Monday, May 28, 2018

Musical Monday - Coward of the County by Kenny Rogers

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: February 9, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: February 16, 1980 through February 23, 1980

First, I'd like to note the moderate irony in the fact that Coward of the County, a country song, reigned at the top of the U.K. charts for longer than it did on either of the U.S. charts.

Second, I'm going to point out that the story contained within Coward of the County is an example of fridging a woman. Like most ballads, the story is relatively simple and straightforward, with a relatively modest cast of characters, but it still manages to find a way to use a woman's trauma to give the male protagonist character development. Look at the story from Tommy's perspective:
1. While on his deathbed, Tommy's father tells Tommy not to fight.
2. Tommy doesn't fight, getting a reputation for being "yellow".
3. Tommy falls in love with Becky.
4. Becky is raped by the Gatlin brothers.
5. Tommy beats up the Gatlin brothers in a fit of righteous rage.
6. Tommy apologizes to his dead father and explains that he had to fight this time.
Now look at the story from Becky's perspective:
1. Becky falls in love with Tommy.
2. Becky gets raped.
That's it. That's her role in the story. To be the hero's girlfriend and get gang-raped. Not only is Becky's role in the story exclusively to act as a motivation for Tommy's character development, she doesn't even get to participate in the resolution of her own story (such as it is): That's left up to Tommy. The "solution" to her rape is for Tommy to get into a fight with the guys who did it, which apparently assuages the trauma of rape for Becky.

One could say that the story isn't about Becky, it's about Tommy, so her minimal involvement is just a natural consequence of that fact, but that is exactly why the "women in fridges" trope is so problematic. Becky, in this story, isn't really a character, but is rather a plot device, little more than a glorified prop. Because so few stories feature women in central roles, the stories of women like Becky are simply never told. The net result is that women become ancillary figures in fiction, who only serve as aids to telling the stories of the "important" men that inhabit the primary place in them.

Subsequent Musical Monday: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Do That to Me One More Time by Captain and Tennille
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson

Previous #1 on the UK Chart: The Special A.K.A. Live! [Too Much Too Young] by the Special A.K.A. featuring Rico
Subsequent #1 on the Cast Box Top 100: Atomic by Blondie

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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