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What is it about Christian Grey of Fifty Shades of Grey that women love? Or about the character he was created from, vampire Edward Cullen from Twilight? Men certainly don’t, that’s for sure, usually preferring the Classical Hero over the Byronic Hero. The name of Byronic Hero comes from Victorian romance novels, like Jane Eyre, Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights, and many more. Oxford defines as, “a boldly defiant but bitterly self-tormenting outcast, proudly contemptuous of social norms but suffering from some unnamed sin.”
The Classic Hero has tremendous inner strength, if not outer strength as well, and despite danger and temptation, does what’s right, like Superman or Harry Potter. Harry Potter may be just a kid, but think about all the spells he can do. In real power, he's not that far below Superman. Another good example of the Classical Hero is Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, he has a quest, and although he faces great dangers, and sometimes wonders if he’s doing the right thing, he always does. Aragorn too, warns his fair lady away, “I am mortal, you are elf-kind…” Or Jack Dawson of Titanic, who warns Rose, “I’m a poor guy, I have nothing to offer you…” Both of these heroes then go on to prove why women would want them, despite their extensive experiences in rustic, outdoor living. Jack warns Rose away because he doesn’t think she would be happy as a poor person; not because he has any serious character flaws, he doesn’t. Nor does Aragorn, despite being a mere mortal.
The Byronic hero however, does. He is almost always described as rich, charming and good looking, but his problems come from inside of himself, and he carries a lot of baggage. Unlike the classic hero, he is seriously flawed. These characters also tend to be worldly and cultured, intellectual, highly sophisticated and arrogant, yet charming. But while attractive and alluring, the Byronic hero comes with a dark side, often in the form of a secret; in Edward Cullen’s case, being a vampire, which admittedly, is a serious condition. He has to constantly suppress the urge to kill people and drink their blood. In Mr. Grey’s case, a taste for BDSM and some really disturbing stalkerish personality traits that he shares with vampire Edward Cullen. Like his fictional predecessors, Christian Grey is moody, distant, and aloof, as well as being obsessively controlling.
So why do women like these characters so much? Perhaps the most obvious trait is physical attractiveness, and the things they say. The Byronic hero is a master of charm and how ardently they fall for their women, saying wonderful, romantic things. They are also very attentive, and give their lady everything she has ever wanted; gifts, romance, desire, and undivided attention. The Classical Hero usually doesn’t have that much time on his hands; there’s Sauron, a dragon, Voldemort, or a sinking ship to deal with; all problems he didn’t personally create but must solve nonetheless, usually to save not just himself and a fair lady, but the rest of the town, world, or universe as well. The Byronic hero is living with the results of his own past. There is also the hope that she can fix him. Some women want to be able to help their lover deal with his own dark side. She wants to change him, and Christian Grey is willing to try to change. Poor Edward Cullen can’t change, he can only control himself, and try not to give in to the desire to drink blood. When he tries to warn Bella that it’s not as much fun as she thinks it is going to be, his arguments fall on deaf ears.
This series is successful because it has given the reader what the old Victorian stories never did, and what Twilight never did; describe what happens after. In Fifty Shades, the sex scenes are there. It’s that simple. While I can see Edward Cullen having some weird ideas in the bedroom, simply due to being a nearly century-old vampire, Christian Grey isn’t actually that weird, and doesn’t do anything truly creepy or disturbing that violates Ana’s trust. If he were to lock her in a closet with a beehive, or set her on fire, for instance, that would be sadistic, but it wouldn’t be sexy or funny, and would definitely be a deal breaker. Those are the sorts of things you’d expect Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series to be doing to people. Obviously a guy to avoid. But while Aragorn, Jack Dawson, and Harry Potter are all Classical heroes, Christian Grey and Edward Cullen give off more of a Calvin Hockley (Rose’s original fiancé) or Lucius Malfoy vibe. God only knows what they might be into. Rose might have made a very healthy decision jumping over the edge with Jack. Her hard limits began with a state of mind. Being poor isn’t that bad, if you have someone a lot of fun to go and be poor with.