Monday, February 11, 2013

Huggable Heroes

Zachary Quinto as Spock & Zoe Saldana as Uhura in 2009's Star Trek © Paramount Pictures

Children, I've learned, have a way of reducing most things to their absolute essence.

For instance, my daughter and I were discussing, a while ago, why certain characters in books and movies appeal to us. And, since she's entered her teens now, our talk narrowed from a discussion of "characters" to a discussion of "men". More specifically, heroes.

"Well," she said, in trying to explain why she was predisposed to like a certain character, "he needs a hug."

And it occurred to me that many of my own heroic preferences could probably be easily reduced to that one common, plain denominator: Most of them could really use a hug.

Take Spock, for instance. I've always found the character of Spock, whether played by Leonard Nimoy or Zachary Quinto, to be incredibly attractive, and that archetype continues to attract mestrong and silent, self-contained, and self-protective, forced by circumstance or nature to remain calm on the surface while suppressing their true feelings, though we sometimes get a tantalizing glimpse of inner turmoil... I adore that kind of character. Hotch, on TV's Criminal Minds, is a Spock, as is Cho on The Mentalist, and there are others who fit the same mould, and who all seem to need a good hug.

Gregory Peck as Atticus & Mary Badham as Scout © Universal Pictures
And in books, I'm attracted to heroes like Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, who at times is so strong and so silent and lonely in standing for justice that needing a hug hardly covers it, but I have always been glad he had Jem and Scout with him, to give him the comfort he needed.

It can be a fine line, for me, between heroes who need to be comforted and those who need to be carried; between a strong man who's a little repressed and a man who's so damaged he'll drain all the heroine's energy. But here, again, I've discovered that using my daughter's "he needs a hug" yardstick is pretty effective in measuring heroes to find those I think are attractive.

Michael Fassbender as Rochester & Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre © Focus Features
In Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, for example, both heroes are dark, brooding Yorkshiremen, but I have never liked Heathcliff, or found him attractive (not even when played by Tom Hardy) (which strikes me as Odd, because, really...TOM HARDY). But after my talk with my daughter, I understand why: it's because, the way I see it, it's only Rochester—lonely and bitter from having the hopes of his younger self ruined, yet otherwise able to function and care for, not only the heroine, but his insane wifewho needs to be hugged. Heathcliff needs to be smacked up the side of the head with a large heavy object.

I know other women would argue that Heathcliff's in need of a hug, too (well, maybe a hug and a WHOLE lot of therapy), but that's my personal take on those characters.

Who's your most huggable hero?

(And come back on Thursday, for Julie's next post)


  1. Hmmm I like this idea. The Huggability factor. Maybe this is why Brad Pitt doesn't do it for me, he just doesn't look like/play men in need of a hug.


  2. You're right, I never noticed that. Whereas nearly every character ever played by Viggo Mortensen is in dire need of a hug. Which explains a lot.

  3. Oh, I don't know, I'd hug Mr Pitt any day :-D But yes, it's a good theory, Susanna! And I'm totally with you regarding Heathcliff - he needs a really good punch IMO. Never liked him.

    Really liked the new Mr Spock - am so looking forward to the next Star Trek movie to see what happens next!

  4. Yes, your daughter is onto something here. And I totally agree with you about Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff (who could fall off his name for all I'd care). I never could connect with a single character in that story, but I love Jane Eyre.

    I think Auggie in Covert Affairs seems really in need of a hug in those moments when he can't be the kind of hero he once was, or a limitation of his blindness darts through the cracks in his wise-cracking armor. Still a hero though!