Nudity! Goths! Lace ruffs! Book characters I had a crush on.
At the risk of undermining all my credibility (if I have any), I’ve decided to share with you three embarrassing facts from my early reading life.
So I present to you the three characters from literature that I had a crush on. Intellectual, no? The point is, I got that much more into reading because of three pretend males. Don’t act like that’s weird.
3. Hamlet, Hamlet
OK, so this one is sort of cheating. Sometimes we like things because we associate them with other things we like. Sounds simplistic? It is. It’s exactly the same as liking the song that you associate with a significant other. (Never do that, by the way – it will ruin future playlisting activities once you’ve broken up.)
Hamlet landed bang smack in the middle of a very big Formative Years crossroads:
– Hamlet wore a lot of black. I wore a lot of black. It’s like Shakespeare GOT ME. (Or at least, outed me as a narcissist.)
– I was just thinking that I wrote splendid goth prose when along came “’Tis now the very witching time of night.” William, you terribly violent man!
– I had A-level English lessons with my best friend, so whenever we read Horatio and Hamlet, we got the friendship. You know? You know. So it was very special.
– My A-level English teacher was excellent. She sounded a bit like Joanna Scanlan, which was nice, because it meant she was calming to be around.
– All three of us had huge crushes on David Tennant. (One time, best friend and I changed the teacher’s PC background to a naked Tennant photo, right before she was going to do a presentation via projector. The reaction was awesome. Our classmates were either amused or mentally scarred; the three of us went very giggly. Anyway anyway anyway.) This was 2008, when That Production of Hamlet was about to go on. Best friend and I saw it (it ruled), and my love of the play, and Hamlet himself, increased.
You see what a potent cocktail I was drinking of that year? It was great.
(It’s also why I am totally behind “celebrity Shakespeare” – if it gets younger people to enjoy it, good.)
Any nudity aside (hahaHA! I only included it in my title to make you read!), Hamlet as a character is pretty much a moping girl’s dream. He’s a sensitive, intelligent young man. And even if he is completely irritating – no teenage girl realises that they or their peers are getting on everyone’s nerves, so that’s all right.
I went on to maintain my interest in the play – it got me a First for the first essay I ever wrote at university. I credit my inner 18-year-old.
2. Severus Snape, the Harry Potter series
I almost started reading the books at the wrong point (the horror!). The only reason I picked up Prisoner of Azkaban was because the thing on the cover was part horse, and I was one of those eleven-year-olds.
Luckily I was stopped and sent away with the correct book. Then Snape happened. It is made quite clear in the first book that he is a sexually unviable, savagely clever man. Turns out, this is exactly what I wanted. I didn’t get any hormone-related insanity until I was about 19, when I spent a whole summer arguing with my mum, and then it was done. Point is, I didn’t care about my burgeoning sexuality. I didn’t even have one. I was a young sapiosexual.
My bonding continued when more and more of his backstory matched mine (more narcissism!) – bullied at school, written off as being antisocial, poor people management skills. I haven’t yet joined an evil cult and started to kill people. But if I do I’ll probably switch back to the Good Side, because that’s what Snape did, and I’m like Snape, right?
In a reverse of what happened with Hamlet, my crush intensified once I saw Alan Rickman in costume. I did develop a parallel obsession with Alan Rickman. I mean, obviously.
1. Captain Hook, Peter Pan
I’ve always liked villains. Nothing happened to make me like them; I always have preferred them to heroes. It’s not even like an “Errr look at me I must be so detached and depraved” thing: I just really like villains. Anti-heroes, too, come to think of it.
What’s J. M. Barrie’s pirate captain, then? Obviously, he’s both at the same time, it all depends on whose side you’re on as you read. This makes him completely fascinating.
I asked on my Twitter yesterday if anyone had a crush on a Disney character as a child. I got back sensible answers like Aladdin and Eric. Three-year-old me instead chose to love the animated Hook. I can’t work out why. I think it was probably the hair. Maybe the clothes, too. Oh, and now I think of it, the voice.
So a few years later, I read Peter Pan. I hated it. I wrote in my reading diary that there was “too much description” and that I “don’t want to hear about each individual Lost Boy”. What I was really getting at was that there was far too little Hook for my liking.
When I re-read, I realised what a wealth of information there was about him. Did you know, for example, that he finds wild flowers beautiful? Or that he’s tormented by his strict Eton upbringing? Do you remember the bit where his eyes get red dots in them just before he kills? If you haven’t read the book, do it now. Barrie’s lonely grownup is a beautifully formed character – rife with sadness and anger. There’s something inhuman there too. He’s fascinating. (To see him done right on film, watch Jason Isaacs’s portrayal in the 2003 version.)
Barrie drops a tantalising hint that Hook is of noble blood. He consciously dresses like Charles II. Charlie’s descendent Prince William has disappointed on the abundant hair front. Not Hook. Do you know any villains who could carry off long ringlets? You do now. Hook also wears lace ruffs. LACE RUFFS. How does a bad guy do this without being terribly camp? (Hint: not by being played by Dustin Hoffman, although that is a very entertaining film.)
There’s also the fact that my primary school best friend nicknamed me Hook because of my long curly hair.
What you can conclude from this article is that I’m a massive narcissist who likes to see elements of myself in the books I read, and that I really like bad guys. I hope you feel enlightened.