08 December, 2011

Here A Duke, There A Duke, Everywhere A Duke, Duke...

Snow White's First Clue by meoskop
Snow White's First Clue, a photo by meoskop on Flickr.
I am on Duke Overload. I closed the final page on Eloisa James Winning The Wallflower and thought if I see one more Duke, even Mr. Nukem, I would scream. I realize that the Duke has become the go to guy for Romanceland, he is the Greek Billionaire Tycoon of UK set novels. (Look what's happened to the Greek economy. We are experiencing an epic ducal bubble.) Why is The Duke currently so prevalent? Is it an ultimate power grab? I don't understand it. Why would our heroine want to be a Duchess? Wouldn't she know some seriously unhappy women already holding that title? A wise heroine only needs to consider the Devonshire family tree to know that a satisfying life is not a Duke away. Now our heroines are choosing between multiple Dukes.

It rather makes my head hurt.

The Duke is a creature of entitlement and power. He has wide ranging responsibility and has been raised in an isolated chamber. His world view is one of insular concerns and privileged assumptions. Even when our Duke is carefully grown outside the petri dish of his breeding and catapulted to the higher realm, his concerns are not our concerns. When I read about someone's patrician features or evidence of nobility hidden beneath the dirt of their lowered circumstances I wonder what our problem is.

Do you not know any rich people?

I know a great number of them. For every absolutely wonderful person there are a thousand more. Maybe two thousand. Conversations among the socially concerned and wealthy in America are enough to make you stick a fork in your brain. The deep divide between worthy people and unworthy people is a thin veneer on the ingrained class and racial biases of many of the elite classes. When all you have is knowing you are better than someone else, you say stupid things (like Newt Gingrich's epic assumption that poor children have no work ethic). When you tell me your hero is a Duke I see Newt, I see Trump. When her refined breeding cannot be denied, I see Paris Hilton or Ivanka. (Actually, Ivanka looks she'd be fun to spend an evening with. That said, I don't see her leading a rally against the anti-semetic clubs of the Palm Beaches.) Romanceland is full of compassionate conservatives. I just don't buy it because I know them. Everything changes when it goes from the abstract to the concrete, from giving the Haitian maid a bonus to your son marrying her.

Romance used to examine class with a little less awe. Maybe it still does and I've had a bad run. I do know I have read books this year with the heroine picking coins out of mud (still with her delicate bones speaking to her better beginnings) and starving brothers and desperate times. It just seems the noise of eugenics and class is getting louder. There's a passage in an upcoming book where the hero muses he can't be understood. No one of his current class can comprehend where he came from and no one of his former class could comfortably walk in his current one. Why then are we so eager to embrace the highest most exclusionary class of all? I don't think birth equates worth or wealth opportunity. Too much wealth is toxic. Too little is toxic.

Give me a Magistrate over a Duke.

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