Last week, I blogged about Boy Book Crushes and how one of the bigger plot devices in YA is the love interest. I suggested that there was an archetype of The Perfect Man whose characteristics can be seen throughout literature. I asked you what your #literarybookcrushes were/are and received some great feedback on Twitter. Thanks to everyone who participated.
To me, the characteristics of The Perfect Man archetype is a combination of attributes designed by the author or filmmaker to make us the reader fall in love with the leading man. He’s handsome, witty, intelligent, chivalrous, troubled with a bit of a bad boy/dark side, a tendency to be awkward in romance when it really matters, has an appreciation for his love interest’s intellectual or artistic pursuits, an will do whatever he can to show himself worthy of her.If we are to return to some of the #literarybookcrushes in our twitter discussion, how many of these characters fit this description? Didn’t Laurie from Little Women have a tendency to be awkward in romance when it really mattered? Wasn’t one of the things that made Gilbert Blythe so attractive was his appreciation for Anne Shirley’s artistic pursuits in Anne of Green Gables? (Teen author Diana Peterfreund does an hilarious overview of the love story on her blog: http://www.dianapeterfreund.com/the-ballad-of-anne-and-gilbert/)
Was it Cap Garland‘s good looks that made Laura initially take interest in him in The Long Winter? What was it about Almanzo Wilder that made Laura decide to marry him? It couldn’t just be about the colts… (Could you imagine if there was a Team Cap/Team Almanzo debate in the 1930s?)
If we bring it to the present, consider Edward Cullen and Jace Wayland‘s complicated emotional make up. How did these modern boy love interest evolve? What is it about them that make readers continue to fall in love with them?
With the rise in particular of Team Edward/Team Jacob, Team Peeta/Team Gale and the most recent Team Will/Team Jem camps on the blog-sphere, I want to know what it is about these male romantic characters that make us so weak in the knees. Why are blogs having “Literary Crush A-Thons?” Are we in fact looking at two particular kinds of romantic heroes, or, are they a combination of attributes that I listed above?
As much as we tend to focus on the cool kicking heroines of the classics such as Anne Shirley, Elizabeth Bennett and Jo March, and as much as modern readers identify with Bella Swan, Katniss Everdeen and Clary Fray, I believe that it is also the strength of their male romantic leads that compels us to invest ourselves in these books time and time again. Then, the romantic ideal is re-imagined and reinforced by popular films and television versions of these same novels which is then extended to the actors and actresses playing these characters.
Is it possible to think about Gilbert Blythe without thinking about Jonathan Crombie?
Or Darcy without thinking about Colin Firth?
Or Edward Cullen without Robert Pattinson?
How impossible is it to distance Dean Butler from Almanzo Wilder?
It might be as impossible as separating Melissa Gilbert from Laura Ingalls Wilder (even though we know what she really looked like)? Megan Follows from Anne Shirley? Katherine Hepburn as Jo March? Kirsten Stewart as Bella Swan?
Considering the challenge of finding links to these characters that don’t involve Wikipedia entries or images based on the film adaptations or fan based websites, it might be…
What do you think? Do you think that who plays these book character influences our perceptions of them? Do we place these characteristics onto the actors that plays them and make them into our perfect hero?