Crime Fiction - an Essentially Masculine Genre

The Crime Fiction genre has long held conventions antithetic to feminism. Through the values these conventions imply, female traits are devalued and female characters marginalized. In Michael Ondaatje’s forensic novel Anil’s Ghost and Alan Moore’s graphic novel Watchmen, female crime fighters must assume male traits to succeed in restoring order and delivering justice. Similarly, in John Huston’s classic noir film The Maltese Falcon and Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, female characters are portrayed in chauvinistic or marginalizing ways through the engagement of Crime Fiction conventions.
The female crime-fighter appears to be only successful when she adopts certain chauvinistic traits. In Anil’s Ghost this is certainly true of the eponymous crime fighter, who engages with the conventions of the hard-boiled seeker-hero, such as Huston’s Sam Spade. While the amateur female sleuth “has been a staple of mystery novels for generations… the professional female character is an exhilarating newcomer to a market long dominated by men” (Mizejewski). This is shown in Anil. She is a loner, her family dead and her husband and lover abandoned.   Her name serves as a metaphor for her masculation, as she first buys it of her brother – paradoxically, using her sexuality – and then denies her family’s attempts to emasculate her name by adding an ‘e’ to the end. An important element of the male hard boiled crime-fighter is pursuit of women, and this is satisfied by the sexual relationship is implied between Anil and Leaf. Also a part of hard-boiled romance is that the crime-fighter is never taken in by their lovers, as Anil is not taken in by Cullis, and does not allow herself to be restrained by him, striking back forcefully. However, Anil is fundamentally a female character, and so her fundamental inability to fit the masculine convention is reflected in her ultimate failure to achieve justice and restore order.
This marginalization is also present in the superhero...