We Don't Need Another Hero - Debbie Bennett
But we do need our heroes.
I’m not ashamed to admit this will be a trashy post. A soap-post in a world of documentaries. Pulp fiction in a sea of great literary classics. What on earth am I talking about?
Heroes. Preferably the dark and brooding ones. Think Heathcliff or Mellors. The bad-boys we love to hate – or hate to love. Or even Mr Darcy – and now I’m struggling to think of a romantic hero we all know and love, as romance just isn’t something I read much.
But really this post is just an excuse for us girlies to consider and discuss the abundance of hot men on television. And I’m talking Aidan Turner and Luke Pasqualino here. When you think about it, Ross Poldark – if he was a real person – would have been some pox-ridden, lice-infested, smelly bloke with a chip on his shoulder. Nobody in the late 18th century would have been particularly hygienic, even in the upper-class (why do you think the Georgian era country houses had wooden panelling on the walls?). But we have the delightful Turner with his cute scar and artfully-styled bed-head look. Who cares if he apparently can’t hold a scythe correctly? I certainly don’t.
And the Musketeers. 17th century Paris. Our D’Artagnan comes from poor farming stock; he’d be some big sweaty young boy – again with a chip on his shoulder – trying to prove he’s as hard as the rest of the guys. All that leather is hard to keep fresh, you know?
Game of Thrones is at least a little more realistic. OK, so we’re in fantasy land here, but we’re pre-industrial, yet most of the characters are more-or-less clean most of the time. But the producers aren’t afraid to show the main characters wallowing in filth when the need arises. War is a dirty business.
But generally, translate a book to television and the viewers don’t want reality. Not on a Sunday night. They want the sanitised version, the cleaned-up, deodorised and touched-up version. The down-and-dirty realism wouldn’t look half as good on screen – at least not for our heroes. We can let the extras wander around in rags, but out heroes need to be … well, sexy, really. Because if they’re not sexy, the viewers won’t be back next week, will they? Not the women, anyway.
Teeth. Nobody talks about teeth in books. On-screen, how do you account for the fact that there weren’t any proper dentists and toothbrushes were far from common, and yet the heroes (and heroines) all have good teeth. Suddenly, kissing the hero loses a lot of its appeal, when you think oral hygiene was a concept as yet unheard of. In the 18th century, many upper-class nobles were sewn into their clothes, so daily washing wasn’t really an option either. But we don’t want to see all that filth on television.
In a historical novel, does anyone ever mention any of this? Or is it left to the imagination? On the screen, it’s glossed over, air-brushed out in the make-up department. Because, let’s face it, we wouldn’t watch it if it was realistic, would we? We like our heroes to be perfect – even the bad-boys. And what am I going to do with my Sundays, now Poldark has finished?
Here you go, girls....
The books, to be fair, have attracted a pretty respectable following, but with lots of letters from people who thought I was being gratuitously realistic (fine concept, that.) So much so that after four, I never got to write the final one.
Now, thanks to the ebook world, I will be rounding off the story of William Bentley and his Deborah, at last. He started life as A Fine Boy for Killing, but I'm not even tempted to have either him or Deb go topless among the shifting shoals of the American Sea Islands. If life on land was dirty in those days, just imagine countless hundreds of men cooped up in a warship in the tropics...
What amazes me is that if you look at societies today that would appear to have borderline 'medieval' standards of hygiene, you still see women dressed in dazzling bright colours that look straight out of an Ariel commercial. I mean, how?
Maybe the Dark Ages weren't so grubby after all.
I like my heroes straight out of the shower ......