I just finished a novel by a Very Famous Author from the early part of her career (I won’t name her just because the book was from the early part of her career and she writes very differently now). The thing that struck me most about the book was the nature of the heroine—she was truly pissy.
Now there may be disagreements as to the exact meaning of the word pissy. But in this case, I’m going with annoying. She had a tendency to flounce, particularly around the hero, sometimes folding her arms across her chest and narrowing her eyes as she did so. I don’t recall her stamping her foot, but she might have. It would have been in character.
Now granted, the hero was no prize himself. He was one of those classic eighties heroes, the over-confident billionaire who expected the heroine to fall into his arms immediately because…well, just because, damn it! But he was also honest about his attraction to her, whereas she did her best to pretend she wasn’t attracted to him because she wasn’t about to be attracted to anybody who was such a doodyhead.
Thus the flouncing and stamping. She wasn’t going to let him know she cared.
As I say, this was an early book, mid-eighties as I recall. But I also recall that the pissy heroine seemed to be standard at that time. Lots of heroines stamped their feet, flounced their curls, and gave the hero that smoldering, narrow-eyed look that meant I’m really just pretending to be pissed. I’m actually very interested, even though I may not realize it yet. So come and get me, Big Boy.
Well, that was then, this is now. You don’t see many pissy heroines anymore, thank the good lord. Heroines in current romances may be angry with the hero, but it’s usually with good cause. Moreover, if they’re angry, they’re more likely to say so and to explain just where the hero fell short and just what he should do about it. The whole anger-as-aphrodisiac plot has sort of fallen by the wayside, and that’s a very good thing for one big reason: That particular plot seems to assume that women don’t really know their own minds where men are concerned. Or that they do but they frequently pretend otherwise, so men really shouldn’t take no for an answer. And that, my friends, is a very dangerous idea.
I say that plot has fallen by the wayside, but there’s one area where it hasn’t yet—the Hollywood rom com. There you’ll still see Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl stamping her pretty little foot and pouting at the big strong man who’s supposed to come on over and kiss her silly. A lot of these rom coms don’t make a lot of money, and Hollywood wisdom is that it’s because women aren’t a reliable audience. I’d suggest that’s getting it backwards. Women are a very reliable audience. We’ve just grown up a lot since 1985.