Monday, March 23, 2009

The Realistic Hero

Let’s talk about heroes today. Yesterday when I was speaking to The Man about the differences between men and women (we actually have this conversation often and even crazier is that we usually agree) he confided in me that a lot of men can’t get into romance because the heroes are not believable. “Really,” I replied with shock and awe.

What it seems to boil down to is, SOME (obviously not all) romances portray men as women see them or want to see them and not as they actually are. He gave me some examples, two of which I thought were the most interesting. The Persistent Chase and The Suave/Debonair.

The Persistent Chase: In this scenario the man is ridiculously persistent for a woman he is so obsessed over (but barely knows) that he takes shut down, after shut down, after shut down until he finally wears her down and she gives him a chance and they eventually fall in love and make us go, “Awwwwwww” at the end of the book, movie or whatever it is.

The Man says most guys are not going to do this. They get shot down too much and in too many ugly ways (some of the time) to keep chasing after a woman who isn’t giving them the time of day. Apparently there is only so much rejection and certain types of rejection a man is willing to take before he just says, “Screw it.” So I found it rather funny that while I am awing over a movie a nice “Oh please” sign is scrolling across The Man’s brain.

The Suave/Debonair: The Man says that most men are not suave or smooth my nature… sometimes ever. They are forever saying the wrong thing. And half the time they don’t realize they’ve said the wrong thing until after they’ve said it. Apparently the right thing for one woman can be dead wrong for another. He says that most men spend so much time screwing up that when they actually manage to be suave (that one time in their lives when it may happen) they are so excited they inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) celebrate and then immediately run off to tell “The Boys”. According to The Man, the guy we may read about or fantasize about that is a perfect gentleman and says all these wonderfully phrased things to make us melt is a myth.

This leads me to a few other “myths” us women seem to believe about men.

1. Men don’t care about women’s feelings.
2. Men only want sex and emotions don’t matter.
3. Men can’t handle an aggressive or independent woman.
4. Men don’t talk to either men or women about what’s on their minds. They keep it all bottled up inside.

Now before you throw things at me I am not saying that all women say or think these things about men but I listed them because I have heard women repeatedly make these comments over and over. So I decided to ask The Man because maybe I was wrong in believing that maybe ALL men don’t feel, think or act the ways noted above. I’m sure some do but certainly not all and probably not even the majority. I will go as far to say that there are some men who have made these or similar arguments about women, but that’s for another blog post.

Any way The Man says:

1. Not true. Men care very much about women’s feelings they just don’t understand them or the motives behind them. There have been times when he has hurt me (unintentionally) and had no clue. A lot of our friends have said the same thing. They get so confused about what they can and can’t do because something that makes their women laugh at one point can make her go off the deep end the next. “I’m not a mind reader,” he says and to that I would have to agree.
2. Also not true. Though sex matters (*grin*) so do emotions. He feels that he has never purposely led a girl on just to get sex. I can even remember him telling me about one girl who liked him but since he thought they would not be compatible in any way and she would probably get hurt he didn’t do it. The surprise is that this is not the first time I’ve heard this from a man.
3. So not true he laughed out loud. A lot of men actually WANT an independent woman who can take care of herself and contributes in whatever way suits her best to the household or relationship. What they don’t like is a woman who is constantly holding things over their heads and throwing it in their faces that is she is doing better than him or can do without him. His thought is, if your life would be so much better without me then why are you here? He feels there is a difference between aggressive/independent and obnoxious.
4. This one made him chuckle. He says to me, “What do women think men do when they go out together?” He goes to the bowling alley (where they play pool) every two weeks to chill with his friends and talk (sometimes vent) about their lives. Not to mention that all of my guy friends talk to me all the time about things from girl trouble to what they want out of life. Oh yes, it’s true.

So I said all of that to say this. Are the heroes we see in romances realistic? I hear women say all the time they want to read about a realistic man or hero… but is that really the case? Let me know what you think?

Check out my alter ego’s blog to discuss the realistic heroine.


Shelley Munro said...

Lauren - just out blog hopping. I loved your post. Quite frankly if I was a guy and the woman kept knocking me back I'd reassess the situation and probably decide to move on.

It's great to get a masculine POV on the subject of men. I love men even though they confuse the heck out of me at times ;)

Leigh Royals said...

What a fantastic way to look at things. But, have you also mentioned to him the idea of 'escape' in reading romance. We know it's not real. But we do want more realism in our heroes. Ok, am I making any sense?

imogen howson said...

Yeah, what he said. :-)

I think men are pretty much like women, really. I've met men who aren't comfortable talking about their emotions, but I've met women who're that way, too.

And I'm irritated by people who say men can't/won't/don't control themselves when it comes to sex, or are completely ruled by sex over emotion. Because if they (or anyone) really had that little conscience wouldn't they be, like, seriously unsafe?

imogen howson said...

I mean, what he said about the myths.

Oh, and I like realistic heroes, myself. Well, apart from them being shapeshifters/mutants/magicians/time-travellers, that is... ;-)

Romantic Heretic said...

I can safely say that I don't make major efforts to wear a woman down. It's too much work for too little reward.

As far as the list goes.

1. Myself, I care a lot. I'm rather empathic and being around people that are hurting hurts. So I'm always careful with a woman's emotions.

2. Can I say this firmly enough? UTTER HORSE PUCKEY! The most important part of sex is the emotions. If I'm not emotionally involved I'm not going to have sex with a woman. Masturbation, as Robert A. Heinlein put it is 'cheap, clean, convenient and completely free of wrong doing. And you don't have to walk home in the cold. But it's lonely.'

3. Once again, UTTER HORSE PUCKEY! I want an independent woman. If she sticks around it's because she wants me rather than she needs me. I want a partner, not a parasite.

4. This is somewhat true. At least in my case. I have serious trust issues and have found it wise to keep my guard up. I've met too many people, men and women, who almost reflexively go for sensitive spots when they're revealed. You get to be careful after a while.

My $0.02.

aprilm said...

The Man loves you... and you're smart, aggressive, and the bomb. He has good taste. There's the only proof you need.

December said...

Totally agree.
One more thing to add to the list - the Sensitive Guy.

In movies, the guy who stands outside your window holding up a Boom Box (remember those!) playing In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel looking sad is romantic and heart wrenching. In reality?
DOoooORK!! and also kind of stalker-ish.

Grow a pair my friend...

OOh - thanks for the great blog idea L!

Dianna J. Street said...

DH and I have these kinds of discussions often too! I love getting candid male POV. The funny thing is DH is such an alpha male sometimes that he swears he'll never read a romance. However, I've read some of the same books he has and Yes, my dear, it is a romance.

The only example that comes to mind is Barbara Hambly's Dragonsbane. I mean look at it closely John and Jenny are husband and wife, others try to come between them, as well as having their own dreams. Do they stay together or not? Add in the HEA ending and that is a romance. DH finally conceded the point, but wont admit it to anyone but me. Dragonsbane is one of his favorite books. Another one of his favorites is a romance between two women.

Every one of the characters in these books are heavily flawed and very realistic. Which is why he loves them.

Lauren Murphy said...

Shelley - I also love men and their POV even when I don't get it lol!

Leigh - He knows it's an escape and he doesn't hate romance by any means. I think his point is more along the lines of the irritation he feels for some of the ridiculous behavior he's seen in some of the movies I force him to watch lol!

Imogden - Both The Man and I agree with that. For the most part men and women are VERY similar and do a lot of the same things... good or bad. And I totally feel you on the shifters and other paranormal hotties.

Romantic - I think you and The Man would get along great... just sayin.

April - Seriously, I think you look for ways to make me blush. *kisses*

December - You rock! Thanks for the lovely addition to the list. The Man smiled and gave a nod before he went to the kitchen to follow the smell of pizza. “Grow a pair…” ROFL!! That totally sounds like something I would say. Perhaps this is why I always find your posts so interesting…

Dianne - The Man also likes flawed characters. He likes stories that he can get some "real" meaning out of and that make you think... though he will admit that he likes some romance it's just not his genre of choice.

Thanks you all for the comments. You've made this a most interesting conversation. :)

Eva Gale said...

Awesome blog post! Vitamin Man and I have these types of conversations all the time and I love them. I would read him a line and he would roll his eyes.

I guess we write for ourselves a bit too much?

KB Alan said...

I'm with the "I know it's not real" or terribly realistic crowd. There are a lot of things in romance movies and books that would be creepy, stalkerish, or hysterically funny in real life. Some of my favorite romance heros are great because they "get" the heroine, know what she wants/needs. Hell, most of the time I don't even have a clue what I want or need, and like your man said, I can't exactly expect them to read my mind (not that it would help!!). But it's a great fantasy.

jodi said...

I think I'm one of those women who have issues and can't talk--probably why my cp thinks of me as one of the guys, lol.

btw, hey now--I read Dragonsbane, and it would have been a great Hambly if she hadn't written another four or five in the series which definitely weren't romantic and pretty luridly uh, well, yeah. I don't like that series. It ruined the first book for me. I prefer the Antryg Windrose series.

I've got to talk to you about acoustical tile, soon. Not now. My fingers are tired.

But I agree with with you said, but...still? There's acoustical tile.

Lauren Murphy said...

Eva - Vitamin Man? I totally love that name (and so does The Man). Seriously, I need more details on this.

KB - We both get that and for the most parts the fantasy aspect doesn't bother us... but sometimes it can be so bad even I can't swallow it. I think those are the ones that really make him sigh.

Jodi - You... don't talk? I find you rather longwinded. :P

Will Belegon said...

I especially agree about the Persistent Chase. The entire myth of Playing Hard To Get does so much more harm than good.

And all five of your numbered myths I would put down not just as things that are untrue, but as things that have the potential to piss me off.

Totally gonna take December to task though. She pulled a scene out of Say Anything as an illustration. But the guy in that scene isn't pursuing someone new. It's the girl of his dreams, that he never had a shot with and somehow ended up in a relationship with... and she crushed him, destroyed him and didn't explain it. And he could tell she didn't WANT to, that she was doing it against her own desires.

Also, dude is eighteen. Self-explanatory, I hope.

Giving up in that case would not be growing a pair, it would be the opposite.

Now, if the guy doing that has gone on one date with the girl? Yeah, that's different.