Agatha Christie was Right and So are Romance Paperbacks

In the recent BBC version of The Mystery of the Blue Train, the rogue husband of the murdered victim does NOT pursue the book's staid, grey-eyed heroine.

He does in the book.

I was disappointed by this alteration and considered it another example of how much the writers of the latest BBC Poirots don't "get" Agatha Christie. Don't get me wrong: I love the series, and some of the movies are pretty good--but like a great deal of television/movies/literary literature in the last decade, the stories are often edited to prevent the rogue from getting the girl.

Which is not in-line with Christie's vision.

It isn't that she was especially devoted to rogues. What makes her so entirely unique (and different from Marsh, who used the same romantic couple over and over and over, and from Sayers, who was only really concerned with one romantic couple) is that she believed in the individuality of love. She was willing to allow (in a very English tolerant way) that every relationship has its own vibe. Sometimes the good guy gets the good gal (4:50 to Paddington). Sometimes the adventurous guy gets the adventurous gal (Cards on the Table). Sometimes a tough strident woman gets a dreamer (Hercule Poirot's Christmas). Sometimes a passionate couple realize that they are actually also friends (Moving Finger). Sometimes the bad husband gets his wife back (Mysterious Affair at Styles). Sometimes the passionate exuberant gal really does want the limp, waffling idiot (Sittaford Mystery). Sometimes the girl-in-love-with-the-aloof-man learns to love someone more compassionate and real (Sad Cypress). Sometimes the taciturn brute gets the matter-of-fact Wren (Taken at the Flood).

And sometimes the rogue gets the princess.

I have found it downright refreshing how much the latter is allowed to happen lately, even in Disney. A perusal of teen fiction will tell you that not only is the rogue alive and well, he is flourishing, and nobody is being apologetic about it. Books like Jane by April Lindner (based on Jane Eyre) and The Hollow Kingdom by Clare Dunkle don't reform the supposed rogue-villain to be the "right kind of guy" but rather use him in all his roguery.

Now, I admit that like many people I find rogues such as stalky Edward somewhat problematic--although my problems with Twilight have always been more about the boringness of the heroine, rather than the bad-boy behavior of America's best-known vampire. However, the plot solution is for the rogue to grow up, not for the rogue to stop being himself.

The wrong solution (the rogue stops being himself or else) was one (of several) mistake made by the Buffy writers towards the end of Buffy's run: Spike is a bad-boy, ooh, we don't want to send the wrong message to teenage girls: Buffy and he mustn't have a real relationship!

Yeah, just check out the fan-fiction and see how well that little message of good behavior went across.

The truth is, a rogue without compassion and loyalty--a Flynn who actually does sail away--would be completely unappealing to any woman/human being (one hopes). But--and this is why the terribly insightful and human and well-lived/well-loved Agatha Christie rises above all other writers--creating a relationship where the gal is completely willing to take on the rogue with all his roguery . . . that works.

The solution is not to make the rogue less masculine or less clever or less edgy or less prone to hit people or less aggressive or less assertive or less insert-quality-usually-associated-with-rogues-and-men but, rather, to create couples that complement (not "compliment," as Bones points out to Booth though that is nice too) each other.

I will grant that not all writers can pull this off. Stalky Edward needs to get a new, more interesting, hobby. But some can. And nobody gets tired of it.

Which is why romance paperbacks will never, ever, ever die.

No comments:

Post a Comment