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YMMV / The Sheik

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  • Designated Hero: Eventually. For the first half of the book the Sheik is portrayed extremely unfavorably, but once Diana falls in love with him he's treated like a Byronic good guy, even though he continues to abuse her.
  • Fair for Its Day: Despite the rampant sexism and racism in the story, there are some interesting elements that manage to twist things a bit:
    • Raoul de Saint Hubert is genuinely horrified at what the Sheik has done to Diana and does not fail to call him out; even the Sheik himself realizes that he has essentially destroyed her — despite this, they end up together anyway.
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    • While the Sheik's true heritage definitely comes off as a cop-out, in 1919 it was unheard-of that a white man would rather be a 'savage' than a 'good' Englishman. Also, Raoul mentions that his father, who knew the prior Sheik and the current Sheik's Spanish mother, thought they ought to marry in spite of the fact that it would be a 'mixed' marriage, which was also unheard-of. On the other hand, some of the Sheik's justifications for his actions undo most of this, since he flat-out says "When an Arab sees a woman he wants, he takes her." What could have come off as an unusual attitude of respect for another culture is instead reduced to misrepresenting and fetishizing the 'natives' and their 'savage' ways in order to excuse his own bad behavior.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The Sheik hops right over that almost as soon as we meet him.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The first half of the book, really. Diana is trapped in the desert with a man who delights in torturing her physically and mentally, with no way to escape. Her trauma in this section of the book isn't portrayed as romantic, either: she's legitimately suicidal, which the Sheik mocks her for. She comes close to hitting the Despair Event Horizon before she tries to escape.
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    • The Slasher Smile The Sheik has on for much of the film.
  • Periphery Demographic: It's basically a BDSM romance novel from before BDSM conventions existed.
  • Spiritual Predecessor: For Fifty Shades of Grey.
  • Values Dissonance: The whole premise, really.


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