Thursday, August 17, 2006

By the Powers of Numbskull: On He-Man heroes

Does it seem like Romance heroes are becoming ever more Alpha? Back in the day, when I was stealing my mother's old Harlequin Presents titles, the hero was usually "a doctor" or "a businessman". In historicals, the hero was usually Sir SuitablyEnglishSurname or Lord SuitablyEnglishName.

By the time I was old enough to check Romances out of the library, it seemed like the heroes in contemporaries were all millionaires and brain surgeons, and the heroes of historicals were all dukes and earls with "dark" sounding names.

Now, it seems like the heroes of contemporaries are all billionaire former Navy SEAL businessmen named "Connor" while the heroes of historicals are rakish aristocrat spies with titles like "Devlin, Duke of Darkdeeds" or "Laird Angus MacAngsty". And don't even get me started on the paranormals, where the heroes are billionaire-brain surgeon-CIA operatives tormented by their bad childhoods and the fact that they turn into a were (choose one) wolf/tiger/cod every full moon.

Is this plague of uber-alphas just authorial one-upsmanship, where each writer tries to create a hero who's richer, stronger, smarter, more emotionally tortured by his past, y más macho than the last? And if it is, shouldn't it stop before some hapless author crosses the line from enjoyably campy to just plain campy? Well, I guess it's too late for that.

I'm not saying I haven't savored a few books with tall dark and tormented heroes in my day, but there is such a thing as taking it too far. Some of these black-leather wearing, Harley-riding, long-haired, emotional cripples sound just like the guys I see milling around outside the local leather bar at 2 a.m. Whatever those hardbodied, leather-clad wanderers are looking for, I can guarantee it ain't a petite, feisty blonde heroine with aquamarine eyes. See what I mean about camp?