Talk To Me
is a no-nonsense discussion feature on this blog. No-nonsense means I’m too lazy to make it look pretty. It’s exactly what the title suggests: I’m going to ask you a question or tell you my own opinion about something, and I want to know what you think about it!
As I previously mentioned I just had to give a presentation on the representation of the male romance novel hero at university, so I thought why not take it to the blog! My presentation was based on a chapter from the Smart Bitches‘ Guide to Romance (hilarious book, I highly recommend it) and an academic essay on male virgins in romance novels. Basically, I talked about the stereotypes of romance novel heroes and how they have changed over time. I’m pretty sure we’ve all read a book with a controlling, dominant alpha hero, who is naturally the most handsome guy around (or if he has competition, he just has that extra something that gives him an edge) and is competent at everything but stepping the macho behavior down a notch. So… good and entertaining or stupid and sexist?
Personally, I fall into the category that would say good and entertaining AND stupid and sexist. I can’t speak for everyone, but even though it doesn’t always work for me (there’s a fine line between I-had-a-tragic-childhood-and-that’s-why-I’m-a-jerk-but-I-will-change-for-you and I’m-just-a-jerk-and-all-my-excuses-are-stupid), I have read a lot of novels like this and liked them. I think the same concepts would probably apply to same-sex relationships if one is always portrayed as the more dominant and controlling one (although there is probably a different history of stereotypes and portrayal), but it would be interesting to think about how that might or might not change the dynamic.
If I recall correctly, one of the points the Smart Bitches’ Guide made (yes, I did choose the presentation topic because I saw that title on the reading list) was that one shouldn’t underestimate the reader – we’re aware it’s a fantasy and don’t necessarily want our partner to behave like that in real life, but sometimes the fantasy is nice. The book also talked about how the male role has changed over the years due to the fact that heroines are now often in control of their lives without needing the hero to save them, so the hero can be a more interesting character because he gets to do more than swoop down and save the damsel in distress.
So I guess I don’t always mind the macho behavior, as long as the heroine is not completely dependent on her love interest and can support herself and kick ass all on her own. To be more precise, I don’t mind it as long as it’s more showing off than really acting like an overbearing jerk. I do appreciate a more realistic portrayal of men (or, you know, people in general), and I think it would be much more interesting to read about more diverse and complex characters. To be honest though, I have a MUCH higher tolerance for jerk-y behavior in books than I do in real life. Would I approve of a friend’s relationship with a guy who killed several people, werewolf or not, in real life (yes, the werewolf hypothesis still holds up in this scenario)? Proooobably not, but it’s not like I’m going to throw my book across the room when the hero kills off all the bad guys either.
So, what’s your take on romance heroes? Are you into controlling alpha males in books, or do they just plain annoy you?