Jump to content

Tell me if this thought makes sense

Nephil Thief

Recommended Posts

When reading popular fiction, there is this combination of two factors that I really, really don't like to see.


Characters who meet stereotyped expectations can be annoying, but they won't usually make me stop reading.


Well established characters behaving way out of type can also be annoying; but again, won't necessarily make me stop reading.


However. When a well established character, with an established personality and beliefs, suddenly starts conforming to a stereotype that is completely out of character for them, it's usually time for me to swear out loud and put the book down. That just hurts. I haven't seen many examples of it, but the ones I have seen are all memorable cases that I wouldn't read again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can see that and a recent example is in the Marvel comic book Captain America in the last few issues. While I have read suggestions on what is happening besides trying to shock the readers, it just doesn't seem plausible.


I've seen having a stereotypical behavior that just shouldn't exist in context. Back during the 1980s there was a Star Trek novel where a character was using a racist nickname when talking to a Vulcan character that was wrong then and really shouldn't have happened in the enlighten Starfleet Academy setting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Much of the 1980s Star Trek novels (almost all of which are sitting on a shelf in my basement) were really bad and suffered from a lack of oversight and general direction. Having Spock do something out of character was extremely popular, but not the only example.


The 1990s relaunch of the Star Wars novels had much stronger central direction from Lucas Film, but still had some poor moments. The problem with comic books is that they feel a need to completely re-invent themselves every so often (kind of like soap operas) and so Captain America being part of Hydra or Batman being the Dark Knight (which is/was critically acclaimed) is done to get new/more readers. The transitions in the DC lineup in the 1980s ended my spending on comics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Got it in one.


In this case it was an SF novel I'd been reading. Note, possible spoilers follow, and also stuff that some people might find triggery...


In summary:




The novel is Memory by Linda Nagata.


The narrator/protagonist is a young woman, highly intelligent and a bit rash. She's something of a maverick, in a culturally and technologically stagnant setting. She's also quite self-reliant, which is very normal for women in the setting. Gender hierarchies are not a danger in this world, but wild animals and free-ranging robots are, so basically every adult knows how to forage and find shelter and use a rifle. If there's something unfashionable about the protagonist, it's that she might be a bit too fearless to survive in the wild, rather than the opposite.


So, I was not pleased when her handsome would-be boyfriend rescues the protagonist from a bad spot, by doing something likewise a bit reckless... And she suddenly starts yelling at him, having a complete toddler-style tantrum about how his rashness will doom them and she would rather die right then and there.


Thence follows a drawn-out argument where he represents Science ("we need to know what rules the world works by") and she represents Mysticism ("why should we bother to try and understand things?"). Mind you, protagonist studies languages as a hobby, and was doing rather sciency stuff with robots just a few chapters ago. And has had a hunger to understand things about the world, things that others just nod and accept, for basically the whole time prior to this.


And thence begins a forced seduction scene! With the rescuer starting to pressure the protagonist into sex, with her kid brother right nearby (yes seriously); and her not being creeped out at all. If anything, she starts looking more kindly on him, now that he's trying to literally take advantage of her, as opposed to just saving her life and getting her safely reunited with her friends.


That was the point where I put down my Kindle and said, "[bleep bleep bleep bleep bleep], okay, I just can't read this."




And it hurt all the more because, up until then, it had been really good and engrossing, and had studiously avoided the usual cliches.


However, I've seen the same kind of thing before, again mostly around gender stuff. Michael Crichton seems to have been a common offender.


e.g. Timeline:



"Let's have this competent woman turn into an inept damsel in distress, so that the goofy male lead can rescue her and win her love."



Or Sphere:



"The nominal antagonist is a woman! And she's also a complex and sympathetic character! However, her real motivation is that she secretly wants to be rescued, again and again and again, by the graying and portly male protagonist."



Ventus by Karl Schroeder, which I mentioned a while back, was also a particularly painful example:



"Do you like my angsty woman antihero? So do I. That's why I have her forced to undergo traumatic body and brain surgery to become part of a hive mind! But don't worry, it makes her finally happy with herself, and all the people who knew her think it was good for her too!"



What's astonishing to me is that this stuff is not even subtle. Timeline and Sphere were why I had completely given up on Michael Crichton before I'd started high school. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."


(Aaaaaand let's hope this doesn't go overboard into rant territory.)


[Edit: Ventus is not a Crichton novel, in case you were wondering]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...