What we don’t know about Joan of Arc could fill a server farm. Yet the basic facts of her life are simple enough that they’ve continuously inspired children’s books. A teenage peasant who never held a formal position of power, she is more famous today than the French king she fought for or the English king she opposed. (Charles VII, to us, is simply the king who met Joan.) She has spawned movies, plays, fashion lines, advertisements and 1920s flapper hairstyles. Christians, feminists, transgender activists, neopagans, leftists, the French Resistance and Marine Le Pen supporters have all revered (and repurposed) her story.
While the right’s response to the postal survey has been somewhat predictable, what has also been hard to watch is the response of some in the ‘yes’ campaign. Despite the unfolding homophobia and transphobia around the postal survey, it is clear that groups like Australian Marriage Equality and GetUp have decided to steer away from these topics. These groups have rolled out doctors and heterosexual families to provide reassurance that marriage equality does not involve a gay agenda of radical ‘gender theory’.
Literary festivals are complex beasts. They’re simultaneously social spaces, cultural projects and political platforms. As providers of entertainment, drivers of tourist revenue and exercises in government branding – think ‘Melbourne: City of Literature’ – they cop flak for their commercialisation. Nevertheless, these festivals do work hard to build audiences for writers from marginalised backgrounds, and to program events that critique inequalities in contemporary publishing.
Popular culture has long touted the link between creativity and mental illness. The image of the tortured artist is a trope: a highly unstable individual, buzzing with mania and turmoil that is released periodically through art and placated perpetually through substance abuse. This image draws our compassion as well as a dark fascination. We have been conditioned to view the suffering of artists romantically, because we equate madness with genius.
By liberating marriage from the oppressive character of its tradition, marriage equality allows for a less rigid understanding of roles within heterosexual marriage as well.