The Imaginary Heroine

searching for the plot

The Imaginary Heroine’s Fictional Boyfriends March 25, 2010

As promised, here’s a list of my fictional boyfriends.

Harry Potter, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
I know a bunch of people are going to skeeved out when they read this. Let me just say, I started reading Harry Potter in junior high, when we were about the same age in book time. As the gaps between books widened, I aged faster than Mr. Potter did. All of this is moot though, because Harry’s birthday is July 30, 1980. So, he’s seven years and about a month older than me anyway. So there.

I didn’t really feel romantically attached to Harry until the much-maligned fifth book came out (I was still two months shy of sixteen when it came out in 2003, so I was still in non-creepy territory. Thbt!). A lot of people have complained that they couldn’t stand Harry in book five. He was a whiney pain-in-the-butt, always on about how unfair life was and losing his marbles to the Dark Lord.

Here’s the thing…that was just how I felt too. High school pretty much sucked for me. Like Harry, I spent a lot of time at odds with not only a large number of my closest friends, but also several teachers and my high school. Throw in some metallic maroon combat boots and the inevitable teenage cry of “no one understands meeeee!” and you’ve got the wretched disaster that was sixteen year-old me.

When Harry was shouting down Professor Umbridge in class and forming secret resistance societies, my bolshy (and, yes, whiney, pain-in-the-butt) sixteen year-old self just swooned. When he wasn’t defeating evil, Harry was just trying to get by and do right by people. He also had a mischief streak a mile wide without being an obnoxious “bad boy.” Something that really appealed to this goody-two-shoes. Harry also has great taste in women, as evidenced by his proximity to smart gals like Hermione and Ginny. Add in dark hair and some glasses…I’m sold.

Just like Harry, I ended up dropping out before my senior year and heading off into the world. Sure he went to look for Horcruxes and I went to college, but we can’t all be “the Chosen One.” I will always think of Harry Potter as my partner in crime, my brother in arms, and my only high school boyfriend.

Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, portrayed by David Boreanaz
This one gives me pause now. I used to think Angel was, like, the be all end all of hotness. I definitely blame him for giving me a type: dark eyes, dark hair, straight brow, tan skin, buff shoulders…. Which is basically 7abibi all over, now that I think of it…

Now I realize that it’s pretty creepy for a 240 year-old guy to be sleeping with a seventeen year-old. Even if the 17 year-old in question is a vampire slayer. Plus, all these vampire romances sound good in theory, but the lack of body heat just…ew. Ew. I have a feeling a physical relationship with a vampire would be kind of icky, actually. Who knows what kind of nasty diseases a vampire might have lurking all over their body – they’re basically invincible!

That aside, Angel won my heart and stomped all over it again and again in college. And I loved him for it. It gave me an escape from a crazy class load, 3/4 time job, and roommate angst. Buffy and Angel on DVD definitely helped me survive some grueling semesters.

Yes, he spent some time saving Buffy, but he didn’t mind when Buffy saved him. And she did. Quite a lot, actually. That is what made Angel awesome. He loved a girl who could kick his ass. He even loved her after she killed him, for goodness sake. That is one man who knows the value of a good woman.

I ended up following Angel to his spin-off show and liking him the better for being a bit darker and a bit funnier than he was in BtVS. I have to give the writers and Boreanaz credit, because the Angel/Angelus duality helped me hash out a lot of feelings about good and evil inside myself and finding a moral compass after you realize you aren’t and never will be all good all the time.

Seeley Booth, Bones, portrayed by David Boreanaz
I followed David Boreanez on to his next project, a TV show called Bones. I had never been into a crime drama before, but I was willing to give it chance if it meant I could see his pretty face again. I was prepared to be bored or grossed out, but guess what? Bones kicks all kinds of ass.

Yet again, we see David Boreanaz sharing face time with a kick-ass woman and doing it well. Sometimes he plays the blue-collar, Catholic straight man to her intellectual, atheist jibes. Other times he plays the wise guy and urges her to listen to her heart to find the answers she’s searching for. The show achieves a delicate balance by giving the female lead traits often considered masculine and giving traditionally feminine traits to the male lead. The inversion leads to both humor and illumination as they work together to solve the crime du jour.

I would argue that Boreanaz must be a vampire in real life, because I swear he’s gotten better looking with age. He’s able to carry off both the manly man shell of FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth while staying true to an inner core of intuition, love, and harmony. He’s the thinking woman’s heart-throb.

Ramses Emerson, The Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters
I’ve talked about him before on this blog. Walter Peabody Emerson, a.k.a. the Brother of Demons, a.k.a. Ramses is totally hot.

Ramses is the scholar of the bunch, with several degrees and near perfect fluency in myriad languages, dead and alive. Don’t let that fool you though, because he’s also a master of disguise with a wicked sense of humor and enough mischief to match Fred and George Weasley. Plus he “doesn’t fight like a gentleman” whether he’s faced with drunken British Officers or Turkish spies or his dastardly cousin Percy. He’s not afraid of personal injury if he thinks it’s in the service of good, as evidence by his damaging pacifist cover for an extremely active career as a secret agent. He’s also an unabashedly adoring husband and loving dad. Swoon.

Ramses is another guy who is attracted to smart and determined women. How can he not be with a mom like Amelia Peabody? It’s an aphrodisiac, I swear. Show me a man who loves smart women and I’ll show you a milliondy-twelve women of worth willing to love him back.

Honorable Mention:
Mr. Knightly, Emma by Jane Austen
I sort of surprise myself on this one, since my favorite Austen is definitely Sense and Sensibility. But Edward Ferrars just can’t stand up to Mr. Knightly (or really anyone, come to think of it). Mr. Knightly was always trying to boss Emma around, but still loved her and sought her opinion even when she stood up to him or refused to take his advice. Sure his constant nagging could be interpreted as paternalistic and icky, but I choose to read it otherwise. Emma was written as such a stubborn and self-assured character that she needed a powerful counterpart. Someone who was willing to tell her when she was full of crap or being a bitch to Miss Bates. Someone who urged her to be better, because she could and should. That’s why I would say Mr. Knightly has the edge over everyone’s favorite haughty-to-hottie hero, Mr. Darcy.

I find most of Austen’s heros fairly tame. The guys with real spark end up being huge jerks, like Wickham and Willoughby. What is Austen saying here? Is she pulling a Gottleib and telling us to settle for Mr. Dependable-but-dull? Is she telling us that a happy marriage means turning your back on fun, exciting partners? Although Austen gives her heroines a traditional happy ending, the fact that she herself never married and her quotes on the subject of marriage, spinsterhood, and female worth are indicative of a deep skepticism of marriage and men.

Fred/George Weasley, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
They’re a ton of fun, that’s for sure, and plenty brave. They also seem to be appreciative of powerful women. Fred took the Angelina Johnson to the Yule Ball for cripes sake! Don’t remember her? She was a quidditch chaser who was good enough to make captain and a witch talented enough to try for TriWizard Champion. I hear she married George after the Second Wizarding War! My admiration for the twins is somewhat limited by their secondary (tertiary?) character status. There’s not much to go on here since the Harry Potter series is mostly limited to Harry’s POV. What did they get up to when Harry wasn’t looking? I’m betting they were “up to no good,” of course.

Eric Northman, the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris and True Blood, portrayed by Alexander Skarsgård

This is a fairly recent one for me. I just started reading the Sookie Stackhouse books this year. If I talk about why, I’ll be giving up a crapload of spoilers about the book series and possibly the TV show, so I’ll just zip it. He’s definitely got the high mischief factor going on. I can’t like Eric all the way since he’s definitely a selfish jerk. On the other hand, he’ll tell you so up front. Points for honesty? Being a former viking, he definitely goes against my normal physical type. I’ll stay tuned on this one. The jury is still out.

Who are your fictional boyfriends? Have they changed over time? Want to fight to the death over Angel? I’m dying to know!

 

A New Dawn part 11: “Edward, Heathcliff, and Our Other Secret Boyfriends” by Robin Brande March 24, 2010

M[Part of a series discussing the essays in A New Dawn edited by Ellen Hopkins. These posts may contain spoilers about all four Twilight novels and Midnight Sun.]

Just the title of this one made me smile. Growing up a shy, bookish girl, I can definitely say that I got a lot of my romantic preferences from books. Brande compares Edward Cullen to some of the leading men in the novels that influenced the Twilight Saga and argues that he wipes the floor with them.

I’ve already spoken my piece on Heathcliff (or as Brande calls him “Scary Psycho Man”). Brande, Edward, and I are both completely confused by Bella and the other Heathcliff lovers out there. To torture his beloved’s husband, Heathcliff marries his sister and proceeds to strangle her dog and treat her so abominably she has to run away. After she’s dead, he goes out of his way to torment their son (they had sex?! EW!) to an early death. Just…No. Not attractive at all.

To me, it seems unlikely that Edward is supposed to be Heathcliff. Instead he is supposed to be Edgar, while Jacob is Heathcliff. Heathcliff didn’t get the girl. Edgar did. Heathcliff turned into a wolf and ran away for months and months…oh wait, Jacob did that. Heathcliff disappeared for years to regions unknown. Then he goes insane when Cathy is destroyed by her torn affections and dies. See what I mean? What if Edward hadn’t gotten the girl? I think the fact that he can behave himself may have something to do with that fact.

Brande finds Romeo a bit more acceptable, but not exactly up to Edward’s level. Mainly because Romeo ends up snuffing it so early. Sure he married Juliet, but their romance ended up being a wham, bam, thank you ma’am, didn’t it? Bella admits she “kind of had a thing for Romeo” in New Moon. What is with this girl? She clearly has terrible taste in men.

Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Darcy gives Edward a run for his money. It’s no surprise since, Meyer says that Twilight was loosely based on the Austen masterpiece. Brande herself has a thing for Mr. Darcy, calling him “Mr. Perfect” and admitting in her bio at the end that she “threw herself into a three-day binge of Carcy-infused chick flicks.” Bella never mentions P&P as one of her favorites, but she does mention reading some Austen novels in Twilight. I’m sure Mr. Darcy is probably pretty high up on her list too.

Though I agree with Brande’s assessment that Darcy is markedly better than either Heathcliff or Romeo, I’m still stymied by the fact that both he and Edward are arrogant @$$hats sometimes. She admits that they need “a good smack upside the head,” but argues that they eventually mend their ways once they give into true love. They just need a couple chances to get it right.

Brande thinks that Edward beats out all three of these classic heros. They were the “secret boyfriends” to thousands of women throughout the years. Clearly they were Mrs. Meyer’s secret boyfriends too and she appears to have taken the good qualities of all her favorite leading men and knitted together over the series to create the UBER Fictional Boyfriend that is Edward Cullen. Brande and millions of ladies thank her.

I can find little fault with the main argument of the essay. Clearly, Edward’s attractive qualities have roots in the romantic leads that have captured the hearts and minds of women for centuries. I don’t find these heros as attractive as many other women seem to, but to each her own. Maybe I’ll do a follow up post on my secret boyfriends of ficiton…

What really caught my attention is that Brande repeatedly calls Edward honest. Huh? I agree that he’s pretty up front with the declarations of love. In Brande’s words, “Romeo had his pretty soliloquies, and Darcy can say a lot once he gets going, but no one gives you the blow-by-blow, this-is-why-I-love-you the way Edward does.” However, he’s not so up front about other things.

Anyone who’s read Midnight Sun knows that Edward’s got a manipulative streak. Sure the whole Angela/Ben matchmaking thing is cute on the face of it, but it’s obvious controlling behavior as well. Earlier in the essay, Brande cites Edward’s refusal to make Bella choose between him and Jacob as a sign of his rationality (Jacob can protect her and make her happy), but from where I sit it looks like really skillful manipulation. By not forcing Bella’s hand, he makes himself look angelic and makes Bella feel like crap for having feelings for Jacob.

Jacob calls Edward out before the new born battle in Eclipse. When Jacob realizes what a skillful player Edward is, he tries to follow suit. He’s not winning by being honest, time to change strategies. Being both honest and inexperienced, the manipulation is so shoddy, we see it immediately. The whole “suicide by vamp” play for affection and smooches really ticked me off – like it did a lot of readers. However I kind of appreciated that his attempts at manipulation had an ugly clang, especially in comparison to Smooth Criminal Cullen. Edward is so good, he’s even manipulated the readers into being on his side!

It also royally pissed me off at the end of New Moon when Bella can’t believe that Edward still loves her and Edward turns it back, acting hurt because she had so little faith in his love. “You believed me so easily!” he accuses. Ugh. Excuse me! Can anyone say gaslighting? Ah, yes. The classic technique of romantic and platonic emotional abusers the world over. Enough about your feelings, how do you think I felt when you reacted negatively to me being mean to you?!

Honest? Up front? Not our Edward Cullen.