Thursday, October 05, 2006

The End Of Definition

When I refer to "classic" gothics, I do not mean the seminal works by Walpole or Radcliffe. (Ah-HA! You thought I was an airhead who knows nothing about literature, didn't you?) And the volumes I intend to extoll the virtues of are not the near-literary cousins written by Wilkie Collins and the like. No, no, I mean to wallow happily in the formulaic deluge of titles that were so popular from the 50's through the mid-70's. They were pumped out with the intention of hitting the pressure points with equal parts of scares, hinted-at sex and good-natured violence.

Are the heroines smart? Not terribly. In fact, even when faced with clearly presented evidence, they often ignore warning signs and stumble directly into more trouble.

Are the stories and situations realistic? Well, in a general way, yes, but, mostly, no. I can't vouch for how women acted or felt they HAD to act in the early days before liberation began, so a woman cleaving to the firm chest of a man ruling her life sounds like so much bullshit to me. However, I have to benefit of being alive today and not back in 1837 or whenever.

Do they even attempt to present women in a positive light at all? Yes, definitely. Sure the heroine is occasionally saved by the big strong man, but she is usually the one who roots out the trouble and imperils herself to discover the mystery. Most, but not all, heroines in gothics tend to exhibit the finer qualities of virtue, honor, loyalty and persistance in the face of adversity. That's more empowering than reading about stupid chickie-chicks sleeping with their bosses, co-workers, emotionally-bankrupt guys while wondering why their lives are such utter shit. (Hello, Bridget Jones!! Braindead damn book that I, with total disgust, launched across the room while feeling insulted by it.)

I love gothics because I completely accept the level of silliness in which I am about to immerse myself. I don't read them to exorcise some inner demon. I don't look to them to answer any of life's questions. I don't expect to see myself or my peers reflected in the characters. Basically, its like watching an Adam Sandler movie, but without having to see him do his typical schtick that makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth.

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