The scene where the prince (whatever his name – does he really matter?) kissed her and she wakes up? Perfection.
But as I got older, I started thinking about what happened after The End? Did Sleeping Beauty get a job or maybe crank out a passel of kids? Probably the latter. (It >was< set in medieval times, after all.) Did she and her prince go off on a bunch of adventures afterwards? Doubtful. Bet she got stuck pretending to enjoy embroidery instead of getting to race around on steeds or something awesome like that.
Well, that revelation was kind of a bummer.
Then I started reading my mom’s stash of romance novels, circa 1980-1986 publication dates. Those Harlequins and Silhouettes sure got the pulse pounding. The books were great fun. But again something wasn’t quite right. The damsel in distress(D.I.D.)/sleeping beauty might have had her own life or a sort-of career. But more often than not she got pushed around by Rich Dude/Cold Businessman into being his woman and dumping aforementioned career in lieu of having kids/enjoying lounging on the beach in Capri/arranging flowers or whatever sinecure she was allowed to do post marriage.
Then came one of my all-time favorite series, Ruth Langan’s Highlander series that came out in the 1990’s. Such an awesome series, I still have the originals in a shoebox in my closet. Now we had something good! The heroines had most of their sh#t together during a time period when women mostly sat around and did exciting things like embroidery, and no, she didn’t really need a dude, thanks for asking and damn most of those society mores. But when the muscle-y fella showed up and swept her off her feet, she was also down with that, circa 1560 or so.
But she was still a D.I.D., and somewhere in the story, the dude still had to rescue her/wake her up from an unconscious state. Ok, so still Sleeping Beauty/D.I.D..
What happened over the next twenty years is a testament to how awesome women are in general, and how the writers have adapted to match our new reality. At the same time, the alpha heroes got more alpha-y. Like, because women were so fabulous at kicking ass on their own, either the guys had to be so over-the-top alpha or the situation was so over-the-top horrific that she needed some professional help, usually in the form of a hunky, massive warrior with piercing eyes. Yum. Even then, there were some tough women who were still D.I.D.'s.
Don’t get me wrong, I like all of that strong woman + uber-alpha stuff. Lots of readers do, or authors like J.R. Ward, Maya Banks, Rebecca Zanetti and so many others wouldn’t be so successful.
But then I saw Sleeping Beauty again. Did I get the feels? Well, yes, but I was kind of sad. I kept wondering what Sleeping Beauty most likely said to herself after waking up: “Now what?” This time, ‘The End’ left me empty.
You know what, though? The D.I.D. never went away. Sleeping Beauty still exists. Only now, their partners are less sexist (and if they are sexist, the D.I.D corrects the dude’s attitude or there will be No Sex for him), there are joint goals or joint decision-making, and readers are promised that after The End, there are more adventures to come.
Long live the Damsel in Distress! She's still alive and kicking (ass).
Jillian David writes alpha heroes and butt-kicking heroines, and yeah, sometimes one or both parties are unconscious and need assistance, often in the form of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. And that's a-okay.