A great deal of literature thrives on conflict. This is especially true for the romance genre. You really don’t have much of a book if the entire plot is “boy meets girl, boy gets girl.” To engage the reader, the plot has to be “boy meets girl” and then something happens for the middle part of the book that keeps boy and girl apart, until the end of the book when “boy gets girl.”
Since the time of Jane Austen, one of the most frequently used devices for filling the middle of the book is to create a plot in which the boy and the girl don’t like each other. Jane set the template: although he was a very good and honorable man, Mr. Darcy presented himself to the world, and to Elizabeth Bennett, as an unfeeling jerk. Elizabeth also had her failings, insofar as she jumped to conclusions, but she was charming and personable from the get go. Had Darcy not been a jerk, she would not have wandered off the path of fact and into the realm of assumptions.
And so the template was set: jerky guys with hearts of gold. In the almost two hundred years since Pride & Prejudice was published, movies and books are filled with jerky guys — arrogant guys, pushy guys, snotty guys, aggressive guys — who become charming princes thanks to the heroine’s incredible charm. And really, it does make for fun reading or movie watching. It’s enjoyable following characters as they finally get it right.
The problem, though, for real girls in the real world, is that jerky guys tend to be . . . well, jerks. If you want a nice guy in this life, you should find someone who is nice from the start. Life isn’t fiction, and if your jerky guy refuses to turn into a handsome, caring, kind Prince, you might find yourself in a world of hurt.
Anyway, that was my advice to my daughter, who loves to read and who, I am afraid, will fall into jerky guy syndrome based upon the plot-line of way too many enjoyable books, both quality and trash.