(Jay's Note: This is a response to my friend Kelli's blog which can be found on the right under Awesome Blogs: Escapades of a Spinster.)
I'm probably going to get some pretty hefty hate mail from this post.
My friend Kelli is actually one of the most well-read people I know. If not then she is definitely one of the most well-read people near my age. That is why I have sent her my horrible drafts of my novel for some enriching feedback that has, at times, been painfully honest but I enjoy her feedback because I know she knows what she's talking about. It also helps that she is pretty representative of my target audience.
One of Kelli's posts made me think of a theory that I have and I thought my blog would be a good place for me to share it. I have dubbed said theory The Theory of Brooding.
Brooding, according to Webster's Dictionary is being "preoccupied with depressing, morbid, or painful memories or thoughts."
My theory is that, as far as literature is concerned, a hero that is brooding and troubled is one that will attract many a female reader. This, in turn, makes it hard for "normal guys" with relatively no baggage somewhat boring which results in the normal guy having to compete with these fictional heroes. Just like female swimsuit models, comic book super-heroines, and most shows/movies you see in Hollywood give men a messed up ideal of women, books also do the same thing to women about men.
Exhibit A: Mr. Darcy
I have never read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I have seen two of the several movie adaptations. I'm not knocking the classic. I really am not. Fitzwilliam Darcy is the silent type, mysterious and actually treats Elizabeth Bennett pretty poorly at first. So. What's the attraction? Why do so many women go ga-ga over him?
Exhibit B: Edward Cullen
I am in no way comparing Stephenie Meyer to Jane Austen. Edward Cullen is a really flat character while Austen's characters at least have depth to them. Edward the Vampire is far too perfect to be interesting. Yet, as perfect as he is, he still manages to be tortured and brooding. What is with this? I tend to think that Edward is merely a poor imitation of classic heroes such as Mr. Darcy. We all know about the craze for the Twilight Saga and it's not like the teen girls the books are written for really should know any different, but I definitely think it gives an unrealistic view of what relationships should be like. Not to mention the unrealistic perspective of how normal guys act.
Exhibit C: Mr. Rochester
Mr. Rochester is the brooding hero in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Maybe it's just this time period. Women liked a dashing, dark, mysterious hero with a lifetime of secrets to unravel. Honestly, if a girl these days really ran into Mr. Rochester these days they would most likely run screaming.
During some brief research for this post I found what is called a Byronic hero. Named for poet Lord Byron (who is amazing, btw), a Byronic hero typically exhibits several of the following characteristics:
* a strong sense of arrogance
* high level of intelligence and perception
* cunning and able to adapt
* suffering from an unnamed crime
* a troubled past
* sophisticated and educated
* self-critical and introspective
* mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
* struggling with integrity
* power of seduction and sexual attraction
* social and sexual dominance
* emotional conflicts, bipolar tendencies, or moodiness
* a distaste for social institutions and norms
* being an exile, an outcast, or an outlaw
* "dark" attributes not normally associated with a hero, the "anti-hero" effect
* disrespect of rank and privilege
* has seen the world
* jaded, world-weary
* self-destructive behaviour
* a good heart in the end
Huh. Any of those sound familiar to the Exhibits I mentioned? Look at those characteristics carefully. Now, what girl in their right mind would list any of those things in their list of things they want in a future husband? And yet...such is the "ideal" portrayed in romantic literature. I just do not understand.
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