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When Heroes Age

Last Friday Nov 13 was (gasp!) Gerard Butler’s 40th birthday. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you’ll know I’m a card-carrying Gerry Butler fan. My first reaction to news that he turned 40 was, “Gee, he’s getting old.”

I came late to being a Gerard Butler fan, only catching The Phantom Of the Opera on cable about two years after it was released. Read here (scroll down) to see my reaction. I quickly went on to see Dear Frankie, Timeline, even Dracula 2000.

Gerry’s film debut was in Mrs. Brown, playing Billy Connolly’s younger brother. The role was small but memorable, perhaps because Gerry and Billy ran naked into the sea.


I think lots of women became fans after the movie Timeline. In that movie Gerry played a major role as archeologist, Andre Marek. Or from the TV miniseries, Attila the Hun. It was Phantom of the Opera, though, that really brought in fans in droves. Fan websites sprang up and Gerard Butler conventions were planned. These have become a fairly regular occurance, including a birthday bash this year in Glasgow. Through the conventions and other events Gerry’s fans have raised over a quarter of a million dollars for charity. (See the convention I attended here)


But, still, Gerry did not really achieve star status until the movie 300, where playing the Spartan, Leonidis, he showed himself to be a fine figure of a man. That was in 2006 when he was only 37. Somehow 37 doesn’t sound nearly as old as 40.

This year Gerry appeared in three movies: The Ugly Truth, Gamer, and, just out, Law Abiding Citizen. Already in the works is the much anticipated movie Burns (tying this in to our time period–or fairly close to it), in which Gerry will play Robert Burns. It is a real labor of love to make this movie of the national poet of Scotland. One wonders, though, will he be too old for the role? Burns only lived to age 37.

All this got me wondering. Is 40 to old to be a romantic hero–in our books, I mean. I know Janet’s Dedication featured an older hero, and my favorite Georgette Heyer hero, Demerel from Venetia, was older. But the heroes I write about are usually in their 30s, and most I read about are about the same age.

So, my questions are: What age is too young to be a hero? What age is too old? What age is your favorite for a hero? And the big question, is Gerard Butler now too old?

(p.s. I’m still a card-carrying Gerard Butler fan and always will be. He’s my favorite actor, an awesome actor, even if he is 40!)

******* All photos courtesy of GerardButlerDotNet, the officially non-official fan website

Check my website for new stuff and my ongoing contest.

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Deb Marlowe
13 years ago

Damerel is one of my favorites too, Diane!

Hmm, I don’t think I’m discriminatory about age in a hero. I like the young ones, Jamie Fraser comes to mind, and I like mature heroes too. I think I worry about character more than age.

Maggie Robinson w/a Margaret Rowe

Because I’m a ‘woman of a certain age,’ I welcome older heroes and heroines. The hero of the last book in my trilogy is 40, and he’s still got it going on.;) I think the current trend is women in their mid-twenties (which was ancient by Regency standards) and men in their early thirties. That’s a whole lot better to me than 17 year old virgins.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Hi, Deb!! I think the one thing I didn’t like about Jamie Fraser was his age, although I think he is one of romance fiction’s greatest heroes.

Maggie, the totally absurd thing about all this is, I’m a ‘woman of a certain age’ too. Not in my fantasies, though.

I think there have been studies showing that men in their 30s and women in their late teens/early 20s are at the peak of their attractiveness and sexuality, so there is a primitive biological factor to all of this.

Jane Austen
13 years ago

The other day I noticed that as I get older I like my heroines to be older as well and if I want my heroines to be older then I guess I want my heroes to be older as well. I mean I don’t want all my heroines to be cougars.

Sean Connery has played heroes when he was over the age of 40.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
13 years ago

I think Gerry is ageing very well, and I think he’ll be an awesome Robbie Burns. It just depends on when they start the story. I agree with Deb that Jamie Fraser was one of my favorite heroes, but I like heroes of all ages. I think one can craft a great story about a younger heroine and an older hero and vice-versa. I like to mix it up and I like when writers do to. Another favorite book by Mary Balogh has an older heroine, younger heroine. It depends on the character.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Jane Austen, I loved my friend Lavinia Kent’s debut book, A Talent for Sin, a story about an older (30s)woman and a younger (20s) hero, but my preference is still for heroines in their 20s and heroes in their 30s.

Elizabeth, I went back and added that Gerry will always be my favorite actor, no matter what his age. He is aging well and I’ll probably love him in Burns. He HAS to play that part!!!

Judy
13 years ago

Sean Connery, as Jane Austen mentioned, and Patrick Stewart. Need I say more? 🙂

I don’t care for the Spring/Winter or even Summer/Winter combinations, in either direction. A ten-year range is about as far apart as I like, though there are a few exceptions. Remembering what I was like at 17, I can’t imagine being able to have a healthy relationship with a man of 40.

Abby Gaines writes contemporary romances and frequently has two going on in the same book, the central couple who are in their 20s/30s, and a secondary older couple, in their late 40s/50s. I enjoy the younger set because there’s so much ahead of them, and I enjoy seeing the older set still have that sense of wonder and newness, that love is love no matter the age.

Jane George
13 years ago

In a romance, I like a hero between 25-30. Old enough to have gained character through making a few mistakes and young enough to be, er, robust. And have many robust years ahead of him.

The heroine can be any age.

In a love story that’s not a genre romance, I don’t care, any ages are good if the story is good.

And I didn’t like Gerard Butler (sorry!) until I saw him in A Letter to Frankie. Now I’m a fan.

Unfair! My word verification is “pastris.” That’s just wrong first thing in the morning! 🙂

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Sean Connery, and perhaps Patrick Stewart, are exception that prove the rule. Other 60ish actors who are featured as romantic heroes to 30ish heroines bug me, though.

I agree about the 17 year old with the 40 year old. Ewwwwww!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Jane George, Dear Frankie was a wonderful film! He hasn’t always selected roles very well. I hope that changes with Burns.

People have very different reactions to Phantom of the Opera, but I thought it amazing that he could deliver such an emotional performance while lip syncing to pre-recorded singing. Remarkable.

Susan/DC
Susan/DC
13 years ago

I’m with Judy in that I don’t like age differences greater than a decade, whether they are May/December or December/May. I’ve enjoyed a number of books where the heroine was a bit older than the hero, including the Lavinia Kent book that Diane mentioned. Somewhat OT, the book had one of the best covers I’ve seen recently because it totally captured the heroine.

I do want to respectfully disagree with Maggie. My understanding is that the idea that a Regency heroine was old once she reached her majority is a fiction created by Georgette Heyer (and even she had some older heroines). An historian who often posts on AAR has presented demographic data indicating that during the Regency the average age for first marriage for women was 22-23. The impression given in many Regencies is that they were all married much younger, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

And I must also respectfully disagree with Diane. I seem to remember from my days working in a biology lab that women reach their sexual peak in their early 30s, while men reach theirs in their late teens/early 20s. Of course, an 18 y.o. male might have more stamina than a 32 y.o., but one hopes the older man has developed skills and understanding that more than make up for whatever’s (slightly) diminished.

To get back to the original question (which I’ve clearly wandered from), I prefer H/H to be no more than 5 years apart in age and to be between 25 – 39. I don’t care what the age of secondary couples is, however, whether older or younger.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after

27 to 37 for the heroes in my novels that seems to be the Essential age for my intended reader to find him ‘dishy.’ Now for myself he just have to be able to cook and resemble/be George Clooney.
Have a lovely week.

Lois
13 years ago

Yep, everyone took the Sean Connery answer. LOL 🙂 The fact is, like anyone, some people will be just fine and quite something to look at after 40, others won’t. Some are so before 40 and others, not so much. LOL Although, Hollywood types have plenty of help for any age too. . .

Anyhoo. . . in books, sure, they can work, just as long as they aren’t paired with the 18 year olds; ewww. That’s just too big of an age difference for me. Marianne and Col Brandon are pushing the boundary for me, but I can handle it since they don’t actually get married for a couple years after they meet. . . and Emma and Mr Knightly would work for me if he simply wasn’t always around since the moment she was born. When I conveniently forget that fact, I love the story plenty! 🙂

Lois

Jane Austen
13 years ago

Does anyone know about Diane de Poitiers and her relationship with Henri II of France? She watched him when he was a baby. She changed his diaper and then she became his mistress. That’s just a little strange for me. Much like Knightley holding Emma as a baby is strange.

Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

I’m with the others who don’t care about the hero’s age as long as the heroine isn’t more than 10 years younger. The main romance arcs I’m planning for future volumes of my alt history involve a 22-year-old hero with an 18-year-old heroine, and a 39-year-old hero with a 30-year-old heroine. I would never dream of pairing Mister 39 with Miss 18 even though I used to read romances like that all the time in the 80’s when I was a teen.

I do think men peak in hotness in their 30’s to early 40’s. E.g. I think Sean Bean was hotter in the Sharpe movies than he is now, that Harrison Ford was at his sexiest in the original Indiana Jones trilogy, etc. Of course…I’m 38. It could just be that I like men my age. (Like Nathan Fillion, a fine 1971 vintage, I must say…)

Elena Greene
13 years ago

I’m with Deb, it’s characterization that matters most, not the age of the hero.

Susan/DC, regarding that study of when women married, was that average age for women to marry over all demographics? I remember reading that many couples could not afford to marry young. That would not have held true for the upper levels of the aristocracy. They could marry on the earlier side, especially in the case of dynastic sort of marriages where they were in a hurry to get an heir (and possibly thinking a younger bride was a better bet). Still, I think the idea of being on the shelf after just a few years out seems exaggerated.

Megan Frampton
13 years ago

Diane, not much to add re: the hero’s age, but did you see the pix of Gerard in a kilt at a recent movie premiere? Yum!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Susan/DC, I defer to you about the “hottness” study. I was relying on memory and was too lazy to look it up. Although I sorta agree with Susan Wilbanks’ anedotal evidence that men are hottest in their 30s, though. And I think Harrison Ford has not “aged well” but then, he’d probably say the same thing about me!

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Megan, OF COURSE I saw that photo of Gerry in a kilt. Wasn’t that cute of him to wear a kilt to the Glasgow premiere?

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I LOVED Gerard Butler in Phantom. LOVED him. His emotional range in the film was stunning – lip synching or not. Than again I am a big fan of anything he is in – maybe not of the entire film, but he does bring something besides good looks to the role every time.

And I’d say he is aging beautifully, like a very fine wine. Not all men, not even all actors do.

Can’t wait to see him in Burns! One of the most moving places I’ve visited is Robert Burns birthplace. I can’t wait to see Gerard in that role.

I too am a woman of “a certain age” and while I do love to admire a fine looking young man, an older man who ages well has his appeal.

My first novel was written with an 18 year old heroine and a 30 year old hero. While some may have had trouble with the age difference it was fairly true to the period.

My latest WIP involves a young man of 27 and a heroine of 30. I don’t mind a discrepancy of say 10 years either way, but it gets kind of ewww after that.

Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

Having some time on my hands, I calculated the age at first marriage of women in Jane Austen novels (which of course isn’t the high aristocracy of most Regency romances, but hey, it’s a data set). Not just heroines–I also counted Lydia Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Emma’s governess, etc. I came up with a mean of 21.42 and a median of 20. I didn’t run the numbers on the men, but IIRC the only couples with a >10-year disparity were Emma and Mr. Knightley and Marianne and Col. Brandon.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Louisa, did you like Gerry’s singing in The Phantom of the Opera? I think the main factor against him was he wasn’t Michael Crawford and Michael Crawford fans could not forgive him for it. I liked Gerry’s rough voice but not everybody did.

Susan Wilbanks, I wish you would stop fooling around counting ages and finish that book of yours. I’m dying to read it!

Susan Wilbanks
13 years ago

But I finished a major draft on Saturday! And I’m polishing my partial to send out in response to an agent request no later than Sunday. (Because I told the agent in question back on 10/22 that I’d have it to him within a month.)

And besides, it’s a lot easier to look up Jane Austen character ages in between helping my daughter with her kindergarten homework than it is to write or edit. I write during lunch at work or after she’s in bed. (Yes, they have kindergarten homework now, and this child of mine likes it and wishes she had more)

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Oooooo! you are forgiven, Susan! Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed about that agent request!

Your daughter sounds like a little sweetheart!

Louisa Cornell
13 years ago

I actually loved Gerry’s rough voice, O Divine One. The agony, the suffering – it was all there. While Crawford has an amazing voice his performances were always about the glory of the music, which is wonderful in a concert type performance. However, I want more from a singing performance that is acted. I had trouble getting roles in the United States because my voice was often considered too big and raw at a time when the operatic taste was for light and pure singing. Fortunately the Germans and Austrians want opera with lots of emotion. They just don’t want to see it they want to hear it in the voice. I thought Gerry did that admirably.

librarypat
librarypat
13 years ago

40 isn’t old, but maturity of age should go with maturity of behavior in the roles they play.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

Louisa, I’m so glad to hear your opinion on POTO and Gerry’s singing voice.

Librarypat, did you mean Gerry’s taking silly roles? I haven’t seen The Ugly Truth yet, but it looks kinda silly.

Keira Soleore
13 years ago

This sure has been a popular post! Go Diane!

I’m really looking forward to Burns. And at 40, versus most of known Burns history in his 30s, Butler is certainly not too old.

And by the gods, he’ll be in a kilt A.LOT! What could be better? Yes, the leather speedos of 300 were memorable, but Butler in a kilt…Man!! (reverent whistle)

To answer your question, bring on the heroes and heroines in their 40s. Everyone deserves a HEA.

Susan/DC
Susan/DC
13 years ago

Further comments:
@ Diane — if the study was about “hotness”, then I responded inappropriately. My answer referred to when people are at an actual physical peak in terms of sexual responsiveness, ability to achieve orgasm, etc. It seems the “hotness” study you referred to was about other people’s perception of how physically attractive someone else is.

@ Elena — you could certainly be correct. I don’t know if the data was stratified in terms of economics and class. I too have heard that the poor tended to marry late, if at all, but I still wonder about the average upperclass girl. Surely many of them wanted to enjoy more than one Season before settling down and were confident enough to not jump at the first proposal (or maybe they just asked for a long engagement). It’s interesting though, and a follow-up to Susan W’s post, that novels actually written in the Regency don’t dwell on the heroine’s age in quite the same way that modern Regencies do. In Pride & Prejudice, for example, Mr and Mrs Bennett worry about their daughters’ future, but not once (that I recall) do they say that Jane is unmarriageable because she’s too old at 22.

Definitely agree with those who pointed out that people, both men and women, age differently. Some, genetically or surgically gifted, do it much better than others (Paul Newman, anyone?).

When I was young a friend’s father had a great saying: “If you’re not beautiful at 20, that’s genetics. If you’re not beautiful at 60, it’s your own damn fault.” He was referring, of course, to inner beauty and character and how it comes to be written on one’s face, but I like the statement nonetheless. It gives hope to all us women “of a certain age” that we can still achieve beauty.

Diane Gaston
13 years ago

@Susan/DC I don’t know what study I was thinking about. I was going on my memory, which, believe me, cannot be trusted.

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

40 is the new 30, baby! 🙂

Gerry needs to look at better scripts and slow down in chasing Hollywood starlets. Gamer? really?

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