05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We are all the heroes of our stories

Hi everyone! I am YA author B A Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them. 

I found three definitions for Hero in the dictionary –
  1. A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. 
  2. One who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal. 
  3. The principal male character in a story.

Only that last definition requires a specific gender.

I know, this is "Romancing the Genres" so we should be about the romance conventions so definition number three should take precedence. And yet, maybe it's because I primarily write YA and things are a little looser in that genre, I prefer definitions 1 and 2. Those do not require a different word to distinguish between the male and female. In the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is the hero, no feminization of the word is required. Peeta and Gale are love interests or sidekicks, she is the HERO saving the districts from the capital.

Actor Asia Kate Dillon, who plays a gender non-binary character, Taylor Mason on the Showtime series Billions -, (and who personally identifies as non-binary) is uncertain whether to be nominated in the Emmy category of Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress. Dillon wrote a letter to the Television Academy, stating, in part,
"I’d like to know if in your eyes 'actor' and 'actress' denote anatomy or identity and why it is necessary to denote either in the first place?" and that "...if the categories of 'actor' and 'actress' are meant to denote assigned sex I ask, respectfully, why is that necessary?"
Why indeed?

It is worth noting that the Academy's answer was that any performer could submit under any category for any reason.

I know, romance needs a male and female love story and we do need to tell which is which. But not really.

M/M and F/F are both compelling sub-genres of romance. One of my favorite M/M romances, Mexican Heat, has two luscious male leads, Antonio and Gabriel. I assure you, neither played the part of the female in their growing relationship. Both the men in this 2009 Lambda finalist book are heroes in their own right. I found both so compelling I have never forgiven the author for never presenting readers with the promised sequel.

I'm not doing a treatise on gender conformity. But I am asking why we feel the need to make the distinction? Especially because years ago, the romantic heroine was not the one who was "courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities." She was the motive for the male to perform his heroic deeds, possibly functioning as a sidekick, but basically arm candy. Yes, that has changed, and in the 21st century, most books feature "kickass" female protagonists. Since her role in the story has changed, why do we still need to differentiate by gender identity?

For me, a hero, no matter what the archetype, is the protagonist who goes through an emotional inner arc, and who pushes past obstacles to get the job done. Alpha or beta, any archetype and, yes, any gender, if they see what needs to be accomplished and do not shirk the task but see it through to completion is a hero. Maybe that makes me more of a Woman's Fiction that a Romance aficionado, as you will see by my favorite book hero and series of all time..

Anne Golon
My  #1 hero(ine if you insist) is Angelique from the book series of the same name. And, by extension, the series author, Anne Golon (see She is a nonagenarian who has faced some of the worst indignities the publishing industry has to offer, including not being allowed to use her own name when her first novels were published in the nineteen-fifties, because of fears no one would buy from a female author all the way to an attempt to seize her rights following her husband’s death that left her unable to publish new books for decades. The resulting lawsuit was settled only a few years ago, and now she is back to writing and publishing.

A brief selection of some of the 13 Angelique books

Her series of historical books begins when the title character is a typical seventeenth century adolescent member of the  noble class in rural France, far from court.  By the end of the series, Angelique is a mature woman with grown children, living in North America and negotiating treaties with both Native Americans and the British. In between she serves as a French ambassador to the Middle East, escapes from the harem of sultan Moulay Ismaiel, leads a rebellion against Louis IV, the "Sun King," and joins a group of Huguenots as they flee religious persecution for the new world. Many of the characters involved are real life historic figures.

There are men in her life, many of who would be considered the hero in another book with a different heroine. But Angelique is always the hero of her own  story. The men she encounters may be handsome, strong, smart and capable (she deserves no less). In the end, most are little more than her love interests, like Peeta and Gale are to Katniss.

Except for Angelique in Love which turns out to be a larger than life romance between Angelique and Rescator, the pirate who has been after her ever since she left the harem in Book 3. He emerges as a true hero for Angelique, possible the only man in history strong enough to be her match.

See, even I can have have one traditional hero on my list.

If you have any heros (male or female, or other) that you would like to discuss, and books to recommend, I'd love to hear about them. Drop a comment and share the particulars.


Stacy McKitrick said...

I was confused by the title of this post, then realized (after reading it), that you mean ARE, not AREA. :)

Good points about actors & actresses. I never could figure out why they needed to be different. It's not like sports, where the men are usually (USUALLY) stronger than the women, so they're making it more fair to compete. But how does that affect acting, if maybe just to give out another award (or maybe not make the men feel less men-like when a woman won)? But then, the Academy has now broken down best picture and best animated picture. I think they just want to give themselves MORE awards! :)

To me, the hero of the book is the protagonist, whether it be male or female. But since I mostly read (and only write) romance, it means the male character more than not. I just don't like it when people put H/h meaning Hero/heroine. How come the female word isn't capitalized? I think anyone in the romance industry knows what H/H stands for. Grrr...

B. A. Binns said...

Thank you Stacy, I try so hard to self-edit, then en d up overlooking the title. And I totally agree with you about H/h. It will be interesting to see where the Billions actor and the shows producers decide to compete under. And how they do.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, B. A. You make a good point about actor/actress also--will be interesting to see where it ends up.