Sunday, November 12, 2006

Much Ado about Jensen

What do you look for in a hero?

A sense of integrity? A sense of humour? A shelf of hard pecs? Well, it's obvious enough that everyone looks for something different in their main fictional protagonists - and this man's meat can certainly turn out to be someone else's poison. Every once in a while, you actually do find that there are some personality quirks / idiosyncrasies that are an anathema to readers out there. For those who doubt that homophobia's largely rampant in the world, you can go take a look at this latest brouhaha in the romance publishing world.
Of Mice and men

Romance novelist Anne Stuart ( never actually heard of her but I'm gonna buy just to support the poor embattled lady ) wrote about this ice-cold, beautiful superspy hero, Peter Jensen, who apparently danced the horizontal tango with another man during one of his hush hush undercover episodes - and it has let loose a relentless hailstorm of vitriolic comments in the publishing quarters from disappointed matronly sighs to violent homophobic rants from what I assume are gun-toting God-fearing mommas from the red states. Last time that happened was when our unfortunate gay FBI agent Jules Cassidy took the stage.

As a matter of fact, the hero, a spy who slept with a man in Black Ice, has total control over his body, which allows him to have sex with men or women, whatever the job entails, without any emotional feelings whatsoever. At one point in the upcoming release, the hero informs the heroine that he kissed her to distract her in order to knock her out. When she asks what he would do if he needed to distract a man, he answers, 'I would do the same thing.'

Seriously. Would the hero after having indulged in some peculiarly slashy behaviour in the past be forbidden from appearing in serial mainstream romances ever again? What would be a strict no-no in the hero of a novel?

Let me count the ways. For me, nonconsensual rape would be a definite taboo in the traditional sense of a hero ( not to mention weepy, whiny heroines who are way too stupid to live ). Even a sense of infidelity if not written correctly would leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth. But consensual sex - now that, I wouldn't mind whether it's between man/woman, man/man, woman/woman... hell, even in a full-blown Caligula orgy with half the Congress partying away in debauchery.

And for Peter Jensen, superspy, I don't see how that makes him any less of a hero. Being the lover of a Mafia don as part of his cover?

Gun man
What does it take to be a hero?

Hell, let me repeat. He's a spy. I'm sorry but an undercover agent who's also a shining paragon with sterling moral values just wouldn't make a very good spy, possibly one of the first to be fed to the hungry sharks. Doubt very much they would go around saying thank you please ma'am as they smash in the door to wreak lawless mayhem. After all, by definition spies practically break half the ten commandments already so how could anyone possibly object to one more? They commit murder, the indulge in adultery, they steal, they lie / bear false witness, they covet their neighbours' wives, houses and weapons of mass destruction. Bet they even make wrongful use of the name of the Lord. ... and you're all gonna nitpick over the lousy fact that he kissed another man?

Please, it's easier if he did only that. At least someone's bound to be happy - and though I've never read it, I'm sure cold, beautiful Peter would have satisfied. Now that's definitely a prerequisite for a romance novel hero.


Anonymous said...

No prizes for guessing who my hero is. The best heroes are often tragic. Every hero I know is damaged in some way - orphaned by an extinct civilization (superman), murdered parents (batman), or guilty in some way for letting a loved one die (spiderman). Fallibility is essential in creating a heroic character. Perfection just isn't dramatic enough.

Anonymous said...

What is it with you and heroes or superspies these few days? LOL! =P

Squido said...

Killing people, blowing up buildings and making out with women are okay. But kissing another man?! *horrific gasp*

Double standard much?

Annie said...

Sincerity, Integrity, Honor and a true devotion to the safety and love of women - that's MY hero. My husband has two out of four. Even if you're gay, I still believe *any* man should look over their female species be it Mothers, Sisters, Aunts, or female friends. :D

Anonymous said...

When you come acrosss a person who is quite vitriolic about those less than straight, please look again. Often he's trying to hide smething. Numerous examples abound. Jim West, the ex-mayor of Spokane, Washington State, resigned when he was outed. He was very homophobic, pressed legislation against gays etc and then he was found to have molested men and frequented the services of males escorts. Then you have ex-governor Mcgreevy of New Jersey. Very against gays and gay marriage. After being outed, he now plans to marry his male lover. Same with Foley and his cohorts. So you see, often I find that the ones who shout derisive remarks at gays are very suspect themselves. The ordinary straight guys are very sure of their own sexuality and so have no need to go out of their way to show that they're not gay.

Anonymous said...

I have a close friend (a boyfriend of a female cousin) who is straight. He's very secure in his masculinity, and we're better friends because of it. Between him, my cousin, and Jamie, I get to practice my massage techniques. You can't get any more masculine secure than that. Or can you?

Annie said...

tee hee *blush* I came back to look at the picture of the guy again.. mmm. nice thighs. :D