I’ve read nearly all of Sidney Sheldon’s books. Not “nearly”, I have read them all. (Not Tilly Bagshawe’s books because I can’t make out what she is, a fanfic writer or something else? Anyway, irrelevant to this post) If you’ve noticed Sidney Sheldon was famous for his powerful, beautiful, strong female protagonists. Once you get author fatigue (phrase origin: hoping I coined it. Meaning: a condition where you have read so many books of an author (and his/her formulaic fiction) that you start predicting the plot no matter how different the setting is.) and study the man’s work, you’ll know they were all rags to riches tales.
How did these women go from rags to riches? Were they intelligent? Smart? Strangely, they were all naive at the beginning. They got pregnant, raped, wrongly arrested, conned, whathaveyou. These incidents always turned them into the cunning, ruthless seductresses that they were later on in the tales.
That verily is the key word here. All of his heroines were seductresses, and nothing more. Sure, maybe it takes some level of intelligence to seduce high profile men, I suppose, but we are forced to draw parallels between Sheldon’s men and Sheldon’s women (that sentence came out wrong!)
In one of his books, I think it was The Best Laid Plans (which I always disliked for its rather anti-climactic ending), there’s a line, “If you are beautiful and have a vagina, you can rule the world.” If you look at the men, tycoons, businessmen, mafia dons etc. they all had dicks. Some were dicks. But that wasn’t the reason they were ruling the world. Their histories were perfectly laid out maps of cunning design, loss, sacrifices, and ultimate success. Not once did they have to sleep with someone to get a job or to get places. Sheldon’s imagination seems quite fertile when portraying the rags to riches stories of men.
But with women, there was just one route – be hot, then just do it. It begs the question, are women incapable of achieving anything without having to sleep with someone? We know that isn’t true. But think of it from a naive, easily impressionable reader’s perspective: the message coming across is a woman can only be successful if she pawns herself out. Not a very healthy message or even a true message when coming from a successful writer whose stories are centered around female protagonists. Even the alien from Doomsday Conspiracy got that same message!
His books are still very popular, among teens as well as adults. To be fair, the man’s books were good works of fiction (If Tomorrow Comes is listed in my top ten favourites). Fast-paced, page-turners, all of them. His characters (ironically) are unforgettable. But I do think girls need a better role model than Noelle Page.