Sunday, May 28, 2017

Archetype: Brooding and Aloof and MINE

Reserved Kazuki brings flowers to a
surprised Wataru.
Several years ago, Isaac Asimov wrote a very funny piece about why Spock (of The Original Series) was so sexy, i.e. "dreamy." He asked his twelve-year-old daughter. She responded, "Because he is so smart." Asimov's response (in sum): "I never knew smart guys finished first!"

I postulate an accompanying reason: The Spocks are so attractive because they give off the aura of being one-woman men, if the woman can crack the shell. Spock's smartness is both his attraction and his shield. Only one other person is allowed inside. (For Slash fans, that person is Kirk.) 

This type crosses borders in a way that other archetypes simply don't. Blink--there he is again. Darcy. Somewhat less aloof (but still one-woman) Daniel (Stargate). Sherlock (in his multiple manic guises). And many, many manga heroes.

In manga, the two threads--smart and devoted to a single woman or man--are woven tightly together (the brooding, aloof hero is almost always an ace student; he is also almost always a leader despite his internal discomfort with the role). Hence, the bewilderment over supposed yaoi heroes who claim to be straight right up until they fall for the funny, quirky, optimistic hero protagonist.

I've discussed elsewhere why I think the supposedly straight yaoi hero is not a matter of wish-fulfillment for female readers. Rather, instead, he showcases love (or rather, recognition) transcending everything (and everyone) in order to bring the compatible lovers together.

To put it another way--the point of the smart, aloof (or at least not immediately available) hero is necessary to the ultimate romantic fantasy: I let you inside, then close the gate.

Us against the world. 

Not a yaoi couple: that's dressed-as-a-
boy Mizuki with Sano, who confesses
when pushed to the limit.
I could now debate the plausibility and/or workability of that desire, blah, blah, blah. But that's a waste of time. It's powerful. It transcends culture. And it is often the way that people narrate or define their relationships in real life. It's a language that speaks to something so innate in us that the stern hero who casts a jaundiced eye on everyone but the lover shows up over and over again throughout history and countries.

From a writing point of view, this hero is usually not the narrator. Like Elizabeth with the original Darcy, shojo and yaoi manga narrators are often the recipients of the aloof hero's devotion. Their job is to ponder (1) what the heck is up with this guy; (2) figure out if they can reach him; (3) figure out what to do once they have reached him.

It sounds highly exhausting in real life, yet we readers still root for these couples. Everybody needs a haven. (And perhaps, secretly, we all believe that we are Darcy, and someone should try to figure us out.)

Coming next: Fun and Boisterous and Mine