July 20, 2018, 05:44:31 AM

Author Topic: Gender and Sexuality in Cuckoo's Calling  (Read 2189 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

October 13, 2013, 02:26:15 PM

Kickassnoodle

  • You can't get any smarter than this
  • Forum Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 286
I have recently starting paying more attention to how gender and sexuality issues are dealt with or presented in various forms of art and media. A running refrain in commentary is annoyance with the lack of diversity, which is totally understandable and justified, in my opinion. Most of TV programmes, films, books and comics tend to mostly represent and focus on heterosexual folks assuming traditional gender roles and conforming to traditional gender rules. Main characters tend to be male with female characters assuming supporting roles and often ending up poorly-developed.

First, I think, it's good to remember the distinctions between different terms. You can look them up, but I personally find most of the official definitions quite confusing. But for the purposes of this discussion I define the terms as such:
Gender - the way a person identifies (as female/male/something else) and acts/appears/assumes roles which are traditionally thought of as masculine or feminine.
Sexuality - romantic and/or sexual attraction to the opposite/different/same sex. A person's gender expression (i.e. gender roles and physical feminine/masculine traits) does not necessarily have anything to do with attractions they feel.

OK, that sounded a lot more complicated than I intended, but to put it simply, let's look at how characters of different genders are developed, which roles are attributed to them and who they're attracted to in Cuckoo's Calling. And how those traits are woven into the story. And whatever else we may find pertaining to the topic  :fredgeorge:

Let's start with Robin and Strike. Upon first glance there doesn't seem to be much going on. We've got Robin and Matthew - a happy heterosexual perfectly conforming couple, Strike and Charlotte - another heterosexual couple in an unhappy relationship. But as the story progresses we start to see different sides to Strike's and Robin's characters. Strike, outwardly very masculine, develops into a sensitive person who is able to read other people pretty well; while Robin, sacrificing none of her femininity (except, occasionally, heels) and organisational skills, takes charge and eagerly goes out into the potentially dangerous field.

Here are some questions just to get us going. They are all about Robin and Strike, but if you don't feel like discussing them, please, feel free to share any thoughts about other characters' gender and sexuality or just any general thoughts on the topic. I will be back with more questions about different characters and issues later on :hedwig:
  • What instances have you noticed of Robin behaving/thinking in ways which are not typical to her traditionally feminine exterior?
  • What about Strike acting/thinking differently from what society expects from such a manly man?
  • How are those traits important to their ability to do their jobs? How is it important to the story? That is, would Strike or Robin still work as characters to drive the story if they were just your stereotypical grumpy ex-soldier and girly secretary? Why/why not?
  • How do Strike and Robin use their status as man and woman, respectively, to achieve their goals? Did you notice any instances when being a guy/ a girl puts the characters at an advantage or a disadvantage? How do they work around it?

Modly reminder: please keep the discussion within the rules, especially respect each other's personal differences as well as different opinions and beliefs. Also, keep the discussion within PG-13 limits.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2013, 12:35:23 PM by Kickassnoodle »


Logged
October 20, 2013, 08:58:24 PM
Reply #1

paint it Black

  • Notorious Mass Murderer OR Innocent Singing Sensation
  • Forum Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 697
I like to look at Robin as a woman who is finding herself by becoming more assertive and independent, rather than a woman who is displaying masculine characteristics.  It is interesting though that both Strike and Robin seem to have an aptitude for detective work, and that some of the skills necessary to succeed at this might be perceived as more feminine (patiently and compassionately listening to witnesses) and some more masculine (daring to confront potentially dangerous people to gather information from them).  I think that when we meet Strike, he is already adept at both of these.  I don't think that his failed relationship with Charlotte is due to lacking characteristics of either gender; I think that he just had the misfortune to fall for a fickle woman.  If anything, his compassion for her may have prolonged their doomed relationship.

Robin on the other hand is (as you've said) "perfectly conforming" to a lifestyle and relationship that might be expected of a young heterosexual adult of her gender.  If I remember correctly, she followed Matthew to London, so his job came first; she is expected to get a new job in the town he has chosen to live in.  There's no indication that she's supposed to live barefoot and pregnant once they are married, though; neither of them expects to adhere to gender roles that are that rigid.  When it comes to tasks in Robin's work with Strike that may be a bit dangerous, Strike seems to have no doubts that she can do the work, but is a bit concerned for her safety, and more concerned how Matthew will feel about it.  (If Matthew disapproves then Strike will lose his clever assistant.)  So the men do (to some extent) tend to look on her as a woman who needs protecting.

Between the two of them, I'd say that Robin is the one who may be branching out a bit in terms of what is expected of her gender.  I think Strike is pretty well-established in his gender role, and that it suits him in his line of work.

Cuppa is discussing Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  Please join us!
Logged
October 22, 2013, 06:13:37 PM
Reply #2

HealerOne

  • Staffer
  • *****
  • Posts: 914
    • Chasing the Tale
I basically agree with paint it Black concerning Robin and Strike. I like the set up that JKR has made with these characters - just enough sexual tension that they work well together but without an overriding sexual tension between them that distracts from the story. It's a tricky set up that authors have to make, so that the readers are intrigued enough about what will happen to the relationship between the two detectives and at the same time they are able to place that on the back burner as the detective story unfolds.

Now as to " feel free to share any thoughts about other characters' gender and sexuality or just any general thoughts on the topic." I'd like to speak to LuLu. Her conformity to the role of an air-headed model who doesn't know what is best for her reeks in this story. Many try to categorize her this way from the press to her friends, lovers and family. But what we find out through the book is that she was a savvy business person. A poor little bird that hasn't flown the nest, a Cuckoo? Or LuLu the wise-to-you sister/niece/lover who is totally aware of her foibles as well as all those around her. I really like that she wasn't that naive and she was realizing her (and other's) mistakes. Of course it makes her even more vulnerable because she is aware of what is going on around her. Had she been easier to manipulate by others - she might be alive!
Logged
November 09, 2013, 06:23:12 PM
Reply #3

Kickassnoodle

  • You can't get any smarter than this
  • Forum Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 286
I like to look at Robin as a woman who is finding herself by becoming more assertive and independent, rather than a woman who is displaying masculine characteristics.
I agree, but also, such independence and assertiveness (especially the latter) is usually encouraged in boys/men, while girls/women are more often encouraged to be pretty and polite and stuff like that. But yes, in terms of, let's say modern feminism (for the lack of a better term). Robin is simply branching out from the more traditional gender characteristics/role and embracing what it means, you know, to be a free fabulous woman, if you know what I mean :ginny:

I basically agree with paint it Black concerning Robin and Strike. I like the set up that JKR has made with these characters - just enough sexual tension that they work well together but without an overriding sexual tension between them that distracts from the story. It's a tricky set up that authors have to make, so that the readers are intrigued enough about what will happen to the relationship between the two detectives and at the same time they are able to place that on the back burner as the detective story unfolds.
Yes! I really liked all the little awkward moments between Strike and Robin, each very careful to establish and not to cross any boundaries, which in itself shows that there is some tension there, but it's kind of natural, when two heterosexual characters of opposite sexes meet. But I really hope that Robin and Strike's relationship never becomes romantic, since I'm a sucker for good friendship relationships, and I love when the author chooses that route as opposed to a romantic relationship and it happens way too rarely.

Now as to "feel free to share any thoughts about other characters" gender and sexuality or just any general thoughts on the topic." I'd like to speak to LuLu. Her conformity to the role of an air-headed model who doesn't know what is best for her reeks in this story. Many try to categorize her this way from the press to her friends, lovers and family. But what we find out through the book is that she was a savvy business person. A poor little bird that hasn't flown the nest, a Cuckoo? Or LuLu the wise-to-you sister/niece/lover who is totally aware of her foibles as well as all those around her. I really like that she wasn't that naive and she was realizing her (and other's) mistakes. Of course it makes her even more vulnerable because she is aware of what is going on around her. Had she been easier to manipulate by others - she might be alive!
Again, I agree. Lulu might appear as your stereotypical silly model but it appears that she could use her looks and the role as a female model to disguise her real self, which I think is very clever, since it both uses a gender stereotype of a pretty woman and sort of destroys it.

While we continue discussing the points already raised, I thought, I'd add a few more questions to the mix:
  • What do you think about androgynous characteristics displayed by different (pretty much exclusively) male characters? For instance, Strike's father is actually described using the word androgynous, lean body, with long hair. And Strikes notes the femininity of Duffield's movements and posture.
  • It's especially striking since these characteristics are paired with both men being quite the ladies' men. Why do you think that is?
  • I also thought it was quite interesting that this sort of gender presentation was brought up so explicitly - what purpose do you think it serves in the book? Do you think Strike noting these things tells us something about his character?
« Last Edit: November 09, 2013, 06:29:11 PM by Kickassnoodle »
Logged
November 10, 2013, 11:13:31 PM
Reply #4

paint it Black

  • Notorious Mass Murderer OR Innocent Singing Sensation
  • Forum Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 697
  • What do you think about androgynous characteristics displayed by different (pretty much exclusively) male characters? For instance, Strike's father is actually described using the word androgynous, lean body, with long hair. And Strikes notes the femininity of Duffield's movements and posture.
  • It's especially striking since these characteristics are paired with both men being quite the ladies' men. Why do you think that is?
  • I also thought it was quite interesting that this sort of gender presentation was brought up so explicitly - what purpose do you think it serves in the book? Do you think Strike noting these things tells us something about his character?

If I remember correctly, Strike's father (Jonny Rokeby) is an aging rock star, like a Mick Jagger-type.  I'm trying to remember if Duffield was also a musician, but I do remember that he was well-known and considered desirable by women (and likely some men as well).  Sometimes men are successful in this field if they have (or adopt) a bit of androgynous or feminine quality to them (long hair, guyliner, etc.).  I'm not sure if I know the psychological reasons for this; perhaps younger girls (on some level) see the feminine qualities of these men as more relateable and less threatening?  It's possible that these characters were represented this way in the book to differentiate them from regular guys like Strike and Bristow who are not in the entertainment industry (or fashion industry -- Guy Somé is also quite effeminate).  I'm not sure if the fact that Strike notices these feminine characteristics of these men says anything about him.  I think he just has keen powers of observation.
 :sherlock:

Cuppa is discussing Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.  Please join us!
Logged