Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dark Heroes vs. Bullies, a discussion of Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff



I have always been attracted to the darker heroes, those biker guys, the scary guy in the room. 

I like vampires, rock stars, pirates, vikings, highwaymen and the like. 

Bloom as a pirate! Yes, Please!


Do you see a theme here?  Yes, most of my heroes have been dark ones. 

Heathcliff is no different. I was attracted to him through the movie, not the book. Really, I was attracted to Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff, as the guy was so hot he scorched my soul when I watched the movie.  His woeful blue eyes did me in, literally. 

I saw my hero stereotype in him: tall, dark and dangerous.  So, is it any wonder when I think of Donovan O'Rourke, aka Donovan Beaumont or Count Rochembeau in my novel, Dark Hero, I visualize Ralph Fiennes in the starring role.   

Those woeful eyes will mesmerize you!

But, reality check here!  Yeah, Fiennes is beautiful, compelling, mysterious in the role of Heathcliff. I could fall for Ralph Fiennes--I should say I HAVE fallen for Fiennes.  Heathcliff, the real Heathcliff from the book, not so much. 

 The Essence of the Character Heathcliff: 

The rash of movies depicting Emily Bronte's Character Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights cast him in a role the author probably never intended--that of the tortured romantic hero.  You see it in the 1939 Black and White film verison with Laurence Olivier.  Heathcliff pining for Cathy after she marries the other guy, the rich guy in the neighborhood. That Heathcliff falls apart, and becomes sort of pathetic, and yet as a movie hero icon in this version, he remains fondly in our hearts.  That version of Heathcliff was pretty tame compared to the book, and to the 1992 Movie starring Fiennes. 

Olivier as Heathcliff in 1939

The real Heathcliff, speaking hypothetically, as he's a made up character, is quite vicious and brutal.  No one wants to have him pining after them. In this day and age, such behavior from a guy you're dating would be considered stalking, worthy of a restraining order or moving a few states away to get away from him.

 Case in point:  When Heathcliff and Cathy are together, he's okay. He's not terribly mean, but you can see a little vindictiveness in him.  In the book, and this is vividly portrayed in the 1992 Movie as well, after Cathy starts seeing Edgar Linton, Heathcliff becomes sort of neurotic and creepy. He talks to Cathy, telling her he tied up a starling nest of baby birds so the mother bird couldn't feed them. When Cathy asks him why he is so cruel to the birds, he says, " Well, you weren't here to see them so there seemed no reason to keep them alive."  YUCK!   Warning flags go up. 

Can you imagine dating a guy like that today. 

"Hey, I drowned the kittens the barn cat had yesterday." 

"Um, why?" 

"Well, you were out with that other guy, so I didn't see the point of keeping them alive if you weren't going to be around to see them. 


Run fast, very fast. Don't look back. Just get out of there. 


Heathcliff's cruelty is legend. He kills his fiancee's dog and hangs it in front of her. He mistreats his wife, beating her and mentally tormenting her just to antagonize her brother, Edgar Linton, and make hime come fight Heathcliff to rescue his sister,  (cuz her brother married Heathcliff's obsession, Cathy!) And it just get's darker and darker from that point on. Heathcliff becomes a devil, literally. He abuses his wife, his child, his servants and stops at nothing in his quest for revenge upon those who hurt him or who he believes hurt him. He becomes a tyrant, devouring and destroying the lives of those who come near him. 

Does this make him a worthy romance hero? HELL NO! 

If you read the original storyline, and skip the movie versions, you'll see nothing to admire and love about Heathcliff. He's crazy, bat-shit crazy. No one wants that kind of man in their life. Particularly not in a time like in Wuthering Heights, in the 18th-19th century, when a man ruled a household by law. I watched the old 1939 version of the book with Olivier. I watched the 1992 version of the movie. And I read the book. I couldn't stand Heathcliff in the book and wished someone would walk on stage to kill him. It was a very dark book. Yes, it's entertaining, but it's not romance. 

Let's stop romanticizing a manical bully. Please. 

Cathy did the right thing in choosing Edgar Linton as her husband. Edgar was kind and good. Heathcliff was just plain mean and malicious. Sure, Cathy and Heathcliff pine after each other. But let's be real. If they ended up together, they would have been miserable. Heathcliff would have eventually become cruel to Cathy in the end, if they married. And Cathy would have turned into a vindictive bitch, just like him, a harridan, a plotting, scheming witch. Instead, she died, and remained lovely and tragic in everyone's minds.

So, in my original statement above, I said I like dark heroes. Bad boys. The dangerous guy in the room, the pirate, the viking, the highwayman, the vampire.  Let me clarify my meaning a little bit. I do not like cruelty, nor do I long for a man like Heathcliff to make my life miserable. I'm not into a 50 shades of Grey relationship nor do I enjoy BDSM games. 

I am  attracted to the dark side, the bad boy, the vamp, the highwayman, the pirate. But those dark heroes are just that; HEROES.  They may seem questionable, and linger in the shadows, but when the bad stuff comes, they will step in and save the kittens, the heroine, the town, the world....... they will act with honor and courage to defend the helpless. They are HEROES. That is the premise of my series, Reluctant Heroes. The men in the series are loners, with secrets. They can be a little dark, on the edge of the page. You wonder at times if they are the hero or the villian. But in the end, they will stand strong and defend those in their care, or those weaker then themselves. They will not abuse them. 

Wesley preparing to defend his lady love 

Wuthering Heights is a cautionary tale. It's not a romance novel, so let's quit romanticizing Heathcliff and put him where he belongs, in the hall of fame of villains, not heroes.  Donovan Beaumont, however, the character in Dark Hero, is not a bully. He's a recluse and believes himself to be misanthropic, but he continually picks up the broken and discarded of society and takes them home, patches them up, and gives their lives hope and purpose. He's more like the benevolent lion king on the island of misfit toys.  He rescues the girl, and her younger brother.  He offers to help pay off her older brother's indenture. He takes in refugees from the world. Donovan will stand up for the broken and oppressed, he won't stomp on them like Heathcliff would.

 I may have found the physicial face of Donovan Beaumont through the 1992 Movie version of Wuthering Heights with Fiennes cast as Heathcliff, but that's where my fascination with Heathcliff ends. I admire his dark looks and masculine beauty, but that is as far as it goes . . . Ralph Fiennes, however, still makes me swoon. 

Fiennes has that smolder factor in his eyes
Thanks for joining me. May all your Dark Heroes be just that----HEROES!

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