Dr. Gregory House is a Romantic Hero. Actually a very classic Romantic Hero (actually let’s get more specific and call him a Byronic hero.) Yes, I mean that Gregory House, as in House, MD (airing on FOX Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Central time). You mean that sarcastic, misanthropic, lazy bastard? Yup, and in all sincerity.
The thing is, House’s appeal is a great deal more than his acerbic wit; his cutting (and sometimes cruel) remarks; his occasionally bizarre behavior (i.e. sticking a metal object into a wall outlet in order to prove a point about the afterlife). Some people ascribe House’s main appeal to his sense of humor. Yes, House can be funny. He cracks jokes, deflecting attempts at serious engagement with a witty remark or quip. Series creator David Shore has said that people like House because he gets away with saying things that social convention prohibits. But that sort of appeal would never be enough to engage me in the way Dr. Gregory House has.
So, back to this “Romantic Hero” stuff. I've been an avid reader of The Victorian Novel since I was in high school (and trust me, that was a LONG time ago.) My favorite of that genre will always be Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The male protagonist (Jane is the heroine of the novel) Edward Rochester is the quintessential Romantic Hero of Victorian literature. He has a dark past, including a secret marriage to a madwoman whom he keeps locked in the estate attic.
Manipulated into this tragic marriage by his father and father-in-law when he was a sensitive and idealistic young man, Rochester finds solace through self-indulgence and debauchery. Until he meets her — Jane Eyre. And it is through Jane that Rochester seeks redemption of his weary and “soul-withered” self. Though he offers marriage when he is not free to do so, we still have sympathy for Rochester’s plight and long for him and Jane to ultimately be (re)united. And teenage girls and women alike are captivated generation after generation by this classic Victorian novel (and the brooding Rochester) and others like it. It’s not that the heroes are “bad boys.” It is that the heroes are wounded; in need of healing — doing “good” despite themselves and captivating us in the process.