I’ve been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately. Yes, that show never grows old (in fact, for someone born in 1988 my taste in entertainment is relatively ’90s/early ’00s. Though I do like Supernatural). Anyhoo, the show got me thinking about the concept of The Insane Woman (or the Crazy Woman, the One-Way Ticket to Looney Bin Lady, etc.), and I had to ask myself, why are the women portrayed so often in pop culture or literature as people completely off their onion (or are they)?
This is my sane face.
Take Buffy. There’s Drusilla of course, a permanent resident of Nuttyville, there’s Evil Vampire Willow (whose “bored now” line always makes me cringe in all its faux-evilness), and Tara whose head’s tampered by Glory, and in episode “Normal Again” even Buffster spends time in a mental institution. But of the main male cast it seems that only Spike goes looney tunes, and even that won’t happen until in the last season. Angel exhibits slight craziness when he’s spat out of hell, but he got over it pretty quick and was tai chi‘ing in no time. Hm. So is there a pattern here? Or does it only look so because there are more female characters in Buffy than male?
Well, then I took a look at T. K. Trian’s manuscripts. Let’s see.
Story 1, Blood Calling. The Insane Woman? Check.
Story 2, Three waifs. Hm, nope. Huh.
Story 3, Ruins. Check. Check.
Story 4, Red Bricks and Black Leather. Check.
Story 5, Solus. Check.
Story 6, Yet to be Named Steampunk Thingy. Check.
That’s about it, I think. But what worries me is that we haven’t written too many insane men there (the way I define insane, I s’pose). In fact, there are none on the list above. And we try to keep our cast 50-50 men and women. Why are our women more or less insane, yet men are the voices of reason? Is this a matter of a stereotype? The hysterical woman? To me this kind of thinking feels so 19th century, and more often it is me, a woman, who ends up making the female characters nuts when the men are boringly sane. Even my two favorite books are about The Insane Woman, Herbjorg Wassmo‘s Dina’s Book and Vigdis Grimsdottir‘s Nimeni on Isbjörg, olen leijona.
I feel like we are dealing with a stock character here. *pulls out a list of stock characters*
Let’s see if it’s true. We have here:
Manic Pixie Dream Girl which implies being crazy in a woman is actually sexy and ‘eccentric’.
I’m crazy, but least I’m darn cute!
Well, then I went to tvtropes.org. Madness Tropes. Well, there’s Cute and Psycho, The Psycho Lesbian (ut-oh, apparently she’s a big no-no. Jesus. *Shakes finger at Sarah Waters*). But there’s no particular mention of the Insane Woman, women in particular being portrayed as nutjobs in literature or pop culture in general. Still I somehow feel that women are more often the nutjobs than men. Men can be violent or possessive, but women are weird, crazy, insane, clueless, spacy, etc. Is that the acceptable way to write a non-Mary Sue woman without the fear of being called a chauvinist or accused of misogyny or reinforcing negative stereotypes of women? If that’s the case, I don’t get it. I mean, people, mental health issues are not cool. Mania is not cool. Psychosis is not cool. Depression isn’t sexy and mysterious (that might just be a mental issue equally prevalent in male characters, come to think of it).
Color me confuddled (and a spoil sport, if you want), but I’m not liking this trend if there is one here.