Episode 150: The Patriarchy and Male Character Clichés

On July 3rd, Kasie and Rex took on the idea of male character clichés and how the patriarchy seeps into every story whether we know it or not. Here are the show notes:

Theme for the day(s)

Male Cliches and The Patriarchy (dunh dunh duuunnnnh)

Agenda

  • What are some cliches and archetypes for male characters
  • How the patriarchy informs and perpetuates male cliches
  • How to avoid the big-box-everyone-expects-it male character
Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

Link to the podcast

Segment 1

This summer we’re working on serialization projects. You can review the show where we covered the benefits and opportunities of serialization here. My work is on Wattpad and it’s called The Full Moon in Neverland. It’s seven full chapters, 30 parts, and clocks in at 3 hour and 33 minute read (phew!) already and still a few chapters from the climax. I think it’ll end up being between 12 and 14 chapters. So a lot of work and I’m giving it away.  

Rex is working with Vella and has this epic cover for his vampire novel. I know, copycat (ha). So he’s going to go live after he gets six chapters loaded. Vella is a service of Amazon.

The SCWA invites you to participate in Writing Conversations every Tuesday at noon via zoom. Click here to register. This upcoming Tuesday, July 6th, is an introduction to memoir with Alexa Bigwarfe. She was a fantastic addition to the conference line up and did a solo even last fall. 

Segment 2

So let’s make this piece clear right away: just because we are talking about patriarchy as a social concept, and just because we’re talking about it being unfair to men and women alike, and just because we acknowledge that it exists and is damaging, does not mean we are accusing Rex (or any other specific men) of being sexist.

This is not a debate. Patriarchy exists. This conversation is about where we see it in books and the publishing industry and what we can do about it once we know it’s there.

Let’s start with the cliches conversation which could give us some examples of the damage patriarchy has done to our image of men and their role in the family and society.

From this link, here are 5 cliches for male characters:

  • The womanizer — good looking, gets any woman he wants, eternal bachelor, misunderstood until he meets the right woman (damaging for both men and women)
  • The brainy sidekick — knows stuff other characters don’t, solves the mystery, and is promptly forgotten (damaging for suggesting smarts are not sexy)
  • The billionaire authoritarian — CEO, boss of some kind, lead vocalist, etc. Has a ton of money and everything he can buy with it. Typical alpha male behavior: possessive, bossy, persistent. Only falls for the girl because she says “no.”
  • The clown — not taken seriously, there to deliver punchlines, is laughed at not with (think Chandler on Friends), not cute enough to threaten the womanizer’s attractiveness to women, but maybe has that “tender heart” thing working for him behind the biting humor
  • The misunderstood bully — different from the billionaire authoritarian in that he doesn’t have the resources to force people to comply; he might be a tough-talking cop, or a sarcastic-because-he’s-damaged character (Judd Nelson’s “Bender” in Breakfast Club)

Some not on the list:

  • The jock — athletic, competitive, focused on some kind of achievement or goal that exists outside of family or romance; could be construed as selfish or self absorbed
  • The dad — maybe he’s goofy and tender, maybe he’s devoted and understanding; he’s not the “father” in the sense of authority, but the “dad” in that he can be depended on and trusted; he might be the self-sacrificing equivalent of the “mother” archetype on the women’s side
  • The bad guy — damaged, for sure, violent, angry, aggressive, shows no remorse

Segment 3

Let’s talk about some of the realms of influence men are expected to rule:

  • Business — billionaire CEO, never the ambitious marketing specialist or the erstwhile accountant with no power; it’s a cliche to put him in charge of everything
  • Family — breadwinner, disciplinarian, barbecue master, grass cutter
  • Romance — pursues woman, asks her to marry him, lets her decide on the frivolous stuff (like wedding arrangements) but makes the big decisions like finances and mortgages and other credit-related risks (retirement)

When we limit our female characters’ agency in these areas, we are submitting to the patriarchal construct. (more on patriarchy in literature here) But the patriarchy also limits our male characters’ agency by expecting them to behave in these preconceived constructs.

Some classic examples of these narrow narratives include:

  • The Rise and Fall of Silas Lapham
  • Anna Karenina
  • The Awakening
  • The Sun Also Rises — is all about the concept of masculinity and what it means to be an adequate male and mate; Hemingway was preoccupied with the topic

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