Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Six Requirements of a 2020 Heartthrob

The other day I watched Top Gun again. I was a total fan in the eighties, Tom Cruise dazzled me. But when I watched it now, I was like, PEE-YEW!
How was I ever in love with ‘Maverick’ Mitchell?  Through my 2020 lens he is a shocker.
A clue came to me via the wealth of knowledge that is all things history, Dr Glen Thompson, who put me on to the work of social and cultural historian Carol Dyhouse. She’s written a book entitled Heartthrobs, A History of Women and Desire. This book shows how change in the social position of women shapes their dreams about men.
An article on Dyhouse’s work in New Books Network explains:
“Education and wage-earning brought independence and a widening of cultural horizons. Young women in the early twentieth century showed a sustained appetite for novel-reading, cinema-going, and the dancehall. They sighed over Rudolph Valentino’s screen performances, as tango-dancer, Arab tribesman, or desert lover. Contemporary critics were sniffy about “shop-girl” taste in literature and in men, but as consumers, girls had new clout.”
For example, Dyhouse explains that in the fifties, Doctor and Nurse stories were hot stuff in romance novels. Mills & Boon could not get enough writers to keep up with the demand. Why?  Well, Dyhouse proposes that after World War 2 women were looking for security and stability at home, and who could provide better than a McDreamy Doctor?
Since we write love stories, I thought it best that we acquaint ourselves with what makes a heartthrob in fiction/movies/popular culture  in light of women’s social position TODAY and what better place to do an absolutely unscientific study than on  Facebook?
103 comments later, here he is guys. The hands down, all-time winner-by-a-country-mile, the definition of what makes a heartthrob in 2020 for women in the south of Cape Town:

Yeah baby.  The mamas like this guy. Jason Momoa.
side note: (very extremely different to Tom Cruise of 1986 right? Actually Tom Cruise of any year)
The only other person mentioned is the also-fabulous Gerard Butler.

Kinda similar to Jason? But with less muscle. And fewer votes.
Anyway, as a public service to all the potential heartthrobs out there, I analysed the unscientific data and wrote it down. Good news for the silver foxes is that Not One Respondent mentioned youth as a must. Bad news for the bossy boys however: the Alpha Male is out. While wearing a beard or being clean shaven are not  game changers, a few other things  are.  Here are the salient points, if you want to know what women dream of.  Some of the items, like #2, are astonishingly simple.
  1.  Save the planet. The most desired quality in a 2020 heartthrob is environmental advocacy. (Jason has it…OBVIOUSLY) If you’re thinking of giving the guy in your latest WIP a coffee lid, a straw or a plastic bag, think again. The ladies are not swooning over men who aren’t trying to save the planet.   ‘A man with compassion for animals, nature and the environment’ ‘Cares deeply about the planet ‘ ‘On a journey to try to save the planet.’ ‘Greenpeace activist type.’
  2. DO NOT STINK.  You would think this is basic, but I was floored by how many women’s real life experience must be malodorous enough to inform this fantasy of an odour-free man. Pongs of any kind our OUT. Breath, body and any other unmentionable smells of any kind are a non-starter.  This includes too much cologne. Also dental hygiene. Own teeth for the win. Yes. Someone took the time to type that in. So writers, include confirmation of good personal hygiene in your narrative. 
  3. Get off the couch. (It’s clear Momoa is no couch potato) A fit, outdoorsman seems  to be the bomb in 2020.  Make sure your character runs, paddles, surfs, cycles, does sports,  swims, dances or plays cricket with the kids.  
  4. Be kind and gentle, tough guy. It’s okay to be in touch with your emotions. While women want to be protected in the face of danger, they do love a heartthrob who ‘cries in movies’, is ‘kind, gentle, empathetic’ , has a ‘connection to his family’, is ‘kind to old folk/generous, demonstrative, affectionate’ and ‘humble’ FYI check out this vid where Jason is not afraid to cry, ‘his heart has always been as big as his biceps”
  5. Unplug.  I took ‘Something with a heartbeat and doesn’t sit on his phone on the couch’ as a sign that this point needed a heading of its own. ‘Doesn’t do social media’ ‘not searching or on Tinder!’ ‘Doesn’t have a tv.’ ‘ability to be present’
  6. Cook.  Every woman loves a man who cooks. And yup. You  guessed it. Aquaman cooks.

So there you have it. Bear in mind – a) my non-scientific study group was an FB Moms group so all the non-moms  might not feel the same way b) my non-scientific group all live in or near the South Peninsula in Cape Town, so the Joburgers might have another view.  Who knows, maybe they still like Tom Cruise?
Of course there is one heartthrob who had been loved by women for over two hundred years,  is time-proof and remains a heartthrob no matter what, forever and ever. You know who?
Mr Darcy, of course. And why have women loved Darcy for centuries?

  …”it has been that this man, this proud, manly man, loves Lizzie Bennet. He ardently admires and loves a spirited, fearless, funny woman, who says what she thinks, who thumbs her nose at female silence and compliance. He is not intimidated by her; he does not wish her to be less than she is.”  – Caroline Criado-Perez, The Guardian

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Two Simple Ways to Keep Writing During Crisis

Is it just me or does the world feel like it’s burning? A tad dramatic, I admit, but honestly, the current world is not the one we’re accustomed to. For example, this blog post was supposed to be about the Cape WritingRetreat, but you already know that’s been cancelled because of the Coronavirus. That’s been happening a lot. Even simple tasks we thought were reliable like going to work or to the store have been thrown into disarray. With our every routine disrupted, you might be finding it a little hard to write. At least, that’s been the case for me. So I thought I’d share how I’ve been getting words down.

One: Be Consistent
While word goals no longer have meaning to me, being consistent has taken its place. For me, it means showing up at my desk and writing. Some days that means a few hundred words; others, a few thousand. I can’t predict this. It depends entirely on my mental health, which is surprisingly unreliable during a global pandemic. But what I can predict is showing up and writing, regardless of how much I do. That, of course, can come in whatever form you need it to come in. Scribbling down ideas regularly? Obsessively planning? Working on a project that excites you rather than what you’re ‘supposed’ to do? Just do it as consistently as you can manage.

Two: Be Kind to Yourself
This one is a major one. You’re not going to get anything done, writing or otherwise, if you aren’t kind to yourself. Usually, I’m a pretty productive person. But during this time, I’ve been struggling with even the most routine tasks. It’s wonderful if you’re still able to be productive right now, but if you’re like me, you’re going to need some self-compassion. Now is not the time to beat yourself up for not reaching whichever goals you’ve set for yourself previously. If you showed up and tried to write, that’s enough. If you’ve thought about writing, worked out a plot point, planned how you’ll be moving forward when you can write, that’s enough.

While these tips aren’t going to change your life in any way, they’re two simple ways of shifting your mindset so you can write.

But if you can’t – that’s okay, too. You are the number one priority right now. Take care of yourself; writing will be there when you’re ready.

You can find Therese Beharrie on Twitter or Facebook!