SIORR: Episode 8: Pot bellies matter too
Hello! Welcome to this week’s episode of “Sorry I Only Read RomComs”, my name is Aanu and I’m so excited to be talking to you today. This week, I sorta switched up my routine, started working from the office and LISTENNNN it’s the little things, the dressing up, the random gist in between sessions, the laughter, even the traffic people!!! I miss being traffic tired at the end of the day. Ok, how was your week? High, low, somewhere in between? Let me know! So the last couple of episodes have been very femme focused, I mean, as it should be. But one character we cannot ignore in any romcom is the male character or love interest. So this week we will be talking about heterosexuality and hyper masculinity in romcoms, let’s dive in!
Now let’s start with the cover, right now I’m staring at a man wearing some sort of jacket, it’s unzipped and I can count the complete 6 pack abs and of course, he’s dark-ish, tall, his face isn’t showing but yes he’ll probably be conventionally handsome. TDH has been a the baseline descriptor for men since I started reading books and its introduced super early too, from disney cartoons to ladybird books (did you read ladybird books), then you pick up a romcom and the man is super ripped and can probably carry his damsel with one hand. When it’s written differently in any of these stories there’s a sort of “have mercy” element attached to the love that is given them, either that or they compensate by being extra funny or extra intelligent, like they have something to make up for. It’s pretty much the male version of “I’m not like other guys, I don’t care about my looks cos I’m smart”, even if the author doesn’t say this, you’ll know this is what they are going for and I wonder why.
So this week’s episode is a campaign for reading more “guy next door”, the pot bellied love interest, or maybe a 2 pack, not six pack, the short man, listen, or medium height, not every time 6ft tall, yada yada. I want to see more physical and personality diversity in the male characters, especially in how black boys are written. How awesome will it be to read a cello playing character or a green thumb or a fashion editor or hmmm here’s one a makeup artist that isn’t queer. I feel like hetereosexual should be tired of seeing the lack of juice in these stories. The idea that you have to create this sculpture again and again is tiring and I want to read something different. Can you sell me a stunning chemistry between a guy next door and his love interest? I think it’s possible.
This trope also shows up in the emotions they are allowed to feel in the book, like you wouldn’t see a grown man cry, it’s always a steely silence. Even the excitement is measured and definitely beyond the eye of the woman, If not he’s embarrassed. The character is mostly made to almost apologize for feeling anything other than anger. We are also always shown the confident guy, what of the anxious guy, the shy guy, the awkward guy, the sweaty palms guy, the foot in the mouth but not problematic guy. Like not every time be misogynistic because you like a woman, sometimes actually say the right things in the most clumsy way and trust that love or luck or cupid will take over.
It’s ok to write a scared man as a scared man, not a man covering up his fear with some other emotion. I’m not saying that these books don’t exist, I’m saying that compared to the norm, it is negligible, especially in mainstream male/female dynamics. I may be reaching but even in books, women are allowed more fluidity than guys are, like they can be tomboys but once a guy takes a bath twice a day, he’s given side eye, like its gay to be clean, talmbout musky smell, like my friend would you go and baff! And I’ve not even mentioned the, how do I say this lightly… genitals and how they have to be 6 inches? Sigh … I’ll just say that some diversity is required there as well from a smaller perspective? I rest my case.
So I was looking for a scene where some sort of physical presentation was described but on the first page, here’s what I read:
“Daniela Roarke knew she was in trouble the minute she stepped through the double glass doors of Roarke Investigations and saw her older brother’s smiling face.
Kenneth Roarke never smiled before noon.
Not on a Monday morning, and definitely not on the first of the month, when the rent was due and utility bills had to be paid.
So the smile softening his features that morning was disconcerting, to say the least.”
This scene was pulled from “A Legal Affair” by Maureen Smith. Listennnn, he was just smiling. Here’s another snippet:
“Caleb saw the way his father’s face lit up when he entered the sunroom that doubled as Crandall’s home treatment center. But by the time he sat down in a wicker armchair beside him, Crandall was wearing his typical poker face.
“You know you didn’t have to come all the way up here,” he said gruffly. “I don’t need my hand held.”
“Do you see me holding any hands?” Caleb retorted. He grinned at the woman standing beside Crandall, adjusting levers on the dialysis machine. “How ya doin’, Ms. Ruth?”
“I’m doing just fine, Caleb. And don’t you pay your father any mind. You know he’s happy to see you. He’s just too proud to say so”
Now I don’t absolutely hate the book, I actually don’t hate it at all. This is also pulled from Maureen Smith’s A Legal Affair; Maureen Smith is very vigilant about how she writes her characters, the careers they have (her characters have been violinists, chefs, scientists, medical doctors, sex workers and so on). They are clearly aspirational and I love that, that being said, they were so “masculine”, she actually wrote a series called, “wolf pack series”, her characters had flights of anger, where the women had to be the pacifiers and like I said, I don’t hate them, when I read them, I thought they were interesting, but right now, I’d like to have seen a bit of diversity in the gender presentation and personality as well.
So some books that I can recommend that kinda sorta has characters with hypomasculine character are HER ROYAL HIGHNESS by Rachel Hawkins, now I haven’t read this, yet but it was recommended by Jess of Bowties and Books and they raved about how the male character here was written, so check it out. The second one is THE EDUCATION OF SABASTIAN by Harvey-Berrick Jane, this one has a good serving of prolematism (is that a thing), because it features a romantic dynamic between a 30 year old woman and a 17 year old boy, sooo … this age combination was addressed in the book so… check it out! The last one is one of my favorite books ever and it is BABY PROOF by EMILY GRIFFIN. I think I’ll talk about this book indepthly because of its themes on individuality, motherhood, love and what happens when you have to choose between all three. The male love interest is refreshingly different without the author trying too hard to be, I don’t know if you’ve ever met a guy that isn’t trying too hard and is just confident and a good listener and charming and you just say, this is a “Good guy”, yeah that’s the guy!
So what do you think so far, do you agree, am I doing the most with these demands? I think at some point, someone will just say “Aanu, you might as well not read any romcom anymore” but hey! If you’ve read any book that features a non macho character, send me a dm on @sorryionlyreadromcoms, follow us there too, I’ll definitely update the page with new books, as soon as I find them. You can also download the anchor app and drop a voice note there too. Talk to you next week, bye!
Listen to the episode here