Woman-Haters and the Challenge of Unconquerable Males

An Unrepentant Old Bachelor? Never!

Sherlock Holmes, by Sidney Paget. Via Wikimedia Commons

 A romantic subplot is a necessity for almost every book/film/play whatever, but every once in a while you come across a character that just doesn’t get one. You can’t figure out it when he (I’m going to look at male characters for this post) has a magnetizing personality and women obviously find him attractive, yet either he doesn’t notice women, or he views them as a distraction, or he despises them. Or some combination of all three.

The most obvious of these is Sherlock Holmes. Never married, never courting (unless it’s a ploy to gain information), making disparaging remarks about the “softer passions” – he is unapologetically a bachelor. And fans can’t stand it. They can’t imagine that he’s never met a that was able to change his mind, that he could resist all female charms and stick to his claim of being happy without a woman by his side. Enter wild stories about secret affairs with Irene Adler, or periods of marriage after falling off Reichenbach Falls. Sherlock Holmes without a romance? Never!

I wonder, sometimes, if female readers are so insistent on this point because it feels like an offense to our sex to find a male the author claims is unconquerable by us. I know my first reaction is to view it as a challenge – what kind of women would get under this guy’s skin? How would she go about it? Could I write a believable character that does? And thus wild theories are born, fanfiction get written, and fake videos of the character’s romance goes up on Youtube.

Though this is just a guess on my part. There’s probably more reasons why people get a kick out of pairing up the “unattainable male.”

Another example: Henry Higgins in the original version of My Fair Lady (actually entitled ‘Pygmalion’ before it was a musical). He was an unrepentant old bachelor, and while Eliza might entertain ideas of him “making love” to her, he never would bend to her (the play has her go off and marry Freddie). If you’ve seen the movie, you know they’ve changed the ending. There’s a possibility Henry Higgins will be won over – in fact, he practically admits it himself when he says he’s grown “accustomed to her face.” There is no way he can remain immune to Eliza’s charms.

Until recently, I was going to include Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory in this category. As Leonard declares, Sheldon “doesn’t have a deal.” Which, of course, mean every Big Bang Theory fanfiction on the planet tries to pair him up with someone, usually with Penny. But the current season of the show itself has been toying with the romantic possibilities of this character, so it will be very interesting to see what category he ends up in…

The temptation to play around with such pairings is obvious: tension between “normal” characters and strangely “romantically resistant” ones. Wouldn’t that make a great story? Sparks flying, tension growing, both trying to win without giving in… yeah, it’s almost a missed opportunity when the author/creator resists the idea. (Of course, they usually don’t go there because they’re trying to include other themes in their work besides romance.)

What about you? Are there any characters out there you’d love to see get paired up?

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5 Comments

Filed under Misc. Books, Pygmalion

5 responses to “Woman-Haters and the Challenge of Unconquerable Males

  1. I’d like to see Abed from Community date someone. I don’t think they’ve done that yet.

    Part of the desire to write this character goes back to the question of probability versus possibility. Just like “friends with benefits,” it certainly seems possible, although experience tells us it is extreeeeeeeeeeeeeeemely improbable. We look at history (I’m gonna stick with Biblical history b/c it’s what I know best): Could Adam have resisted Eve? Samson resisted Delilah? David resisted Bathsheba? Ahab resisted Jezebel? I’ll stick with Samson, since I identify so closely with him. Delilah wasn’t the first woman, she was actually the third — none of them Hebrews, which was a strict no-no for a regular Hebrew, even moreso for a Nazirite. Delilah asks so persistently that she finally wears him down. If he had really wanted to resist her, he would’ve gotten rid of her when she asked how she could weaken him, instead of playing around with lies trying to hide his secret.

    Then there was Jesus. Rich Mullins said it best: “And You did not take a wife/ There were pretty maids all in a row/ Who lined up to touch the hem of Your robe/ But You had no place to take them, so You did not take a wife “

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    • I’ve heard a lot about Community, but I haven’t actually watched any of it yet…
      You’re right, this kind of character might be extremely improbable in real life, though some people are definitely less interested in romance than others.

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      • I have noticed that the few times i’ve completely cold-shouldered somebody how much her attitude towards me changes. One particular girl in high school was a jerk to me one time, so I didn’t respond to her in any fashion the next time I saw her, and then she wouldn’t leave me alone – in spite of the fact she was on a date with our exchange student who was the same age! That was a little bit of help for an ego that had been trounced on more than one occasion.

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  2. Paulina Smit

    The show Friends ended with Joey not being with anyone, he was left to be the perpetual one-night-stand type of guy. So maybe there is a third category of male characters??? 🙂

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    • This is the downside of being one of the only people on the planet to have never watched much of ‘Friends.’
      You can bet there’s a million fanfictions out there pairing him up with SOMEONE…

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