Book boyfriends and Jamie Fraser…some lite research

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I’ve been seeing a term used a lot lately; it’s the term book boyfriends. There are polls, websites and blogs dedicated to the topic. In fact, one of my posts was used by an on-line book club to spark a discussion about alpha book boyfriends.

Evidently, there is an established criteria that male fictional characters are being measured against to establish their book boyfriend worthiness. Included in this criteria are characteristics such as strength, wit, fighting skills, looks, and virility.  The members of The Saucy Wenches Book Club were discussing the merits of their favorite book boyfriends and why each needed to be included in a list of top Alpha Book Boyfriends. Reading the bantering of the members was enlightening. One of the bones of contention was the idea that James Fraser, of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, might be too perfect to reign atop the ultimate alpha book boyfriend list!  If Jamie is too perfect, he’s my kind of too perfect!  These “flaws” that people love in their book boyfriends make for interesting reading, but do not equate to desirable qualities in a good real-life relationship.  In fact, take my advice as an old woman with a 38 yr. marriage under her belt, should you encounter a man with some of these “interesting” flaws, run. run like hell!  There seems to be a difference in what women want in real-life and….Hmmmmm…..

This discussion piqued my curiosity and I wanted to know more!  I started googling book boyfriends.  There were pages of links to the words’ use, but curiously enough, I couldn’t find a definition.  Thinking that I must be mistaken, I googled again. Nope!  Even the urban dictionary lacked a definition for this phenomenon.  Well, I thought to myself, SOMEBODY is missing out on some interesting social research!  Now, I know falling in love with fictional characters isn’t new, but has it ever been studied?  I mean, we know they’re not real, right? Right!  And yet, the feelings they inspire are real. At least…while I’m reading..and Fangirling with my like-minded friends. Seriously, if someone had just walked into the room during one of these sessions, I’m pretty sure they would think we were all lusting after a real man. Hmmmm….interesting.

So… I googled, “why do we fall in love with fictional characters?”.  I found that there seems to be a couple of trains of thought:

  • Women who fall in love with fictional characters are unhappy with themselves and their own lives.
  • We desire the kind of love the character offers.

I’m not sure I’m too happy about either of those options. So, I set about to find evidence to disprove the idea that the reason I love James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser is because I’m some desperately unhappy woman with low-self-esteem and an unrealistic idea of love and relationships!  There had to be another explanation. There are too many of us out there who would appear to be highly functioning, relatively happy women with okay self-esteem who love book-boyfriends! Soooooo,…… Let the “lite” research begin!

THE FINDINGS

One of the first articles I came across was written by a Yahoo contributor named Kyra Lennon. Back in August of 2010, she wrote an article exploring her love for J.K. Rowlings character Sirius Black. She had come to the conclusion that her love for Sirius was just an, “Extension of my love of J.K. Rowlings writing skills.”  Whoo hoo! I liked this!  It’s Diana’s fault! If she wasn’t so damn skilled at writing three dimensional characters, I wouldn’t have an issue!  My love for Jamie is just a natural progression fueled by my appreciation of Diana’s writing skills.  Sigh…..nope…still wishing I was Claire.  Damn….and that rationale sounded all “intellectual” and everything!

Ms. Lennon went on to add that she thought the “fantasy” for women was that these male characters could be perfect. “They will never disappoint or hurt us and they’ll be there when we need them”. She added she felt loving fictional men was okay, as long as it isn’t an obsession.  Obsession. Well, there’s a term I’ll need to clarify!

NEXT

I found a WIKI page entitled, “How to Cope with Being in Love with a Fictional Character”.  It didn’t take me long to realize these people were serious! This was REAL advice for those who found themselves obsessed with someone who wasn’t real.  The article pointed out that loving a fictional character can cause you to disconnect with real-life and judge others harshly because you are focusing on perfection. They deemed this to be unhealthy and encouraged people to “fall out” of love. (ya’ think?) The very serious wake-up call for their readers who were seeking help was to understand that the character they are in love with…can’t love them back.  Wow.

AND

Uh..oh…a response to a fan written by Karen Moning, the author of the Fever Series, and creator of Jericho Barrons some serious book boyfriend material.  He is one of those seriously flawed, but totally readable and sexy characters that many women love to love. Ms. Moning seems to be aware that some fans have difficulty keeping reality and fantasy separate and warns us to, “not pretend they are real”.  Women who compare real men to fictional men have,” expectations that are way too high”.  Not, sure I agree. Oh, I’m okay with the don’t pretend they are real part, but what defines way too high?  If she means the whole idea of a man who never smells, burps or forgets to take out the garbage, etc. then okay, but what’s wrong with aspiration and emulation? What’s wrong with having standards? Good is good!  I’m not so sure some men couldn’t learn some things from fictional characters! Nobody is perfect, but don’t we all want to grow and become better versions of ourselves?  I know good when I see it, fictional or real!

….and…

Debra Montieth wrote an article in 2009 asking the question, “Why do women love fictional characters?” Her conclusion? How could they not?  Most fictional heroes are affectionate, beautiful, perfect lovers, listeners, protectors, sensitive and faithful. What’s not to love? This would appear to support the whole “women will get unrealistic expectations theory”, but she was like all, “so what”!  I liked her.

A GENERAL CONSENSUS

Many of the articles I found agreed that engaging in a relationship with a fictional character can be healthy not harmful. They pointed out that getting away from everyday life and real relationships for a bit is a good thing.  They point out that a little escapism never hurt anybody. But,….there’s always a but…they all warned that women need to be on guard against obsession. There’s that word again!

TO TELL THE TRUTH

To tell you the truth, I didn’t find a lot. I found lists of the top book boyfriends extolling the afore mentioned criteria, but not any serious research.

I found articles on why women love bad boys. That might correlate. Being able to love a bad boy on the page would be much easier and safer than loving one in real-life.

I did find one item of real research entitled, “Research of Mass Media Effects on Individuals and Society” by Mary Lou Galician, 2009.  It wasn’t directly aimed at book boyfriends or the women who read them, but it did have some things to say in general about romanticism and it helped me clarify obsession.

The author points out that at the obsessive extreme, ” romantic relationships are a form of addiction”.  This obsession results in, “disabling attachment filled with anxiety, fantasy,and over dependence”.  She labels this as , ” false love syndrome” which is mythical and stereotypical .  Real love she points out is about shared goals and commitment. Real love is “productive, enlarging and joyful” .  Good things to know.

I GUESS I HAVE TO GUESS

Due to a lack of documented research or my ability to find it, I have come to the conclusion I have to make a hypotheses.  My best guess based on my experience and observation.

WHY I LOVE JAMMF

I guess I do kinda blame Diana.  She didn’t write a romance. Instead, she wrote a love story. As a result, she created a character with character and substance.  Jamie isn’t a book boyfriend. No, rather, I find him to be as close to the real thing, a man, as I’ve ever read.  He isn’t perfect, but he does exemplify a man with values, integrity and the ability to love.  I believe Ms. Gabaladon has written a character worthy of my admiration. I recognize a good thing when I see it!  I know he isn’t real and I know he doesn’t love me back.  But, I do think he is a man worth emulating and I think men could do far worse than learn a thing or two from Jamie Fraser.

I’m not unhappy with my life, but I do enjoy the escape from the everyday Ms. Gabaldon’s books offer.  I think it’s ok to live In her world for awhile. After all, she does .  I find it healthy.  It challenges me mentally and emotionally.  However, I am on the look out for the obsession part! I laughingly say I’m obsessed, but I am still able to reign it back and function.

I’m sure there are woman out there desperately unhappy and looking for an unrealistic love.  But, most of the women I know understand the difference between fictional and real. And, sometimes the fantasy helps when real life sucks. If you want to know what I really think of James Fraser read my article on this site called “He’s a Man and That’s No Small Thing” http://wp.me/p4mtBT-41. It’s the one used for back-up info in the alpha book boy friend contest.

 

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28 thoughts on “Book boyfriends and Jamie Fraser…some lite research

  1. tabby1249

    I’ve had a couple of ‘book boyfriends.’ One was Bill Compton in the SVM series and the other is Captain Gerald Lacey from the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries series. Of course Bill Compton turned out to be a twerp, but managed to partially redeem himself.

    Captain Lacey is a man with some understandable flaws who I find to be persistent, perseverent, principled and clever. He is handsome , but dealing with an injury from the Peninsular wars of the early 19th century. He has a quick temper especially when he believes injustice is being done. He also suffers from bouts of depression from time to time. Last, but certainly not least he is dead sexy in his own way. I find him very, very relatable and someone I’d like to know in real life.

    As far as Jamie being ‘too perfect,’ I have to admit I’ve thought that myself from time to time. It seems that virtually every character wants to be with him, noticed by him and loved by him. He has certainly shown his flaws from time to time, but they’ve most often been related to something dealing with Claire. I suppose that’s only natural since they are husband and wife. It is usually our spouses who see both the best and worst of us if they truly know us.

  2. RebeccaG

    Why do I love JAMMF? Let me count the ways. . .no seriously, he does exemplify all that real women desire in a real man. You’ve listed all the attributes, or most of them anyway. Almost all the other characters are just as richly drawn, and they serve as satellites for our Jamie. He’s that one rare person that can be truly himself, and everyone will gravitate to him because of his deep character and love for life. But, as for me, I love JAMMF because he completely, utterly, out of this world, simply loves Claire. Period. With his whole being.

    DG did write Jamie, and Claire, to give us people who are truly human, flawed, reachable, touchable, and with very interesting lives. Neither one is “perfect” and that is what makes them believable, and what makes us love them.

  3. “Book Boyfriends” is a term that doesn’t really fit Jamie Fraser. “Book Husband” would be more like it, or “Book Soul Mate”, because Jamie has depth to his character, a character that Diana has explored and shared with us for over 20 years now. It’s more like a “Book Marriage” we have with Jamie, although he doesn’t know about all of us panting over him and wishing we were Claire.

    And that’s Diana’s genius – writing a story that is so different from the rest of what’s out there; we’ll all keep voting for Jamie in all “book boyfriend” polls, but the story cannot so easily be pigeon-holed, nor can Jamie.

    Jamie & Claire’s story is not a romance, not about dating or courtship (“boyfriend” stuff). It’s about what makes two people forge a relationship that can endure separation, hardship, tragedy, the stuff of marriage vows: for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death us do part.

    Sometimes I worry a bit for single women (or even married ones) who have made Jamie Fraser their model of what they look for in a husband. Jamie is so wonderful, most real men won’t measure up. But we’re not meant to be married to Jamie or Claire; they already have each other and we must each find our own path. That said, the honesty and fidelity modeled by Jamie and Claire are worthy of emulation.

  4. I admit it! I love JAMMF! My husband of 25 years knows this about me, as do my three adult sons. How could they not? From June to September of this year I spent nearly every free moment (and many daydreams) with my book boyfriend, curled up in a chair or on the bed. It took that long to read Diana Gabaldon’s entire series, plus The Scottish Prisoner. To be fair, I’m also in love with Claire; her propensity for trouble mirrors my own and sometimes I need saving.

    While the study of why people fall in love with fictional characters appears to be early in its evolution, I expect we’ll find it has little to do with self-esteem or unrealistic ideas about love and relationships. I have a very good real life relationship and I think my self-esteem is largely intact. Still, JAMMF is never far from my thoughts. I think he has become a safe and hope-filled place in my mind, one full of loving thoughts and tenderness, honesty, bravery, loyalty and integrity. Speaking and acting from that place lifts me up and makes my real life a better place to be. Why wouldn’t I hang onto him?

    Thank you for the research!

    • I loved your response! Yes, I’m in a great relationship and yet,….loving me some Jamie & Claire. I keep reassuring my husband that HE would like Jamie too! He represents all that my REAL boyfriend (DH) values. Love your comments that because the story is on your mind you react to life from a good place! TY!

  5. amorley552014

    Love your posts as always Beth. Love when people coin a phrase but never define said phrase. I think Jamie is great and I love him. But I realize he is not real. At all times. There is no perfect man. Or person. But he is a good man, especially for his time. And I have to know what everything about his and Claire’s life. I must. They are part of me. It is not an obsession as much as that. They are family.

  6. lisadalethomas1

    Not long ago, my oldest daughter was over for a visit and we were looking at a map of Scotland. The Clan Map in fact. I was pointing out to DD that our ancient Cummins Clan lived very near the Fraser Clan and that there was a good possibility that the Cummins/Fraser clans had probably known and married each other and that I really should get serious about tracing our family history. DD looked at me with the saddest expression on her face and said “Mom you do know that Jamie isn’t real…right?” I burst out laughing. OF COURSE I DO.

    But the Cummins’ and Fraser’s ARE real. And Outlander has stirred within me a passion. A passion for knowledge about my history. A passion for Scotland. A passion for kilted Highland warriors. A passion for men (and women) of integrity and fierce loyalty that loved and knew that they may have to die to protect those people and things that they loved. That was life and they knew it and accepted it and they were real. So is JAMMF real? No. He’s a fictional character BUT men like that have in the past and do exist. I fell in love with Jamie 22 years ago. Just about the time that I fell in love with Claire and Murtagh and Mrs. Fitz and Lord John Gray. And at exactly the same time that I came to despise Black Jack Randall and be disgusted by Dougal. Are they real? No but the passions that Diana Gabaldon, with her masterful storytelling, has awakened in millions of readers is real and enduring.

    Single women (I’ve been single for 30 years) aren’t looking for the King of Men. They just want a man of passion and integrity and character. A man that loves them and will be honest and faithful and willing to sacrifice themselves for the family…so yeah I guess we are looking for a version JAMMF. And it’s about time too. Too many young women have “settled” for lazy, worthless, liars, cheats and too often abusers. Time to stop settling and wait for our version JAMMF to find us. And while we wait we can spend time with DG’s version…and a yummy version it is too.

    • Wow! Your response is one of the reasons I love writing this blog. You expressed exactly what I was trying to express! LOL! It was lovely and moving! And …, obviously I agree totally with your conclusions. Thank you for reading and taking the time to respond!

  7. Beth, it appears I’m fan-girling you. Remember when we kept blogging almost identical thoughts a while back? I feel we express many of the same ideas and feelings onły you do it in a brave, straight-forward way and I do it like a semi-unhinged loon. But somehow we both get there in the end.

  8. Susan Van Hoven

    I think the reason why I love Jamie is that he feels like a soul mate. He is very much like my husband. We’ve been married for 34 years and there were so many times while reading that I would think Jamie sounds like my husband and it just made me love the both of them more. I see so many things about Claire’s personality that are like mine. In fact, if I didn’t know she was from England, I would have sworn she was a Jersey Girl too.

  9. Deb

    I’m a happily married woman (for 39 years!) and I’ve always had a book boyfriend or two, especially when I was young because my parents didn’t allow me to mix much with other kids. I do have to admit that Jamie is the one I’ve “loved” most. I had one when I was very young before I had real boyfriends. He taught me some of the things to look for in a real boyfriend. When my real boyfriends disappointed me, I always had a book boyfriend to turn to. When I married, my book boyfriend was just that. A friend. Somewhere to go to relax. When I remarried and acquired step children, my book boyfriends became very important again-a refuge, a place to go where I wasn’t judged, didn’t feel constant rejection and where I felt accepted again. As an older woman, Jamie is who my husband was 30 years ago. It reminds me that even though my body has aged, my mind and emotions are still as vital as ever, and Jamie is very much like my husband was then. Plus he’s great to look at! Book boyfriends fill in the “chinks”!

  10. jacobitejill

    This post is fabulous and I am so grateful that you have shared your process. When my fixation with Jaime first presented itself, I was startled to say the least causing me to do the same internet research (and I came across many of the same articles!!) I felt in necessary to understand the book boyfriend experience because I was clearly in the throws of it!

    Prior to binge watching the first part of season one on Starz, I had never heard of Outlander. This was in Feb of this year. I then started reading the books and I anonymously admit, that it opened up an emotional world for me that had ceased to exist after my first year of marriage (and about 6 months into my first pregnancy). Back then life was full of…well…life and when I did have an opportunity to read fiction, I indulged in murder mysteries and period stories without dynamic romantic relationships. So I was oh so pleasantly reborn with feelings of exuberant passion, the stages of new love and of course the page turning suspense! The cause for all of this emotion was 100% Jaime and his love for Claire. (sigh)

    I just finished Snow and Ashes last night. Obviously, I have done a lot of reading over the last 4 months! And yes, I admit it, I am pretty much head over heels in love with Jaime. I have never experienced the “book boyfriend syndrome” before, my last semi-obsession with someone who wasn’t real was in 2001 with Russell Crow’s Gladiator character. I guess I have a type although my husband of 12 years is nothing like Jaime yet our relationship has developed a new intimacy since I started reading Outlander. He is my partner, best friend and co-parent but romance has pleasantly not been a big part of our marriage. I say pleasantly because neither of us felt a need for it to be close to one another. But now I feel amorous and passionate and my love for my husband is being channeled differently which has, in turn, transformed his for me.

    I’ll be honest, there have been times when I have walked the tightrope with my affection for Jaime…after I have read a particularly steamy love scene (several times – they are so amazingly titillating), after a Jaime-centric tragedy, or if I have spent the whole day reading (yes, it has happened… on vacation, when it rained, a couple days when the kids were in school and I didn’t have anything on my calendar). When I found my self “longing” for him for lack of another word, I put the book down for a few days, make an extra effort to engage with the many joys in my life and the obsession dissipates.

    My net-net as of this moment and time is that I love James Fraser. I think about him often during my day and admire all the qualities you listed above. But he is my FANTASY… the perfect man… and yet I know he is not real and that he could never love me back. I wouldn’t want him to because then he would live in my time and I have no desire to see him in blue jeans or driving an SUV. Alternately, I have no interest in inhaling the odors and fumes of the 18th century, living in the humidity of North Carolina nor the chill or Scotland (especially without a down jacket and an electric heater.) But I love him for sure and if that makes me wackadoodle on the Richter scale I cannot tell you how happy I am that I have company!

  11. SF

    Glad to have recently discovered your blog! Just wondering if you are aware that a book has been written based on the premise of an Outlander reader falling in love with Jamie. It’s called “Finding Fraser.” http://www.findingfraser.com
    I haven’t read it, but thought you would be interested.
    -Slainte!

  12. Salome Engelbrecht

    My dear wonderful women!

    The answer is so very simple.
    The reason we fall in love with James Fraser is because he is the male version of our very selves.
    We sacrifice ourselves everyday without complain.
    We sometimes suffer in silence and still muster the strength to get up and show up.
    Do we love with all our being?
    Do we get to the end of giving just to find out that there is still more to give? Even if we know we’ll never get it back?
    Do we hide our pain?
    Will we die for love?
    Will we fight to the end to protect? Does our spirit break when our bodies are being broken?
    Do we love with passion?
    Are we loyal?
    Do we have fire in our souls?
    Are we brave?
    Are we warriors?

    Yes we bloody are!

    I have fogotten about my ex in one day because of Jamie.
    I deserve it all because if I can give it, there must be someone who can give it back.
    And even if I never find it, I will always have me.
    So are we unrealistic?

    Naaah….

    We all deserve a James Fraser because we are women……

    and we are wonderful.

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