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Victims of Amatonormativity in "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812"

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"Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812" is a musical adaptation of the eighth book in "War and Peace" (roughly a 70-page stretch of the large novel), and it's one of my favorite musicals. 

In the book, Anatole Kuragin is harmless enough.  Compared to the others characters, he's not so bad.  But in the musical, he's my least favorite character, because he's obnoxious, and his story is centered around romance.  Then, I heard the headcanon that Anatole is aromantic and allosexual, and it cast his entire arc in a brand new light.

I love thinking that Anatole is a victim of amatonormativity, sexually attracted to Natasha and rationalizing that he must be romantically attracted to her, as well.   It makes him relatable to me in a way that he wasn't before, and it makes his actions less frustrating, since they can be recontextualized as overcompensation for his aromanticism.  

His love interest, Natasha, also seems to be a victim of amatonormativity.  Although she presents very confidently in the romance department (proudly declaring her love for Andrey early on), the amatonormative emphasis on monogamy and on having one (1) important person in your life ensnares her. 

Rather than entertaining the idea that she can crush on two men at once, Natasha falls into the romantic, monogamous ideal of "all or nothing," and tracing her journey during the musical through this lens is striking.  She begins with the song "No One Else," proclaiming that no one  can understand her love for Andrey and that their relationship is wholly unique in the world.  Then, after Anatole waltzes into her life and she's seen flirting with him and entertaining a relationship, her cousin Sonya asks, "But what of Prince Andrey?"  Natasha takes this challenge and runs with it, saying, "Perhaps all is over between me and Bolkonsky."  By the end of the musical, when she's ruined her prospects with both men and Pierre asks her if she ever truly loved Anatole, she says, "I don't know.  I don't know at all," and then begins to cry.

While Natasha strikes me as a starry-eyed romantic and I've been identifying more and more with aromanticism lately, her story resonates with me in the sense that she's chasing a romantic ideal she can't quite define.  Moreover, it's easy to see how she's pulled along by those around her.  Anatole's sister encourages her crush, and Natasha's family reinforces the idea that she must choose only one person in her life.  So much societal pressure is placed upon her feelings that she ultimately crumbles beneath it.

Neither Anatole nor Natasha are canonically on the a-spectrum.  But for a musical that revolves around romantic affairs and married couples, there are a striking number of connections to be made between the characters and aromanticism/amatonormativity.  Perhaps this is because their relationships are so messy and we mostly see failing marriages and the external pressure to conform to amatonormative ideals. 

Regardless, this musical is one of my favorites, and I've been enjoying projecting my own feelings and experiences onto it.  Does anyone else on this forum love "The Great Comet" and "War and Peace" as much as I do, and if so, do you have your own a-spec headcanons to share? 

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I like reading your analysis even though I've neither watched the musical or read war and peace.

I've seen other people headcannon the hopeless romantic characters as aro. I think it can make sense because when you don't really experience romantic attraction you might get swept up in the idea of it.

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  • 5 months later...

It made me think how in War and Peace epilogue one of the characters who lives happily with a newfound spouse (I think it was Nikolai Rostov speaking about Marya) says it's very important but different from what people often mean when they speak about love and uses an analogy "do you love your finger? But try cutting it off... "

Sounds like good material for aspec headcanon.

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