Thank you, Internet, for giving me a life goal.
The sad part is that Madam Fatal is not Miss Marple’s more active cousin bred on paperback novels of 1940-42 America, but a man named Richard Stanton in drag.
Still, despite Stanton being the man behind Madam Fatal, I like this attempt to punch the notion of a comic femme fatale in the gut. He’s also a cross-dressing superhero, acknowledging the power the stereotype of the Crone has over him even as he adds a level of menace to one of the less villainised avatars of womanhood, the ‘little old lady’. It’s interesting because Stanton wants to be an old lady, which is rare. There are characters who make their peace with being old women, but by and large, no one chooses that state. It’s considered a withered version of vibrant, young femininity. The wisdom gained from age renders men into benign respectability and even power, but not in women. The old woman may be wise, but she’s usually also bitter, fixated upon the loss of youth because her power lay in her sexuality.
So Stanton’s cheerful and willing transformation into an frumpy old lady whom no one suspects of anything until she unleashes herself upon them is very, very intriguing. And happy-making, I think. It’s taking an anxiety about feminine power and turning it on its head.
Probably because ‘pleasant’ in Delhi summers is the temperature hovering around 40C, looking at Madam Fatal made me wander over to Robert Galbraith, who will never be anything more than a flimsy paperback mask for JK Rowling. After all the stories we’re told of women writers who needed to adopt either pseudonyms or androgynous versions of their names to break through, there’s something rather poetic about this male pseudonym that Rowling is determined to establish even though it’s an exercise in futility. Galbraith has the sales he does because everyone knows he’s actually Rowling.
I imagine him a fragile, waif of an alter ego, growing malevolent and bitter invisibly. Biding his time for when he will, somehow, wreak his revenge upon Rowling for bringing him into this world and forcing him to stay on, just ’cause.
And then, a few hundred years later, just as we obsess over who was William Shakespeare, perhaps scholars and the general public will think Galbraith was the real writer whose credit was snatched by this woman called JK Rowling.
Yeah, it’s true. The heat isn’t good for my brain.