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Writers Are People Too…Horrible, Horrible People

March 4, 2010
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When I’m not writing, I like to knit and watch old episodes of Murder She Wrote (yes, apparently despite being young and supple on the outside, on the inside I am 65 years of age. But I only have the one cat, not a houseful of them. Not yet, anyway…). I watched one the other day in which the intrepid serial killer writer, J.B. Fletcher, is thrown in with a whole bunch of other writers at an awards ceremony in their honor. Of course, someone dies. But what really struck me was the array of writerly stereotypes on the show.

First, there’s Mrs. Fletcher herself, the kindly old lady from a quaint town who writes mysteries. The other female writer at the ceremony writes trashy romances (nice comment there on women’s literary ability: mystery writer, romance writer and…and…oh, wait, there is no one else) and is mocked by several of her male compatriots. The victim is a has-been war writer who drinks and womanizes and treats his wife like crap, sort of like a seedy 80s Hemingway. Then there’s the poncy, is-he-gay-or-just-affected author of “literary fiction,” who speaks with a fake English accent and thinks he’s God’s gift to his readers. J.B.’s escort is another hard drinker, a chain-smoking, silver-tongued poet who wears tweedy blazers and is always broke. A broke poet? What a revelation! Maybe he should pawn his tongue…

As I watched this episode, I thought, “This is terrible. These writer characters are so stereotypical, they’ve become grotesque caricatures. Oh, look, there’s the nerdy mousy aspiring writer. Oh my God, that’s ME.” Quick note: nerdy mousy aspiring writer turned out to be the murderer, so don’t steal my words if you value your life.

Anyway, murderous tendencies aside, I then thought “Who really thinks that writers are like this? Wait…someone wrote this script for this television show. This is a writer’s depiction. Wow, someone out there is really bitter. Why would he want to make his own profession look so bad?”

When I was an actress, I hated most other actors. They were a bunch of unprofessional primadonnas as far as I was concerned. I guess it makes sense for writers to mock their own kind, as well. Additionally, it’s true that writers are not pleasant people to be around, for the most part. Very few of us are dogged by fans or even readily recognized on the street (although Jessica Fletcher is, all the time, the lucky bitch), and I think some writers secretly want to keep it that way. It’s hard to observe the world when one is part of it; it’s much easier when one is outside, looking in.

Obviously, the hidden motive of the writer of that episode was to make people stay far, far away from him by presenting us with the whole gamut of writer stereotypes: hack, ponce, drunk, smut peddler, nosey parker, and cold-blooded killer.

Oh, you didn’t know that last one was a stereotype? Sure it is. All writers want to kill someone, most likely an editor somewhere.

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