Monday, June 12, 2006

SB Day: The Bitch Is Back

If you are uninterested in bitchiness, romance novels, or Smart Bitches Day, then head on down to this column and see if you can offer up any advice.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve participated in a Smart Bitches Day, and today’s is sort of half-assed, but I felt we were sadly lacking in bitch praise. Now, when I say bitch I don’t mean the southern bitch who smiles to your face as she stabs you in the back in that “Bless your heart, tramp,” kind of way, or the cashmere bitch from up north who’s so caught up in social standing and her charities that she forgets about the real world. No, I’m talking about the blunt talking, slightly self-centered but totally open about it bitch who will tell you not only how it is, but whether or not she can stand you…to your face.

I was reminded of this type of bitch when Marjorie Liu highlighted Jennifer Crusie’s essay, “The Assassination of Cordelia Chase.” Cordelia Chase was a bitch, but she was a bitch who was allowed to grow (but still remain bitchy) and fall in love (while still being bitchy). She represents a character that hardly ever exists in Romancelandia without being an uber-villainness. She’s bitchy? Good God! She can’t be the heroine, surely not! No one will like her.

And what makes her a bitch? Well, she’s sure of her own goals, looking out for number one, and has an unwillingness to compromise about her personal comfort. Just the type of girl every mother wants her daughter to grow into. How sad that all these traits that make her strong are the very same that make her a turn off to the average romance reader. But are there bitches that work in Romancelandia? Do they ever get the guy?

How does one go about “tricking” one’s readers into supporting the bitch character, cheering her on as she finds love, happiness, and the perfect top? Is she a character best suited to act as a secondary or tertiary member of the story for a few books—allowing the reader to get used to her bluntness while experiencing her emotional growth—before getting her own chance to shine?

Am I over-thinking this? Yeah, probably, but I really like bitches.

They have all the best lines.


Kate R said...

so you got the bitches in literature, but what about film. Olivia DeHaviliand [sp] in Philadelphia Story . . . was she a bitch? She had some good lines. Or are there no bitches in mid-20th century film (other than Joan Crawford or the bad women in The Women)?

Ooo Sounds like a thesis question. Discuss.

And speaking of schooling, come take my who wrote which orgasm quiz because no one else has.

Doug Hoffman said...

You've convinced me. I'm going to make my female protag bitchier still!

Lyvvie said...

As I was reading this I was thinking about Julia Roberts' character in My Best Friend's Wedding who was a selfish, scheming bitch, but I loved her to bits!

Definitely need a few more bitchy/strong/alpha type women in Romancelandia!!

lady t said...

Thanks for the link to the Cordy essay-I do agree that her character got botched up by season four(That whole Connor/Cordy hook-up still makes me shudder to this day).

One of the best bitches in lit and film was Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind-I read that book several times and had different takes on her character each reading. That girl never truly changed,even at end"Tomorrow is another day" indeed!

otterb said...

There are some romances, or at least women's fiction, with alpha heroines who border on bitchiness. I think one key to making them likeable is to give them a soft side of some kind. You can turn someone from annoying and cardboard into endearing and more complex with a glimpse at her fondness for an elderly neighbor, or a minor phobia she tries to hide, or an inability to manage some typical part of life even though she's highly competent at the rest of it. Or give her an environment where her get-out-of-my-way attitude is the key to survival.

Glenda Larke said...

I think you have to read fantasy to get good and likeable bitch heroines. Maybe because their worlds are tougher, the bitchiness seems to have more reason and better results for them.