Starstruck, Hints and Smirking: Observations 91-92 and Reading Note 35

Observation Note 91: Starstruck. A few days ago, I asked friends for some comedy recommendations. I received some interesting suggestions, most of which I hadn’t heard. The one that was the most suggested was Starstruck – a BBC/HBO production starring Rose Matafeo and Nikesh Patel in a first season six episode show that reimagines the famous star falling in love with a commoner a la Notting Hill except this time the commoner is New Zealander Jessie (Matafeo) who is living the London 20something life who on New Year’s Eve hooks up with a famous superstar Tom (Patel) who she doesn’t even realise he is famous until the morning after. What ensues is the most delightful, funny, complicated, sharp, sad, sexy and ultimately romantic TV series I have seen since Schitts Creek. I adored every moment of it. The six episodes are pivotal plot points throughout the year that move Jessie and Tom’s story forward. I loved the spark between the two of them. It was more than a spark. It was just fireworks. I highly recommend it.

Reading Note 35: Taking Hints. On the other side of the rom-com spectrum, I am really struggling to get through Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown. I wasn’t particularly taken by Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown and sadly, this book too is not giving me that happy joy I had while watching Starstruck. I started reading Take a Hint last Monday and I am only just half way through the book. To be fair, it is well-written, the dialogue feels like it is fun and sexy and I am totally on board with the serious mental health issues that the hero has, and that they are so well understood and clarified. But there is something that doesn’t resonate for me and so far, the only thing I can pinpoint is that Dani Brown has been described as “smirking” at the hero.

Observation Note 92: Smirk. Smirking to me is not a positive character trait. It is denotes derision and sarcasm. I realise that it is (over)used in romance fiction A LOT and in fan fiction even more. Perhaps I feel this way because the Australian prime minister is nicknamed Smirko because even in the most serious situations – megafires, floods and pandemics, he has a big sly smirk on his face and it just makes me want to scream. Applying smirks as a way of two characters flirting with each other in a romance does not sit well with me. It smacks of passive aggressive, of a sense of superiority. Now if this had been the black moment, or the moment when the relationship was falling apart, or even if the smirk was the thing that caused the break up – because sure as shit I would be getting out of any relationship if some ‘shithead pumped up on his own inflated sense of self dickhead’ smirked at me, sure thing. Smirk away if that is the cause of the break up. But smirking as part of the love narrative. Nope.

So yep. Maybe it is the smirk that has put me off. I’ll still finish reading the book. But yeah. I hope there is no more smirking.

7 thoughts on “Starstruck, Hints and Smirking: Observations 91-92 and Reading Note 35

  1. I have tweeted this over and over again that a “smirk” is not synonymous with a “smile.” It irritates me no end to see authors do this. They seem to feel that a “smirk” is a “quirky smile.”

      • Perhaps it’s because English is not my first language, but I have always read ‘smirk’ as having an element of meanness. It implies a feeling of superiority over another, a certain, “I know/am more than you” that I can’t find romantic no matter what. Like the grown up version of the boy who supposedly puts frogs in the pockets/desk/etc of the girl he fancies, because how else can a grown up man signal his regard?

        Nauseating, really.

          • Yes! There’s something oily and self-satisfied in a smirk that’s not necessarily present in a sneer, which to me is more an expression of anger, perhaps dislike/condescension.

            Not that I want protagonists to constantly sneer at each other or at people over whom they hold power, because that too isn’t heroic, though the occasional sneer may be forgiven.

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