#AtoZChallenge: April 14 – M is for Masculus

Building where Stendhal dictated "la Char...
Building where Stendhal dictated "la Chartreuse de Parme" in 1839 : 8, rue de Caumartin, 9th arrond. Français : Immeuble où Stendhal a dicté "la Chartreuse de Parme" en 1839 : 8, rue de Caumartin, 9e arr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

masculus, mascula, masculum: male/masculine, proper to males; manly/virile

Reflecting on male characters… What influences us now in the development of a character? For a fiction writer the credibility of a character is important is it not? At least for the sort of fiction this writer fancies doing: fantastic maybe, but still anchored in real life. The speculation is about circumstances and events: those can be extraordinary, once in a decade, once in a century, or even more far-fetched. But good fantastic arises from the ordinary. And the characters must be credible. It is about you, reader, ultimately, you are the central character.  But I am diverging.

If you are male, a male reader, what do you expect from a male character? And what if you are a female reader? What makes an attractive male character you may be tempted, or, better still, compelled, to identify with? And how has this evolved over time, say, since Stendhal wrote “La Chartreuse de Parme”? For example, James Bond belonged to the fantasy world of Ian Fleming, and probably drew more than one trait from the rat bag of more or less secret agents he must have known in the 40’s-50’s. But was Bond credible? Maybe he was for contemporary readers. How about Hiro Protagonist in Snow Crash (1992)? Can you believe in a sword-fighter/hacker/pizza-delivery-boy? But few readers would really believe in or identify with those characters surely? Did they a decade ago, twenty, thirty years ago? Strangely enough, still in Snow Crash, 15 year-old YT  – the Kourier – is, for this ageing male reader, a more realistic human being (says a lot about this writer’s prejudices?)

What has “realism” got to do with a character’s gender? I happen to believe it has, but can’t pin down why exactly. Is “credibility” be equated with “realism”? Another wild guess: the male gender – as characters and perhaps reality go – has become highly undifferentiated, so that male characters have tended to slide into stereotypes: the heart-of-steel ninja, the ageing benevolent geezer, the serial killer, the lost writer? Is there a maleness “trend” in fictional characters?

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