Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stereotypes the public seems to cherish

Sarah Weinman provided a link today to a piece by Christopher Rice (in The Daily Beast) who notes that many male writers don't do very well by their female characters. He cites four particularly fallow stereotypes:


Except for Michael Connolly and Michael Black and a few others I don't read much cop fiction so the cop's wife who doesn't get it is lost on me. The rest are all too familiar. In fact I once used the Babe Assassin in one of my own long ago books.

I take his point but I think the same thing could be said about male stereotypes. Except for the very best writers, neo noir and hardboiled is just as loaded with male stereotypes. As I've said before these males come not from experience but from other neo noir and hardboiled books. And movies.

One of the reasons I still read traditional mysteries--and I know many of you will disagree--is because the good traditional is generally the only sub-genre of the crime novel that still deals with the everyday existence that most of us share. For all her ironic and sometimes horrific effects Ruth Rendell remains a sardonic judge of everything from life in the suburbs to Viagra-besotted sixty-five year olds contemplating affairs.

Nothing against neo-noir or hardboiled. I still read and enjoy a good deal of it. But as crooked, depressing, violent as existence is in this country there is still a vast segment of everyday life that needs to be covered as Simenon covered his Paris with Maigret. Of course Simenon was a genius.

So while I agree with Rice in the main I think what he really should be criticising crime novel stereotypes whatever the gender.


Naomi Johnson said...

Couldn't agree more. My reaction on reading the article was, 'what, there are no male stereotypes?' And don't female writers create as many stereotypes as male writers, if of a different type: The spunky, sexy heroine is the one that I'm sick to death of. If Stephanie Plum or any of her ilk walked through my door, I'd consider my reaction justifiable homicide.

Terrill Lee Lankford said...

I think Neo-noir has become the new gateway drug to publishing. For some reason people think that if you pile on enough darkness, torture and murder you are riding the rails with the likes of Jim Thompson. I don't think it's that easy.


Kenneth Mark Hoover said...

I find myself reading less and less fiction because of the stereotypes.

Todd Mason said...

Not solely in the movels, either...these stereotypes are all over the drama in various sorts as well.