This blog doesn’t normally touch politics but today (Friday) I learned that Jacinda Ardern is resigning as Prime Minister of New Zealand. She has decided to leave the job after more than five years because, she said, she “no longer has enough in the tank to do it justice.” It’s a frank and honest statement. Possibly even heroic? But is it failure?
Can heroes admit to failure?
And then I started thinking about the heroes we write and wondering whether any of them would get away with making a statement like Ardern’s. Does an alpha hero (say) ever admit that he’s no longer up to whatever it is he does? That he’s a failure? Or that he would be if he continued?
Can’t say I’ve met many in the fiction I read, especially not in contemporary romances. Romantic heroes may occasionally fail at some task, sure. But don’t they usually learn from their failure and go on to bigger and better things?
And, even when they do fail, do they confess it to the world at large? Or do they keep that chiselled jaw suitably clamped and say nothing?
The key question, I suppose, is this:
is a hero a failure—unheroic—if he admits he is no longer up to the job?
Is failure OK for heroines but not for heroes?
Now, there’s a loaded question, wouldn’t you say? But is it a fair question?
I can remember only one other politician who resigned on grounds of not being able to keep doing the job.
Yes, it was a woman. Are you surprised?
Estelle Morris was the Secretary of State for Education for England back in 2002. She resigned because she felt she was “not up to the job”.
A heroine? Or a failure?
Or perhaps both?
Somehow, I can’t see many (any?) real-life male politicians doing what Morris or Ardern have done. But maybe I’ve missed some?
The Guardian article I’ve linked to at the top of the blog reminds us that Nelson Mandela insisted on stepping down after only one term as President of South Africa. Because, they write, “even successful leaders need to know when it’s time to go.” But President Mandela’s refusal wasn’t because he was a failure. He did it for a higher purpose: in order to ensure a democratic transition. In my book, that qualifies him as a hero. But there aren’t many like him about, are there? Not in real life, sadly.
And possibly not many heroic failures in romantic fiction either? Can you think of any?
Romance is fantasy land…and can’t include failure?
We read about alpha heroes in romantic fiction and we’re often carried away by the love story. Especially as we know that the heroine—whoever she is and however lowly—will end up with the alpha male in the end. HEA. Happy sighs. But…
Ask yourself a question, just once in a while. Could you stand having a man like that in your own life? Your real life? Do you love the love story only because it’s set in a fantasy land with a fantasy hero?
I find myself wondering, subversively, whether the alpha hero would remember to take out the bins.
Yes, OK. I know the alpha male hero has money coming out of his ears so he probably has a minion to see to the bins. But it’s still a fair point, to my mind.
No doubt he could defend the heroine if they were beset by hostiles but, sometimes, it’s not heroics the heroine needs. Sometimes, she needs help with practical, down-and-dirty chores. Like smelly bins.
And I will admit to having a reminder on my computer about the need to remind my own personal hero that Wednesday is the day for him to put out the bins. If I forget to remind him, then the failure is my fault, of course, not his. (And no, it is NOT nagging. No way.)
So that’s all right, isn’t it?
Stories with acknowledged failure in them?
I’m sure I’m a failure here, but just at the moment, I can’t think of romantic failure stories where the hero fesses up and changes course completely. I’m sure that’s just brain failure 😉 on my part. Can you help me out here? I really do want to be proved wrong.