The more well-balanced gender attitudes become, the queasier older stories make me. This includes ones I wrote.
This scene, for instance, from the short story I’m expanding into a novel, including Librarian Holly Jahangiri, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (born Genesis Selinsky), and other Living Books. In it, con-man Connell Morgan, now a pirate king, having been fooled into thinking Bel Schuster is the daughter of a high-ranking official, is trying to romance her. Is it still funny, given that we know she’s more than a match for him?
Female Characters, Too
excerpt by Marian Allen
Connell arrived at the salon of the Silver Suite in a cloud of musk. He had changed into a suit much resembling a martial arts exercise outfit, made of a soft muted-violet knit. On his feet he wore gray suede-like shoes disconcertingly like bedroom slippers.
“My,” said Bel, “you certainly look comfortable. Maybe we’d better leave the door open.”
“Don’t be alarmed, my dear,” said Connell, closing and surreptitiously locking the door. “When we’ve finished our dinner, I plan to spend the rest of the evening relaxing with a good book and a cozy fire. You’re welcome to join me, if you like.” His voice was warm and velvety, his eyes soft and smoldering. “I’ll even provide the book.”
Romantic music began to infiltrate the room. He lit the candles as the lights dimmed.
Bel, being only human, had to acknowledge the effect. But, after all, even with the tastiest fillings the universe could offer, an omelet was only as good as the basic egg. The music, the candlelight, the soft purple pajama suit — these were all filling. Connell Morgan was the egg. More need not be said.
“I wanted to go out tonight,” Bel said petulantly.
“But, my dear –”
“I wanted to go out.” Bel sat and began to eat. The magical flowering moment withered and died.
“Don’t be cross,” Connell cajoled.
“I’m not cross,” said Bel. “I’ll just tell Daddy how you locked me up, slave to your whim, and then we’ll see who’s cross.”
“In the meantime, please yourself. I won’t say another word.”
And she didn’t.
“Oh, very well,” Connell said at last. “Where do you want to go?”
Bel brightened gratifyingly for him. “I’ve heard of a place called The Dead Parrot,” she said.
Connell was suspicious. “Mother Hoyden’s place?”
“I really wouldn’t know.”
“You wouldn’t happen to know it was Mother Hoyden who claimed your little Gilhoolie pal, I suppose?”
“How would I know that?”
“And you don’t want to go to The Dead Parrot to talk with Tetra?”
“If Tetra is at The Dead Parrot I’ll want to talk to her. Why shouldn’t I? I suppose people do talk to each other on this island.”
“Well, yes, but –”
“All right. We won’t go. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.” Bel cast herself into a corner of a silver-brocade sofa, crossed her arms, and looked sullen.
Connell told himself that he had seen Bel Schuster in many guises, all more pleasant than this reality. It cheered him to remember that it could have been worse; he could have found himself free to deceive her into a false marriage.
“I’ll change into street clothes,” he said, “and be back in fifteen minutes. We’ll go to The Parrot.”
“The dead one?”
So, given that actual seduction is in no way funny, is this scene funny? Or, you know, not?
A WRITING PROMPT BASED ON MY POST: Someone attempts to manipulate someone into doing something against his/her best interest.