My mom was a single mother and raised my sister and me to be independent women. There was a SERIOUS lack of male testosterone in the house, except for the cat, and I only had one male role model to look up to, my uncle. Unfortunately, mom didn’t always have her dating radar dialed in correctly, so the boyfriend meter was generally ‘off’, to put it mildly. I grew up thinking marriage and romantic gestures were a thing of ‘fiction’ until I met my future and current husband. Although, I did make him work hard and solidly refused marriage until we were out of college, but eventually I married my junior high sweetheart and the rest is history!
I do have a point to this story, and here it is: What makes a ‘Leading Man’ a HERO not a ZERO? If you look to our movies, books, and T.V. series for your answer, then I suppose any ‘hero’ with a set of rock hard abs and beautiful hair makes the cut. Not so long ago, well okay maybe it was twenty or thirty years ago, but who’s counting…anyway, heroes used to wear masks to cover their rugged looks, and sometimes not so rugged looks. The superheroes of yesteryear weren’t always handsome and they certainly didn’t have that chiseled body type of today’s superstars. Their OUT OF THIS WORLD characteristic was their ability to save the damsel in distress with honesty, integrity, courage and a little bit of swoon factor. Have the young ladies been manipulated into selling out to a creep with a ravishing body and a gorgeous pearly white smile? I hope not!
I’m a sucker for a great story involving romance and butterfly stomachy (totally not a word, but I’m gonna use it) feelings just like anyone else, but I also need to believe in the hero and know his intentions are unique, honorable, and he’s in it for the long haul when the damsel eventually gets stretch marks and puts a little meat on her bones. Yeah, I’m that kind of realist…
I will admit to adding the ‘swoon’ factor to characters in my young adult book series, Elements, where I describe the two leading young men Gage and Talon as almost Greek-Godlike with their sculptured bodies and flawless looks. In my defense though, I further describe them heavily throughout the series with normal everyday problems and setbacks just like a regular teen boy growing up. (With the added pressure of an evil emperor chasing them and trying to kill them, of course. It’s fiction, I need to add a little fantasy factor!) In my opinion, showing the humanism and some characteristic flaws, readers can relate realistically and appreciate the qualities instead of disassociating from the story. Talking about depression, death, insecurities and guilt alongside feelings of euphoria, confidence, humor and love will indeed counterbalance a story to simulate ‘real life’ while still portraying a fictional narrative. Like any author, I put a little piece of myself in each novel and the portion I chose to input is my fondness for respect and a man who is raised to be a gentlemen. My uncle is a true southern gentleman and taught me I should expect nothing less from a man, although growing up in California, this is a bit of an anomaly. (Not to say it is extinct, just rare. I still love being a California girl, no doubt!)
I have, in turn, raised my sons the same way as my family has for generations by teaching them the essence of gentlemanly mannerisms. Gage and Talon Thorn (Elements characters), like my real life sons, show qualities that are rare in main stream society such as opening the door for a lady, responding with ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’, standing when an elder enters the room and removing their hat when eating at a table. I admire these qualities and I think this may be my personal link to what makes a leading man a HERO not a ZERO. It's not ALL about the looks, it's about the persona and what lies deep within. A hero who can kick a little butt, is willing to admit they're not perfect and needs some help too.
If you would like to weigh in on the topic, please post your comment here or catch me on twitter at http://twitter.com/fuentes_kate1 . #herovszero