Lazy Writing Part 1

I am not often one who gets my feminist hackles up, since i think mostly that sort of thing reduces mostly to class differences. One thing I am starting to find truly annoying, though, is the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her archetype. You know what I'm talking about: something is clipping along in a story things are progressing from Point A to Point C via Point B, when out of the blue because the plot is running too fast the writer figures that he needs to complicate things a bit and add a subplot of some kind and he introduces this character. And god is she annoying. Even though it's mindnumbingly clear to the reader, the writer, and every clued in character in the story what it is that this character should do in the situation they are thrust into, she instead does the exact opposite. Because this activity is in fact insane and is only there to complexify an otherwise extremely linear and predictable story, the writer needs to create a reason for her to do this thing. There are a few stock reasons, all of which generally work in service of some sort of neanderthal view of human nature, but by far the most irritating is the general appeal to hysterical femininity. The audience is in effect being asked to accept that this character is behaving in a completely stupid way contrary to what the protagonist needs her to do because he emotions have short-circuited her ability to think clearly and act sanely.

A perfect example of this is the character of Shannon Rutherford in the early seasons of Lost. Now I generally like Lost, but I think like a lot of people who liked the show, I was fucking thrilled when Shannon finally got killed off. Why? Because Shannon was a dumb bitch who didn't know what was good for her. She was always acting in a childish and petulant manner contrary not just to the interests of the people around her, but even herself. Now granted, such people hell bent on petulantly acting against their own self-interest do exist in real life, but for the most part they don't do it in immediate ways. Their countervailing interests are the result of political or philosophical or theological errors that lead them to think that their self-interest is in some way different from what it really is. This is why poor people vote for Republicans.

The Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her, however, has no such reasons or principles. She's simply a crying hysterical woman who is refusing to go along with what the protagonist wants her to do because it's what the protagonist wants her to do. Hence Shannon would sit on the beach tanning while everyone else around her went about building shelter, looking for water, capturing food and all of the business attendant to surviving on a desert island. Sure, they make a stab at explaining why she's an irrational, unstable woman because "she's in denial" or whatever, but basically the appeal is made strictly on the weak-mindedness of her overly emotional gender. You never see this in a male character. Rather, the Dumb Asshole Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Him is usually some know it all intellectual (like the guy that blew up with the dynamite) or otherwise effete twit who offends some other quadrant of constructed underclass rage. He usually "Gets What He Deserves" like the russian speaking history teacher in the opening scene of Red Dawn who, being a liberal pussy intellectual, makes the mistake of trying to talk to the evil commies rather than shooting first and asking questions later. This is not the case with the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her. Why? Because the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her has a nice rack and a bangin' ass and therefore needs to be rescued from her own stupidity. If she were to get what's coming to her the way the Dumb Asshole Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Him inevitably will, it would not be cosmic justice but rather the failure of the protagonist to rescue a potential future off camera blow job, and that would offend still another quadrant of constructed underclass rage. So no, the worst thing about the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her is that she sticks around, and will always be there to be a sore spot whenever the lazy writer needs a source of conflict again. Which means that we're essentially being made to hate this character for being a stereotypical woman, even though she is completely unrealistically so.

Please use the comments to add more examples if you can think of any.

Comments

But by your standards, the

But by your standards, the touching moment in the film CLUELESS (or, to go straight to the source, EMMA), in which Cher Horowitz finally awakens to some of what's going around her, would be excluded. And really that would be a great shame. Because the film so perfectly (and very movingly) encapsulates the experience of naive adolescence. Yes, we all know that Cher isn't the brightest bulb in the room. That she is, by your misogynistic standard, the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good for Her. But then "dumb" people, when a narrative is designed to serve them (and I think that this is what you are trying to argue here), can be just as compelling as a protagonist with smarts. Marilyn Monroe in SOME LIKE IT HOT wouldn't exist by your standards. Mallory Keaton from FAMILY TIES. Kelly Bundy from MARRIED WITH CHILDREN. Or, more recently, Leslie Knope in PARKS & RECREATION. Granted, I think comedy may be better at giving "dumb" female characters some narrative options. But if art is to portray the human condition, then it must also extend its branches to those who are more than a few cards short of a full deck.

you miss my point

I have nothing against the artful portrayal of the stupid. my beef is with the introduction of a cipher with a vagina whose only purpose in the narrative is to add complications for the protagonist through her being a dumb bitch who doesn't know what's good for her. None of your examples are the archetype I'm talking about.

If I understand this

If I understand this correctly, you mean characters like Susan Mayer from Desperate Housewives. Though I haven't seen most of the newer seasons, I enjoyed the satirical lines of the older episodes, but Susan just fell out of the picture. Most important, she's the protagonist of the show and has a daughter that seems to be more capable of living that Susan herself.

I don't know if she's an

I don't know if she's an example because I never watched that show. What I will say, tho, is that if she's a protagonist then it's unlikely that she fits the archetype. Because protagonists have depth and it's their troubles that move the plot, the Dumb Bitch Who Doesn't Know What's Good For Her, by contrasts, generally only exists as a complication for the other more capable characters. It's much more common in action and adventure genre's than things that are more character driven because they really require the sort of flat characterization of that sort of work or else they stand out too much and are unbelievable by comparison.