Monday, May 15, 2006

Guns N' Roses

The Hero and a Bad Guy are in a knock-down-drag-em-out fight.
Bad Guy's gun lands at the feet of the Heroine.
She picks it up and throws it in the water.
Geesus, I thought, Too Stupid To Live.
Have been re-reading a whack of Alastair Maclean thrillers.
He was a best seller a couple of decades ago. Guns of Navaronne, Ice Station Zebra, South By Java Head, The Golden Rendevouz, HMS Ulysses, Where Eagles Dare, etc., etc.
Then I re-thought
Maclean is the ultimate chauvinist.
He respects women. He admires them.
Don't think there is a single evil woman in any of his books.
His women have courage, class and charm.
They bear their broken arms, collarbones, twisted ankles, and the vissitudes of being kidnapped, held hostage, slogging over ice flows, dragged along by incomprehensible Heroes all over Spain, the Hebrides, Greenland, Hither and Yon, with fortitude and forgiveness.
No whining.
No spiteful, childish, upsetting of apple carts, ie. Hero's Plans to capture the Bad Guys, or doing stupid, stupid things like making phone calls or leaving the safe house when they know they are a target.
One actually even fires off a gun (Breakheart Pass) - but she was an American, after all and the story is set in the West about 1880. Forgivable.
Maclean's Heroines are feminine in the classic sense.
Brave, enduring, intelligent - and completely out of their element in a Man's World where Evil lurks and must be challenged and defeated.
Eye candy, props, obedient adornments, to Be Protected At All Cost by Manly Men who can't trust them to have the sense to pick up a gun and use it.
Understandably, his best books have no women in them at all.
His females are not Stupid.
They are unnecessary - except as complications.
It's some of his Heroes who are stupid.

It's not the genre or the gender then, though Romance is most guilty of obvious, teeth-gnashing, TSTL heroines.
I think writers have to watch it, that in creating kick-ass heroines, we don't reverse the characters and make our Heroes TSTL.
Let's not make the Guys too dumb, hmmm?


Dennie McDonald said...

so himbos are out huh... well damn - there goes my latest wip - kidding kidding...

I like them to both be strong and half the tension is their wills and egos clashing...

Bernita said...

Like castanets...
"Himbos" - new to me.
Thank you, Dennie.

Ric said...

Yet another interesting topic. I think many writers make the mistake of creating TDTL females so the hero has someone to save. Too helpless to make it on her own, she needs him to show the way.

Wouldn't it be more refreshing to have equal but different strengths brought to the story that result in a great resolution?

Not to say we don't like evil women in all shapes and sizes....

Bernita said...

"Devil woman, let me be...
Woman, let go of my arm..."

Sure you don't mean DESIGNING women, Ric?

Yes, ideedy.
A little mutual "saving."
Both physically and emotionally, not separate.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

My protagonist is in the Air Force and a Laura Croft - TombRaider type....Wimpy women drive me up a wall. And don't get me started on the movies where all they do is scream!

Bernita said...

I take silly, screaming heroines as a personal affront.
Don't think most women fall apart in a crisis, think hysterical ones are the exception.
And yeah, I REALLY like the sound of your Girl.

Carla said...

I had a go at "equal but different strengths" in Ingeld's Daughter. Relationships where one or other party is always carrying the other rarely ring true to me, whether it be the dimwitted heroine or the TV sitcom Dipstick Dad described by Robyn.

In defence of the girl who threw the gun in the water, if she knew she was a terrible shot and was just as likely to hit the hero (or her own foot) as the bad guy if she tried to use it, then putting it out of action might have been the most sensible thing to do in the circumstances. Or am I being too charitable?

Bernita said...

Yes, and it is one of the many things that "ring true" about Ingeld's Daughter.
She explained when castigated by the understandably irate hero, that she was afraid of guns - but she wasn't so afraid that she didn't pick it up.
Just waving it around would have given the Bad Guy pause.
If she was going to toss it, why not towards the hero?
Or grabbing it and running?
I don't fault her for her lack of familiarity, just her standing there until the last moment with her shaking hand pressed against her trembling mouth, watching them roll around and pummel each other.
Stupid scene all around.

Gabriele C. said...

Those scenes where the woman is standing hands at mouth and eyes wide open, while a nice heavy fire poker is within reach, make me mad. If I were in that situation, the bad guy would have a life expectancy of five seconds. :)

If he was bad enough, I'd even enjoy sending him to push up daisies.

And I'd never run into the cellar when an axe wielding mass murderer chases me. Except if I had a collection of rattlesnakes, cobras and other cute pets down there.

So, no, I don't like to read about TSTL characters, no matter which gender. I meet my share of them in real life, thank you very much.

Bernita said...

Ditto, Gabriele.
I can understand paralyzing shock and panic is certain situations, certainly, but am constantly surprised by the numerous fictional characters who appear to have no survival gene whatsoever.

Cynthia Bronco said...

I got a kick out of reading Asimov's books because in his hi tech future, gender roles remained as they had in the 1950's and the only strong career women were mannish, clumsy and deviod of any charm.

Bernita said...

Another sterotype of that era was the cute, smart career girl. Early chic lit heroine.
One of the reasons I enjoy reading novelists from different eras is to see not only the cultural stereotypes but those permitted/accepted by the industry/genre.
Almost all Maclean's heroines are "ladies" in the nice sense.

kmfrontain said...

I agree that the wimpy woman in writing is overdone, but they do exist in reality. I know this. I've met some. I know I'm not one, because I've been confronted with a stranger doing a flash of his "ahem" in my basement apartment window, and after I figured out what the heck was in the window, I went after him with a kitchen knife. Needless to say, he had left be then, and I never saw him again, no doubt because he knew I meant it when I said his "ahems" were forfeit. They were, you know. I had a toddler in the same apartment, and I'd kill for my children. I'm a veritable bear that way.

But apparently the same fellow managed to chase off some stupid woman while he had his sweater over his head and his pants to his ankles, hopping like a bunny. Man! I would have kicked asshole in the balls. Perfect time to do it.

So the wimpy woman type does exist, and the woman of strength has often been relegated to the background as unfeminine, only recently becoming sexy like with Lara Croft, Ripley, a few others that aren't Red Sonja (no one should wear that little armour fighting off hordes of bloodythirsty men).

Rick said...

I nearly walked out of "Rob Roy" because of a TSTL hero. Right at the get-go, he sends his Loyal Sidekick off with a bag of gold coins. Through the Scottish Highlands. At night. Then he leaves his wife and home unprotected because the dastardly English would never come by sea. Cluephone? "Britannia rules the _____")

What I find more challenging than avoiding TSTL heroines is avoiding Rambas. My young ladies fight off an ambush at one point, but I tried to keep it within the reasonable scope of girls who are accustomed to hunting but have no combat training.

Bernita said...

Just read a Red Sonja last week, KM.
It was the loose hair almost as much as the scanty armour that bothered me.
I suppose the wimp didn't even phone the police.
Or laugh at him.

"Rambas" - I'm leaning new slang all the time!
Hunting should work, Rick, especially if they've hunted dangerous animals.

Mark Pettus said...

It's interesting to read stories written by women from an earlier era in literature, and study their female characters. How frustrating it must have been for those writers to have to restrain their characters, just as society had placed restraints on them.

It's also interesting how so many women chose men as lead characters. I suspect those men were often actually women in the writer's mind.

Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot may have been the least masculine man to ever seek a career in criminal justice.

I know there are still men who write TDTL women into their crime fiction. Is there still a genre where women write their men - as women?

kmfrontain said...

Has anyone ever read the religious treatise by Teresa of Avila? Now there's a study in what a woman endured in her day. Almost every paragraph had a disclaimer asking forgiveness from the men that would read her document. Disclaimers that said how she was only a simple woman, disclaimers that intimated perhaps she wasn't too bright and that men would have the wisdom to see whether God truly spoke to her through her writing.

If she hadn't done this, she would have been burned at the stake for heresy, because there's no damned way the men of her time would have permitted a woman with pride to publish anything of importance to the church. And so...apologies every paragraph.

So with regards to women writers of an earlier era, you're looking at pieces of fiction encapsulating the conditions or mindsets of that time. Women were, for the most part, subject to the whims of the men that owned them, and I mean owned (husbands or fathers). It shows in their writing if you look carefully.

Bernita said...

One thing quite irritating, Mark, is having straight male characters think and act like women.
Romance writers are often castigated for that.

"Uppity women," KM.

archer said...

Oooh, Guns of Navarone. David Niven: "Let's see those scars--those terrible scars supposedly inflicted upon your back!" [Sound of ripping cloth]

Bernita said...

And then they shot her.

The book is better, Archer.

kathie said...

but dumb is so very fun...

Bernita said...

Be kind, Kathie.

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