celebrity crushes, homeschooled geek style

I’m reading Eric Metaxas’ recent biography of Martin Luther, and it’s the first time in many years I’ve studied Luther in any depth. The first time was when I was in middle school. I don’t remember exactly what I read and/or listened to (there may have been some Adventures in Odyssey episodes involved), but I do know that through this process, I developed a crush on the German monk and reformer. Huh? I know. (Google a picture of him now if you don’t know.) It’s a bit baffling, but I don’t think it was his physical appearance I was drawn to. (Years later, though, Joseph Fiennes played him in a movie, and he looked pretty hot.) It must have been his earnestness in pursuing God’s true will for the Church, his clever and sometimes shockingly bold writing style, and the undeniably romantic way in which he met his wife, a former nun (he hid her when she escaped from her convent). And it probably had a lot to do with the fact that back then I didn’t know a lot of guys–young or old, living or dead.

Surely this factored greatly into my even less explicable crush, around the same time, on Union general Ulysses S. Grant, a short man invariably pictured as scowling and chewing on a cigar. And it’s not like he had a pretty face; actually, you can barely see his face in pictures because it’s covered in one of those full-face beards popular at the time. I don’t think I can explain this one, except that he did win the Civil War. Also, I remember reading that he used to get terrible migraines, and his wife would put a “mustard plaster” (I never understood exactly what this was) on his feet to ease his suffering. I guess I appreciated this humanizing weakness, as well as the humility and gentleness expressed by both parties in the anecdote. I don’t know. The ways of love are mysterious.

The next person I would like to tell you about has the advantage of being young and admittedly cute, but the disadvantage of being completely fictional, not to mention animated. Let me preface this by saying that one of my favorite Disney movies has always been Pocahontas. It was the last animated Disney film that came out before I got arbitrarily too old for Disney movies (roughly age 11), and I still think its music and color palette are gorgeous, even if the love story is as sappy as Grandmother Willow. (That was a tree pun.) You probably think I’m about to say that I had a crush on John Smith, but I didn’t. He was too old for me, too blandly handsome and boringly heroic. Nor did I go for Pocahontas’s arranged fiancee, Kocoum, nor her dad, though as an adult I can now appreciate his stately good looks. No, I was into Thomas, the wimpy redheaded sailor voiced by Christian Bale (though I didn’t know that at the time) who accidentally shot Kocoum because he was too nervous to hold his gun straight. Even now, I have to admit he has a sweet face. (Click the link above to see a picture of him, along with my brief review of Pocahontas.) And I’ve always liked his floppy hat.

I like to think that my celebrity crushes have matured over the years, but on the other hand, what’s more impressive–starring in a few movies or starting the Protestant Reformation? I’ll let you decide. I’d also like to hear about your early celebrity crushes.

my literary crushes

First of all, you’ll all be glad to know that I’ve completed the first draft of the body of my dissertation.  Still to go: revisions, introduction and conclusion, and defense.

I thought I’d write a quick post to address something I’ve been saying a good bit lately.  I’ve been telling people that I “have a crush” on several different fictional characters.  What makes this notable is that I’m not talking about characters in movies, who have the benefit of being played by a cute actor.  I’m talking about characters from books.  Some of them have been portrayed in movies, but not in a way that impressed me in the particular way that I’m talking about.  I’m just going to address three here–two classics and a newcomer–but I’m sure I could come up with more if I thought about it.

1. Hamlet.  I hate it when people reduce Hamlet to the adjectives dark, brooding, and indecisive.  (I don’t think that last one is fair, anyway.  He’s trying to make up his mind about things like whether to believe a ghost and whether to kill his uncle.  These are not decisions to be made quickly.)  He’s also very funny in a reckless sort of way, a devoted son with conflicted but deep feelings about his dead father and his living mother, and a pretty deft swordsman.  He’s got a razor-sharp intellect, but that’s not his defining characteristic.

By the way, the main reason I’m thinking about Hamlet right now is that a friend and I tried to figure out his Myers-Briggs type today.  We settled on INFP.  I would date that.

2. The Deathless Man from Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht.  My book club recently read this 2011 magical realist novel.  The deathless man is this guy who shows up from time to time and basically fulfills the function of Brad Pitt’s character in Meet Joe Black, without the social awkwardness.  I fell in love with him early in the novel, when he was described as having large eyes, a feature I find very attractive.  (For a visual, look up a picture of JJ Feild RIGHT NOW.)  He continued to win me with his polite, calm, and occasionally gently sardonic manner, and then he totally stole my heart near the end when he ordered this fantastically sumptuous meal at a hotel in order to make a dying waiter happy, but clearly enjoyed it for what it was, not just for the good deed angle.  I like a man who likes to eat good food.

3. Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities.  I guess it’s a cliché to fall in love with the guy who says, “It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done.”  If so, I’m happy to be a cliché.  This is our current book club selection, and I’m about 100 pages in and remembering how much I love this man who sacrifices himself (in so many ways throughout the novel, not just at the end) without being an insufferable martyr, who is bitter without being cruel, and who loves long and hopelessly without being a sentimental sap.*  I’ve long noticed a similarity in stories between Sydney Carton and Severus Snape, but Carton is a more pleasant character because he doesn’t take himself so seriously.  (Note that this is a theme for me.)

While we’re on this topic: There hasn’t been a good Tale of Two Cities movie in a long time, so I’m taking suggestions for two actors who look similar enough to play Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay.  You can’t have the same actor play them, because then you’d have this weird fantasy doppelganger thing, which would take the focus off what’s really going on.  Please leave me your suggestions, along with your own literary crushes, in the comments.

*Which he could have easily become if Dickens hadn’t restrained himself.  I love Charles Dickens very much, but I’m willing to admit that he sometimes warms my heart so much I want to throw up.