A killing spree

I was scrolling down the feed on Facebook looking for inspiration for this blog post, when I saw a friend’s link to this piece from Bookriot.  I had  one of those moments of instant recognition that happens when someone says something you weren’t even sure you’d been thinking about but which, when articulated, seems to reveal buried fragments of ideas and convictions you’ve had bubbling beneath the surface all along. 

Like the author of “Why I Need a Break from Books about Dead Girls,” I too have been immersed in a lot of narratives that feature dead girls/women lately.  Tana French’s hypnotic In the Woods is about the murder of a young ballet dancer and the ensuing investigation.   I just finished the second season of The Fall with its charismatic serial killer who targets young brunettes.  A manuscript that kept me engaged all weekend featured an unreliable narrator and the violent deaths of several women and a 12-year-old girl. 

Now, I read plenty of fiction and nonfiction where women are not murder victims, per se.  My recent forays into pleasure reading include The Paying Guests and The Silent Wife in which male protagonists did not, shall we say, fare well.  But, it does seem that dead girls/women are a recurring trope in all kinds of storytelling.  Of course, the underlying psychological and cultural reasons for this are myriad and complex, but it makes me wonder what it is about killing off females that appeals to a writer’s imagination.  Why is it easier to kill the girls?  Does it reflect a more misogynistic societal bent?  Or is it simply a matter of storytelling convenience (is it easier, for instance, to plot the physical overpowering of a woman by a larger male assailant)?

All I know is that now that this idea has been unearthed for me, I’m going to be paying a lot more attention to the female body count in the books I read and the films/programs I watch.

4 Responses to A killing spree

  1. I am left wondering what shows, films and books you are reading. Almost every critically claimed series with a high body count has men stacked up dead by a huge margin. 10 to 1 or even higher:

    The Sopranos: so many dead dudes compared to poor Adriana.

    Game of Thrones: all the dead dudes, plus a few moms and a handful of spear wives.

    The Lord of the Rings: Dead men everywhere. And some come back from the dead so they can be killed again.

    Breaking Bad: Dead, dead. And more dead. Guys.

    Sons of Anarchy: A dead mom and a white supremest daughter and one hundred dead men. And rising.

    Etc., etc.

    While I recognize some genres, like Mystery, features the Damsel in Distress Goes Splat probably one time too many, if we stacked up All the dead, the women’s bodies compose the lobby of the Empire State Building while the pile of dead men has pushed through the roof and achieved orbit.

  2. Miriam says:

    Ha! You make a convincing argument, Anthony. There are categories of fiction storytelling that are all about racking up the body count. Also, I think there’s a difference between the violence men perpetrate on each other in a warrior-like setting (all of the shows you cite would qualify) and the crime novels with their hunter-prey paradigm.

  3. Hillsy says:

    Indeed – there’s a massive difference between killing and murder (or you could read that as Violence and Power).

    The fact that men die due to violence in a ratio far outweighing women is as much an indicator of our inherent media sexism as the fact women are ‘victims’ far more often. Just that men get the far better end of the image deal when it comes to taking those tropes into society at large.

  4. Bill says:

    I’ve always figured it’s anti-feminist backlash.

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