Re: RARA-AVIS: My Alleged Gender Bigotry

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 26 Aug 2001

--- wrote:
> This seems a very bizarre argument to have on a
> "hard boiled" list. I can see
> both sides meself: yes indeed the hardboiled hero is
> traditionally male, he
> is not worthy of any praise.

Some are (Marlowe, Archer) some aren't (Spade, Parker) some are, but in complicated kinds of ways (Crumley's protagonists, for instance).

I don't understand why
> Marlowe is continually
> referred to as a hero? He is a hideous character:
> amoral, motivated entirely
> by financial return and self serving; fair enough. I
> spose that the nature of
> the genre makes this to a certain extent
> innevitable, however, the idea that
> he is in any way laudable is quite frankly bollocks.

MT's response to this is mine too.

> I don't think that it's more than a reflection of
> society that women are
> cheated like shite on a bike in such literature.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. If you're saying something like "misogyny is present to some extent in hb fiction, and it's simply a reflection of society" I think I can agree with that.

> I do find it a little
> worrying that this is accepted by so many!

Well, I don't think anyone here's accepting misogyny. I think the problem is that these sorts of discussions get all muddled up with "hb as Male Fantasy" (which I think is self-evident), so other concerns come into play. Nobody wants their fantasy adulterated to serve political ends, for instance.

> Chandler a moral
> philosopher???? Nope. He is a writer of entertaining
> detective stories.

Basically agree.

> Noire/hardboiled is attractive to me because I
> accept that to a certain
> extent "this is how it is,"

Have never bought this. I think hb/noir, with rare exceptions, is as "fake" as any other genre -- it just tries to be "realistic", a far different thing from being truthful. (As a sidenote, I've never been interested in versimilitude in the genre -- I don't care if a hb story is "truthful", I just want it to be
"believable". I've come to think that one of the reasons I dislike Joe Gores's DKA series is that it's pretty true-to-life, and I find the truth uninteresting.)

> I consider James Ellroys personal politics; hateful,
> intelectually dishonest
> (if we gonna chuck intellects around) and
> hippocritical, and also to a
> certain extent at odds to the material he writes.

Agreed. Ellroy the person is a pain in the ass.

by the
> way I hate Mickey Spillane
> - surely even the most objectionable biggot on the
> block must not be beyond
> parody himself? Shame he is self parodying really.

Poor Mickey, still getting knocked about. :) I like Spillane -- at his best I find him quite powerful.
(First chapter of ONE LONELY NIGHT comes to mind -- shame the rest of the book isn't that good, but that first chapter, if published seperately, could be one of the great PI stories). I discount the politics here the same way I discount John Wayne's -- I don't care what Wayne believed, it doesn't interfere with my love of SANDS OF IWO JIMA (name your own favorite Wayne movie).

> Well there you go, I actually hope that this will
> provke some debate. Hard
> Boiled is generally hugely and nastily anti-female,
> this is a FACT. It's not
> a problem and I believe that it's a reflection of
> society.

I wouldn't use such strong language decribing the state of affairs, but I basically agree, I guess. Point is, I don't care. I find it a meaningless debate, actually -- it doesn't tell me anything about the quality of this or that writer.

My take on female PIs is that I have nothing against the notion in theory, but in practice it seems too often like a contrivance. (Outside of Angie in Dennis Lehane's work.) Most seem to me to be just "chicks with dicks", basically unconvincing females and unconvincing PIs. Marcia Muller is the female PI writer I know best -- her work is incredibly dull, basically Ross Macdonald-lite.

Women have written in the genre before, and have written well. I'm sure there are good female authors int the genre now out there now that I don't know about. I'm sure there will be more in the future. But the general preponderance of men in this genre (just like the general preponderance of women in the
"traditional mystery genre") probably says something about something. I would say it's only important to the extent you want to make it so.


===== Doug Bassett

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