Thursday, November 9, 2006

She's Talking About Heroines Again

Latest column is up over at Romancing The Blog and yeah, I'm blathering on about heroines. Again.

I actually wrote this column weeks ago, and was inspired by an earlier RtB column (linked to in my column) and memories of horrible books from the past. Books where the hero is an Alpha Jerk and the heroine basically rolls over and dies. Not only does this sort of claptrap raise my blood pressure, it puts me in an all around bad mood.

As readers, I think we'd like to think that the Dish Rag heroine is a thing of the past. And frankly, for the most part - she is. I don't think the phenomena is as wide spread as it once was. That said, she's still around - mainly because I think authors start out with good intentions and it all goes horribly wrong in the execution.

I think many of these Dish Rag heroines start out as "sweet" and "innocent" - but somewhere during the page count they morph into "stupid" and "naive." Also, while I abhor it with every fiber of my being (Mama didn't raise no fool), I can't stand rescue fantasies. Frankly, if a woman needs the big strong man to save her, well evolution should just finish the job - that's all I'm saying. I can understand the appeal of rescue fantasies (truly, I can), but it really limits the heroine. I mean, if the girl had any level of competency she would well be on the way to rescuing her own dumb self before the big strong Alpha hero shows up. But that's just me.

I'm not saying that men can't be attracted to idiot women in real life - but let's call it what it is - lust. Here's the fundamental difference, in Real Life the strong man would play around with the idiot female long enough to have some good, sweaty sex - then dump her. In Romance Novel Land he falls in love, rescues her from her own stupidity ad nauseam, then marries her.

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Every few months the discussion pops up online about how the Alpha Hero is "dead." He's not dead - it's just he's completely unlikeable when authors pair him with moronic heroines. This is not romantic - the hunky guy falling for the idiot. Or frankly, vice versa. How many of us have known strong, smart, sexy women who waste their time on losers, thugs and deadbeats?

Romance is romance when it's a meeting of the minds. When it's two people completely and totally suited for each other. Hey, opposites attract every day - and those relationships can work. But when one of those persons is a dumbass - well sooner or later the relationship fails. And that my friends, is not romantic.


Sheri said...

See Wendy - this is why I read Erotica - no love or marriage - just sex! :)

I also think a lot of readers (ok, just me) are turned off of romance because they remember the heroines of the past - wimpy, "save me" girls. When I read these characters I don't just throw up in my mouth - I just throw up! :)

Lynn M said...

You will hate me for saying this, but I'm a huge fan of rescue stories!

Let me qualify - I'm NOT a fan of rescue stories where the heroine needs rescuing because she's stupid. The ones where she's being stalked by a psycho killer and gets in a tiff and runs away from her bodyguard and finds herself needing to be rescued. Or the ones where she makes a bunch of bonehead decisions that put her in a bad spot and only the hero can get her out. That's not what I'm talking about at all. Those kind of books usually get wall-banged before I'm half-way through.

But I find something so appealing about the idea of a man protecting the woman he loves (or kids he loves or old people he loves). I can't help but be drawn to stories where the man demonstrates this protectiveness by riding to the rescue. And, unfortunately, that results in some amount of helplessness on the heroine's part.

I prefer rescue stories where the heroine fights the good fight on her own but is simply overpowered and/or under-skilled in some area where it wouldn't be expected that she could save herself. Maybe this is why I find myself liking spec op/cop/fireman heroes - they possess "saving" skills that most normal people aren't expected to have. So if the female is in need of rescuing, it makes sense that she couldn't rescue herself out of that particular situation. It's not that she was stupid, but more that things took an unexpected turn that she can now no longer handle on her own.

Does this make sense? I'm with you on dish-rag heroines who inspire in me the whole "why in the world would that man fall in love with her?" and I seem to find too many of these kind of gals out there. But when I do meet a winner, I don't mind at all if she needs a little rescuing as a matter of the course of the story.