Monday, November 28, 2005

Tall, Dark and Handsome

While making like a boulevardier through the blogsphere, I came across an extraordinary complaint on a romance blog.
A question why so many heroes were "tall, dark and handsome."
Excuse me?
Quite apart from the Byronic cultural effect and brooding mystery/danger associations, is there much degree of choice?
It's like blaming a dog for being a dog.
Heroes are big for a reason. Pretty hard to survive some of the didoes of plot otherwise.
Would Toulouse Lautrec really turn on most readers?
And don't you think it would be really, really hard for the hero to save the heroine from all those bad guys if all he sees are knees?
That's it, lady, a knee-capper, have him bite those knees.
In real life there are heroes who are 98 lb. weaklings and look like Willie the Weasel.
I remember one such instance where a couple of toughs were seriously assaulting a bus driver.
Willie from Come-by-Chance laid them out.
"One told me he had a black belt," said Willie after.
"So I cranked him one."
You go, Willie.
This is not real life.
This is fiction.
This is romantic fiction.
As far as hair color goes, there isn't a lot to choose from...dark, brown, blond, red. Even if you make him bald, he has hair somewhere - as the more open style of romances lovingly describe. Trying to make the hero's hair distinctive, in an effort to evade this convention, makes a writer sound like a Clairol rep. "His tawny locks, streaked with glinting gold..."
Geesus. Evil is swarming over the palisades and she's entranced by his hair?
The only thing I agree is that the hero does not have to be handsome.
I don't like pretty boys.


AE Rought said...

Give me Oded Fehr, long wavy dark hair, tall. Oh yeah! :)

I agree, though, there seem to be certain prerequisites inherent in a romance novel hero appearances. Me? I've never been much for blonds. That's a pretty boy.

Bernita said...

And he had some of the best lines in The Return...
"I'll take the Thompson." ...loved the history behind that line...
and "This was my first bus ride."
Thing is, regarding dark, the majority of people on this earth are dark-haired. So where's the problem? Unless you're writing goth, is he to be purple?

the chocolatier said...

Tall, dark and handsome I can cope with. Blonde, no way. Dark haired guys in romance/erotica novels make me drool. They just have that extra dangerous element.

Tsavo Leone said...

Ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner, weighing in at a slim, trip, ripped and buff 200lbs, and standing 6 feet and 2inches in height, we have Devilishly Handsome.

And in the blue corner, weighing in at an unsightly 300lbs, standing 5 feet 2 and three-quarter inches in height, we have Quasimodo...

Okay, we know the prerequisites, but wouldn't it be nice to throw off the shackles and have our damsel fall for the 'not-so-handsome' guy for once? Or totally turn it on it's head and have a 'dude in distress' being rescued by a... well, is there a prerequisite or stereotypical image for a woman of means outside of male fantasy?

Besides which, I recall a female Adult Entertainer once commenting that ugly or overweight guys always make the best dates... something about being grateful for the attention... : )

Trust me to lower the tone.

Bernita said...

Snort, snicker,Tsavo.
Benjamin Franklin once made a similar comment about women.
Bass tones baritones are very welcome here, even tenors if they stay on key...
We'd love to hear about male fantasies.
Chocolatier, I feel the same way,I just don't care for blond heroes, must be some sort of tribal memory.

Gabriele C. said...

Och, but Éomer in the LOTR movies looked damn hot with his blonde mane.

My male MCs fall out on the dark or auburn side most of the time (except the Norseman Kjartan who is as blond as they get) but that has to do with the tribal background of the people - Romans and Picts tend to be dark haired, and my heir of the Dál Riatan chief from The Charioeer has long, dark red hair. I find him pretty sexy, and so does a certain Julia. :-)

Tsavo Leone said...

Sorry Gabriele, but Éomer's hair was a dye-job...

Sorry AE, but Oded's wavy locks are no more (and that rather dashing goatee seems to have gone west too)...

Bernita, thanks for the comments about Real TV (Part 2).
As for the male fantasies, they're just that: fantasies. If any man were to meet their fantasy woman they'd a) soil their britches (word of the night), b) find their genitalia had shrivelled to the size of dormouse's, and c) run crying to momma. For the record, mine's my equal (had, held, lost, hence some of my blog entries...). We're weak, pitiful creatures really (sheesh, like y'all didn't know that already...)

Hey, just had a thought (ouch), how about having a leading man who's an albino?

Sela Carsen said...

My guys tend to be tall and dark, but not all are handsome. The H in Daughter of Privilege is distinctly un-pretty. Clive Owen is the model for my H in Cold. What he lacks in looks, he makes up for in spark. That's the key, really. It's not about perfect bone structure, it's about chemistry.

Bernita said...

Tsavo, it's quite disgustingly obvious you are a pro.
I'm sorry. Some always seek but never find, even for a space.
In general fiction, I don't see why an albino couldn't be a main character.In novels following however loosely the romantic conventions it would be a very hard sell.Some of heroines have been near as dammit though.

Gabriele, I liked Legolas(sp.?)in LOTR, not for any particular romantic quality but for his fighting ability. But then I don't fantasize over actors.

Bernita said...

Absolutely, Sela, chemistry and character.

AE Rought said...

I am well aware of Oded's coiffe and shave -- and I still like him! I was not at all saying that an unconventional H couldn't work; but for me, blond, thin, Malibu surfer dude holds NO appeal. I'd sooner consider a rogueish character with less than perfect looks.

You are forgetting Oded's best line! "There is a fine line between coincidence and fate." His voice sounds like velvet feels... *swoon*

Gabriele C.,
LOVE Eomer!

Robyn said...

Well, Yul Brenner always did it for me, and he was bald.

Ditto Patrick Stewart- "Make it so, Number One."

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Legolas gets my vote too, but it the same premise as the covers of romance novels.

You always see the beautiful people on the covers. Quasi wouldn't sell a single book!

Bernita said...

Robyn is exactly right. Brenner and Captain Jean-Luc ooze masculine appeal.Vital force.

Bonnie, the thing that charmed me first about Legolas was when he refrained from sending an arrow into a melee because he couldn't be sure of not hitting an ally - good directing - but the realism grabbed me. Nothing to do with appeal really but it defined the character.

Bunneh said...

The only thing I agree is that the hero does not have to be handsome.
I don't like pretty boys.

Amen to that. Though I don't know if a hero should be bland and forgettable -- just another face in the crowd. There should be SOMETHING about him that is unique. D. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey, for instance, wasn't necessary handsome, and he had a "hatchet face," but there was still something about him, a uniqueness, that caught the attention of Viennese singers and, eventually, Harriet Vane.

I've just been poking through your blog randomly. Good stuff here -- I agree with a LOT of it. ;) (We cynics gotta stick together. ;))

Bernita said...

Yep.We do.
I am very glad you've taken the time.
I prefer men who can handle themselves in a fight.
Lord Peter stripped well, even if he had a face that resembled "a silly sheep" (I think it was described as such once)but he has a much deeper character than the average romantic hero - brains,excruciating ethics - especially in his relationships - and a reliable sense of the ridiculous.

Bunneh said...

Ahh, I like a smart man. A clean cut, intelligent man with a sharp wit will make my knees go weak.

...Perhaps that's why I love Lord Peter so much. (In addition to the qualities you listed above, of course.)

And, yes, he DID strip well. *waggles eyebrows*

Bernita said...

Just re-read several of them. I go on author binges.

MissWrite said...

As a romance writer, I just loved your comments here. Have to admit though, all my guys still have the heart-stopping, make-you-weak-in-the-knees looks. Can't help it. I might want goldie locks saved, but she wants him to be cute too. So there! :)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Miss Write.
I like 'em tough.