Tuesday, 20 September 2016

JUDITH KRANTZ’S ‘SCRUPLES’ VS THE GAY MAFIA

 

I’ve been comparing many novels to SCRUPLES and yet still no post featuring that title. I think it’s time to remedy the situation, so here it goes. The first time I came across SCRUPLES was in the mid-‘80s, not long after my involvement with HOLLYWOOD WIVES. I wanted to read another gem about Tinseltown and critics raved about Judith Krantz’s first novel. I had high hopes it was going to be as gripping as the Jackie Collins classic and it was but on a different level.  SCRUPLES introduced me to clash trash. Before Krantz, we had authors like Susann, Robbins, Sheldon, even Collins, whose main goal was to shock rather than entice. But it took Krantz’s talent to raise the bar and what followed was a bunch of well-written oeuvres that may not have existed had Krantz not paved the way. Anyway, to make a long story short, I recently re-read the thing just so I could acclimate myself to her world before embarking on her many sequels. At first it was all lovey dovey between the novel and I.  I was so happy being reunited with boutique owner Wilhelmina ‘Billie’ Winthrop, photographer and ladies’ man Spider, and spunky fashion designer Valentine. But as I got further into their storylines something unexpected happened, something that completely passed me by the first time around: underneath all that glam existed a kind of a homophobic novel.  

First and foremost let me say this: I don’t mind when a gay character turns out to be unsympathetic in print because it’s true, some of us do tend to be bitchy; as any other person can be. What I don’t enjoy, however, is when an author takes the opportunity to downgrade homosexuals in his or her own work, like choosing derogatory words to describe them for instance. And Ms. Krantz uses them quite often in SCRUPLES, when she’s not busy putting a negative spin on their lifestyles. Indeed, many chapters are devoted to their wicked ways which, I admit, can be fun if taken with a grain of salt. But the problem I have with this is that she makes it seem like we’re all one and the same, that we are all cheaters, manipulators, distrustful... 

Oh don’t get me wrong, I realize that the novel is from a different era and that her lack of fondness for a certain type was far from being uncommon, but this fixation of hers is a bit cray cray, if you ask me; the clichés are everywhere, from a queenie fashion designer who gets off on verbal abuse and sexual stimulation in rest rooms, to a closeted lesbian agent who hates the very thought of a masculine presence. Not to mention the many cracks regarding one’s position in the fashion industry. Krantz never stops. So much so that I had to take an urgent breather and read something else just to get my mind out of her gutter.  I did manage to finish the novel and I did enjoy it… to a certain degree. But I would be lying if I said all these unnecessary jibes didn’t bother me.  

Now for the big question: would I still recommend SCRUPLES knowing what I know now? Probably, but it would come with a warning, like this written piece, for instance. That being said, I hope I did not turn some of you too much away from this novel, for it does sparkle underneath that nastiness. But it would have been unfair of me to sweep those remarks under the carpet and declare the novel just cookie and cakes. Besides, forewarned is forearmed, right?

  

Until next post—Martin

 

 

1 comment:

MBoccardo said...

Interesting observation. Thinking back (since its been a while) I can definitely see some of those cliched tropes in Scruples. It was still an enjoyable read for me. But your review conjures up my own observation about Valley of the Dolls (only a 3 star review on Goodreads for me). I enjoyed that book as well, but the generous sprinkle of the word "faggot" was becoming tedious, if not offensive, in most instances. I try to sum it up as only the character's perspective and not a reflection of the author's perspective, but it is a bit of a struggle not to wonder where the line is drawn. Scruples is my only venture into Krantz territory. It will be interesting to see if these same stereotypes appear in her later novels.