We grow up believing in Disney princes and reading about guys like Edward Cullen, believing that that’s what men are like. I grew up with brothers who my friends disgustingly coveted. They are smart, talented, funny, protective and just plain sweet. So I really wasn’t prepared for the real world. Being casually brainwashed isn’t nice and we all have to learn the hard way that not all guys talk like Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid or take you out for a romantic midnight boat ride with singing fish (unless he slipped something in your drink before). A lot of heartbreak and dissatisfaction accompany us on our journey through maturity because of the pre-programming that we’ve gone through as kids. Despite this, being able to dream of meeting that prince someday is also a wonderful part about being young.
As a writer, it’s hard to find the right balance between what’s real and what girls want men to be like (I don’t want guys reading my book and going, “Dude, no one talks like that!”). Stefanie Meyer’s and Nora Robert’s books are probably so popular because they introduce guys that we all think are perfect. I wonder constantly if my male characters talk the way real men do or if they’re my personal picture of dashing. I’m a girl, so how do I know what men are thinking or feeling? (I know, sometimes they don’t but we should just give them the benefit of a doubt).
Men think we’re complicated and women think men are stuck with their prehistoric hunter mentality. Most of the guys I know aren’t like that, but is it smart to have characters in a novel that readers wouldn’t be able to relate to in real life? I don’t know. I personally love books where men open doors for girls and don’t make fun of their driving skills (or lack thereof). I like writing stories where the boy falls for the girl completely and irrevocably. However, is this real? And if we think that it’s not, why do we crave it?
“…Mary Fraser, Ph.D., a part-time psychology instructor at De Anza College, said she thinks women are taught that men make decisions and have more power than women. “And then we’ve got the whole Disney thing, where Prince Charming will come and save the day,” Fraser said.”—Rheyanne Weaver, Psychology Behind the Cinderella Complex, http://www.empowher.com/mental-health/content/psychology-behind-cinderella-complex?page=0,1
I suppose we like reading books where men are the picture of perfection because that’s what books and movies are for: to take us away. What better way to do that than to meet a guy that doesn’t think about football and cars all day long? (He may be battling with the urge to suck the life out of you, but it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t have to go get beer and chips for him and his buddies from the creepy guy at 7-11.) Once we resurface from our dream world, we come back to reality energized by having those fairytale moments with the perfect hero.
In the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter because readers will either relate to the characters in a novel or they won’t, depending on their own experiences, upbringing and imagination. Writers don’t really have to control everything. As long as it’s fun, I say do it! As for dreaming about prince-charming, well I dreamed and found…. and pounced.