Monday, October 19, 2009

Why I hate wimps in fiction

I have a confession to make. I detest spineless, weak women in books. They are wimps. At first it was just an annoyance that I attributed to the times. But come on people, this is the twenty-first century, haven't we gone beyond having female protagonists in our books acting like the don't have two thinking brain cells and put themselves in danger or don't know what to do once they're under threat?

I was reminded of this dislike recently when I picked up a book by an author whose series books about a strong female cop I really liked. This one was a standalone and it was a big disappointment.

The heroine is a widow, recently remarried to a widower who has two children. She has some secret that she has shared with no one, not even the man she loves to death. Nor do we, the readers know what it is, apparently this is to make sure we keep reading.

She has issues with her parents, her in-laws, her husband's sister, her husband's sister's boyfriend and the woman who was once a live in maid and got the boot when she married hubby. None of this is shared with her husband, though she keeps thinking she should mention that she doesn't like it that they monopolize his time. She doesn't speak up. She's a wimp.

Her sister's boyfriend makes two passes at her, even though he knows she is pregnant and she is furious, but not enough to do anything about it. The first time around she doesn't even say anything to the boyfriend, the second time she tells him off, but not very assertively and he laughs it off, clearly not taking anything she says seriously. Does she tell her husband? Does she stop this man from hanging around them? Of course not. She's a wimp.

An abusive man threatens her. Does she call the police? No. You know why.

Only when the abusive man actually destroys her property does she call the police and only then does her husband find out anything about what's going on. He pats her on the head and tells her it's nothing. A 'now, now, dear, don't bother your silly little head about that' moment.

When the abusive man shows up again, does she call the police this time? No, she doesn't want people to get upset if the cops show up.

I find I will read very short bits of this book -- maybe a page or two at a time -- before putting it down in disgust. So why do I keep on reading even though it annoys me so much? Because despite the book's flaws the writer is very good. And I want to find out what this big secret is and who's out to get her. Not because I like the protagonist.

But I ask you, why do we persist in women always being weak, helpless victims who apparently have a million reasons why they can't call the police when a crime is being committed? Is it supposed to make me believe they are strong? That they don't need no cops help? All it does for me is make them TSTL. They're never proactive, despite refusing to bring the cops in. They never do anything but react to whatever the bad guy delivers, and usually in a way that ensures they will get in to more trouble.

Why is it authors can't have heroines with strong backbones? Is it because it means they have to work twice as hard to get the heroine into trouble logically, despite her being proactive and calling the cops when there's trouble? But if the did, think how much stronger and more appealing their books would be. Having stupid, weak protagonists is insulting to real women and, in the end, the mark of a lazy writer.

Will I read this author again? I will get more of her cop books, but I would be very leery of her standalones. And that's something no author ever wants to hear.


Mary said...

I agree with you completely. I find it very frustrating, almost impossible to stomach, characters unable to stand up for themselves - or think! Heaven forbid they get brains. What is it that makes folks want to read such stuff, let alone write it? The author must really be a very good writer for you to continue reading.f

jenny milchman said...

Hear, hear! Conversely, when you find a female protagonist who's smart, strong, capable, and makes no dumb mistakes, I want to read every book that author's ever written...