By Jeannie Campbell, LMFT
ACFW Journal Contributing Writer
When a characterization trend becomes so dominant it leads to copycat plots, there’s a problem.
What trend? That would be the one of the female savior-as referenced in my ACFW Journal article, “Happily Ever After or Ever After Happiness?,” in the Spring 2013 edition. Typically, these characters are the pure, virginal type, who miraculously “save” the jaded playboy from a life of debauchery. These stories then lead to one of the most improbable happily-ever-afters in fiction.
One look on the Amazon bestseller list will show these books in abundance, most generating from the YA and New Adult genres. If you haven’t read them, don’t worry. A quick summary will suffice, as many follow this general plot:
Virgin is exposed to raunchy side of Playboy. There is instant dislike and distrust on her part and intrigue on his part because she didn’t fall into his lap like all of the others. Playboy gives Virgin a nickname, typically that of a perceived weaker animal, such as Pidge (pigeon) or Kitten. Virgin hates this name. Playboy pursues her, but more often than not, they enter the “friend zone.”
Playboy doesn’t know what it is about Virgin that is so different, but he must conquer her. He pulls out all the stops-even changing his entire personality. No more other women, no more crass talk. He’s now a one-woman man.
Virgin begins to melt under the onslaught. She still has issues with trust, but he’s changed/changing so much for her that she’s willing to let him scale the internal walls around her heart. They have their first real date, which is superb and sublime. The chemistry is to-die for.
There is a declaration of love and/or commitment and Virgin is cautiously optimistic. She took a chance—and it paid off. Then Playboy blows it. Big time. Usually with another female somehow. Whether he actually makes a transgression or not, Virgin perceives he did, which is the harbinger of the dark moment. Will they withstand it or not? Not a huge surprise, they do survive, and the world tilts upright on its axis again.
So, what’s the problem with the plot—other than that it is overdone? It is blatantly unrealistic.
I have to tread carefully here, because as a professional therapist and Christian, I can attest that people can and do change. But a far more likely outcome-especially in someone not actively trying to change-is that he would revert back to his default behavior.
In real life, a playboy who seeks to conquer a girl who ignores him or dislikes him only does so for the thrill of the chase. To stroke his ego. Unfortunately, when the chase is over-when she has succumbed to his wiles-so also is the playboy’s interest in the female.
Books proclaiming other endings are potentially dangerous for females. They proclaim a lie as a truth-that the virgin/female can save the playboy by being spectacular enough to turn his head. The end result is that the self-esteem of women (and especially teens) drops when they can’t recreate the same outcomes in their lives and end up being discarded by the cad.
Let’s talk: What do you think about these female savior books? Have you noticed this trend? How can CBA fiction expose the real truth-that only God can save a person from destruction-and do so within a romance between a Virgin and a Playboy?
Jeannie Campbell is a licensed marriage and family therapist in California, and runs The Character Therapist) website, where she diagnoses make-believe people. She is also a freelance writer, author, editor, and book reviewer and has been featured in several ezines, newspapers, and blogs. Two of her manuscripts have finaled in the ACFW Genesis contest.