Genie gender politics:
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I'm plotting a story that among other things plays on the relationship between a master and a genie, trying to be different from Aladdin (basic buddy comedy) and I Dream of Jeannie (basic romcom). I'm not entirely sure the characters will fall in love, but the inspiration seems stronger in that direction. And I'm not even sure what genders they'll have. The one thing I know is that my genies don't so much have a gender as present as one or the other. They're beings of spirit that can take any form they want. I also think that a genie would be happily subservient with a kind master. If it's a male master and a female genie, I'm not sure I could distance myself much from I Dream of Jeannie, and having a female happily submitting to a man might be unfortunate implications these days. With a female master and a male genie, it would be hard to avoid making the genie seem emasculated or doormat-ish. I'm not necessarily averse to a same-sex romantic couple, but I don't think I could get invested enough to write a male-male romantic dynamic at the center just because I can, and I worry a female-female couple written by a het male author would be dismissed as porn.
Have you ever seen "The Thief of Bagdad"? In it, the genie starts off being evil but agrees to serve the good guy so he could gain his freedom. You could do something like that: the genie hangs-out with the human character to get something they want. If a male genie is serving a chick to get something he wants, he won't seem like a total pushover. If it's a female genie and male master, it probably won't come across all chauvinistic-y since she has her own goals and motives.
Possibly have the genie change gender randomly? Sometimes the genie's a male, sometimes female, with no particular pattern to it. Maybe, as time goes on, and the genie becomes closer to its master, it could start picking gender based on what its master wants or expects at any given time. And then, eventually, it could just start settling into the gender its master is attracted to, taking on a more permanent look. That's if you go the romance route. If you don't go that route, then the genie can continue to show up at whatever it feels like.
Why does the genie have to present a different sex to the master?
The genie presents as whichever it wants. I'm hesitant to do a same-sex pairing for the reasons stated above.
I don't really get why you insist on having this be romantic but whatever. Probably what might make most sense is to have the genie consider sex as a very cosmetic thing, and make their actions deeply reflect that, creating a truly androgynous character, and having what someone recommended above, having them change gender as often as the human changes clothes. You'd have to be careful though because it's very likely that the genie will be "read" as one sex or the other.
Writing an androgynous character sounds like a daunting challenge I might want to rise to. I suppose in the most basic sense, I'm pushing this to be a romance because I'm afraid it would be harder to write a unique buddy comedy than a unique romance. But I said the inspiration was leaning that way, and to back that up, I should share some of what I have in mind. When a human is placed in mastery of a genie, they have a finite number of wishes (commands that don't require magic, like "act this way", or "go there" are free actions) When a master runs out of wishes, there are three things that could happen: In most cases, the genie goes back into their vessel and the two part ways. There are probably mechanisms in place to prevent a master from simply handing the vessel over to a friend or relative. In uncommon cases, the master uses a wish, not necessarily their last, to free the genie. This has only happened a few times in the history of human-genie relations. The genie is then at liberty to do whatever they want, and generally heads off to enjoy their new life. While it's never been done, it is possible for a genie to voluntarily bind themselves to a master after the last of the allotted wishes. This is a supreme commitment to the master, and has never been done because of reasons I'm not completely satisfied with, other than that the genie's immortality is forfeit and they will die with their master. Maybe they can't go more than a mile away from their master unless so ordered, maybe it's too much of a risk their master has a darker side they didn't notice, maybe their magical abilities are reduced. Anyway, it's a thing pretty much every genie ever would prefer years of imprisonment and Russian roulette masters to. In the climax of the story, the master is mortally wounded, and has one wish left. Due to the nature of one of the previous wishes, the master and the genie have emotionally bonded much more than ever before, and while the genie knows the master intends to free them, they're begging the master to use the wish to be healed, offering to be bound together forever as long as the master will just let the genie save them. The master wishes for the genie's freedom anyway, and is instantly healed, because the genie wanted them to be. It never really occurred to the genie that they could still stay together after being freed. So does the binding thing make it sound less platonic?
edited 10th Feb '13 6:22:36 PM by TParadox
I am oddly reminded of the Runaways, where you have lesbian X alien!shapeshifter as a pairing, and said shapeshifter takes a female form because it pleases the women they're engaged to. If you are worried about it, pick one, and try and show them shifting a lot. It's not until they start to get attracted to the person do they pick more appealing forms for the person.
First thing I thought of was a book series about a certain Djinni. Gender doesn't really matter to a shapeshifting immortal, does it?
The binding thing could go either way. It could be romantic, or it could be platonic. Given that genies presumably have no particular sex drive, it might be more of a spiritual connection than a romantic one. The genie might not care much about physical intimacy in general. It might engage in acts of physical intimacy to make its owner happy, if that's what the owner wanted. But at the same time, the owner might not see the genie in that way, especially if it changes its form a lot. And especially if it takes on non-human forms, too. That sense of alienness might be enough to prevent the owner from seeing the genie in a romantic light, and instead see it as a friend. Or not. I'm just giving an idea for how it could work, but that doesn't mean it's the best way to go about it.
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