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Not All Fictional Men Smell
Like The Great Outdoors
All fictional male characters walk around with the same scent when they shouldn’t be.
Yep, this discussion is happening.
And nope, I’m not promoting you to get high off sniffing your book.
Every individual has their own unique scent for reasons of biology, culture, or simply by choice. However, it is without fail that many fictional boys and men smell like musk, wood, or spice in their off-camera (page?) use of aftershave, deodorant, or cologne. It doesn’t even matter if they’re living that contemporary boy-next-door life or scaling walls and shit in a dingy post-apocalyptic wasteland. They all seem to find their way to the same drug store and purchase the same generic brand (or perhaps naturally smell this way—but we all know it came from a bottle). I’m not even going to try to explain how sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian male leads trail these aromas when they dig themselves out of grime or drift in space all day long. This issue is most resilient in contemporary-ish fiction and is the scope of this discussion.
Now don’t get me wrong; I am by no means saying that these fragrances are terrible or attack your senses in all the worst possible ways. Instead, I’m fascinated by the sheer number of characters emanating the same few scents. There are three considerations as to why this might be (although I implore you to find more reasons to validate men smelling like similar fragrances):
1—Maybe these characters aren’t actually exuding musk/wood/spice but are misclassified as such.
2—Perhaps these scents are written to pander to the author or reader’s fantasy and is seen as normal even if it sexualizes boys/men and encourages the code red alert for endorphins to explode the readers senses.
3—It’s a rite of passage that male characters have to smell this way. I’d be flabbergasted if this was true…but given your responses to last week’s topic discussing the clichéd phrase (“I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding”), it makes me wonder if these fragrances are what makes knees go weak.
Realize that there are thousands of different fragrance combinations between young desperation and Axe to Old Spice and something your grandparents wear; not to forget that the choice of these scents differ depending on temperature, event, and seasonal factors.
Truthfully, there are guys who couldn’t care less about how their outward presence is absorbed by their audience—and that’s fine—but there are those who do. To continually perpetuate this no-name brand of angst-ridden musky-whatever fragrance donned by all male archetypes is something that I can’t say is too realistic. This entire discussion might not be a concern to you as these descriptions are [probably] tailor-written to be fantasized and swooned over but I need to reiterate that not all boys or men exude the same scent or own/use products to replicate such a fragrance.
Think about this: some guys choose to not wear deodorant—where’s that character?
How about those who sweat excessively and receive botox treatment—where’s the representation in that?
I understand it’s a description (and distinction) tacked onto a character to increase their unique appeal but you cannot tell me that every brooding, misunderstood, crooked smiling, tall-dark-and-handsome, blue-eyed boy-next-door Adonis ought to be typecast into the same few adjectives.
Ugh, rant over.
1) What are some words you’ve seen used to describe how guys smell in fiction?
2) Do you think these scents (woody/musky/spicy) are what readers fantasize about?
3) I’m curious: is this treatment the same for female characters? What are some common scents you’ve seen attributed to girls?
As always, think aloud.
If I were you, I’d question my sanity for amusing myself with content like this. Normally, I would have these ideas filtered by a beta reader but what the heck; a topic worth smiling over is a topic worth sharing.
Also fun fact: I bought a bottle of Adam Levine’s line of cologne. It’s a disappointing scent but the bottle is a microphone… #takemymoney #damnyoumarketing