Thursday, June 11, 2009

Male Fiction: A Call to Action

In a recent article, Jason Cruise talks about the church’s message for men. He tells of a preacher giving sermon designed to inspire men to become more actively involved and then ruining it by creating a visual of men wearing a wedding dress. I haven’t noticed the problem he describes in the church of which I am a member, but I’ve heard enough about this problem to believe it exists. Some people believe we have a similar situation in Christian fiction. How can you possibly expect men to read Christian fiction if there’s nothing but historicals and romances?

There is a difference in the novels that men enjoy and those enjoyed by women. The Guardian reported in 2006 that women favor the emotional, while men favor novels about social dislocation and solitary struggle. No surprise there. I don’t, however, agree with Charlotte Higgins’ assertion that “the novel that means most to men is about indifference, alienation and lack of emotional responses. That which means most to women is about deeply held feelings, a struggle to overcome circumstances and passion.” The stories men enjoy are just as much about deeply held feelings, are just as much about overcoming circumstances and are just as passionate as the stories enjoyed by women. The difference is in the way these things are expressed.

In the movie version of The Neverending Story, there is a scene in which we see Rock Biter talking to Atreyu. This giant stone monster, the epitome of strength, is looking at his hands. “They look like big, good, strong hands, don’t they?” For all his size and strength, he couldn’t save his friends, the little man with his racing snail, the nighthawk and the stupid bat. The Nothing pulled them right out of his hands. And now he is waiting for the Nothing to take him too. There’s a lot of passion, here and the feelings run very deep, but it isn’t the same as what you will find in a story aimed at women. This is a love scene, but it isn’t the kind of love scene you’ll find in a romance.

Many of the stories that men enjoy involve a call to action. Success in these stories will only come if someone stands up and takes action. The most bitter failure is when you aren’t strong enough or fast enough. The solitary struggle is often a part of these stories because that is what reveals the strength of the hero.