Sunday, 8 November 2009

Too much "sadistic misogyny"

British novelist Jessica Mann, who reviews crime fiction for the Literary Review, says that she has become so sickened by the “sadistic misogyny” in many crime novels that she’s giving up reviewing any more books of this kind. You can read the whole item from Quill and Quire, and the interesting comments, here.

I'm in total agreement with Mann. Several times I've tried to read crime fiction recommended by friends (much of it writen by women), but the "repeated descriptions of sadistic psychopaths doing increasingly horrific things to their female victims" which sickened Mann always put me off very quickly.

Mann quotes this telling story:

"When a female corpse recently appeared on the jacket of a crime-writing colleague’s new book, the author pointed out to her publisher that the victim in the story was actually a man...the publisher replied: 'Never mind that. Dead, brutalised women sell books, dead men don’t. Nor do dead children or geriatrics.'"

Dead, brutalised women seem to sell an awful lot of TV series, too.

6 comments:

Julie said...

I'm glad you've written about this, I am really bothered by it too. I saw an ad for something the other day (shows how effective it was, I can't even remember what it was for) and it showed a young woman lying part way down a marble staircase, with blood coming out of her head, and roller skates on her feet. It made me feel ill.

Apathy Jack said...

Somewhat tangential, but related to exploitation/what sells, is the story of Justine Larbalestier's recent books Liar, which is worth reading about here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/aug/10/bloomsbury-book-cover-race-row

Also worth a read are Larbalestier's original comments on the issues, where she gives a semi-insider's view of the idea that “black books don’t sell”.
http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/

Bavardess said...

Thanks for this. On a related theme, I had a lot of respect for the actor Mandy Patinkin when he recently came out and said part of the reason he quit the TV show Criminal Minds was because he finally became too uncomfortable with the show's increasing obsession with sexual sadism and the victimisation of women.

john said...

This is the major reason I basically don't read crime/thrillers. I have also long since given up on watching TV crime/police shows for the same reason, since I found the view they present of society to be rather distasteful, to say the least.

Hugh said...

There's a fine line here.

I agree often there is a prurient fascination with violence towards women which is often used, not just by advertisers to create interest in crime fiction, but by authors to rark audiences up. (It's crappy writing, as well as being morally dubious)

On the other hand, images depicting violence towards women are not in themselves cause for accusations of sexism - indeed there's an obligation to show such images as long as this violence exists, because to do otherwise would be to make them invisible.

So Julie, while seeing that image made you feel sick, and I sympathise with the reaction, I'm not sure just wishing the advertisers would remove it is the best way to approach it.

Keir said...

one of the interesting things is that mcdermid is a very right-on lesbian author whose novels don't come across as simple women-in-refrigerator stuff, yet the story presented is very simple.

(Likewise, I think saying it is `crime/thrillers' is rather shallow; Mankell and Rebus and oh god those other depressing Swedish people tend not to write like that. & obvs. the cosy & descendants never go in for anything so icky as violent killings of women.)