Friday, November 7, 2008
The Plus-Sized . . . Hero?
Russell Crowe, Jon Favreau and James Gandolfini - no skinny boys here!
(photos from Internet Movie Database)
Posted by Christina Harlin
Romance novels have come a long way in being willing to portray romantic heroines as imperfect. No longer must your standard romantic heroine be a porcelain-skinned, size two, flawless beauty. She is permitted to have the normal foibles of women everywhere and I’m glad for it. Our heroes have caught a few breaks too: they are not required to be traditionally handsome so long as they are oozing masculinity all over the place.
But I have read a lot of romance novels and cannot recall one in which the hero was less than perfect in his physique—and I am not talking about the size of his, um, muscles, but about his weight. Romantic heroes are never overweight. Okay, it’s a fantasy-world, and six-pack abs probably serve better for fantasy material. I get that. But in my own entry for the Casablanca Series, My Boss is a Serial Killer, which is a romantic suspense comedy, my hero Gus Haglund is the finest hunka man that Carol Frank has ever laid eyes on, and he is, by her description, about ten pounds on the heavy side.
Ten pounds isn’t much, certainly isn’t bordering on the morbidly obese. Still, this minor physical flaw (and I use that term very loosely, cause like Carol, I personally love a man with some meat on his bones) has made me wonder. Just how much imperfection can a romantic hero have before the audience is turned off? Level-headed Carol states that she fully appreciates a man who isn’t obsessed with his looks, and well she should, having been married to, and divorced from, a vain musician who left her for a model. Imagine the most attractive man you’ve ever met—then imagine him ten pounds heavier. Does it matter? Probably not. Now imagine the most romantic hero you’ve ever read about, and do the same . . . does it start to matter then?
There are plenty of male stars who lean toward the pudgy side and have no trouble attracting a female audience, though they aren’t asked to do quite as many shirtless scenes, either. Think James Gandolfini, Russell Crowe, or Jon Favreau. I like to think that we’re all smart enough to know that it’s the mind that counts first, and the body second, but I’d like opinions on this.
Does the adorable detective Gus Haglund get a pass on his penchant for donuts, or does he need to get to a treadmill? (Yeah, doubtful. I’d no sooner put Gus on a diet than I would put Carol at a candle party. And you’ll have to wait until April to find out what that means.)
Still, do we demand perfections from our heroes that we know would be unfair to demand from our heroines? Can a romantic hero be heavy? Be completely bald? Have an enormous nose? Be only five-foot-four? Can a good author create a romantic hero so lovable that what he looks like doesn’t even matter . . . or is that the rule that cannot be broken?
Sound off, readers!