“Someday my prince will come.”
Yup, that’s what the lady sang. And as Snow White, sweet, passive dear that she was, pined and waited for her prince, we all sighed and sympathized. And yet, as time wore on, as the face of romance changed, heroines became more active. Entities with their own powers. Not so of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty (never my favorite Disney heroines). They were docile and unassuming and, well, they slept a lot. By all that’s holy, they spent most of their time in a comatose state, waiting, waiting, waiting for a man to save them.
And he always did. Dashing and virile, those early princes knew exactly what to do in any situation, and always managed to carry their chosen gals to safety.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a rescue fantasy as much as the next woman. In fact, many of my heroines get rescued too, but I like to think they “rescued” their heroes in their own ways.
Then, for a while, we began to see stronger heroines. Girls with character, who could hold their own, and who had no trouble speaking up. Think of Belle (my personal fave). Belle didn’t sit around, waiting for the Beast to fix everything. She worked hard to rescue their love.
Romance novels seemed to follow this pattern, too. After decades of simpering, passive, Barbara Cartland-style heroines, we began to see women who were willing to take charge. Think of Diana Gabaldon’s Claire Randall. She never stayed put. Sure, Jamie had to bail her out a few times, but Claire held her own. And so have a score of other modern heroines.
However, I’m starting to glimpse a return to the submissive leading lady. Now, this is not a rant on BDSM. I’m not talking about that kind of submission, which involves a clear choice.
Yesterday, I spent some time browsing my local book store and wandered the romance aisle. I read a lot of blurbs while I was there. In 95% of the cases, the stories involved rich men bartering for the heroine’s attentions. In most cases, the women were less affluent, sometimes in wretched circumstances. In many instances, the heroines worked for the heroes, often in clerical positions. Now, this doesn’t mean a struggling woman is a weak woman, but it did give me pause. And perhaps I may be generalizing, but I see a lot of new Snow Whites out there. Women who can’t quite seem to carve out their own lives, and who need a strong man to show them the way.
Consider this as well. Dubious consent has become a new sub-genre in erotic literature. Dubious consent. I’m sorry. This does not sound romantic to me. However, perhaps that’s an argument for another day.
I get it. A powerful hero can be a real draw. We all love a take-charge sort of man. But have we sacrificed some of our heroines in the process?
I don’t know. Perhaps I should sleep on it.