Not Your Ordinary Hero

logan-veronica-marsI’ve spent the past few weeks watching the TV show Veronica Mars (I so love Amazon Prime.) I’d seen it when it first came out but my husband hadn’t. When the movie came out this year, I thought it would be fun to check out Veronica and her pals in Neptune again.

There are many things to love about Veronica Mars–Kristen Bell’s adorable snark, the stinging accuracy of its portrayal of class, the haunting and hip soundtrack, just to name a few. But the thing that strikes me the second time around is how unusual a hero Logan Echols (played brilliantly by Jason Dohring) is.

Logan is the son of two spectacularly screwed-up movie stars played by real life spouses Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna. Logan’s grown up with money, fame, and access. In the first half of the first season he is an unmitigated ass. And yet…

By the end of the first season, he’s a man in love, a guy who most of the time, I find myself cheering for even as I struggle to define him.

If you listen to Logan without seeing him, he sounds like an obnoxious, overly confident alpha male. And if you turn the sound off, and just watch him, his mien is that of a beta guy. His body leans away as he speaks, his facial expressions are gently mocking. He routinely holds up his hands as if to say, don’t mind me, I’m backing away. But he’s never really backing away. His laid-back schtick barely hides the rage that undergirds his character . He finds his own path, one that almost always leaves him on top of the proverbial high school heap. I find him fascinating.

The hero in romance novels who most reminds me of Logan is  Sebastian Verlaine, the hero of Patricia Gaffney’s controversial historical romance To Have and to Hold. Like Logan, Sebastian is, when the reader first encounters him, an awful person. And yet, midway through the book, he’s the hero of the piece, a man I trust. Sebastian, like Logan, is neither a villain or a hero. He’s something else entirely–a complicated man whose actions belie his admitted sins.

I’d like to encounter more such men in my reading. Who are the heroes who defy easy categorization? And do you like them? Or do you find that some sins are too grave for you as a reader to overcome?

Dabney Grinnan

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14 Responses to “Not Your Ordinary Hero”

  1. Elinor Aspen says:

    The Comte d’Esmond in Loretta Chase’s Captives of the Night is a complicated hero with many sins in his past. He is so well-developed, though, that we can sympathize with him and believe in his redemption.

    Laura Kinsale’s heroes are almost all in this category. She does a terrific job of creating deeply flawed men who are extremely compelling.

  2. Paola says:

    Jered Mandeville from Karen Ranney’s Upon a Wicked Time. He’s really unsufferable for at least half the book, before the worst happens and he starts redeeming himself.

  3. Bona says:

    I’ve just read and oldie by Kinsale, ‘Uncertain Magic’ (1987), and I find the heroe, Faelan Savigar, the Earl of Iveragh, could be one of those who defy easy categorization. I was never sure what to think about him.

    Generally speaking, I think I like books with a different heroe, at least because of the novelty. We’ve had enough Princes Charming & Rakes with a Good Heart who are redeemed by the love a good woman.

    So yes, I think that I like heroes who are a little bit different. But not only in the ‘bad boy’ category, but also in the ‘good old fellow’. I mean I like ambiguous heroes but also those who are easy-going and joyful, like Rupert Carsington (Chase’s ‘Mr. Impossible’).

    As I live in a Catholic culture, I think there’s no sin too grave that cannot be forgiven. But it requires repentance and penance. Moreover, the graver the sin, the deeper the sorrow, the repentance & the penance have to be. Which is a wonderful trope, nearly always.

    • I am fascinated by the idea of the unforgivable sin in fiction. I love your insight here that the penance must be equal to the magnitude of the offense.

  4. AARJenna says:

    I’m finding Jaime Lannister of the HBO “Game of Thrones” to be such a hero, if the word hero can even be applied to this man. SPOILERS!! He starts off as a person you have to hate – he pushes poor Bran Stark out of a window and is having an incestuous relationship with his twin sister. But over the course of the series, as we come to learn more about him and as his interactions with Brienne of Tarth demonstrate, he is actually a lot more noble than originally depicted. I’ve reached the point where he’s one of my favorite characters. Of course, I’m one of a tiny minority that didn’t read the scene between Jaime and Cersei by Joffrey’s body as a case of rape but rather an example of the twisted power dynamic between the two and another instance of their odd brand of foreplay. So my opinion of Jaime is still swinging towards the positive.

    • Blackjack1 says:

      Yes, my feelings too about Jamie!

      • Claire says:

        So much of Jamie is appealing to me. He even looks like a romance hero. Why did he have to be incestuous?! I just want to forget that part so bad!

  5. Elinor Aspen says:

    I cannot see Jaime Lannister as a man redeemed. He cold-bloodedly killed his own cousin in order to escape captivity. Going back to rescue Brienne does not tip the scales, since it was done at little personal risk (he knew he was too valuable to kill and too dangerous to keep).

  6. Emily Harper says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Logan Echols. This is a very interesting topic you raised because I find myself finding things attractive in novels (the alpha male for example), yet in real life or even to a degree in movies I find myself rooting for the underdog, or the guy that gets trampled on by the alpha male (not a great example for Win a date with Tad Hamilton comes to mind). Logan Echols is interesting because he kind of falls in between the two, he has the abrasive personality of the alpha male but at the same time falls on the social outskirts after the first season.

  7. Ducky says:

    I have never watched Veronica Mars because it’s a show about teenagers. I only liked teenagers and teenage themes when I was one, heh.

    Yes, to Jaime Lannister, though I am going by the books version which I knew first and for much longer and where you can easier judge what makes Jaime tick because of the POV chapters.

    IMO, on the show I really like the actor but the writing for the character has been off and dubious at times. They made Cersei, who in the books is a straight forward villain, too soft and turned Jaime into a cousin killer and sister raper. Why the white wash of Cersei and the opposite for Jaime?

    As to romance – I love the two Sebastians – Verlaine and the Lisa Kleypas hero.

    In general anti-heroes are more interesting than garden variety heroes to me.