Drop Dead Diva is a new series on Lifetime which follows the life of an aspiring model called Deb who is killed in an accident but comes back in the body of a successful lawyer called Jane. In episode 1, Jane is shot and is close to death. The audience knows that Jane did actually pass away in the end and Deb has taken her place but the people in the show’s reality do not. That said, this past Sunday marked the show’s 10th episode, and we have yet to see Jane receive a visit from any close friend or family. It appears Jane was a workaholic with no friends and not much of a life.
Though I really love this show, I have a serious problem with Jane’s characterisation. Who were her friends? What did she do on the weekends? Does she have siblings? Parents? Cousins? Who was she? For the purposes of Drop Dead Diva, it was probably easier for the outgoing Deb to enter into the body of someone shy and retiring so that the character juxtaposition could be as heightened as possible but during every episode, I grieve for this life-less Jane, and I think of her romantic counterpart: the Friendless Heroine (the FH).
I don’t notice as much when the FH shows up in a historical because I can swallow a sheltered existence in Regency or Victorian England. But when the FH appears in contemporaries I get really annoyed. I don’t always realize I’m reading about an FH until mid-way through a book when I say, for example, “Ms. Heroine, you’re wondering whether to get bitten and be turned into a vampire so you can live with your lovah forever and ever but you don’t spare any thought as to what your friends might think about this. Hold up wait-a-min…you don’t have any friends…”
FH, why don’t you have any friends? Not even one? Is there something wrong with you? I cannot believe in a romantic Happily Ever After when the FH has yet to be fully formed as a character with her own friends and family (or a plausible reason for not having these friends or family). It sets an uneven base for any relationship from the outset because the Hero becomes this FH’s entire life and what happens in such a situation is that the Hero becomes the Savior.
Oh, Hero, FH warbles, you saved me from those werewolves/told me how beautiful I was/bared your teeth at another man in jealousy/allowed me to practice my skills by us sparring wittily all the time/propositioned me when no-one has before! In short, Hero provides the FH with some human interaction and usually because these heroes are Alpha – or just plain aggressive – the FH, coming from a friend-less, family-less life, is wowed by a surfeit of human interaction.
When we meet FH, she may be home cooking for one or leaving her office at night or has just been dumped by a loser. She is usually at an emotional low, even if she herself doesn’t know it. And then, in comes Hero (Savior) to force her to cook for two, trail her when she leaves the office or show her by a flexing of bicep just how much of a loser that loser was. At this point, much of the FH’s self-affirmations are tied into the Hero. She’s not pathetic and boring, he loves her! She’s not annoying like her evil mother said, he loves her! She’s not ugly like her pretty sister would have others believe, he loves her! She’s not an outsider because here they are in a circle for two because, he loves her!
In a 21st century setting, this is depressing.
I’m not saying that the heroine needs to be a social butterfly but I do need to feel that a somewhat independently fulfilled woman is going to meet and fall in love with a great man. I’ve never found especially romantic those Damsel in Distress plotlines and what is the FH but a form of distressed damsel? You don’t have a friend? I’ll be your friend. You don’t have someone to talk to? You can talk to me.
Maybe it’s all the Lifetime I watch, but relationships like that are usually featured with movie titles like Her Everything, Her Murderer or She Screamed, He Listened. Yes, romance novels have great guys who seek to uplift their women not take advantage of them. But the Friendless Heroine in a contemporary (be it fantasy or not) yanks me out of the story and forces me to really give this woman a critical character analysis. She never comes up smelling sweet.