I read this post by Ally a couple days ago, and I simply loved it! It totally and completely expressed my thoughts on this exact subject. So with her permission, of course, here is her post for you lovely people!
(and I just copied and pasted this, so it is her words verbatim! )
Something’s been simmering in the back of my head for a while, and I just wanted to get it out into words. So I have. My brilliance never ceases to amaze me. Hehe. Notice the heavily-laced sarcasm. Anyway. So I’m posting this on my other blog, but seeing as this week id Hero Week (hurrah!) I thought it was only too appropriate to post it here as well…and also just because, you know…Heroes play a huge role in period dramas, which is what this blog is all about. So. And stay tuned for lots more hero-stuff, including that Very Deep Post I keep talking about.
Literary Heroes. Say the name and a host of gentlemen can instantly come to mind. Mr. Knightley. Gilbert Blythe. Theodore Laurence. Mr. Rochester (debatable, I know, but just bear with me…). Edward Ferrars. Ivanhoe. Raoul de Chagney. John Thornton. And of course, the king of literary heroes, Mr. Darcy.
Although as you know (if you haven’t figured this out yet, then Something Is Seriously Wrong), he’s oh-so-bumped in my opinion by my very-very-very favorite hero, the dashing Sir Percy Blakeney. Just sticking that out there. Because it’s my blog. So I can (and no, I don’t want a seventy-odd comment war. ROFL.)
For anyone who knows me, they know that a good hero is like butter to bread for me. And if you read my blog, you can’t help but stumble into them every-other-post. Men who are chivalrous, gentlemanly, handsome and of course utterly romantic. Again, see the last post.
But in the Christian realm, these heroes often get a bad rap. There are many (very sincere) people out there who feel that to admire these heroes is akin to “losing your heart”, to use a popular ‘emotional purity’ phrase (My views on ‘emotional purity’ are a subject for a separate post). I used to believe the normal anti-hero hype (anti as in against the hero, not anti-heroes, which as all good writers know is the name of heroes who aren’t quite heroic but eventually do heroic deeds. Major run – and rabbit trail – there). But the Lord has really opened my eyes to a lot of things this year, and my mom and I have been deeply studying a lot of issues that we kind of took for granted as being “right”…but now when we look at them, we realize that perhaps they weren’t as right as they sounded.
So first, let’s identify the two camps. There‘s camp A, who believe that, as I said, admiring said heroes is the same as “losing your heart”, that if you hold up those men for admiration you’re running the risk of having unrealistic expectations of what men and marriage are. Most in this camp also swear off romance in general (as in films and the Christian fiction market), which as I said is another topic for another post (let’s just say I disagree with that, too J). So basically, if I say that Sir Percy is the most amazingest, that I hold him up as an incredible example of manhood and I want the man I marry to be like him…then I’ve just set myself up for heartache.
I disagree (and if you haven’t caught on, I’m firmly planted in Camp B ). And my reasons for it are explained in this post. We get the bad rap for obsessions with Austen (or Dickens or TSP or whatever the case may be) when really…what’s not to like?
Every girl at some time or other has her imagination captured by the idea of a dashing hero. She reads (or sees in film) of these men, kind and compassionate and honorable and (depending on the brand of hero you like) courageous and daring. She dreams of someday finding a man who will kill dragons for her, duel dastardly villains and sweep her off her feet.
But then as she gets older, she begins to hear messages – messages that criticize her for holding up these examples of manhood, of setting up “expectations” that the poor average dope can’t hold up to. According to the logic, “real” men are stupid unromantic clods, with no desire for romance other than what they can get out of it for themselves, and that no relationship can have anything that even closely resembles a fairytale. A girl is considered “unrealistic” and “unspiritual” if she dares to hope for anything more than an average Joe and a stick-in-the-mud excuse for a courtship/relationship/whatever name you like to use for it. I’m not exaggerating…I’ve been told this before.
Thus the girl who dreams of a gentleman like the ones she reads or sees in her favorite stories or films, who dreams of a man who will woo her and love her like the stories she enjoys is looked down on, sneered at, or even openly ridiculed. The girl with stars in her eyes who loves romantic quotes, who cries in romantic movies and calls her future man-wherever-he-is “Mr. so-and-so” after her favorite hero is held up in Camp A as an example of women sucked in by the idea of “true love” and of knights in shining armor. I know…I used to be that way.
But it’s just not true. Their thinking is faulty because it contradicts itself. We are told to want godly men, then berated for holding up examples of chivalrous manhood. Don’t get me wrong…I do believe that a girl’s dreams should be tempered by reality. But bashing the inner working of a girl’s heart and demeaning the desires that God placed there won’t do it. Has no one ever considered that? God – the One who created us and made us the way we are, with all our feminine quirks and sometimes almost irrational longings and desires – placed in every young woman, no matter if she’s a sugar and spice ultimate girly-girl or the complete opposite, the deep-seated desire to fall in love with a man of courage, strength, chivalry and honor. It’s not necessarily bred in us. Keep a tiny girl away from Disney Princesses and happily-ever-afters and you’ll still find her with chubby cheeks resting in chubby palms staring into space, wishing for the day when she’ll marry a man “who will be very brave and handsome.”
The fact is, life itself is enough to teach us reality, unless we somehow manage to live hundreds of thousands of miles away from the rest of the world, which I’d bet ¾ of us do not. People let you down, tragedies happen, life happens. You realize that everything doesn’t just fall into place, that people are real, that they won’t always be there for you or be perfect. For most people, reality can be seen in watching their own parents’ marriage or the marriages of others they look up to with their ups and downs.
I am very blessed to live in the family that I do. It is observing my parents’ marriage that has strengthened – not weakened – my belief that while yes, life is not all roses, it is not only possible, but a realitythat you can have a blissful, happy, and utterly romantic marriage, just as beautiful and even passionate as the most sappy story can portray (yes, I said passionate…that’s for a whole ‘nother post, too…). My parents are, twenty-five years into marriage, just as in love as any couple in romantic literature. And as I’ve said before, my dad, while he has his faults just like anyone else, has all the qualities of any hero thought up by the human mind. He has the character of a hero – and he can be just as romantic as any hero, too. You should read my mom’s Valentine’s cards. (nod)
Which brings me to my point. If we really get down to the nitty-gritty matters, what do we admire in heroes? Forget handsomeness for a minute, please. We all know that good heroes are always handsome. I’ll get to that in a second.
What’s not to admire in Mr. Darcy’s honorable character…in risking everything to save the reputation of the woman he loved, of the tender affection he had for his sister? Of Mr. Knightley gallantly dancing with Harriet after the Eltons snubbed her (LOVE that scene. Love, love, love…)? Of John Thornton’s firm stand against speculation, even when it meant losing everything? Of Sydney Carton’s willingness to give up his chance of happiness – to pay the ultimate sacrifice – for the sake of the woman he loved? Of Sir Percy’s courage and willingness to risk his life for what he believed, to right the wrongs of society and save the lives of others?
Ally wildly claps and cheers. “HURRAY FOR OUR SIDE!” Calm down, Ally. Get back to your point. This is no time to start a war. Okay.
Come on, people. Who doesn’t want a man like that? All those qualities are things that a good Christian guy should have. They’re basic Christian values, not superhuman feats – the brainchild of some overactive female imagination. If we say that we are not holding guys up to these heroes, what are we holding them up to? What are we expecting? In a society where Justin Beiber and Robert Pattison are held up as the example of ultimate awesomeness (with no offense intended to Beiber or Pattison fans, but hey, it’s my blog!), where most guys have no spine whatsoever, who sit around playing video games and indulging in prolonged childhoods, who are afraid to do anything, what on the earth is wrong with wanting a higher standard? If admiring a literary hero puts a girl’s standards higher than the average, if it makes her long for a real man in a society where the word ‘man’ denotes a person’s sex and nothing more, than for pity’s sake, we should encourage it.
Puleeze, guys, give us a bit more credit (and I hope there are no guys reading this, ‘cuz if you didn’t notice the pink all over…this is a girl’s blog. J Anyway. So I’m figuratively speaking to guys). Sure, we may giggle and sigh over the antics of our favorite hero. We’re girls. Do we think it’s stupid when you scream at the guys on the football field or cheer when the good guy finally kills the bad guy (usually with much blood and total-guy-goriness)? Yes. Do we put you down for it? I don’t, at least. I don’t believe that you guys really want to “kill that guy” or that you really think that getting that pigskin in the end zone is the most important thing in the world. You’re guys. That’s the way you express yourself. Just remember that when we squeal and sigh over a romantic gesture (or just when that knight-in-shining-armor comes on screen or during that Picture Perfect Romantic Proposal), that doesn’t mean that we think the world literally revolves around these people. We’re not anticipating for our men to literally duel or jump in lakes J. We’re not that shallow. Guys, we’re not really expecting you to be a Colin Firth (or Richard Armitage or Anthony Andrews or fill-in-the-blank) clone. But what we want (and what we admire in the characters these men portray) is basic Christian masculinity and honor.
What’s wrong with that?
Heroes are not perfect. Really, they’re not. Mr. Darcy is stuck up, stubborn and prejudiced. Mr. Thornton can be rather resentful. Mr. Knightley can be rather harsh at times (IMO, IMO…), Sydney…well, technically he’s more of an anti-hero. Percy, hurt by Marguerite’s betrayal, refuses to let go and give her a second chance. Seriously, people? I thought these guys were perfect. The eponymous Mr. Darcy would be all smiles and graciousness, Mr. Thornton would fall down and forgive Margaret, Mr. Knightley would never speak a insensitive word, and Sir Percy would be jumping at the chance to try again. But no…they have their faults just like any real man.
When it comes down to it, when you meet your man, he’s going to be the most wonderful person in the world (if you don’t think he is, you need to reevaluate if this relationship is the right thing for you!). I’ve seen girls with – frankly – quite ugly guys, but they hang on every word he says and think that he is the most clever, dashing, gorgeous guy on the planet. Why? Because they love him.
When it comes down to brass tacks, there’s so, so much over-hype about it. You’re going to love him, and in your eyes, he can do anything, even if the dragons are only spiders and the villains only the flat tire or clogged kitchen sink.
“That’s all very well and good,” you might say, “but men are never like the heroes in stories. They don’t write poetry, worship the ground the woman they love walks on, or make passionate declarations of love. After all, these were all written by women – women who were writing for women.” (As graciously as possible…that argument is as disproven as the myth that homeschoolers are automatically unsocialized. So please…it’s just not a valid argument.)
I’m not an expert on romance – I’ve not yet been in love – but I have a mother who has been happily married for twenty-five years this year. And according to my very wise and spiritual mother, it’s not unreasonable to hope for a guy who’s romantic. Sure, every guy is different. But guys are really not as ignorant as we make them out to be. For us to think of them as stupid romantic clods who have absolutely no idea what’s going on and couldn’t think up a romantic idea if he tried is to dumb them down, to resort to the world’s idea that men are Neanderthals who have no clue what’s going on around them. Girls make passionate speeches about how “there are no real guys around”, and then don’t give men the opportunity to step up to the plate and prove it. A guy in love knows (or has a pretty good idea) of what we would call ‘romantic’. I asked my brothers if they thought it was unreasonable for girls to expect flowers and romantic poems. They just scoffed. “The way every guy does it is different, but every guy’s going to act romantic when he’s with the girl he loves.”
I’ve read some notes from my dad to my mom when they were dating/engaged, and I can tell you, they were just as sappy as any hero’s soliloquy (and let’s not forget the Valentine’s Day cards). I’ve been an insider on close friends’ romances and heard tales of the heart-tripping things their men have said or done.
It all comes down to the fact that despite what people may think, there are girls out there who can separate fiction from reality– maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never, ever had an issue with separating the two. And if a girl can’t separate the two, then she shouldn’t be allowed to read period. If a girl is that ridiculous that she can’t see that…then there’s no hope for her. J Of course I don’t expect my man to, you know…ride in and save innocent victims from death. Wear brilliant disguises and slip through the fingers of death again and again. Or duel (as in literally) bad guys. Or wear big capes and be incredibly handsome and have a British accent. Although I wouldn’t be brokenhearted if he did. Hehe.
But I do expect the man I marry to have courage in the face of danger, to “be willing to march into Hell for a heavenly cause”, to have that drive and passion to see justice done and the wrongs in the world righted. To be willing to give anything, even if it means his life, for what he believes. A man who is honorable, who is chivalrous, who will love me more than anything else in the world, a man that I can proudly stand beside and support him and help him reach that vision.
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go…
And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable stars.
“The Impossible Dream”
from “The Man of La Mancha”
And honestly. Shouldn’t that be on any girl’s list of qualifications for a man?
Don’t ever give up on your dreams of a hero. There are heroes out there. Look at some of the real-life ones in the past, my favorites being William Wallace and William Wilberforce, who did great things, even though they were only men. Look at David in the Bible, who bravely faced insurmountable dangers because he believed the Lord’s cause should be defended, or Joshua. Look at men like Jim Elliot, or Todd Beamer who courageously fought the terrorists on 9/11. Look at the men out there who fight against opposition every day. Who stand against wrong, even if it means losing everything. There are, despite what a lot of people would tell you, real men who believe this. There are real, heroic men who need women who want more from life than just a ho-hum experience with a ho-hum person, who are willing to go on a whirlwind ride through both roses and storms, and despite the difficulties, never regret embarking on the adventure.
So sigh for your Mr. Darcy. It can happen. Go ahead and admire these heroes. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a real man.
(by the way, did i mention that you all will be getting a surprise on friday? anyone wanna take a guess as to what it might be?)