Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Flaw in the Ointment

The Style section of last Sunday’s NY Times had a front-page article about the “new” hero on television. Using the word “neanderthal” the writer referred to morally flawed or ambiguous characters like “it’s-every-man-for-hisself” Sawyer on “Lost,” or “it’s-for-the-greater-good” Jack Bauer on “24.” The idea, according to a fan of “Lost” quoted in the article, is that “men gotta do what men gotta do, and if some people have to die in the process, so be it.” This, of course, is in direct contrast to less complex heroes of the past, like Magnum, who were always on one side of the moral divide. But in shows like “Lost,” major characters have killed people, and the viewer still identifies them as “good.”

All of this got me thinking about romance heroes and heroines. My first book, LIKE A KNIFE, had a morally ambiguous hero, Nick. He’d sold arms to Libya when our country said it was illegal, and was implicated in the death of a child. In fact, the book was rejected by an editor at Avon for exactly this reason. Angelina, my heroine in DEAD RINGER, is a sexually aggressive woman who supposedly “feeds” off rich, old men. In my upcoming April release, BLACKOUT, the heroine, Margo, sleeps with the hero for the first time not because of any deep emotional attachment, but because the nightmare of her life makes it difficult to sleep, and sex is a good narcotic.

All of these characters find redemption, love, and acceptance by the end of their respective stories, and I ask the reader to see them as “good” people. But in romance, do more conventional characters have greater appeal? Is the fantasy that a romance novel creates more satisfying if the hero or heroine are old-fashioned “good” guys? And if so, is romance “stuck” in an out-dated concept of the world, which gets more complex by the hour?


Annie Solomon


Desperate Writer said...

Ahhh....Jack Bauer. *sigh*

Annie Solomon said...

See? That's what I mean. Yes, he's dreamy. But he's also kind of wrecking ball. I mean...a dead wife, two dead relationships. Not to mention lots of dead people. And not all of them bad guys. A romance hero? How can that be? And yet...I sigh with you.