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]
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 03:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
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: 2007-10-01 05:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
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.


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