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Heroines in Mom Jeans

I love makeover shows. I’d like nothing better than to wake up some morning and be ambushed by Stacy and Clinton to go off on a $5000 shopping spree in NYC. At this point, I’m probably not enough of a fashion disaster to make the cut. But there was a time when my children were small, sleep was scarce and my beauty regimen consisted of showering. When I watch these shows I can definitely relate to some of the moms in their baggy sweatpants and bad 80s jeans!

But once in a while, when friends of the fashion victim say she deserves the makeover because “she does everything for others and never thinks of herself” it almost seems like a reward for martyrdom. It almost makes me want to go back into those Mom Jeans and see if someone will nominate me! 🙂

Which makes me think about the Caregiver Heroine. In Regencies, this is often the lady whose father gambled away the family fortune. Now she’s taking care of the estate and a bunch of younger siblings. Maybe she’s selling herself into marriage with a wealthy rake (or even submitting to a Fate Worse Than Death). Or she’s scrimping and saving so a younger sister can have her London Season. Georgette Heyer’s FREDERICA is a classic example.

With caregiver heroines the hero can provide that whole take-me-away-from-it-all fantasy which can be fun. On the other hand, the caregiver heroine can be a cliché, a shortcut to characterization. I’m glad to see that more recent releases feature heroines who are striking out for themselves in some way.

A caregiver heroine can still work for me, though. It’s part setup and part attitude. I want to know she really doesn’t have better alternatives and isn’t just enabling poor Papa’s gambling problem. At least let her be angry with him about it! I want to know she’s not putting her own needs on a backburner just because she doesn’t value herself. FREDERICA works because the heroine is a happy person. She enjoys the shopping and parties involved in giving her sister a Season; I’m sure she’ll have even more fun once her burdens are lightened.

So what do you think? Do you enjoy reading about caregiver heroines? Do you have any favorites? Where is the boundary between a heroine who is bravely dealing with a difficult situation and one who is just making a martyr of herself?

Elena

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I can enjoy them if they aren’t wearing that new perfume, eau de martrydom. I want a care-giver heroine who is at least a bit resentful at times that she has to marry the rich rake to save the family estates. What I don’t like is one who is already wearing the sackcloth and ashes when the book starts. A heroine who perhaps knows that she’s not the prettiest sister, and that her younger sister has a better change of making a good match, and is happy to help her achieve that.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

When I was younger, I really loved “Cinderella” books like this! (And “Frederica” is one of my favorite Heyer!). And I don’t mind it now, if the story is done well and the heroine is cheerful and practical (more of an Elinor Dashwood type, I guess–“eau de martyrdom, LOL Elizabeth!).

But now I prefer a more take-charge-of-her-destiny heroine.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

Oh, and I’ve also contemplated hiding everything in my closet that could possibly be considered okay and pretending to wear only yoga pants and old t-shirts, so I could get on “What Not to Wear.” A $5000 shopping trip AND hair and makeup??? Sign me up! 🙂

Kalen Hughes
14 years ago

I too day dream of a WNTW spree . . . I love that show, but I’m a little bothered by the fact that everyone comes out of it looking like a WNTW drone (since they all seem to get the same “rules”: dress that accents the ribcage/bust; fitted jacket; dark jeans; black = bad; color = good).

On the topic at hand, I’m of the same mind as everyone else: I like ’em if they’re not martyrs.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

LOL on eau de martyrdom, Elizabeth!

Kalen, I know what you mean about the WNTW makeovers but there are two kinds of subjects. The ones who have no sense of style and just live in baggy stuff and the ones who have a crazy style whether it’s crazy retro or artsy or Bohemian. The ones who have no style to begin with often come out looking similar. The ones who had a crazy style usually come out still looking retro or artsy or Bohemian, just a bit less crazy and more becoming.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I have a natural tendency to write martyr heroines and I’ve had to train myself to create strong heroines instead.

As in everything, it is in the execution. I daresay the prostitute heroine can be a cliche too. The reader wants to root for the heroine, no matter what her situation, so whatever it is, she’s got to be worth rooting for.

Did you know my daughter once worked at a receptionist in Nick Arrojo’s NYC Hair Salon? She briefly appears in the episode from a few years ago where they made over the salon manager.

My fantasy is to get that really big book contract. Or hit the NYT best seller list and have a spare $5000 to do my own makeover. I suspect it can be done!

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Did you know my daughter once worked at a receptionist in Nick Arrojo’s NYC Hair Salon? She briefly appears in the episode from a few years ago where they made over the salon manager.

Very cool, Diane. I would love to have Nick and Carmindy work on me!

janegeorge
14 years ago

**The ones who have no style to begin with often come out looking similar. The ones who had a crazy style usually come out still looking retro or artsy or Bohemian, just a bit less crazy and more becoming.**

Speaking of retro artsy, I loved Christina Ricci’s wardrobe in PENELOPE. If you haven’t seen the film in theaters you’ll have to wait for the DVD. It got yanked. But it’s a wonderful movie! With excellent art direction and really good clothes. But then I’m an artsy bohemian and old enough to be neo-retro, again…

Cara King
14 years ago

Dude. The day I find an extra $5,000 under the sofa cushions, I’m not spending it on clothes. Sorry, no, I’m going to take a grand vacation and stay here:

Royal Crescent Hotel

And I’ll scandalize them by wearing my thrift store duds!

I confess I hate fashion. And clothes shopping. Okay, so I’m a weird woman. (Todd said to me the other day, “it would be easy to buy presents for you if you were a normal woman.” But I’m not.) 🙂

Cara

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Sorry, no, I’m going to take a grand vacation and stay here:

Royal Crescent Hotel

Oh, but I’m going to have soooo much money I can do both!!!!
At least that is the fantasy.

Elena, last I heard–and this would be a couple years ago–Nick was charging $400 a haircut. Women come from all over the country to have him do their hair. Very briefly while my daughter worked there, I was able to get my hair cut and colored at the salon (not by Nick).
For free…

Georgie Lee
14 years ago

I love What Not To Wear. I want to go on the show just to have Nick do my hair. I need his expertise.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Keira’s-waving-the-white-flag-of-peace-as-a-preamble-to-speaking-her-piece

Count me as the lone voice in favor of martyrs. Male martyrs in fairly recent times were the alpha heroes, while women martyrs were revered. In the hands of a talented writer, these characters of “quiet fiction” can tell an intense, character-driven tale. Tracy Chevalier did a bang up job in Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Elena Greene
14 years ago

No need for the white flag with me, Keira!

I just think there are different sorts of caregive heroines. The ones who make sacrifices when it is necessary and those who seem to want to always deny their own needs. The latter remind me of a woman I knew who used to never let anyone else care for her children. She insisted she was happy and didn’t need to get away–until she suffered a mini-breakdown.

I find what you said about alpha males very interesting. Maybe we should discuss more next week?

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Oh and Cara, normal is so overrated. But I bet Todd knows that. 🙂

Lois
14 years ago

I pretty much agree with everyone else — I like them fine, but I imagine there were some I didn’t like along the way because of their perfume. LOL 😉 But it probably also just depends on they’re written – some can pull a situation off, while others maybe not.

And I hate clothes shopping too. . . and I have only four pairs of shoes. I might be a female and all, but I really don’t understand the whole shoe buying thing. Definitely don’t take after Mom in that respect. LOL 🙂 Me, I can get lost in a bookstore (obviously, right? LOL) and Best Buy. 🙂

Lois

Elena Greene
14 years ago

Lois, I used to be like you, four pairs of shoes and all of them low-heeled. And then sometime in my early 40s a latent shoe gene expressed itself. You never know. 🙂

Cara King
14 years ago

Oh and Cara, normal is so overrated. But I bet Todd knows that. 🙂

Except when it’s present-giving time. Then he wishes I liked jewelry or perfume or something normal! 😉

Cara

Cinthya
13 years ago

or to fix her hair at the best salon in nyc.

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