I’ve been spending some time reading, and enjoying quite a bit, the Phryne Fisher mysteries, by Australian author Kerry Greenwood, and I’m keeping both the novels and the TV series based on the novels handy as a defense against the ubiquitous Soccer World Cup in the next few days.
And I was reflecting on the way the characters in the series are delightfully portrayed, and how they are allowed to grow and develop in the series.
The chemistry between the characters and the actors portraying them – Essie Davies and Nathan Page, certainly, but all the cast of the show, really – is something I’ve been observing closely, what with my habit of writing stories about couples and all that.
And as I was taking notes, I told myself that all things considered, Phryne Fisher has a lot of casual sex, in the series.
And I mean a lot, for a prime time TV show.
Which is probably the reason why the show was aired late at night in my country.
And yet, how many characters have we seen, having casual sex for fun or for some devious purpose like gathering information, through the years?
I mean, James Bond, anybody?
In detective fiction, hardboiled PIs have a steady track record of bedding clients, suspects, wealthy heiresses, secretaries, librarians…
And let’s not start with fantasy heroes.
OK, so Conan the Barbarian never did anything naughty on the page, but we all knew how things stood with all those “wenches”, right?
Yes, of course, it’s always men we’re speaking of.
When it comes to women, too much promiscuity is considered the mark of the villainess – the dragon lady has a lot of lovers, the queen of the lost city keeps a few toy boys close by… but these characters are evil!
And if she’s evil, it’s all right if she screws around.
But heroines most certainly don’t.
Which is absolutely stupid, if you think about it.
Deeply ingrained in our culture and in our narrative cliches, but oh, so mindboggingly stupid.
And I don’t know if I really like the definition some critics used to describe the character and situations, as “raunchy”.
Nobody ever called James Bond or Harry Flashman or Mike Hammer “raunchy”.
And so I find one further motive to love Phryne Fisher, as a character – she’s helping a lot of people (including, ehm, me) to look at characters and roles, and people in a different, more level-headed, unbiased way.
And she’s teaching me to design better characters.