An Unrepentant Old Bachelor? Never!
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?