I think we all know that it’s very easy to fall in love with fictionalized men. Don’t get me wrong- I love real men, especially one in particular. (I mean my husband, not Colin Firth.) However, there is something to be said about picking up a good book or watching a movie and knowing that you are at leisure to admire how wonderful a character is while knowing, absolutely, that you will never have to yell at him for leaving his sweaty workout clothes all over the floor for you to step on in the middle of the night when you get up to go to the bathroom.
In that vein, I thought it would be fun to explore some of the most attractive male characters in literature, particularly period pieces, since that’s one of my favorite genres. I would like to say that my interest in how various media merge to influence our perceptions of characters in literature has led to my decision to talk about the film and television adaptations of these books as well. But really the main factor is that I’ll get to talk about how hot everyone looks in their period clothing.
That said, it’s still worth thinking about the ways different media influence us in how we read books. Since the A&E/BBC 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, the costume drama has had a renaissance, with screen adaptations becoming a more lucrative venture for television and film producers. As such, there have been countless adaptations made of books to which not much attention has previously been paid. Obviously, pre-1995, there have been movies and television series’ made from books, but one gets the sense that the costume drama has picked up steam, in the same way that the fantasy genre was revitalized by the Lord of the Rings movies. Because of this, more than ever, we can be influenced by not just our own reading, but the reading of various screenwriters, producers, directors and actors. It’s like attending a book club and engaging in discussion based on what everyone says about a book without having actually read it.
Characters in novels can become some of our best friends, people we think we know very well, and to whom we relate. At times, it’s disconcerting, thinking you know a character from watching a movie, and then going back to the book to realize that your friend is a complete stranger, and vice versa, knowing a book very well and then seeing some weirdo acting him or her out in a way that seems totally alien. The character becomes a palimpsest comprising layers not only from one’s own cultural background and understanding of the novel, but everyone else’s as well. This can be good or bad, depending on your viewpoint. However, it’s probably what happens each time you read a book anyhow, so there’s no point in panicking about it. It’s great fodder for discussion, and in some ways allows you to play with the book and these characters more than you might normally.
And, of course, it gives you ample opportunity to talk about hot guys while sounding really smart. Sort of. So, once more unto the breeches… er, breach, dear friends!