Fiction vs Real Life

6 Oct

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

This weekend, I was amused to watch romance writer Megan Mulry tweet read of Jane Eyre in snippets that went like this:

It was that last one that got me thinking. Ultimately, Rochester is a misogynistic shit, but he’s still considered a classic romantic hero. Why is it we love characters in fiction we would drop kick to the curb in real life?

Dark, brooding, trapped in a marriage with a crazy woman, Rochester has the moody hero trifecta. He tunes in to Jane partly because he has complete control over her. She plain, she’s low-born, she has no one to fight for her, so she is the perfect victim. Now we all know Jane can fight for herself and it’s her sense of self and her core of strength that draws Rochester in and eventually makes him fall in love with her. But really, he’s one move away from a restraining order and an episode of 48 hours.

Or how about Mister Darcy? Self aware enough to know his faults, he doesn’t regret them. He’s proud and arrogant and happy to tell anyone about it. He believes it not only his right but his duty to be so and to inflict his will over those around him. Truth is, we love Colin Firth as Mister Darcy more than Mister Darcy. Let’s face it, on his own, Mister Darcy is a bit of a wanker.

I have a great deal of affection for Nelson DeMille’s character John Corey, but he is a smart-ass, jackhole prick of the first degree. He’s also screamingly funny, takes no shit, and keeps going long after many other “heroes” would quit. I love to read him and be entertained but I’d want to slap him upside the head if I had to deal with him in person.

What is it that makes us not only put up but actively enjoy the kinds of people we would kick to the curb in real life? Is it because it’s fiction, so there’s no consequence for a little indulgence? And is it only male characters or are there heroines who we love on the page but would throttle if we had to spend time with them in real life.

What are some of character you love in fiction who you know would drive you crazy in real life?

Follow Lady Smut. Fiction or real life, you’ll love how we drive you crazy.

4 Responses to “Fiction vs Real Life”

  1. C. Margery Kempe October 6, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    The appeal of Jane Eyre is not Rochester as asshole; it’s Jane as powerful and active. He does not get her until he has come around to her way of thinking, lost the wife, suffered as much as he has made her suffer and then when he has given up all hope, she choses to return to him because she has never changed and she has never wavered.

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  2. Madeline Iva October 6, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    I don’t think I could take half an hour with Fanny Price. She would turn any half decent strong willed person into a bully in seconds.

    I think what these authors do is show us the layers of the characters over time. Bronte makes sure to show us Rochester’s world of the rich and how shallow and self-preening they all are. Rochester just can’t bear that world another minute. He may be a domineering ass-hat, but he’s an asshat who hates pretense and prizes authenticity.

    Austen shows us Darcy in Eliza’s world, where people are gracious as they make the best of their surroundings. Then she shows us *his* world, where with his immense wealth, he must guard his sister and himself from people on the make all the time, and where what he really cares about are the long term relationships he has with his nearest and dearest. Understanding their different characters is all a matter of understanding their different contexts.

    I indulged in an Outlander marathon this weekend and I have to say, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the way we come to understand the layers of the people in that world. It takes time–but you gradually stop seeing the men (other than Jamie and his uncle) as ugly, and you start seeing them as a team—you begin to see their loyalties and good nature. The best romantic writing is about showing these layers and the pay off is that the characters transform before our eyes.

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    • Kiersten Hallie Krum October 6, 2014 at 11:30 am #

      A thousand times YES to your Outlander observations. I especially like when during their road trip, Claire goes from being excluded by the boys to having them brawl for her honor. You think Angus is a shit, threatening her and dragging her around, but by the end, he’s the first to beat on the guy slandering her and later helps her w/the saddle.

      There were some complaints about the slow pace of this first block of episodes, but most viewers and critics recognized that it was this slow roll-out allowed the deeper characters of these people to develop organically (and not just Jamie and Claire’s feelings for one another) along with the slow build of the settings and political landscape. It’s just been brilliant storytelling for any medium.

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  3. hgprime October 6, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    I was just thinking about this today, but with a different set of fictional characters, (from TV), & have had this discussion before so I’ll repeat what I said then, “Morality is malleable when the monster (or in this case misogynist wanker prick) is hot.” Which is the shallow answer. But a more in depth answer includes the fact that in fictional works we, the audience and or reader, gets to see the hottie/wankers POV & we have a greater ability to understand them. In real life people are baffling puzzles & often we only get to see only 20% of who they are. (Math not guaranteed.)

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