Wednesday, July 15, 2009

WHAT CONSTITUTES A HERO IN A ROMANCE?


At the RWA conference this question has been asked and many different answers were given. I pondered it myself, thinking over famous heros from romance movies and books. In Casablanca, Rick, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a hero. What makes him so? He's not particularly tall or well built, he's not young. As the movie opens Rick is a dead man walking, damaged by a past love affair which has made him indifferent to life and to those around him. That's like a siren call to a lot of women, a man who needs rescuing. But that's not all, Rick is attractive and confident, in his world he holds a position of power. People look up to him and respect him. I think it's that confidence that exudes sex appeal. The same with Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind. Handsome yes, but more than that, Rhett has confidence, even though he is an outcast to some extent in the world he inhabits, he gains respect by his clever business acumen and is looked up to by others who are higher on the social ladder than he. His wealth gives him power, but he is made vulnerable by the death of his beloved daughter. That's why the Regency and Victorian periods are so popular still, men held positions of power that make them sexually appealing. But in a good Regency these men didn't have it all, not until they gained the love of the heroine. Contemporary novels are full of wealthy magnates, shieks etc, who offer the same appeal. These are not the only qualities a hero must have, of course. Rick and Rhett were flawed, but also brave, self-sacrificing, passionate and loyal. But to me it's that combination of confidence in their ability to make their way in the world, plus a certain vulnerability that makes them special.
What do you think?

5 comments:

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Maggie,
Wel written article. I agree with every word of it. I write historicals and my heroes are tough and ruthless, but you said the magic word "vulnerability" and that's what I like to think my men possess.
Cheers
Margaret

Linda Banche said...

Devil's advocate here. I never saw "Casablanca" because what I heard of it didn't appeal to me. I read half of "Gone With the Wind" and stopped because I didn't like it, and I hated the movie.

Why? for the same reason most women like these books/movies - the rich, powerful hero. Most of these stories have rich, powerful heroes coupled with nothing heroines. The heroines can be nice enough people, but nothing else. I like heroines who match the hero, in intelligence, power and money.

I especially dislike stories that have the hero condemning the heroine for doing the same things he does.

That's the way my fantasies run. Obviously, from the popularity of all those sheiks and business magnates (ugh!), most women disagree with me.

Celia Yeary said...

MAGGI--Hmmm. Nicely done. I place heroes in two categories--the bigger-than-life outlandish ones--Rhett Butler is the prototype for that group. But he doesn't appeal to me so much as the second category, the regular guy who has a problem and meets a woman and something happens--simple, I know. Often this hero is the basis for a mail-order bride story, or one of the McKettrick's in Linda Lael Miller's Western novels, or Shane, or Joe Denton in A Bride in the Bargain, or...there are hundreds. These men make the story more real and love possible. The sheik, the pirate, the gambler--not good materical for the requisite HEA. Celia

Delores Walker said...

agree with Celia. The heroes in those "mail order bride" stories have a certain vulnerability, I like.
I also like the swashbuckling hero or those who have "tiny flaws" like Hugh Jackman in Van Helsing. He was the perfect hero except for the whole turning into a beast part.
Linda that's the way my fantasy runs except for the accidently ripping your girlfriend to threads...part. But, nobody's perfect. (tongue in cheek)

Jane Richardson, writer said...

Like Linda, I could live without the sheiks and magnates! I never understood the 'power as an aphrodisiac' thing, but I know many women do. Clearly I aim my sights a little lower than some! 'Vulnerable' only up to a point for me, it's not a word (or a quality) I'm all that keen on. I like it when a confident hero, a man comfortable in his own skin, meets the heroine who gets under that skin of his, who moves him in a way he's never experienced before, and that's what shakes him up - an internal thing going on with the hero, to do with him being able to see beyond himself, rather than any sort of vulnerability for me. Yes, the heroine must match the hero in the ways Linda mentioned, otherwise their relationship isn't going to work for long, is it? ;-)
Oh, and I'd take Rick over Rhett any day, but that's me. :)

Jane x