*THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS*
When I publish my novel, Lassie Gone Bad, I hope I won't be accused of doggie prejudice. Will I offend animal lovers by creating a dog who bites, leaves a mess on the bed and is unhealthily obsessed with sticks?
I jest of course (though I do like that title) I refer - admittedly rather crudely - to the attacks in the media on Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. For those of you who haven't read it/ seen the film, Amy Dunne *spoiler alert* is self-serving, manipulative, vindictive and murderous (and also makes a false allegation of rape and tricks her husband into getting her pregnant) In short, she's a misogynist's wet dream.
I find such criticisms exasperating. Countless novels feature flawed, weak men or flawed, brutish ones. No one would argue such books are prejudicial to men or that the authors in question were aiming to slag off the entire male population. But the moment women are portrayed as complex and flawed there is a big debate on whether they are complex and flawed in the right way.
I recently wrote a comedy show that premiered at The Gilded Balloon about a girl who is gullible, awkward, and a chronic people-pleaser. Most of feedback was positive but one woman protested that, "as someone who can really write, shouldn't I be presenting women in a better light? Make her a bit stronger?" while a friend lamented that my character was submissively being pushed around by men (actually she mainly gets pushed around by another woman, but I digress.)
Comedy is supposed to be about presenting people's flaws. It's reassuring. It makes us laugh with relief. Just as in a thriller you don't want your characters straightforward and honest, in a comedy you don't want them confident and selfless (as anyone who had the misfortune of catching Soul Man - starring Dan Ackroyd as a saintly vicar will attest.)
I proudly call myself a feminist, and I am glad the movement has become so popular. But I find it exhausting that you still can't write a flawed female character without people getting up in arms that you are damaging the movement. As Gillian Flynn herself says, "For me (feminism) is also the ability to have women who are bad characters... the one thing that really frustrates me is this idea that women are innately good, innately nurturing. In literature, they can be dismissably bad - trampy, vampy, bitchy types - but there's still a big push back against the idea that women can be just pragmatically evil, bad and selfish... I don't write psycho bitches. The psycho bitch is just crazy - she has no motive, and so she's a dismissible person because of her psycho-bitchiness."
As someone who is sat through too many thrillers with exciting men but anodyne and uninteresting women, and comedies with sarcastic, 'grown-up' women used as foil to lovable flawed men, I think we are crying out for more variety. These women (such as in the ghastly Grown Ups 2) roll their eyes and go "oh those men! They are so annoying yet great!" They offered wise platitudes and nodded their heads in a knowing way. They don't do much else. WHO ARE THESE WOMEN? I've never known any women like that apart from my Year seven maths teacher.
More ridiculous were the claims last year that Miranda was misogynistic. Now Miranda may not be everyone's cup of tea, but is it really misogynistic? Really?! Because she's clumsy? Wasn't Mr Bean clumsy? I didn't see any journalist adopting an earnest tone to claim the Mr Bean was bad for men's image. What is wrong with showing that women like men can be childish, clumsy and indecisive? Or in the case of Gone Girl, that female psychopaths can be just as dangerous as their male counterparts. Can't we be a bit more inclusive? Can't we have a range of different women in TV like we have a range of different men?
There remains a very prescriptive idea of how we should portray women in fiction, and it is not doing any of us any favours. I am not sure the world is ready for Lassie Gone Bad, which is a pity as I bet it would be a lot racier than Lassie Come Home.
Rosie will be performing her show Fall Girl at The Canal Café Theatre October 27-29. To find out more about the show or to book tickets, go to http://www.fallgirl.co.uk