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Narrative Pet Peeve

So, you know how sometimes your heroine will fall in love with a cad? A hustler, a deadbeat, a no-good, low-down playa? And you know how betrayed she feels when she finds out what we, the long-suffering audience, have known since episode/chapter two? She has several choices of how to behave, but generally, the reaction falls into two categories:

[Sister Cantrell preaches: "Spend until the last dime for all the hard times...Because revenge is better than love."]


[Sister Parton begs: "Please don't take him just because you can!"]

You know, I can't fully endorse maxing out your cheating boyfriend's credit cards, but it sure as hell beats begging the lady he's sleeping with to take pity on you.

Seriously, it is astonishing how much modern TV and fiction still has its heroines doing the Dolly Parton two-step instead of picking up their shit and telling the man to get out. How hard can this be? It isn't like your man cheated by accident. And yet, over and over, heroines are far more likely to blame and confront the women involved in an affair than their own significant other. I was just watching a television show I otherwise really enjoy, with an incredibly strong female lead (lady doctor in late Victorian London). I was honestly shocked when the huge cathartic confrontation scene involved her cad's new wife. And the cad? Oh, she doesn't blame him. It was her fault for being too distracted by doctoring.


Sorry, that was me screeching.

So, the next time you find yourself writing a juicy sexual drama, with betrayals and recriminations and the jagged remains of hearts littering the pavement, keep this in mind: the "Jolene" scenario is condescending and degrading to women. This is true even if she's gone over there to beat Jolene up, not beg her. It's infantilizing to always have women engage other women in antagonistic ways over their male partner's sexual  peccadilloes, as though the central issue isn't the betrayal of the original partner by her significant other. The Other Woman is, at best, marginally involved. Leave her that way, and let your heroine vent her anger on the asshole that done her wrong.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2011 08:37 pm (UTC)
Dammit, now how did I wind up with an iTunes bill for Blu Cantrell and Carolina Chocolate Drops and an hour spent watching youtube? Somebody better pull the plug on me, quick.
Jul. 20th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
Heh. It's a catchy tune, isn't it?
Jul. 20th, 2011 02:05 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean and the worst thing is: it happens is real life more often than it should!

Don't cheated men also often confront The Other Men? probably not to be\g him to stay away, but to punch him or something?
Jul. 20th, 2011 02:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Amen!
They do, but at least in fiction I feel like men always *also* get to confront their girlfriend/wife. In general, I think it's weird to confront The Other Man/Woman, but it's so much worse when the women ONLY confront the women, as though their significant other has nothing to do with the situation.

Sadly, this does happen in real life. But I feel like if a female character is otherwise always portrayed as intelligent and strong and perceptive, it is just SO SAD to see her fall right into this stereotype.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )