The Romantic Hero: Three Versions for/by Women

Romance OCD-Style

The first is the most common. This type of romantic hero is all about the girl. He notices what she wears. He notices how she smells. He notices where she spends her free time. He picks up on tiny clues regarding her tastes, her wishes, her whereabouts. Edward from Twilight is this type of romantic hero. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice is a dialed-down and more realistic version. This hero has an impressively retentive memory: for instance, if the heroine leaves town due to some minor misunderstanding with the hero, he will remember that she once mentioned her grandmother used to live on Bailey Island in Maine, and since her grandmother recently died leaving her an inheritance, he will cleverly deduce that she has gone to her grandmother's house on Bailey Island and follow her there.

Positives: The obsessive can be alluring. Darcy is, without a doubt, one of the most attractive heroes in all of literature and television. Colin Firth's interpretation of Darcy as intensely introverted helps to offset the intensity of his observations (and Darcy, thankfully, doesn't notice everything). Still, this particular romantic hero feeds the seductive idea that the woman is the all-consuming and constant center of the male's universe (and he is not usually written as complexly as Darcy).

Drawbacks: Unless tempered by time or some outside interest (like, ya know, an estate), this hero runs the risk of being a creepy, domineering jerk. If he isn't violent or manipulative, he might just irritate the heroine to death with all his minute "observations." Or leave her with the definite feeling that she is being stalked. If he doesn't have a moral compass, he will simply move on to the next woman who fills his universe when he gets bored with the current "all-consuming" interest.

The White-Knight or (as Shawn refers to him on Psych) "Dwight"

It helps if the White Knight is also witty.
The White-Knight flies to the rescue at the right time with the right equipment. He kills the dragon, uproots the bad guy, and, if he's a variation on the first type, remembers chocolates. But he isn't necessarily a noticing short of chap. He notices big problems like dragons, mean relatives, pirates, and the end of the world, and he tries to make an appearance at those events. He has a long and reputable history in film, including Westley (Princess Bride) and Shrek. (I had a hard time coming up with an example from literature, believe it or not! Jane Austen's heroes occasionally perform rescues, but they never rescue the heroine--although Darcy does rescue Elizabeth's reputation--and Bronte's Jane Eyre rescues Rochester. I settled for Ellis Peters' Cadfael series since men do lots of rescuing in those books but it's nice and not totally annoying.) Hugh Beringer from the Cadfael series agrees to a duel in order to catch a murderer and protect his wife-to-be from learning of her brother's perfidy.

Positives: The White-Knight plays to male strengths. While I find it completely unlikely for anyone to remember such a minor detail as the off-hand mention of a grandmother's inheritance (see above), I do consider it likely for any male to render a physical service, such as finding a dog, fixing a roof, or mowing the grass. Granted, killing a dragon is a little more exciting but evolved biology has nested the desire to protect within the male psyche. (Which is a good thing, I say to "all-male-behavior-should-be-stopped" feminists. I'm a feminist, just not that type.)

Drawbacks: The desire to protect may also be accompanied by the desire to smash things. Which is fine so long as it isn't illegal. Also, once the romantic hero runs out of things to fight, he might not be able to adjust to home life. Dragons v. lawn... as the princes in Into the Woods discover, once the enemy is beaten, the girl isn't quite so interesting (or as House says to Wilson, "You're right. It was the schizophrenia."). And, here's my feminism, the heroine can sometimes rescue herself. (And should in the case of Bella from Twilight; okay, okay, I promise not to bring up Twilight again.)

The Only Guy Around (for Miles and Miles and Miles . . .)

I admit a preference for this particular hero/romantic situation. In this set-up, the hero and heroine are trapped somewhere--a small community, an island, work. They may even be trapped on a trip รก la It Happened One Night and The Bourne Identity. In an extended sense, Mulder and Scully belong to this situation since, although they work among many people and have many contacts, they are tied together by their knowledge of the conspiracy. No one else is as fully informed, as invested, or as close as they are.

Positives: First, by necessity, the emphasis is on the relationship. Because there are no other options--because no one has to prove him or herself the better match--the focus moves from "Will they get together?" to "How will they stay or function together?" which is far more interesting. I have stated elsewhere that I consider Mulder and Scully the most romantic couple in all television precisely because in (almost) every episode, the intimacy and mutual reliance is assumed rather than proved. I also find the "trapped" situation interesting due to liminality: when people who might not otherwise come in contact meet on the edges of their cultures, how do they adjust? It isn't the rebel factor that interests me (Romeo and Juliet disobeying their parents), it's the negotiations that have to take place in order for the involved parties to understand each other (My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

Drawbacks: Stockholm Syndrome anyone? I can't help but wonder, "Would they stay together if one removed them from this situation?" Is the relationship built on necessity or desire? It could depend on the participants, but without the setting or, for that matter, the thrill of the unknown, would the relationship have the ballast to survive? If you got rid of the aliens, would Mulder and Scully still have Paris?

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