Of late, many of my female friends on social media have been bemoaning the limited and often misogynistic descriptions of female characters in books written by male authors. Many feel that they, personally, would never be described by male authors because they lack a “proper feminine image”.
In response to these, not wholly unwarranted, criticisms I find myself pondering literary character descriptions in general regardless of the gender of the author.
Do female authors do a better job of creating realistic male character descriptions than male authors do with female character descriptions? Do you think I would get a more accurate character description from the likes Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele?
Somehow, I have an equally hard time seeing my self described favorably in a work of modern fiction penned by a woman. In fact, I imagine something like this:
“He certainly rippled- or maybe jiggled- beneath his, overly tight, oxford button down as he hastily stumbled down the steps of his mid-town office block to hail a cab, no doubt, to take him the three short blocks to the nearest Chinese Restaurant where he would, undoubtedly, bury his feelings of professional inadequacies under a small mountain of Szechuan Chicken and plot his revenge against all those who failed to see his worth.
What does it say about our society that fictional characters are, more often than not, simply stereotypic caricatures that perpetuate distorted and unhealthy images of human value? How often is a fictional hero or heroine that is a fully formed person with merits and flaws and underlying beauty, humanity, and value realistically concealed beneath an unflattering mortal shell?
Not very often. Because, I suspect, even when authors write stories with characters like this, editors reject them because “it will never sell” and mainstream film makers never make movies from them because they won’t be able to cast any “A-List talent” to take a role like that and without the glitterati of a major box office draw, it’s “just another art film”.