By Elaine Viets
Why are married men so dumb?
I’m not an exasperated wife, but a fed-up reader and viewer.
I’m tired of dumb men in movies, TV and fiction. You know what I mean: the smart, cute wife is married to a buffoon with a room-temperature IQ.
The prime – or maybe prime-time – example is Homer Simpson. Yes, I realize he’s a cartoon. So is Peter Griffin in “Family Guy.”
But “Everybody Loves Raymond,” is another clueless consort, and his wife would get the gold at an Olympic eye-rolling contest.
Dumb husbands are (laughing) stocks in commercials and America's Funniest Home Videos, though AFV men are hit in the gonads so often that has to lower their chances for reproducing.
How did men go from “Father Knows Best” to Father Knows Nothing?
And what kind of consorts are we providing for our smart women of mystery?
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple is a spinster. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone, like many women detectives, is divorced and likely to stay single. Grafton said she doesn’t want to write Nick and Nora Charles dialogue.
As for Nick and Nora, they’re happily married, but Nick’s a bit alcohol addled and doesn’t like that Nora has all the money. He goes to work, but only when she complains. They aren’t really equal.
Few women in crime fiction marry equals. Helen Hawthorne in my Dead-End Job series started out like many female detectives: divorced and bitter. The judge had promised Rob, Helen’s unfaithful ex, one-half of her future income, and she swore Rob would never see another nickel of her money.
At first, Helen’s single state was fine. She kept working low-paying Dead-End Jobs and solving murders. But I realized that Helen had to make some changes if the series was going to stay fresh. She had to let go of her bitterness. Otherwise, she’d become a bore. We’re all sympathetic when our friends divorce. But eventually, we expect them to get over it. Yes, he’s a jerk, we say. Thank goodness you dumped him. Now find something new to talk about.
Besides, a bitter, divorced woman didn’t reflect my own view of marriage. I’m happily married and believe that equals can and should marry. Who wants to hang around a stupid spouse till death?
In my third Dead-End Job mystery, Dying to Call You, Helen started dating Phil Sagemont, a private eye who also lived in the Coronado Tropic Apartments. As she overcame her dislike of men, I worked on my Nick and Nora dialogue. Finally, in Killer Cuts, Helen agreed to marry Phil.
The change worked. The two married PIs make the series stronger and more believable. Helen no longer has to trip over bodies and find reasons to conduct amateur investigations. As licensed private eyes and in-house detectives for a Fort Lauderdale law firm, she and Phil are paid to investigate murders. It’s their job.
In Catnapped!, my new Dead-End Job mystery, is a hardcover and an e-book. Helen and Phil are hired for what looks like a simple job: retrieve a show cat in a pet custody case. The soon-to-be ex husband should have returned the cat Sunday night. Monday morning, Helen and Phil find the husband dead and the cat held for a half-million dollar ransom.
Helen and Phil are still happily married, and I’m still learning how to write their dialogue. I make sure they have fights and disagreements, because even happy couples have those. Helen and Phil are both smart and equally dumb: In Catnapped!, Phil stole the wrong show cat and Helen blurted information to the police that nearly derailed the investigation.
Catnapped! is the 13th book in the series. Married people do live longer.