Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Last year at Bouchercon I attended a panel where the brilliant Christa Faust responded to the inevitable question that always seems to creep up in any gathering of writers and readers. Someone asked her about whether or witht he METoo movement should writers abandon stories where female characters are the victims of crimes. Especially sexual crimes. I'm going to paraphrase her answer here but essentially what she said was :
"You can write whatever you want. But I don't think we need that type of story written by a cisgender man anymore. We don't need that anymore. If it's going to be written let a woman write it."
I thought about her answer for a long time. This week it seemed especially prescient after I watched GREEN BOOK win the Oscar for best picture.
I know , I know GREEN BOOK isn't a crime film. It's not a noir film. Although changing the plot to include a heist would have been interesting as hell. I mention it as an example of what Christa was getting at. There are certain themes and stories that should fade into the annals of history.
A cozy English mystery that depends on a swarthy "foreigner" as a plot device. Dame Agatha used that one ad nauseam . The hooker with a heart of gold. The overly exuberant LGBTQ character. I could go on but I think you get the point.
Certain types of stories have a shelf life. That shelf life drops significantly when those stories are interpreted by individual without a vested interest in accurate representation.
I can hear some people screaming at their computer screen or phone
"But a movie like GREENBOOK is great because it has representation! The black guy is the white guy's boss!"
In theory yes. GREEN BOOK is based on a true story. The script was written by the son of Dr.Don Shirley's driver. It's inherently slanted to unfold the story from the point of view of Tony. Because the screen writer had no vested interest in making sure the story presented both men as equals. GREEN BOOK is marketed as a buddy story but it plays out like a one man show. And yes the great Marshela Ali won an Oscar for his performance. I think that says more about the prodigious talent of Mr. Ali than it says about the nuances of the script.
Look I 'm not standing on my soap box and screaming at you about what you want to write. I'm not advocating censorship. All I'm saying is if you choose to write a story featuring themes or characters that you may not initially have a deep understanding of or a vested interest in please make sure you are doing the due diligence to represent those ideas in a forthright and honest way. Tell the characters story not yours.
And if you can't do that leave it to someone else who can.