As most of you will probably be aware, The Beatles are the most famous thing to come out of the UK since cholera, and have been just about as ubiquitous in their effect on society and culture, in music and beyond.
For many years they ruled the world, a sextet of talented, intelligent, memorable individuals universally adored by the public and critics alike. Though they went through their difficulties - everything from artistic disagreements to religious disaffection as well as the standard substance abuses and attachment to gag-inducing haircuts - the band remained united by a friendship that endured through all the ups and downs of their rise to superstardom.
But then, from the blackest pits of hell, came disaster. Onto the scene of this triumph of platonic endeavour burst a flapping, shrieking, malevolent force that singlehandedly brought about the end of an iconic age of music and brotherhood.
And that, according to popular belief, is how Yoko Ono ruined the world.
While neither a fan of The Beatles or Yoko Ono myself, I am more than familiar with the story, and the feelings that lie behind it.
In the figure of Ms Ono I have come to recognise that which, without a doubt, I despise most in all of book-dom: the nagging wife, the overbearing mother, the petulant daughter, the spiteful fiancée, the sexy seductress, the wailyweepy damsel-in-distress, the scheming sister. She whose very existence seems to have been to ruin a relationship I have come to love and treasure, and on whom descends the full force of my deep, burning, utterly irrational hatred.
Such was the cultural impact of her involvement in the last months of their existence, and the interpretation of her actions, that Yoko Ono has since come to be demonised on a level I do not think I would be exaggerating in saying was comparable to Hitler. The aftershocks of Yoko Ono's story are still being felt today.
However, the story of Yoko Ono is also a story of me - and how I came to hate female characters.
Yoko Ono was to fans of The Beatles what a female character came to mean to me, subliminally, through much of my reading life. She was an intrusive force, an interruption to the lives and adventures of the characters I had come to love and feel for throughout the course of the story. Her arrival signalled a threat to the relationships in which I had invested myself, a halt to the story while she sank her claws into one of my beloved characters and devoured their life and soul, neccessitating a complete reconfiguration of priorities, circumstance, and strategy.
What guise she came in did not matter - she was always there, waiting, just waiting to get her claws into my story and drag it into the woeful pits of forced romance that made me want to throw the book across the room in frustration. Oh, she might look innocent now, riding under the guise of a side character, or a mentioned relation, or (gods preserve us) a fellow protagonist, but sooner or later she would show her true colours. And I, full of suspicion and vitriol, would be waiting for her.
I was, of course, wrong. Just as wrong, in fact, as the fans of The Beatles were, in becoming so focussed on one element that the wider aspects of the whole completely fell off the radar.
Yoko Ono was not the only reason that The Beatles broke up. And not every female character is a narrative saboutage waiting to happen.
What is at fault here, rather, lies at the throbbing, tumorous heart of the greater issue that these irrational mistakes are born from - that one mistake can have far wider ramifications than anyone could have expected.
I do not consciously seek out to regard every female character I encounter with mistrust and suspicion. I would love nothing better than to be dementedly excited at the sight of their skills and interests, to chew my nails and claw at my hair and laugh and cry and shriek along with the ups and downs of their narratives, to treasure their relationships as I do those of the other characters... but, just as the die-hard fans will forever dig up new revelations regarding Yoko Ono's meddling with the vision and direction of The Beatles in their last months, current trends in writing refuse to let up in the slew of female characters who prove my every suspicion is grounded in truth.
The greatest injustice in this matter, and the greatest subsequent tragedy, falls upon the hated few. Yoko Ono was, and is, a visionary artist, musician, thinker, writer and individual, before and after she met John Lennon. Every female character, too, has a story of her own, completely apart from the role she takes upon being introduced to the established dynamic.
But nobody cares, because her story is not the one they are reading.
Nobody knows, or cares, about Yoko Ono herself. Nobody cares to realise that she had a following and a reputation and a life of her own, that it was John Lennon's interest in her that brought them together, or that it was he who invited her to provide feedback on the direction of his failing band in the hopes it could be saved.
Nobody cares, either, why the female character has come into the story, or acts the way she does, or why her introduction must neccessitate such a change. Things were fine the way they were before she came in, after all. Why should she have to come in and shake things up, pull things apart, ruin everything that we have come to know and love? Why is she even here?
Why do I still believe this, even when I know I'm being foolish?
Because of bad writing? Because of sloppy characterisation? Because of tropes, conventions, and endemic habits of writers who need a cheap conflict to keep their story interesting? Because the neccessity of the romance plot has yet to be challenged? Because the love interest is treated only as an accessory to the hero? Because blaming a woman has been a cultural practice from as far back as pre-history? Because heteronormative phallogocentrism is so pertinent that clearly a female character has no other purpose in a story than to Get Her Man by any means possible?
All may be true, or false, to a lesser or greater extent. But, really, it all boils down to one, very simple, reason.
Because her story is not the one we are reading.
Because nobody cares enough to write it.
~ Charley R