Sekrits and Squicks

August 11th, 2009 • Kate

shhhWorking on something exciting — two somethings exciting actually — but I’m not quite ready to release the news. In the meantime, I wanted to point you towards this interesting post on The Enchanted Inkpot about the May/December romances that repeatedly pop up on teen paranormal romances. Late, late Decembers. As Alison Ching writes:

The older-and-wiser suitor, who sees something in the heroine (and it is usually a heroine) that others do not, has become something of staple in these books. […] And while some readers find these love stories rapturous and swoon-worthy, there are others who are, frankly, completely squicked out by them.

One of the comments talks about one of the paranormal May/December romances that did work for me, that of Buffy and Angel:

Instead of being about eternal youth, [the series Angel] was about his quest for maturity and wisdom in spite of his eternally young body. He was trying to grow up. I certainly agree with the first commenter that I don’t really see the appeal in someone who can kick around for a couple of hundred years without learning something or growing to the point that he’d no longer have any interest in a teenage girl.

How do you fall on the debate? Do these romances cause a certain squick factor when you think about it, or is there something to having a long time to live that makes the older man seem younger, and thus, acceptable?

Go add to the conversation on The Enchanted Inkpot!

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9 Responses to “Sekrits and Squicks”

  1. Liana Brooks Says:

    I admit, there's some "squick" factor there. Especially if you're using Angel as an example of the Older Man. I always preferred Spike, Angel was just mopey!

    But, yeah, there's a certain creepiness factor to having someone a few hundred years older who's both immature and stalking a teenage girl.

  2. Catherine Says:

    Well, when it comes to Mayfly/December* romances, it's not exactly a black and white issue. I can't say I don't like them as I have written them, but there are still some that prove to be a bit squicky. It's something that depends on the characters and the situation, I think. If the older/immortal party keeps pulling age and treating the human party like a child (which I have seen in some paranormal), then it does get a bit squicky. But when they treat them like an equal, and seem more like that same age just with a lot more experience, it's far less squicky.

    *Mayfly/December is what they on TVTropes call human/immortal pairings where one has to grow old and die while the other still exists on. I quite like the term myself.

  3. beth Says:

    In my opinion, it often lacks substance. Take, for example, Twilight. (There. I said it. Someone was going to.) There's no reason (as far as the reader can tell) that Edward has to worship Bella so absolutely (other than her inherent freesia smell, apparently). To get on my soap box a moment, in cases like this, I actually feel the story is a bit anti-feminist–the woman is valued for being a woman, not for having *done* anything of value. She's taken under the wing of the man, guided, in some cases ordered, and makes little contribution to her own worth beyond just being a girl.

    On the other hand, you could as easily argue that some cases, such as Buffy/Angel work–because Buffy is an "old soul" (not only reincarnated, but also wise and mature) and Angel, although old, did have some growing up to do.

    For me, it comes down to the girl. Is the girl taken under the wing of the guy just because she's a hot young girl and he's so much wiser and can take care of her? Squicky in the extreme. But if the romance is truly there, based on an equal contribution to the relationship and not domineered by either party, then I'm OK with it.

  4. Kater Says:

    Personally, I think there is a huge squick factor. If a ninety year old man is interested in a seventeen year old girl, either he doesn't value her as an equal, or he hasn't matured despite a century of life. Having him in a young body doesn't make it much better.

    This just means I'm a product of our culture though. In Regency romances, the heroine is almost always high-school age, and the hero is usually in his early thirties. From a societal perspective, completely objectively, it makes a lot of sense based on what they're expecting from the relationship.

    If I have a thirty-something friend who's hitting on the high schoolers, no matter if it's legal or not, and no matter if he looks good for his age or not, I'm going to lose a lot of respect for him. I don't, however, lose as much respect for young women who prefer older men. Don't know why.

  5. Jill Says:

    As a 30-year-old woman, yes, I can see the possible squick. When I was fifteen and obsessed with Anne Rice's work, though, would I have been squicked by the idea of a romance between me and my beloved Louis? Not at all. Maybe that's part of the explanation — as our viewpoints mature, the objectionable aspect of this kind of relationship becomes clearer. The intended audience doesn't seem to have much of a problem with it.

    A lot depends on the girl. I'm not so squicked if we're shown good reasons for the immortal guy to fall for her — something beyond "she's pretty" or "she smells delicious" or whatever. Really, that's true of any romance — I can't count how many stories I've read (and movies I've seen) where I watch two characters fall in love for no reason. It's like I'm being told they're perfect each other, but I'm never shown why.

  6. tamara Says:

    Just to throw this in there…if Stephanie Meyer had ever gone ahead and finished writing the book (Midnight Sun)that was Twilight told from Edward's POV, it would have been a lot better.

    I read the partial manuscript that she posted online, and it shows WHY Edward fell so in love with Bella, which I had always wondered about.He sees that she's way more compassionate and selfless than most humans, and she seems really sweet and caring to him.

    Again, I really wish she had finished writing this book, IMO it would have made the series a lot better. Until I read that excerpt I was a lot more squicked about the romance between Edward and Bella, especially since I always felt Edward kind of treated her like a child.

  7. Michelle Says:

    Interesting. What I'm wondering now is if these storylines take place in anything other than regency historicals (when it was true to the time period) and vampire stories.

    Would a contemporary/literary YA where a sixteen year old girl falls for/is stalked by a significantly older, albeit attractive man, sell today?

    My opinion: Squicky.

    (That and I just really like using that word. Squicky.) 🙂

  8. dust Says:

    Where else with the older man/younger woman thing? Manga.

    Dunno. My honey's older than I am. The guys I dated that were my age were either immature, obsessive, or had never been immature–prematurely mature–and were pretty boring. The middle road of dating a bad boy–date them, but only after they've started to grow out of it.

  9. cindy Says:

    thanks so much for linking to the inkies! =D

    i think this is indeed a very thought provoking

    post. well done, alison ching!