This week Castle the smash hit US TV series, airing in the UK on Sky, has been nominated for a People’s Choice award. For those of you not in the know Nathan Fillion plays Richard Castle, a phenomenally successful murder mystery/thriller writer who ‘shadows’ the impossibly lovely yet terrifyingly capable Det Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) at the Noo Yoik police department. Hilarious japes and mild peril ensues.
Look ! http://exm.nr/UJFa26 (www.examiner.com)
Before I continue I should point out that I’m very fond of the show, and more than fond of the lovely Mr Fillion, but it has occurred to me that Castle is not a good role model for insecure and aspiring (read skint) writers.
Castle is far too handsome and ridiculously charming. He’s smart, sells gazillions of books, lives in a millionaire’s Manhattan ‘loft’ and solves loads of tricky crimes while flirting winsomely with Det Beckett.
Is this a realistic role model is this for young writers?
Quite frankly, I think it’s damaging to our fragile and impressionable little minds. In the same way that the fashion industry is berated for its use of super skinny and size zero models, making young women (and men) feel inferior and fostering eating disorders, what about writers? Castle is probably single-handedly responsible for thousands of cases of ‘writing disorders’ and pyjama-clad bouts of moping and self-doubt among wordsmiths who live in London bedsits (or Cardiff semi-detached houses with damp ceilings and write in a spare bedroom full of suitcases) No one campaigns about realism in role models for writers!
Be they fictional or actual there really aren’t many great role models for writers to emulate through the ages.
In the ‘Romantic’ era of the 18th century to be a ‘writer’ you had to be rich or ‘of independent means’, off your face most of the time, have lots of spare cash to enable much lying around in opium dens, renting villas on lake Geneva or swimming across the Bosphorus for a laugh – see Byron, Shelley/Mary Shelley/Keats/Coleridge et al. Consumption/gout and syphilis were an occupational hazard – Uuurgh! Nasty!
In 1920s and 30s London you could call round each others’ nice houses in Bloomsbury, drink tea, discuss aesthetical and liberal ideals, wax lyrical about ‘a room of one’s own’ and then walk into a river with your pockets full of stones – downer! (See, obviously, Virginia Woolf)
Late 20th and early 21st century fictional role models are little better.
Mega bestseller Stephen King has done a lot to reinforce the ‘writer as eccentric’ trope in his books. See The Shining – 200 pages of writer’s block and the phrase all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy would send anyone axe-happy if they were in a caravan in Brighton let alone a scary hotel in the Rockies with phantom bar tenders.
Also in Misery – Paul Sheldon is an eccentric egotist who apparently never makes copies of his manuscripts (eh?) and drives out in snowstorms in a wholly unsuitable car. He suffers at the hands of his number one fan Annie after he ungratefully decides to kill off the popular romantic heroine who’s made him squillions of quids, ending up one foot short of a set of sneakers for his presumption.
I think you’ll agree there’re not many laughs there.
For me – a child of the 80s – lady writers were synonymous with two women.
1. Every nan’s favourite sleuth Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote (Angela Lansbury as a sort of modern day Miss Marple on Red Bull)
2. And dowdy Joan Wilder, the ‘romantic’ novelist from Michael Douglas fun-fest Romancing the Stone. In this holiday classic Kathleen Turner (hair in a ponytail, no make-up, awful sweater) is dowdy ‘hopeful romantic’ Joan (lives with cat, talks to cat, wears heeled court shoes on a trip to rescue her sister from kidnappers in Columbia). Once jungle-side she meets up with Jack Colton (Douglas) and becomes all adventurous and sassy – like, you know, the stuff she writes about in her books comes true, like, art imitating life, imitating art etc. By the end Colton’s hero brings out the ‘woman’ in her (Kathleen – now wearing lip gloss, a revealing skirt and with BIG 80s hair – yeah, in the jungle, like they’d have Braun hot tongs there. Anywaaay…)
But still not much to aspire to. You can’t sit round waiting for Michael Douglas all day. I think they have big spiders in Columbia which rules out any jungle larks, and Turner was obviously always a total fox pretending to be a plain Jane by wearing a saggy brown suit.
So maybe it’s time we started campaigning for real role models for real writers.
That’s pretty much a slogan already! There must be some European funding available or we could organise a telethon, featuring sad mini profiles of ‘real’ writers in their slippers going on a Baileys run to the corner shop. Donate your pounds now – save these poor souls from excessive tracksuit wearing and bad haircuts, that sort of thing. We could get Morgan Freeman to do the voice-over!
Or maybe pressure could be put on producers for more realism in our TV ‘writers’. For the next series of Castle perhaps Mr Fillion could try and at least ‘look a bit rough’ of a morning, don a scruffy dressing gown, not bother to shave – or there could be a scene were he constantly checks his sales on Amazon or his blog stats. Maybe he could even have a bit of a verbal dust-up with a bloke called Adrian or Javier on Goodreads over a dodgy review. It’s not perfect but it’s a step towards ‘Real Role Models for Real Writers’.
Yes, I think it’s a winner. I’m actually glad now that I haven’t left the house for five days or blow-dried my hair for a week – more time for great creative ideas to flow…
In fact, I might actually tweet Mr Castle right now…Dear Mr Fillion…
*If American, vote here for Castle in The People’s Choice Awards (if not, look at a nice picture of lovely Mr Fillion anyway.)