‘Tis a name that immediately brings to mind a flurry of descriptors: flirtatious, seductive, immature, frivolous, self-centered, handsome, amusing, glib, conceited. The list could go on and on.
I’m of two minds about Henry. On the surface, he’s the male version of a flibbertigibbet, a consummate conversationalist and flatterer effusive with both compliments and an unending supply of innocuous chatter. Dig a little deeper, and he’s the tortured smooth operator, juggling bad ideas and intentions with an undercurrent of longing for someone to save him from himself. And is there any headier or more foolhardy a challenge than the man in need of the reforming love of a good woman?
Man of the Town (noun)
A rake, debauchee. A spruce, trim, smart fellow in earnest pursuit of pleasure.
For a modern-day illustration, I’m reminded of the intellectually-stimulating, oscar-worthy teen flick, She’s All That. Most critics call this a remake of Pygmalion or its remake, My Fair Lady, but I think it’s closer to Mansfield Park. Henry Crawford, unrepentant Man of the Town unable to break free from his self-absorption and hedonistic pursuits, is the late Paul Walker’s character Dean Sampson (villain name, to be sure). Henry Crawford’s story with a happy ending, where he realizes the error of his ways and is content to pursue Fanny Price ad infinitum, moving out of shallowness and into maturity, is the Freddie Prinze, Jr. character, Zack Siler.
It’s amazing how many teen movies are simplistic remakes of classic novels.