Recently the hashtag #My5WordRomanceNovel was trending, and I couldn’t help but participating and reading some of the tweets. Some made me laugh, some made me want to weep for society, but only one stuck in my mind for the rest of the day. Romantically named, @Drunk_Austen tweeted, “All good men are fictional” and accompanied that tweet with a gif from Austenland, where the quote originated.
Credit to @Drunk_Austin
I tend to shy away from movies based (even very loosely based) on my favorite authors, as knowing anything about them tends to ruin the illusion of reality in their books for me (The same reason I hate the behind the scenes looks at movies) so I haven’t actually seen Austenland.
But I loved this quote.
Now, having some militantly feminist friends, I could do a fairly good lecture on how this is because the quality of real males is dismal, but, I’m as I’m actually quite fond of real men in general, I’ve decided to focus on how wonderful fictional men are instead, realistically or not.
Since the quote was from a movie based on Jane Austen, let’s use her books as an example, cumulating with the best man last.
6) Sense and Sensibility
I have to admit to not being overly impressed by the men in this novel, but they do try to redeem themselves. Edward Ferrars makes some pretty stupid mistakes (getting engaged to a manipulative witch, courting Elinor anyway, breaking Elinor’s heart, ext.) but his intentions are fairly universally honorable.
Colonel Brandon is a great deal more fun in my mind. Sure, he’s over ten years older than the girl that he ends up with, but he makes up for that with his unflinching adoration of Marianne in spite of her flighty nature and poor choice in men. In addition, he is noble to a fault and challenges someone to a duel, and let’s admit it, anyone who challenges someone to a duel is pretty awesome in my book.
George Knightley was reasonable, intelligent, and had an appropriate degree of cynicism when it came to Emma. These might not sound like romantic traits at first, but what Austen proved in this book is that a universal hero won’t work for every woman. Knightly matched Emma step for step with all of her plots and manipulations, and loves her in spite of her faults. Moreover, Knightly encourages Emma to be the best person that she can be, which is an important element in any romance.
4) Mansfield Park
Alright, so Edmund Bertram may have been Fanny’s cousin, but if you get past that, he’s actually an amazing hero. He’s her best friend growing up, he constantly looks out for her best interests, even when no one else is, and he wants good things for her, even when that means she ends up with someone else. Admittedly, Edmund is deplorably slow at realizing his love for Fanny, but when he does he is willing to brave his family’s, society’s, and everyone else’s disapproval in order to be with her.
Captain Fredrick Wentworth rose from anonymity to success in a way that would have made any American proud to invite him over to our side of the pond. He was a Navy man who made his fortune in the Napoleonic war and by catching pirates, so I’ll also give him points for being pretty epic. While he may have been a bit hard on Anne in in the beginning of the book, he proved himself to be compassionate, forgiving, and honorable in spite of having his heart broken by her in the past. He was able to admit when he was wrong and work to remedy it, which is a very admirable trait in a man.
Also, having waited for the same girl for 8 years, Captain Wentworth is the most consistent Austin hero. (Knightley and Edmund were disqualified because their heroines were children when they met)
2) Pride and Prejudice
Fitzwilliam Darcy is the most famous of Austen heroes, and many would argue that he should top the list. However, because of his tendency toward moodiness, snobbishness, and gossip, he was bumped to the number 2 spot. In spite of these characteristics, Darcy is a good man. He is smart, witty, and loyal to a fault. The banter between he and Elizabeth has made legions of love-stuck girls giggle through the years (myself not excluded.) Though he has a mountain of pride and finds it hard to forgive people who have wronged him, he loves Elizabeth enough to overlook her false accusations, give her an explanation, and, eventually, propose again.
1) Northanger Abbey
I know this isn’t a popular favorite, but its grown to become one of mine. Catherine is a very realistic character, and very relatable for all of us who were a bit too obsessed with novels in their youth (Some of us have never grown out of it.) The hero in this story is Henry Tilney and while he has some very realistically annoying habits like picking on his sister, being particular about people’s use of general words, holding grudges when slighted, and being a tad too arrogant for his own good, he’s a generally awesome fellow. He loves his sister so he spends a lot of his time with her, even though it means spending time with his domineering father, he has a great sense of humor, he accepts people as they are, he forgives Catherine even when she suspects his father of murder, and he stands up for what he believes is right, even if it means sacrificing his own best interests.