The Makings of a Modern Heartthrob. (Read on fellas. All the way to the end. There’s some top intel here)

The other day I watched Top Gun again. I was a total fan in the eighties, Tom Cruise dazzled me. But when I watched it now, I was like, PEE-YEW!

reese ew

How was I ever in love with ‘Maverick’ Mitchell?  Through my 2020 lens he is a shocker.

A clue came to me via the wealth of knowledge that is all things history, Dr Glen Thompson, who put me on to the work of social and cultural historian Carol Dyhouse. She’s written a book entitled Heartthrobs, A History of Women and Desire. This book shows how change in the social position of women shapes their dreams about men.

An article on Dyhouse’s work in New Books Network explains:

“Education and wage-earning brought independence and a widening of cultural horizons. Young women in the early twentieth century showed a sustained appetite for novel-reading, cinema-going, and the dancehall. They sighed over Rudolph Valentino’s screen performances, as tango-dancer, Arab tribesman, or desert lover. Contemporary critics were sniffy about “shop-girl” taste in literature and in men, but as consumers, girls had new clout.”

For example, Dyhouse explains that in the fifties, Doctor and Nurse stories were hot stuff in romance novels. Mills & Boon could not get enough writers to keep up with the demand. Why?  Well, Dyhouse proposes that after World War 2 women were looking for security and stability at home, and who could provide better than a McDreamy Doctor?

Since I write love stories, I thought it best that I acquaint myself with what makes a heartthrob in fiction/movies/popular culture  in light of women’s social position TODAY and what better place to do an absolutely unscientific study than on  Facebook?

103 comments later, here he is guys. The hands down, all-time winner-by-a-country-mile, the definition of what makes a heartthrob in 2020 for women in the south of Cape Town:

jason momoa

pic cred: American Airlines Magazine


Yeah baby.  The mamas like this guy. Jason Momoa.

side note: (very extremely different to Tom Cruise of 1986 right? Actually Tom Cruise of any year)

The only other person mentioned is the also-fabulous Gerard Butler. (Butler’s role in Chasing Mavericks btw, inspired elements of my character Matthew in Shadow Flicker.)

gerard butler mavericks

pic: pinterest

Kinda similar to Jason? But with less muscle. And fewer votes.

Anyway, as a public service to all the potential heartthrobs out there, I analysed the unscientific data and wrote it down. Good news for the silver foxes is that Not One Respondent mentioned youth as a must. Bad news for the bossy boys however: the Alpha Male is out. While wearing a beard or being clean shaven are not  game changers, a few other things  are.  Here are the salient points, guys, if you want to know what women dream of. Some of the items, like #2, are astonishingly simple.

  1.  Save the planet. The most desired quality in a 2020 heartthrob is environmental advocacy. (Jason has it…OBVIOUSLY) If you’re thinking of a coffee lid, a straw or a plastic bag, think again. The ladies are not interested in men who aren’t trying to save the planet.   ‘A man with compassion for animals, nature and the environment’ ‘Cares deeply about the planet ‘ ‘On a journey to try to save the planet.’ ‘Greenpeace activist type.’

    climate change speech

    UN/The Independent

  2. DO NOT STINK.  You would think this is basic, but I was floored by how many women’s real life experience must be malodorous enough to inform this fantasy of an odour-free man. Pongs of any kind our OUT. Breath, body and any other unmentionable smells of any kind are a non-starter.  This includes TOO MUCH COLOGNE . Also dental hygiene. Own teeth for the win. Yes. Someone took the time to type that in.  (Take note that Jason is cleansed from the ocean in the above picture and his teeth are not straight out of the Zombie Apocalypse. Disclaimer. Do not take this to mean a surf counts as a bath IRL.)pew poo B99
  3. Get off the couch. (It’s clear Momoa is no couch potato) A fit, outdoorsman seems  to be the bomb in 2020.  Run, paddle, surf, cycle, do sports,  swim, dance, play cricket with the kids.  During the tedious process of research for this article I discovered that Jason is also a stand up paddle boarder.  So of course he’s a heartthrob. Zoom in if you must.
  4. Be kind and gentle, tough guy. It’s okay to be in touch with your emotions. While women want to be protected in the face of danger, they do love a heartthrob who ‘cries in movies’, is ‘kind, gentle, empathetic’ , has a ‘connection to his family’, is ‘kind to old folk/generous, demonstrative, affectionate’ and ‘humble’ FYI check out this vid where  Jason is not afraid to cry, ‘his heart has always been as big as his biceps”
  5. Unplug.  I took ‘Something with a heartbeat and doesn’t sit on his phone on the couch’ as a sign that this point needed a heading of its own. ‘Doesn’t do social media’ ‘not searching or on Tinder!’ ‘Doesn’t have a tv.’ ‘ability to be present’
  6. Cook.  (Will settle for Braai. Please note that cooking includes the mental load ie. think up a meal, make a list, shop for it and then cook it and…clean the heck up.) And Yup. You  guessed it. Aquaman cooks.

    jason cooking

    pic credit Esquire

So there you have it. Bear in mind – a) my non-scientific study group was an FB Moms group so all the non-moms  might not feel the same way b) my non-scientific group all live in or near the South Peninsula in Cape Town, so the Joburgers might have another view.  Who knows, maybe they still like Tom Cruise?

Of course there is one heartthrob who had been loved by women for over two hundred years,  is time-proof and remains a heartthrob no matter what, forever and ever. You know who?

Mr Darcy, of course. See why below *

My current fictional heartthrob is that guy in Virgin River on Netflix. Oh my, have you watched it? It’s based on the Harlequin Book series by Robyn Carr, which I am now going to read of course. There are 20 books in the series so I’ve got a way to go. The Netflix show is a little Hallmarky in places, but I don’t mind that because Jack-the-kind-ex-marine-Barman? Hello.

I’d love to hear who your fictional heartthrob is.  My local teens and tweens tell me theirs is Tom Holland. 

*Why have women loved Darcy for centuries?  …”it has been that this man, this proud, manly man, loves Lizzie Bennet. He ardently admires and loves a spirited, fearless, funny woman, who says what she thinks, who thumbs her nose at female silence and compliance. He is not intimidated by her; he does not wish her to be less than she is.”  – Caroline Criado-Perez, The Guardian

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