So I recently watched a video on Byronic Heroes. You'll note that Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) from Black Panther (2018) is included--he's the only black male included on the list. Before I get into my gripe, let's first go over who/what the Byronic Hero is.
The Byronic Hero is a popular character in romantic and gothic literature, named after the famous British poet and author, Lord Byron (Don Juan), who was said to have embodied the very traits that defined these famous characters.
Often, the Byronic hero can be gothic, romantic, or both. Examples include: Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre), Max de Winter (Rebecca), Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Edward Cullen (Twilight Saga), Christian Grey (50 Shades franchise), Kylo Ren (Star Wars), and the lead male character in the Meteor Garden/Boys Over Flowers television series.
The Byronic hero is marked by a number of traits:
*Handsome, intellectual and wealthy
*Dark, brooding/mysterious and reclusive
*Often wears black/ dresses sophisticatedly
*Hiding a terrible secret/ or tortured by something from his past
*Condescending/rude, or meanspirited (at first)
*Redeemable through love
This character can be rather problematic (mentally ill wife locked in the closet, murdered wife, S&M, kidnapping, etc.).
That said, he is a popular literary character. But, back to Killmonger. He's not a Byronic hero. One, he's not in a romantic or gothic movie. Two, he's not wealthy*; three, he's not tortured or haboring dark secrets. He's a victim of the act that defines him, rather than the perpetrator of that act himself.
Killmonger's inclusion highlights the reason for this post. Where's the black, or African-descended Byronic hero? I mentioned Meteor Garden/Boys Over Flowers, showing the Asian version of this character. I have yet to see a black version.
The character of Devon Lecusken in the Winter Haven duology is a Byronic hero. Devon Lecusken isn't black, but a white man with darker features credited to his First Nations ancestry. Back then I called him a bad boy, a modern interpretation of this character (e.g. Dylan McKay in 90210).
Since the aforementioned video, I have been hunting for the Afro-descended Byronic hero. The closest I have found is Heathcliff, a character described in Wuthering Heights as a Gypsy, Lascar, and a Moor. The Bronte Society, and essays on the topic of Heathcliff's ethnicity, suggests he may be of partial African heritage, born to a biracial woman and Mr. Earnshaw (Catherine's father).
Heathcliff, often described as jealous of white-skinned people, went from a romantic hero (with Catherine I) to gothic villain (Catherine II), so this isn't exactly a great bonus for black men.
Then there's the title character of Alexandre Dumas' Georges (1843), said to be loosely based on the mixed race author himself, a master of revenge fantasies.
Georges is a mulatto man who witnessed the humiliation of his father on the French island colony of Mauritius; he sets out to become better than his white compatriots, so he can carry out his revenge. Georges has all the traits of a Byronic hero, and has lots in common with Heathcliff. They have something to prove to the whiter society that denies them respect and love, and for Georges that means seducing the white bethroted of his rival, and leading a slave rebellion.
With the exception of these two, there aren't many characters (partly black or not) who fit the bill.
But, are there more identifiably black Byronic Heroes?
In my previous blog, I lamented the lack of nuance in everyday society.
Here I am blogging about microagressions--the everyday casualness of racism.
Recently, author Rena Barron on Twitter posted a review of her middle grade story in which the reviewer (clearly white) complimented her book as a good read "for children of African descent."
Imagine the following review--"Harry Potter is a great read for children of European descent." This would never occur. Those with power (people of European heritage) have occupied the position of normal and standard human being and have designated themselves race-less and universal. Their stories are for EVERYONE.
The damage of this labeling is that it tells the audience: "this book/story is only for black people." It limits and racializes non-whites, while conditioning people over hundreds of years to accept only whites as relatable. It alienates, pushes out, and justifies not hiring/using non-whites. Non-whites are 'the other" or abnormal. This lends itself to non-white actors always portraying aliens/fantasy creatures, while whites portray average guys or gals.
I am reminded of romantic movies with black casts that are marketed as "urban comedies" versus similar movies with white casts that are "romantic comedies." Consider the policy of putting books written by black authors in the "African American" section.
I am not a black author. I am an author of Black African heritage. My characters are people, who happen to be black. They are human, written to be read by EVERYONE. I am the girl next door, too. I am the standard human being, too. I am normal, too.
As a Speculative Fiction author, I want my books in the SFF section of the bookstore.
I want to be included in the MAIN SHOW, not the sideshow off to the side. I don't want to be subjected to quotas, "limiting" stereotypes and expectations.
This post is a ramble. To quote Nina Simone, "this is a showtune, but the show hasn't been written for it yet."
I am forever trying to understand my own mind, likes, wants, desires, fears, cares and the whole gestalt of who I am, and what makes me so, and whether I can call myself a good person.
I call myself an empath.
Empathy is intrinsically the base trait of goodness, defined as how we treat/relate to people and living beings around us, even the environment. But, empathy may also leave you vulnerable to abuse, being taken advantage of, being disrespected, and carrying emotional burdens that weigh you down mentally over time.
The moral of this story? Lash out when you're being disrespected, regardless of the consequence.
Over the years, I have worried about the unsaid things that swirl in my mind, what I often refer to as the noumenal locutions that I cannot express, both because I am resentful of needing to do so, and because I simply have difficulty expressing myself, often not being able to find words until well after the fact, and never in the appropriate moment when it matters.
Thoughts and ideas that I struggle to express leave a lacuna between who I am and how i present myself. That Liminal link thins and increasingly makes it hard for me to fully express myself.
Not everyone who claims to be a victim is (and not simply because said person means to deceive-- psychopathy). Sometimes, you can scream and cry that you are right and still not be right.
Lawsuits or tears? Pick your weapon of rightness. We equate tears and cries with victimhood. If you cry, literally or figuritvely, you must be the one worthy of sympathy. But this is not true.
Did Lance Armstrong not sue people who accused him of doping?
As paradoxical as it is, you can like/love a thing and still recognize imperfections and problematic aspects of that thing. I can like Star Trek Discovery, while still admitting that the show has many flaws. Flaws within a thing or person doesn't make them disposable.
I have some thoughts about internet culture, black lives matter, and the frustration of hearing viewpoints dominate the mainstream consciousness that lack , well nuance.
I hate mob mentality.
Internet: you are cancelled.
Me: This is absurd
Internet: Let's get Bill Maher fired
Me: Let's not. He's entitled to his opinions.
Truth: I hate arrogance, vanity, narcissism and phoniness/insincerity. That explains why I hate celebs, which is a generalization (I don't hate all). It explains why I avoid reality show stars, influencers, social media stars, and attention-seekers. And the distaste Prince Harry's wife leaves in my mouth.
Truth: at the end of the day, a person's character matters more than melanin.
My Mind works like this: Nuance
Internet: you're either with us or you're with the terrorist
Me: Here's an analysis of A, B, C, and oh, also, D, E, F, G, H...
Internet: you are blocked/racist.
FACT: Racism exists on a spectrum. You don't have to be a card-carrying Neo-Nazi to be racist or harbor racist sentiment.
Amy Cooper would've voted for Obama a third time if she could.
Internet: only conservatives can be racist
Me: I don't give a damn about your political affiliation
Internet: you give a pass to Justin Trudeau for blackface
Me: I have no power over what Justin Trudeau does/gets
My mind works like this:
Me: Is Lea Michele guilty of racism or bullying/diva antics?
Internet: it does't matter. Her victim is black.
My mind works like this.
Internet: Sasha Exeter is a victim of Jessica Mulroney's white privilege
Me: who's Sasha Exeter?
Internet: Tomi Lahren is racist
Me: I don't care about this person and don't like you putting this person in my consciousness.
Internet: Tomi, Tomi, Tomi
Me: silent pouts, shuts down, shut off device