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by Rosalind Moran
Works of Science-Fiction and Fantasy routinely suffer genre snobbery. Clichés are identified down to an infinitesimally small degree, and then torn apart with grim satisfaction. Neither unlikely boys with great destinies nor elderly men of genealogical significance are spared.
It’s a tough time to be an archetype.
Yet while authors are aware of heightened scrutiny and increased demands on originality within genres framed by convention, they nevertheless continue to write certain characters – such as male leads – in forms often adhering to well-worn moulds. Take the dark, troubled hero: he remains prominent in stories ranging from Twilight (pardon my language) to A Game Of Thrones, even if these have supposedly grown more nuanced since the I-carry-five-foot-swords-on-my-back era of the 80s.
And why is this the case? The moody male lead is widespread throughout all genres, but it can be difficult to see why anybody would want to spend time with him. He’s brooding, exceedingly individualistic, melancholic, and disposed to hanging around outdoors during thunderstorms for no good reason beyond cultivating his mystique. Furthermore, despite possessing attributes such as introspection, sophistication in some form, and intelligence, he is also typically rather unpleasant.
So what’s underpinning his enduring presence and appeal in fiction?