Hey, Mr. Dream Merchant

I watched a movie on cable yesterday called The Holiday. It was a charming romantic story pairing Cameron Diaz with Jude Law (these two really burned up the screen) and the lovely Kate Winslet with Jack Black, with fine support from the always-wonderful Eli Wallach (92 years old at the time of this film's release).

You might be thinking that there's something wrong with, well, this picture, and that that something in question is Jack Black. My first thought was, "What the hell is he doing in this movie?" I don't know about you, but Jack Black is the last person I'd cast in a romantic comedy. His appearance makes him the antithesis of romance, someone destined to be a goofball or a character actor. But in this movie, it works. The screenwriter cleverly made his and Winslet's characters friends first, a direct contrast to the Diaz/Law relationship, who became intimate first and got to know each other later. Black, not particularly handsome and a little chunky, is so charming that the viewer can accept a gorgeous creature like Winslet falling for him. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out on the Starz network or at the rental store.

That got me to thinking of how romance novels have evolved in recent years. They used to be stories strictly about what my late aunt, who lived in the Hamptons of Long Island, used to refer to as the Beautiful People. Then readers expressed a wish for heroines they could easily identify with, the full figured woman (or as my doctor described me at my visit last week, "overweight.")
But what about the hero? I don't do much reading and haven't picked up a romance at all this year, so I'm curious. Do romance heroes still have perfect physiques? Are all of them still over six feet tall, even if the heroine is 5'1"? In my book Closer Than Close I deliberately made my hero 5'10" and on the pudgy side, and although he later made a halfhearted attempt to get into shape it was clear that his best days were behind him. He was also a postal worker, while the heroine owned and operated a successful hospitality business (no, she wasn't a madam.) I was able to get away with this (maybe because he was extremely handsome, plus in his early 40s), but is this a frequent occurrence? I do know that Melanie Schuster recently wrote a book about a Working Man which has met with much success. I thought that was neat, especially for the Kimani line, which likes heroes with plenty of money. (Hey, it works for Tyler Perry, whose movies often, almost to the point of predicactability), characterize the successful man as a meanie and the working stiff as sensitive and caring.)

What about you? Has your idea of a romance hero evolved at all, or do you still like them over six feet, with six-pack abs, and a full head of hair and chiseled features, no matter what the heroine looks like? Is it okay for the hero to have love handles or a receding hairline if the heroine has a roll or two of extra flesh around her middle? Or is this a double standard? Or am I just being too real for the genre?


Shelia said...

My idea of a romance hero has evolved but there still has to be something about the hero that makes him stand out among the crowd.

Donna said...

My real-life hero is barely 6 feet and has a keg rather than a six pack, but I wouldn't trade him for the world. :)

Now, my "romantic" heros should be leggy, lean and built, but I could easily fall for the overweight scruffy charmer in a novel.

bettye griffin said...

Shelia, I'm thinking that maybe it's all about the everyday woman catching the fantasy man (something I think would be doubtful to occur in real life).

Donna, I know just what you mean. My real-life hero needs no padding to play Santa Claus (he's tall, though, 6'2"), but hey. Most guys over 50 tend to be chubby hubby types, unless they're bachelors or newly divorced . . . or have been blessed with genes that help keep that spare tire low. But he's my prize, and I won't trade him. He's only kidding when he says he's going to trade me in for two 25-year-olds; he knows he'd probably have a heart attack if he tried that!

Mel said...

I love it when the heroine and/or hero aren't the "beautiful people" and to be honest I never notice their physique unless it's a love scene.

And to me novels with h/h not the average size it sends the message more than perfect sized humans can find love.

I saw The Holiday and it made sense to me that Kate's character would fall in love with someone who makes her laugh and not cry like the other chump she'd been in love with for three years.

Gwyneth Bolton said...

I'm trying to evolve. I really am. It's hard, especially when you've grown up reading romance like I have. I just have certain expectations when I pick up a romance novels and all those fantasies like the overly handsome, tall, built, rich hero still stick. I can take an average heroine, in fact I like that. Because then I can really be the regular girl getting the all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips guy. :-) I did like those nerd books though. Nerds can be sexy as long as they aren't too funny looking. I just can't imagine an overweight romance hero with bad skin and gapped teeth though...


bettye griffin said...

Mel, I can appreciate your down-to-earth feelings.

LOL, Gwyneth! I think bad skin would be a hard sell in either the hero or the heroine. But I think a hero with love handles or a receding hairline (particularly if he's middle-aged) or a heroine with skinny legs (as Joe Tex once saic, "Will somebody please take the lady with the skinny legs?") is a possibility.

Now that I think about it, my TV newscaster, Skye Audsley, from From This Day Forward did have an expanding forehead. The fact that he, like Ray Jones of Closer Than Close, was drop-dead handsome probably overrode that.

I guess that if the rest of the package is lacking, the face has to make up for it.

Thanks for sharing your views!

Patricia W. said...

My real-life guy is six foot seven, a former athlete, and still in pretty good shape. Makes me sick because he is just starting to have a gray hair or two while I've got plenty (although a little L'Oreal goes a long way!) and more than a few pounds to lose.

I've always been attracted to tall guys despite being vertically challenged myself. I'm kinda like Gwyneth. I can envision the imperfect heroine but the less than spectacular guy takes some doing. They don't have to be rich but hunky? Oh yeah, even if they're not overly tall.

As far as Jack Black, you must never have seen Shallow Hal. He is goofy and endearing and I've been catching his movies ever since I saw this romantic comedy on late night cable one night. Love the way it takes on all the stereotypes about what heroes and heroines should look like. Check it out.