamePlayer » 21 Feb 2008 11:27

    Basically, it's spice. The Water of Life is chemically different (toxic) but water of life comes from the sandworms of Arrakis and spice is no doubt a primary component. I think the main point was to emphasize it's toxic and narcotic properties as the result of a massive overdose.
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    Postby SandChigger » 21 Feb 2008 12:02

    That's where things get a little dicey, because isn't Jessica the first BG to come into contact with the Water of Life? But the BG seem to be just as dependent on the spice as the Guild. (Or am I getting interference from the movie/mini series?) Freak, definitive answer? ;)
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    Postby Crysknife » 21 Feb 2008 12:28

    The BG used an overdose of Spice. The WoL was something only the Fremen used to that point. There were also other drugs that could induce the Agony, but the Spice and its derivatives worked the best.
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    Postby SandChigger » 21 Feb 2008 12:29

    Thank you! :)
    I have heard of only one mistake that doesn’t have an explanation for a careful reader...with an open mind. (And, no, I’m not going to tell you what it is!) —KJA

    I don't like every writer's style; for instance, I have never been able to get through Ursula LeGuin, China Mieville, or Iain Banks, all of whom are critical darlings. —KJA

    I...had written a bunch of Star Wars and X-Files books...that proved not just that I'm a hack, but that I could write in somebody else's universe... —KJA
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    Postby chanilover » 21 Feb 2008 12:57

    Thanks, this is where I got confused. Without boring you with the details, I've only read all the Dune books once, this is the second time. The first time round it look me two years (!) to read from all FH's books, the Prequels, Legends and Hunters. I haven't felt brave enough for Sandworms yet.

    I came away thinking the BG used a spice overdose to become full Reverend Mothers, and the primary reason for doing so was to gain access to Other Memory. I was a bit thrown on reading Dune again to hear Mohiam discussing truthtrance and the fact that the truthsayer drug allowed them to look within.

    Anyway, I'm glad I've started to read Dune again, it's a refreshing change after the prequel/sequel shit and the recent e-drama.
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    Postby halcyo » 21 Feb 2008 14:19

    SandChigger wrote:That's where things get a little dicey, because isn't Jessica the first BG to come into contact with the Water of Life? But the BG seem to be just as dependent on the spice as the Guild. (Or am I getting interference from the movie/mini series?) Freak, definitive answer? ;)


    I think that the 'Water Of Life' is just a Fremen term that would describe the same 'massive dose' of the same drug- that happens to come in many forms. I guess the question is- do the BG missionaries (the FREMEN Reverend Mothers) communicate with the rest of the Sisterhood? If so, would the Water of Life be a mystery to them? Perhaps it IS a Fremen secret - that is an interesting point.

    Remember that SPICE, technically, is just one (and the final) form of the drug - it is the dried out 'worm sperm' :wink: that has been left on the planet surface after a blow, and has dried out in the sun.
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    Postby Crysknife » 21 Feb 2008 15:26

    I think every stage of the worm cycle has spice of some kind involved. WoL would just have a slightly different make-up than the spice you'd find on the surface.

    I think Spice Essence is the WoL. Durring the time of Leto II, you couldn't get Spice Essence unless it came from Leto himself.
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    Postby halcyo » 21 Feb 2008 17:15

    Crysknife wrote:I think every stage of the worm cycle has spice of some kind involved. WoL would just have a slightly different make-up than the spice you'd find on the surface.

    I think Spice Essence is the WoL. Durring the time of Leto II, you couldn't get Spice Essence unless it came from Leto himself.


    Good points. Just like many other real life drugs come in different forms and with the spice, it seems that each successive stage produces a slightly weaker effect on a user. The WoL would be a VERY strong drug (really more of a poison!) as it described as the bodily fluids of a LIVING worm!

    I never really thought of it that way, but I think you are correct in your observation about the Spice Essence in Leto II's reign as God Emperor.

    The question is: What are the Bene Gesserit using for the Agony during Leto II's reign? Just alot more 'lower grade' spice than normal? For that matter, what are the BG using in the beginning of the series if they don't use Water of Life/Spice Essence? A massive dose of just spice (as in the lowest grade product) wouldn't really be a painful poison, it would just make you trippy as shit, right?

    Good discussion so far....

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