Paul Jessup wonders why misogynist tendencies in some epic fantasy works are always excused with “But that’s the way it was in medieval times”, when authors are otherwise not particularly interested in maintaining historical accuracy.
Of course, historical accuracy is a very common excuse for misogyny in any kind of fiction. In the romance genre, whenever the discussion gets to the type of historical romance commonly known as “bodicerippers” and particularly the prevalence of rape and violence towards women in general and the heroine in particular in those novels. Whenever a romance reader complains that she (since most of them are female) doesn’t want to read books wherein the alleged hero rapes and abuses heroines or whenever some other reader complains that historical romances are “much too PC” these days, the first argument that comes up is always, “But the rapes and the violence against women are historically accurate”.
Now many historical romance novels are no more accurate than your average pseudo-medieval fantasy in every respect, including gender relations. However, the violence and rape are explained away with “Well, it is historically accurate”.
It’s a stupid excuse, never mind that it isn’t true. If you read novels that were actually written during the time that most historical romances are set, i.e. the 18th and 19th centuries, you won’t find the domineering alpha jerk heroes so common in modern historical romances. Instead, you have Werther from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774) who at one point falls to his knees and kisses the pale red ribbons on the gown of his beloved Lotte, whom he is in love with but does not dare to confess his feelings, because she is engaged to another. Werther also cries and whines a lot and eventually commits suicide. Or take Osbert, Earl of Athlin, from The Castles of Athlin and Dunblayne (1789) by Ann Radcliffe. Osbert, whose courage is repeatedly extolled in the text, is captured by his enemy and about to be executed. However, he is very brave and courageous in facing his impending execution, as Radcliffe does not fail to remind us. He is so brave and courageous that he promptly faints once he sees the executioner sharpening his axe*. Those are the real heroes of the late 18th century, whiny Werther and fainting Osbert, and they are very unlike the macho men found in modern historical romances.
Sam Sykes responds to the recent uproar about the alleged genre unfriendliness of the BBC. Like I’ve said before, I understand the sentiment, but I don’t think that the BBC really deserves the blame here, because they do produce quite a lot of genre television.
And of course, the BBC has produced the longest running speculative television show with Doctor Who. Twenty-six years of the original show plus seven years of the new, plus countless audio dramas and tie-in novels, no other broadcaster can match that.
While on the subject, here are some very sad Doctor Who related news: Actress Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who, died of cancer yesterday, aged only 63.
Her character, Sarah Jane Smith, was among the most iconic companions of the classic Doctor Who series. She definitely was my favourite companion and starred in some of my favourite Doctor Who stories such as Pyramids of Mars, Genesis of the Daleks, Seeds of Doom and Masque of Mandragora. I was overjoyed to see her reappear in the new Doctor Who series, though I was never quite happy with what Russell T. Davies did to her character. Spending thirty years pining for the Doctor and eventually being reduced to chaperone/babysitter for a bunch of precocious teenagers in The Sarah Jane Adventures – Sarah Jane Smith deserved better.
When I first read the news in one of those “most viewed articles” boxes on the sidebar of a news site, I was utterly stunned and shocked. Because Elisabeth Sladen was much too young to die, she had not appeared ill and had still been working until very recently. The most recent – and it turned out final – season of The Sarah Jane Adventures was only broadcast in the fall of 2010. Turns out that no one knew she was ill, because she preferred to keep her illness private.
It is depressing how many of the actors, writers, directors and producers who turned the original Doctor Who into the iconic show it was during its heyday in the 1970s are no longer with us. Of course, there still is Doctor Who, but the modern version is no longer the show I once fell in love with, though it took me three seasons and two spin-offs to realize that.
*I happened to be on the London Underground, when reading The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne and I literally burst out laughing when I hit upon the fainting scene, until the whole carriage was staring at me.