Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Search for Darcy

I came across this today on Tumblr:

Ah, yes. This fits in nicely with where I left off in the prior post. Girls I know - not fangirls, just your regular, run-of-the-mill girls, have a type. We do. We look for this type, we judge other men by it, it's kind of a thing we've been socially trained to do. Maybe ALL girls don't do it, but the ones I know do. I'm going to call this construct Darcy - not because all girls look for a man like Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (I'm more of a Mr. Rochester kind of gal, actually) but because it's something most people are familiar with - a sensitive, but strong, romantic male. This is not partial to only fangirls. All girls have a Mr. or Mrs. Darcy in mind.

I would argue, however, that fangirls go a step further. Rather than just having a construct in their head, they give life to this idea, either through attaching to characters on page or screen or to actors/musicians/athletes... you get the idea. And thus, because they have this stronger image - actually WANTING Darcy to be their man or what have you, it become more potent, more powerful... harder to shake off.

Let me try to clarify this. Say you're... okay, say you're me (crap, terrible idea. Too late). Say you're looking for a certain kind of guy... a guy who's funny, but had a dark side. Kind of Byronic. Not hot, at least not the way most girls would describe it. Someone who just... really gets you. Who treats you as your equal.

And then you read Jane Eyre. And you're doomed forever after. Because no matter what, nothing is going to be as a man dressing in drag, as a gypsy, to impress you.

This, of course, is a bit of a problem. Mr. Rochester, despite his awesomeness, is fictional. However, there's a certain thing that gives fangirls like me a nice little loophole. And that's called acting.

Michael Fassbender's first hit on the American screen was Inglourious Basterds, playing the British Lt. Archie Hicox, who slips up on his German and gets shot in the basement of a pub. This did not win him crazy fangirls. Playing Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, I would however argue, did. Did that turn me into a fan of his? Yep. Am I embarrassed that I didn't notice his acting genius in Inglourious Basterds (which I saw before Jane Eyre and claim as one of my favorite films)? Yep. Do you think I'd be the same sort of fan if he hadn't played Rochester? Nope.

Playing certain roles leads certain actors to gain a lot of fangirls. Maybe it's because of their personality that certain actors - especially charming, good-looking Brits/Irishmen - are the type that end up with the roles. Maybe it's just a commonality that a lot of these actors happen to seem so fabulous because actors in America are, well... different. I can't say I've met a lot of Tom Cruise fangirls recently (I'm sure they exist, but I get the feeling they exhibit their fandom slightly differently). Maybe life just imitates art and these men really ARE Darcy-esque. Or maybe they'll just appear that way to us because, well, we want them to be.

But think about it: Colin Firth won an Oscar for The King's Speech, but he's best known for playing Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and in Bridget Jones's Diary. Robert Pattinson first hit American screens in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but only became a hit when he played the sparkly vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight. I saw John Barrowman for years - YEARS - every time I re-watched The Producers but I didn't know who he was until I saw him play Jack Harkness in Torchwood. And Benedict Cumberbatch... you can read about my own discovery of him here, but he's been in films like The Other Boleyn Girl and Atonement, and yet it would seem the fandom only latched on once he played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock. And now he's super famous. And girls write things like this on Tumblr:

With fame comes great responsibility... wait, no, that's power. And that's Spiderman. Sorry. Point is, I don't think actors are expecting the fangirl thing to happen when they just happen to stumble across a role they like. But when it does, what do they do? What happens next?

I'm so glad you asked. Unfortunately, it's a bit late and I have a psych lab tomorrow. So, I'll get back to you on that.

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