Are You A Romantic Heroine? Unlikely...
Girls with green eyes everywhere...or are they?
A striking element of lesbian romances is the prevalence of a green-eyed heroine. In the real world green eyes are uncommon – just 1-2% of the population worldwide. But in ‘lesfic’ they’re a plague. For instance (and taken at random) in Cate Culpepper’s The Clinic, ‘She could feel Sammy’s eyes, the same shade of green as her own, though less guarded, burning a hole through the back of her robe.’ In Robin Alexander’s Devil In Disguise: ‘Thick shoulder-length dark brown hair with dazzling green eyes...’
Veteran of medico-romance Radclyffe wrote in Love’s Tender Warriors: ‘Quinn turned her head…and looked into the emerald green eyes inches from her own’. Again, among sixteen references to the martial arts expert heroine’s eyes: ‘As always, Sean thought that she would never quite get used to looking into her own face – the same deep-green eyes, the same full lips, the same sweep of dark hair...’ In another Radclyffe hospital romance where green scrubs are every-day-wear: ‘And her eyes, even on a gray, overcast day, were heather green.’
Medics and the military – favorite romance settings – are not the only location for emerald eyes. In Meghan O’Brien’s stuck-in-an-elevator, Thirteen Hours: ‘She released one of Dana’s wrists ... “I admit it, I’m powerless against those beautiful green eyes”.’
If these characters were of Icelandic descent the dominance of green eyes would make sense. In a 2004 study, Vilhajalmur Rafnsson and other researchers discovered that 89% of Icelandic women and 87% of Icelandic men have green eyes; the historic isolation and relative purity of the island’s population being the apparent likely cause.
However, there is nothing as scientific or logical among reasons given by romance writers to the question ‘why the green-eyed heroines?’ Typically: ‘I like them’ or ‘they make a point of difference, don’t they?’ are the answers given after much pressing. In other words: no one has really thought about it. They just are.
In truth, the girls with green eyes suggest a literary tradition rather than a strictly conscious decision: many, many heroines of heterosexual romantic fiction are also green-eyed and these long pre-date the rise and rise of lesbian romance.
Piquantly, the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon underlines the clichéd symbolism of color. Not only in alpha hero, Christian Grey but also, ‘his gray eyes are bleak…’ In lesbian romance too, gray eyes represent power and, often, a powerful profession – surgeon, decorated homicide detective, district attorney, fire chief. In Graysen Morgan’s Submerged, it’s the DA who’s under scrutiny: ‘Her dark gray suit fit her lithe form perfectly.’
Nevertheless, you have to give it to green. Nicole Conn scored a scarce – possibly unique – green double with Elena Undone in which ‘…Peyton appeared even more attractive, more handsomely beautiful, with those piercing green eyes, the square jaw, those perfectly shaped lips…’ Then, when Conn made the movie, she cast Traci Dinwiddie – who not only resembles her character to a gorgeous degree but also takes it right down to being among the rarified 1-2% with green eyes. Who knew.