***Warning: This post is about a matter very close to the author’s heart and she apologizes for any ranting that occurs***
I recently finished reading William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. And, while I have a list of very decided reasons why Hero should have dumped Claudio (seriously, would have made an awesome scene!) the story was definitely worth the read because of Beatrice and Benedick.
If you’re not familiar with their story, Beatrice and Benedick are rivals of wit. Every time they meet, they take it upon themselves to slam the other one with the wittiest insult. Both are sharp tongued and delight in putting the other down. And, when all else fails, they insult the other person’s insults.
But, then, part way through the story, they get set up and realize they actually love each other. And, that’s where my favorite thing about them comes in.
After the two of them realize they love the other, there is this really great scene where they attempt to speak poetic words of love to each other.
Only, they’re so used to one-uping the other with their wit, that they keep coming up with witty replies to the others romantic overtures. It’s a hilarious scene and probably my favorite.
Plus, it ties in with what I wanted to talk about today.
You might have noticed that romantic stories always end with the couple getting married. Or engaged. Or as a couple. Basically, it ends when they commit to each other.
There are very few stories with a couple who is married. Like, a younger couple. I’m not counting the main character’s parents. I mean two people who are main characters but also a couple.
It’s almost as if society is subliminally trying to tell us that all the fun stops after marriage or after you’re committed to someone. Most of the shows, movies, and books I’ve seen with married couples are disasters because it’s all drama about their relationship.
My mom is sad because I can’t watch Heartland with her anymore. Because the main character drives me so nuts it’s not even funny. She causes nothing but drama in her relationship with her boyfriend and I honestly have no idea why this guy wants to spend the rest of his life with her. She’s jealous and clingy and a complete jerk. He can’t even say hi to another girl without her blowing it out of proportion and turning it into him essentially cheating on her. I just want someone to knock some sense into this girl (not physically… I’m not promoting abuse. I mean that metaphorically).
And, it’s even worse when the story is a sequel or the character get together after a few seasons, because they tend to lose all their life and individuality when they become a part of a relationship.
As you know, Zoe Washburn is one of my favorite heroines of all time. Part of the reason being that she is a good example of a woman in her own right who is also committed to a relationship. But, I’ve talked about Zoe a lot, so I thought I would look at some of my other favorite heroines who are married.
Because, I was actually surprised to realize most of my favorite heroines are married.
Elizabeth Burke from the TV show White Collar and Nora Charles from The Thin Man mystery movie series are definitely on my top five favorite heroines list. And, most of it has to do with the fact that they are amazing characters who are also amazing wives.
Both women are married to men connected with crime. Elizabeth’s husband is an FBI agent and Nora’s husband is a private detective. Both support their husbands in their works and understand that what they do is dangerous. They worry about them, but also don’t nag them about getting into dangerous situations.
I cannot tell you how much that annoys me, when a character nags their significant other for doing the thing they knew that person did when they began a relationship with them. Like, don’t marry an FBI agent and then tell him not to do dangerous stuff. That’s like telling an accountant not to do math. HE’S GOING TO GET INTO TROUBLE. IT’S HIS JOB FOR PETE’S SAKE!
Another thing about Elizabeth and Nora is that neither of them get jealous when their husband talks to another woman, no matter how the woman acts. I love that because to me, it says that they not only trust their husband, that he will be faithful to them, but it also says something about their respect for themselves. They are so secure in who they are, they aren’t worried about another woman coming along and stealing their man from them. They know they’re the best thing that ever happened to him and him embracing another woman isn’t enough to make them jealous.
Nora especially is wonderful about this. She and her husband are hilarious because they are always telling the other that they’re cheating on each other, he’s always telling her that he married her for her money, but in the end, they are incredibly in love and would never dream of being unfaithful to the other. They’re surrounded by scandal and messed up relationships and all sorts of crazy situations, but they remain unwavering in their devotion to each other. Nothing can change what they have. And, they aren’t going to let anything threaten them.
And, in one of my favorite scenes with Elizabeth and her husband, Peter, is where she finds out he’s been flirting a little bit with this woman because they need her to let them into this building and she has no idea that they’re with the FBI. Instead of getting mad, Elizabeth takes the opportunity to tease Peter mercilessly because he’s so horrible at flirting. And then she coaches him while he calls the woman, giving him tips on what to say and how to flirt.
Because she knows he’s only doing it for the investigation. She knows her husband would never go too far. And, he would never do anything that would be unfaithful to her. So, she has fun instead of freaking out or yelling at him, she teases him. Because she loves him. And she is certain of his love for her.
Elizabeth is also the best because she runs her own business. She has things that she likes, she has her own activities that she does, she has her friends and her opinions, and she never once feels like the main character’s love interest. She’s a strong, independent woman who is also married to the main character. She’s her own person, fully and completely. She’s an individual. But, that doesn’t stop her from being someone’s partner, a half of something. She can be both wholly herself and half of her marriage.
We need more characters like this. They don’t have to be married, but why don’t we have more love interests who are together through the whole story? Why does the guy only get the girl at the end of the book? Why can’t he get her at the beginning and they spend the book working side by side?
Your story doesn’t have to be weighed down with romantic drama for this to work. In fact, people hate romantic drama, so please don’t add it. But, we are also giving the impression to everyone that relationships are nothing but romantic drama after they start and that needs to stop.
A great way to look at it is instead of thinking of them as love interests, think of them as partners. They are two heroes fighting side by side who happen to also be in love with each other.
We need to show people that there is hope. That relationships have problems, yes, but that’s not the sum of them. We need to show people that characters shouldn’t lose their personalities just because they’re a part of something bigger then themselves.
We need more relationships in our stories. More characters that show that they’re about more than kissing and fighting. That finding a significant other isn’t the end. Sometimes it’s the beginning.
Or, maybe these characters have been in a relationship for a long time. Zoe and Wash are married long before Firefly starts. And they have problems and they fight and they kiss and say lovey things to each other.
But, they’re also two people. The sum of their relationship isn’t them having problems and making out.
And, as a side note, while most romantic relationships are all drama, you have to remember that all relationships have their share of problems. It’s how you write them that count.
Part of the reason I love Sherlock so much is because of John and Sherlock’s relationship. The writers do such a great job of making it realistic, having them fight and disagree and even get really, really angry with each other. But, it never crosses to the point where it’s just stupid, pointless drama.
You know why? Because unlike the romantic couples, John and Sherlock aren’t fighting about stuff that doesn’t matter. They aren’t arguing because Sherlock worked with another partner and John feels jealous because maybe Sherlock doesn’t want him for a partner anymore.
Boo hoo. Who cares, pathetic female who has no personality? If you’re that insecure about how he feels about you, why are you even in a relationship with him?
But, relationships aren’t for everyone. And, before you decide if your heroine is ready for one, let me reiterate just what is required (and, side note- this basically applies to guys too, but this is a post about heroines, not heroes):
She needs to be her own character. Both sides of the relationship need to be developed on their own, excluding the other person. She needs to be herself, have her own personality, her own interests, her own jokes, her own things that she hates and loves and dreams about. She cannot be the female version of her boyfriend or husband. She needs to be the female version of herself.
She needs to be independent in her own right. She needs to feel like a person on her own. If she can’t carry a scene without him there or without talking about him the whole time, she’s worthless. She needs to be her own person, an individual.
But, she also needs to be able to be part of something bigger than herself. She needs to understand that compromise is key in every relationship and picking your battles is important. It’s better to let the little things go and fight back when there’s something big going down. Because if she complains about the little stuff, no matter how huge the matter is, she’s still come across as the nagging girlfriend/wife. And, nobody likes a nagger.
She can’t get jealous at every turn. He’s going to have to talk to other girls. That’s life. You can’t go anywhere without talking to someone of the opposite gender. Sure, get mad if he’s flirting or acting inappropriately. But, if he’s just being nice? If he’s being polite because he’s trying to get the girl to tell him whether the villain stop off here in this town or not? Yeah, she can’t freak out on him for that. Girls, stop freaking out on guys for that.
And, she needs to support him. I love BBC’s Robin Hood but Marian drove me nuts. She told Robin she loved him over and over again but also constantly told him how wrong he was. No matter what he did, it was never right. She wouldn’t have done that or she would have done it differently or he shouldn’t have said that thing that he said or he should have said that thing he didn’t say. I honestly didn’t see love between them. I saw lust. The only love I saw was then they were kissing each other.
But he could never do anything right.
So she has to support him. She can tell him if he’s wrong, of course. She should tell him is he’s wrong. But, she can- again- nag him. Just because he doesn’t do it the way she would doesn’t mean he’s doing it wrong. Seriously, heroines, get with the picture. Stop being stupid about stuff!
Basically, if you’d be annoyed at your friend for doing it, don’t make your heroine do it.
How about you? Do you have any heroines in a relationship? Who is your favorite heroine who is in a relationship? What is your biggest pet peeve about heroines in relationships?