There is a rumor that Stephen King is a misogynist: Google Search, Google Scholar Search. Probably the one time when the civil and scholarly worlds almost match. But I am not here to perpetuate that rumor; I really don’t agree with it. Especially as a man who was raised by a single mother, I don’t think he could hate women after he acknowledges how hard his mother worked to keep him and his brother alive. I think he gives women a backbone–an unapologetic one.
…sometimes a woman had to be a high-ridin’ bitch. “Sometimes,” she told me, “being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.” [Dolores Claiborne (1993 Signet paperback, 358)].
People take to task women who are too “bossy” or “forward” and it pisses me off. I’m willing to bet it pissed off Mrs. King, too, when her husband walked out one day and left her with her two boys. I’m willing to bet lots of women get pissed off, and Stephen King has captured just a few them–getting mad as Hell and not taking it anymore.
Here, in no particular order, are my Top 5 Stephen King Big, Bad Mamas:
Probably the most notorious, Margaret White.
Overtly religious in “godless times”, Margaret White comes off as a little bit cuckoo. Especially since her girl just wants to fit in and go to prom. Pitched as evil and off her rocker from the get-go, Margaret does little to change this. She’s consistent, determined, and certain–how many of you can say that? She doesn’t change to fit her environment, feeling complete control and confidence in the opinions she pursues. Not only that, she ends up right–not even saying “I told you so!” when Carrie comes home just a little worse for wear after the prom. I mean, almost all of them laughed at her by the end of the movie.
From the book quoted above, Dolores Claiborne.
A hardworking maid and housekeeper for Vera Donovan, Dolores discovers her husband is molesting their only daughter. With advice from Vera and her own anger-fueled strength to guide her, Dolores seeks recompense for the invasion against her daughter’s security and her bank account. After working long, hard, physically crippling months and years for Vera Donovan, Dolores thought she’d earned a path to freedom for her and her daughter. No one, not even her drunken, abusive husband, could stop her.
A mother against her will, Nadine Cross.
Nadine Cross was promised to The Walking Man. It might appear that she promised herself to him, based on the way she acts. However, in the film, Nadine Cross’s death takes on a different form from the novel, even though the intent is still the same. In the film, Laura San Giacomo is taken into the arms of Randall Flagg–at the last minute she wants to refuse him (similar to the book)–and becomes pregnant with his child. Running was no option, when you’re running from the Devil. She’s taken back to Las Vegas to be introduced to the crew there, when shortly after a conversation with Randall’s right-hand man, Nadine picks herself up from the couch, threatens Randall as the image above portrays and tosses herself off the balcony. In the novel, she taunts Randall into tossing her. Quite the message to send to the baby-daddy, wouldn’t you say?
The unholy maternal spirit, Ellen Rimbauer.
Ellen Rimbauer only wanted the dream of a Victorian life, marriage, and family. Giving two children, the happiness of her youth, and her very soul in order to seek out the joy she wanted. Her carousing, cheating husband kept her from it. Ellen and her maid, Sukeena, would make him pay. Dedicating her very life to the process of building her mansion, Rose Red, Sukeena assists Ellen in attempting to woo her grandson, Steven, into helping them build. Protecting home and hearth, Ellen and Sukeena are a force to be reckoned with when Lois Reardon and her crew attempt to waken the sleeping mansion.
The trapped protector, Donna Trenton.
Donna is simply trying to live her life, take care of her boy, and get her tired car fixed. Dropping her car off with a trusted friend becomes a fight for survival as she’s attacked by a rabid St. Bernard in front of his home. Doing all that she can with what she has is an understatement as Donna surveys her surroundings and tries to fight through the environment as she’s found it. She’s done nothing to create this trauma, aside from not being prepared to meet a rabid dog, and can do almost nothing–save risking contracting the disease herself–to take herself out of it. Watching Donna fight to survive the world as she’s had it presented to her is a metaphor for maneuvering the minefield that women often call life.
Sometimes the characters authors write don’t get the gripe for being assholes–the authors do. Accusing an author of being an asshole for writing asshole characters is kind of like calling God an asshole for creating assholes on Earth, isn’t it? And, of course, in order to understand an asshole, one might have to be one. That doesn’t necessarily mean the author and his character are the same kind of asshole. King has written some pretty shady characters; he’s also written some pretty honorable characters. The rub is that both are human, and King is merely attempting to show us how life can sometimes be–real or in our most vivid nightmares.