“Lil Red Riding Hood”: Basically Every Romance Novel Ever

I don’t mean the fairy tale but the song by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, which has recently resurfaced in my listening due to the Volvo commercial. (Side note: cannot wait to hear the full Laura Gibson cover of the song, which is what plays in the commercial!)

If you don’t know the song or haven’t heard it recently enough to remember the words, here’s a video-mash of Betty Boop (for you to look at while you listen) set to the song.

The song is much more powerful than it should be. It’s kind of a goofy little song about a fairy tale, and yet it captures a very real and fascinating aspect of courtship–the idea of predator/prey that is subverted by the seductive allure of the supposed prey.

The narrator of the song is obviously a wolf stalking Little Red Riding Hood, lured by her big eyes and full lips. He masquerades as something safe and protective, biding his time…waiting for the opportune moment, as it were. But by the end of the song he’s talking about his heart and how he could love her, promising that even big bad wolves can be good (for the right woman). The wolf-call/”I mean, baaah” ending makes the last verse ambiguous–is his claim simply part of the seduction, or is it true? Is he moving from wolf in disguise to wolf who is lying about the nature of his interest, or has he been snared by her being “everything a big bad wolf could want”?  If the latter is the case…who is really hunting whom?

The reason I say this song is like, okay, not every, but a damn good lot of romance novels is because of the theme many of them have of a man who resists the idea of marriage being brought around to it by the one woman who is perfect for him. Many romance heroes start the novels out as dark, dangerous men–dangerous either through a violent/instable nature or through a cynicism that threatens to destroy the heroine. They experience an attraction they intend to use nefariously, acting very much the sexual predator of the heroine’s innocence or social position, only to realize too late that her lures are stronger than his resistance to love/marriage/commitment. 

And it’s basically the ultimate female fantasy, and what romance writers have been writing about at least since Austen–the idea that any man, no matter how much of a “big bad wolf” he is, can be tamed by the particular right woman for him. It is a fantasy that allows both the excitement of the hunt and the safety of the gentle heart in the wolf’s body (under the sheepskin). In my experience of men, I think the tri-layer is actually pretty accurate. Pretty much all the men I’ve known in my life–not just men I dated but friends, brother’s friends, family, co-workers–have had the surface facade of civility over a traditionally masculine bravado/carelessness, but at heart were good, caring, men. It’s the role society tells them they should play, and I personally think it’s more fascinating and more special to get to see into the heart of a man who doesn’t open up easily than to have one who puts everything on his sleeve.

Because, let’s be honest here…women love the chase, too. We just have to make the men think they’re the ones doing the chasing.

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Filed under Muse Music, Reflections on Romance

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