One of my favourite things is that my little 8yr old brother loves classic murder mysteries/detective stories. That might sound bad but here’s why:
He and I love watching Miss Fisher’s murder mysteries (his all time favourite show) together.
Now, normally his favorite characters in other shows are all men. But in this show, he loves the women most.
He loves miss Fisher. She is independent, rebellious, strong and brave. She fights against her gender constraints but isn’t afraid of being feminine. When I asked him who he would be if he could be any character in the show he said Miss Fisher. And that is coming from a boy who is often scared to wear anything even resembling a dress or makeup until I make promises that no-one else will see him being ‘girly’ (he’s a really sporty kid but he loves dressing up and making characters and getting us to film him).
He absolutely ADORES Dotty. He likes how kind and smart she is and would “like to marry her one day”. He likes that when things are tough she is strong and compassionate and always defends her friends. He cheers her on when she says no to people who try to tell her she can’t go on adventures, or work, or marry who she likes.
He also loves the men, but not quite so much.
He likes Hugh, and how he is always sweet and respectful to Dotty, but he doesn’t like it when he tries to stop her going on adventures.
He likes Jack, because he’s a good man, a good policeman and and 'very good friend to miss fisher even though his boss doesn’t like it.’
He is growing up watching a show based in his home country, about men and women who are amazing role models. He gets to see strong women on TV and he gets to see men who make mistakes, and who get over their prejudices in the face of love.
This is why strong female characters/protagonists are important. This is why flawed male protagonists are important. This is why my little brother who is arguably 'too young’ for murder mysteries watches them. Because otherwise he doesn’t get that experience.
The American writer Dorothy B. Hughes, who was born in 1904 and died in 1993, was one of the most successful crime novelists in mid-century America, with several of her books turned into Hollywood movies. The best-known of these is In a Lonely Place, which became a film with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. A new edition of the novel has just come out from New York Review Books, and our critic at large John Powers says Hughes’s version of noir is excitingly radical.