reenka: (BUT WHY??! D:)
[personal profile] reenka
I don't know if it's vaguely disturbing or just inevitable that I'm reading urban fantasy type stuff and finding the same romantic lead type characters as I do in most yaoi or shoujo. What I mean is, that is, yaoi/shoujo is pretty stylized and obvious in its male wish-fulfillment fantasies, and you'd think maybe these writers were trying to be more realistic... or something. What am I thinking. I guess it's just, I don't see this type of guy in movies anymore (romances, anyway)-- though that's interesting too, isn't it? The fact that in most current movies, the guy is such a shmuck. If he's not especially 'sensitive', then he's your 'average Joe' type, or something. Hot in the sense that he tends to be good-looking and responsible enough yet wild enough to be widely accepted, but... even the 'bad boys' in American media aren't like this.

The weird part is that this sort of love interest isn't exactly insensitive... it's more like his emotions tend to be simple/pure and intense, but hidden under a layer of machoness. That's it, really. I didn't think to find Japanese-style macho in Western romance plots, but it occurs to me it's just been too long since I read the right sort of books-- or fanfic, I guess.

What I'm talking about is this guy; let's call him Bob, The Alpha Male Asshole:


    -1 he's extremely over-protective (boorishly so)-- but this hides all sorts of insecurities that he's overcompensating for, though the protectiveness tends to be coupled with a disgust for and overestimation of the weakness of others; of course, this is coupled with a 'strong woman' type who's constantly challenging his 'authority'. (though in yaoi at least, half the time the uke just submits, at least physically-- I suppose this is the Japaneseness...?)

    -2 he's pretty damn jealous and possessive (but tries to act cool & reasonable and maybe even understanding until he snaps and becomes a controlling overbearing total and complete asshole FROM HELL); often traditionalist in outlook, but rogue in that he respects no authority but himself. saying he's 'domineering' doesn't even cover it. he -invented- domineering.

    -3 emotional maturity ~age 12; pretty selfish, loses it when he doesn't get his own way, has monster (MONSTER) difficulties communicating to the point of being good at making things worse by what he says rather just clueless, tends to be thoughtless when he's not making a gigantic effort for that One Special Person (gifts, looking after them, admitting vulnerabilities).

    -4 he's had a dark past when he used to be a real badass, but now he's trying to be gentler/softer/more caring for his paramour's sake.

    -5. crazily loyal and dedicated to his 'other half', though may or may not admit to being in love. he's just obsessively loyal and protective and jealous without even believing in love, half the time.

What I want to know is: does this guy even exist? Is it justifiable to really seriously think about his psyche and try to write him 'realistically', or is he just some psychological throwback to dark times when men were acculturated to believe this is how they should act?
    Or is it that the Enneagram Type 8 Alpha Male type is hopelessly over-represented & romanticized in... well, romances? I guess that's it.

Anyway, I'm sucker too-- I mean, I love him too-- but I'm a bit tired. Tired of the controlling macho ego trip, tired of their desperate secret vulnerability that ropes the suckers in, tired of falling for the act and then having to deal with the asshole behind the curtain, tired of the same old game. Sometimes I think even the geeky/unemotional/low-key types or alternately the laid-back/playful/mischievous-bastard types have to fall into that pattern of displays of dominance in romances even though it may go against their nature.
    Not that I like the limp potato theoretical alternative (Beta Male? Theta Male?), it's just that I'd rather see men as people, or whatever, y'know, and it's hard when they're portrayed as always playing the dominance vs submission or protect vs care for game. The worst part in the Western fantasies I'd read, anyway, is that all this is coated with a layer of feminism and 'modern sensibilities', so that the girl is independent and sassy or whatever just like she's supposed to be, but in the end her whole emotional life revolves around her man, who's a controlling little fuck even if he's dependent on her as well. Especially when the girl is portrayed as super-badass, as being competent and talented and all that, it just hurts-- or maybe makes me feel guilty for empathizing/understanding-- when she's basically waiting to be told or shown he really loves her before she gives in to her feelings entirely. I'm just like.... *headdesk* No, the worst part is that I'm starry-eyed myself & I forgive this character about as easily as the heroine does. -.- And I'm not even reading het romances anymore, it's just it crops up in fantasy/other genre books so it's hard to escape entirely.

It's so easy to get caught up (there's gotta be some hind-brain memory in women that gets triggered by this behavior), but then I just feel dirty. This especially happens when I realize I'm feeling sorry or attracted to a character who's basically just a chauvinist pig. :/ I'm like 'oh wait... oh wait... noo, no-uh, you don't get away with THAT', and then I hate that I'm relating to Bob too personally. Or something. It's not as if I've actually even known guys like that, let alone been with them personally. ><;;

Sometimes it works out in stories/shoujo mangas if the macho guy is truly humbled by and impressed by the girl, to the point where he really does trust her to take care of herself, no bullshit. Oh... I dunno. It's ridiculous that it takes so much, that it's even a big deal. My favorite twist on this guy is emphasizing and focusing on the truth-- which is that in ruling, they are being ruled. This subtle but deep submission to the object of love by this uber-male-- that's a rich source of issues to explore; it's almost a religious/worshipful thing when it happens-- they are quite transformed by accepting an authority outside themselves, even if the authority is love and compassion-- or perhaps especially then. If this controlling tendency truly become selfless service-- the service of any lover to the beloved-- then I think it's an inspiring and beautiful thing. But instead of course most stories dwell in the unhealthier variants because they're both more dramatic/interesting story-wise and more realistic, I suppose.

Or at least, like I told S. below, I want the guy to have consequences for his actions where not All Is Forgiven, even if really that would depress me 'cause I can't handle too much angst hahaha. It really is the presentation and authorial viewpoint-- like, whether the narrative is truly critical of the behavior, at least, and hopefully whether not everything is resolved by 'forgiveness' involving sweet nothings and physical affection. It would be more difficult to read, but more rewarding when progress is made. Hopefully.

It's not like I need fiction or romance to be feminist or enlightened, and I realize it's good to show men who're realistically emotionally retarded like most of them probably are, but. It's not that I want the characters to be 'mature', but I guess it makes me feel a little dirty. I dunno, maybe I'm getting too old for this. None too soon, if so. ^^;;;

All I can say is that Brian Kinney is the one big exception, hahaha because he's that kind of guy except he's so brilliantly selfish it sort of makes him less of an asshole 'cause that means he's a lot less possessive & controlling of others. o_0

Date: 2007-09-30 03:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] worldserpent.livejournal.com
In Western Romance books? Are you kidding?

This is totally a known pattern in them, although some say it may be getting less, because more and more women, like you, are getting tired of this kind of man. In fact, they even do refer to such characters as "Alphas" within the romance book fandom.

As to whether this guy exists: well, isn't in that situation the point kind of moot? You're saying that this is a fantasy, so they aren't trying to write him realistically. I think if you tried looking for this character in realistic fiction the authorial viewpoint would be extremely critical, like it would be a story about domestic violence/abusive, unhealthy dysfunctional relationships, or the sort where the other person says "counseling or divorce," or an uplifting story about the other person leaving the Alpha Bastard and Finding Themselves and Realizing That They Don't Have to Put Up With That because they have Self Worth.

(BTW, people argue about this in romance fandom all the time, I am told)

Date: 2007-09-30 03:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourpoison.livejournal.com
Well, I know there's an infestation in romance novels, but I was reading fantasy... I thought I was safe because it's not like there are guidebooks for making your guy be an overbearing asshole in other genre books. I guess I shouldn't trust the Luna line of fantasy books since it's published by Harlequin, but this one in particular was published by Orbit, a new imprint of Little & Brown, so I didn't know what to expect. ^^;;

Besides, I have the naive(?) idea that people would be trying to write characters realistically in fantasies even if there's magic and werewolves and so on in the book. :> But you're right, it probably would angsty and dysfunctional/abusive otherwise (though hmm... can't remember the last time I read that other than Queer as Folk, though I dunno if that counts). It really is about the authorial viewpoint, though, definitely. I think I'd be a lot more sanguine if he wasn't obviously adored by the author to the point that there's a sense the girl is overreacting and should trust him more. o_0

Date: 2007-09-30 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] worldserpent.livejournal.com
Paranormal romance is becoming a big thing, and SFF publishers are trying to cash in because romance is such a big market. /shrug I've heard a lot of SFF fans complaining that a lot of that is too much like romance in that aspect. Even though Orbit doesn't seem to be a paranormal romance line, I guess she's just an author who follows the romance patterns.

Eh, there probably are a lot of disgruntled readers on that side. But I thought romance readers liked angst? Anyhow, yes, it's not so much the character that is the problem, because I don't think anyone argues that a real person couldn't have this combination of such traits, it's the treatment of the character by the author and the author's judgment of them that annoys people.

Date: 2007-09-30 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spare-change.livejournal.com
I really want you to read my YA novel when it's done. I mean, first I have to finish writing it, so we'll both probably be old and gray by then, but yes.

So, um, mark a date on your calendar two years in the future, okay?

Anyway, I think the thing I hate most about the stereotype you're describing is not just that it's a stereotype, but that it's fucking boring and uninteresting and I have no desire to read about characters like that. It's such a ... well ... Cassie Claire/Mistful way of looking at the world, all about the Grand Romance and Boy!Angst, and it feels really juvenile to me.

I mean, it's fine to use archetypes, but at least do them with conscious awareness and a bit of intelligence. Like, write that character as a female and see what happens. Don't just grab it because it sounds like your imaginary boyfriend.

Date: 2007-09-30 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourpoison.livejournal.com
Yeay!! Someone in fandom whose future novel I actually want to read instead of feeling guilty for not wanting to ;) ;) <3333 HEEE. Yay. *pumps fist* I want you to read mine too, once I start it :D :D :D Two years is already more than I'm about to promise, so I think that's inspiring :D

I really love Grand Romance and boy!angst (*SOB* I CAN'T HELP IT), but I'm tired of the same old -treatment- of the tropes/ideas behind it. You're right that it's juvenile and simplistic, though, and in the end unsatisfying. Well, sort of like trying to subsist on candy. Eventually your teeth rot and you're still hungry ^^;

It's TOTALLY like it's their Imaginary Boyfriend, omg, I should know, hahahahah. I feel like reading that stuff ropes me into idealizing even his faults, just because of it being written so... breathlessly and over-the-top that it's like... no matter how ridiculous and immature the guy's acting, it's inherently supposed to be okay because isn't he HOT. Which is just Not On. At least I want the guy to have consequences for his actions where not All Is Forgiven, even if really that would depress me 'cause I can't handle too much angst hahaha. It's totally a male Mary Sue. *nodnodnod* That's really what it is :>

Date: 2007-09-30 04:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spare-change.livejournal.com
WE SHOULD START A WRITING GROUP FOR OUR NOVELS. But not now -- I have to finish a huge project first. But maybe in the spring?

Date: 2007-09-30 10:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourpoison.livejournal.com
That sounds like a great idea!! Definitely in the spring... I like starting things in the spring. It may even mean I'd write it instead of sort of considering the idea vaguely >:D :D!

Date: 2007-09-30 06:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amalin.livejournal.com
For the record, I really want to read it too, do not forget me in two years when this date rolls around! If you want, I mean.

Date: 2007-09-30 06:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spare-change.livejournal.com
:DDDDDDD

How's the new school year going, btw?

Date: 2007-10-01 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amalin.livejournal.com
Up and down, but good on the whole! A bit stressed about Honors. But I am pleased to be a senior. :) Hope all is well on your end.

Date: 2010-09-13 01:52 am (UTC)
ext_7854: (Default)
From: [identity profile] mildlunacy.livejournal.com
Hey! So it's like, three years later and I'm raaaandomly reading my old posts and I was like, wow! You mentioned a YA novel to be done in 2+ years, so... how's that going? :D :D (In the off-chance you check/get lj comments....)

It's pretty hilarious you mentioned CC/mistful and now they're both published/well-liked YA authors, hahahahah oh man oh man life is funny. I will be really amused when they actually publish m/m stuff in this genre in the mainstream. Then again, then I'll be tempted to write it myself. I was actually thinking earlier today, why *not* sell out? I could have fun with it. The sad truth is that I can't write fics like that even if I wanted to (probably). Like, if I wrote an Alpha Bastard he'd probably be either too introspective or just too assholish (my eventual issue with writing Harry, it seems). I like still boy!angst, because, I mean, that is to say I like boys & I like their angst, haha, but. I think it's actually more interesting when it's more realistic. Also more funny & stupid, of course. I think the AB should be more stupid.

It's funny 'cause Maya's first book *did* try to do that-- write the AB in an intelligent/interrogatory style, and I'm not sure how well that succeeded, I guess. I really liked him... more than I was maybe supposed to... and was sort of 'bleh' about the typical cute/snarky side-character(s) who were more obviously Maya's pets. I think people who don't particularly love them should write them more. Anyway, hi. :D



Date: 2010-09-19 05:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spare-change.livejournal.com
Hi Reena! Sorry for the delay - obviously I don't check this email very often anymore.

Anyway, what a blast from the past to hear about Mistful and CC. I really have nothing to say about them, alas, except that I think they are both really shitty writers (and in CC's case, also a shitty human being). Given the success of stuff like Twilight, I haven't really been surprised by their books doing well, although I suppose in a way this is one reason I chose not to pursue YA fiction ... I guess I don't have a lot of faith in the audience for this genre, to put it gently ...

With that said, there have also been a lot of personal reasons keeping me from writing YA or spending time on LJ. Mostly horrible (illness, death in the family, etc.), but a couple of happy reasons as well ... like a fabulous job and a book I need to finish.

So that's the story with me ... I hope this finds you well, and I'd welcome an update whenever you have a chance. <3

Date: 2007-10-01 05:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cellia.livejournal.com
Totally agreeing w/ worldserpent that this is a description of 99% of all US romance novel heroes.

This subtle but deep submission to the object of love by this uber-male

You might be interested in some of the essays in the book Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women. (this is prob like my 5th time reccing it) I liked it especially since the essayists were romance novelists themselves. They touch on several of your points, including the unrealisticness (and RL undesirability) of this type of dude. One of them even makes a comparison between heroines in romance novels and heroines in fantasy novels with romance, though she approaches it fr a diff angle.

Date: 2007-10-01 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yourpoison.livejournal.com
Well, I know it is, I mean... of course. ^^;;; Perhaps it seems more obvious to compare it to Western romance stuff than shoujo/yaoi... it's just that I haven't read romance novels in ages so it's not been on my mind. ^^; Besides, the surprise factor was that it was supposedly a different genre... which usually doesn't have quite the same rules. But it's only a little weird, all things considered. Hm. Doesn't bother me near so much in manga, dunno why. Maybe there's more of a remove there, esp. with yaoi? And it's in Japan? heh.

Well, I'm not sure this guy -is- unrealistic... I didn't say he wasn't, just that I wonder if he was... I mean, the Enneagram 8s (http://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/type8.php) do fit the profile :> I even think it's possible to have a normal/healthy relationship with them, in theory. That book sounds interesting, btw, especially the comparison essay! :> ...you may have recced it to me before, too :D

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