A bit of the Other

What is it with these people?
Or non-people.  Or nearly-people.
Find self increasingly fascinated by extraordinary prevalence of shape-shifty, were-y, not-quite-human types in genre.  Especially in romantic context.  Everywhere one looks, furry romance abounds.  Well, no, not that kind of furry, is another sub-genre entirely and Not Personally My Thing. 
But nonetheless, bounding tide of good-looking, often bare-chested, partly-human sorts is sweeping away readers on tide of passion.
Cannot help but wonder, a lá Carrie Thing, can’t remember name, lots of shoes, anyway – why this?  Why now?
Humanity always fascinated by Other; in old stories Faery Queens and Elf Kings forever whisking mortals off to play them music, look after their babies etc. (Have to say Faery Court would have rather lacked appeal if invited there as Court Babysitter; small children quite scary enough without addition of ability to turn one into things.).
But in old tales, mortals tended to want to come back.  Other world remained, well, Other – interesting place to visit, perhaps, but wouldn’t want to live there, and mermaid caught in fishing net proved problematic; unsuited to domesticity, had to be thrown back. 
Now, it seems, Other is infinitely domesticable: not only walking  amongst us, but taking us out to dinner and talking about moving in. 
Whole thing adds new dimension to question of What Women Want, or at least What Women Want At the Moment.  As woman, personally, mainly want a chap to be reasonably courteous, affectionate and nice to be around, though capacity of said chap to reduce enemies to quivering jelly with single growl does appeal to self’s darker and more atavistic side. (Mind you idea of being able to reduce thug to helplessness with own mere glare, has always had even greater appeal, if sad lack of likelihood).
But many readers, it seems, also want fur.  Though only occasional fur; man who is permanently in wolf shape is, well, wolf; and preferred type of vampire now apparently much less inclined to steal one’s immortal soul.  Whole idea of souls being endangered by Other has rather gone out window; which is entire different discussion, probably.
So is it Tamed Other that appeals?  One’s opposite, still with attractive Otherness, but without nasty tendency to rip out throats, or at least, much less inclined to rip out one’s own, personal throat? 
Hmm.  Perhaps is something to do with current scariness of world.  After all, still largely run by chaps, and not in a great state, overall, what with war, bombs, disintegrating climate etc.  Perhaps what readers really want is Beauty and Beast: fantasy that beneath Otherness, beneath fur, fangs, growling and tendency to come home covered in blood, is actually nice decent bloke, just waiting for right woman to come along and stop him acting like such an arse.

2 responses to “A bit of the Other

  1. I think the other has a lot to do with it, but probably not as much as the idea of ‘specialness’. Afterall, most of the paranormal romance stuff is set in the real world. The rippling love canine, or blood (and other things) sucker has a grave secret, and they’ve chosen to share it with you. Part of the joy of romance anyway is that it makes you feel special, and being chosen by someone who is also special makes you even more special. It’s a veritable bonanza of shiny unique snow-flakyness.

    Cool post gaie!

  2. Romance of the more petuniary variety seems often to have included men with secret other selves – princes in disguise, tall dark strangers etc. – so I wonder if this is just a way to repackage it for the Harry Potter generation.

    Twilight’s core readership would be about the right age to have been reading Potter as kids; perhaps they’ve thus been inculated to find lyncathropes more acceptable than sheikhs.

    Which says something about how the perceived respectability of various genres might have changed… and all thanks to JK Rowling.

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