Basically today is going to be me ranting about the atrocity that is the romance novel genre and why I think it's damaging. Damaging to writing standards everywhere and to the female psyche it's geared to.
Let's get started...
The Harlequin Romance Novel is a pretty huge cliche/eye-roll for both writers and readers everywhere - yet, they are still being written and published at a ridiculous rate. At Chapters yesterday with Jonathan as we perused the shelves and laughed in derision at the titles under the Romance genre, I was aghast to realize this section was pretty much as big as the Fantasy section in the other corner of the store. Even thinking about that now is a bit of a horror.
We stumbled upon titles such as "Seduce Me, Cowboy" and "His Amish Teacher" and others of a similar, cheesy nature. It seems that romance writers/readers have a few set male stereotypes dominating their genre.
- Tall, dark and handsome rich guys
- Tall, dark and handsome Scots
- Tall, dark and handsome doctors
- Tall, dark and handsome bad boys
- Tall, dark and handsome cowboys without shirts standing in a field (or on a beach in their jeans and cowboy hats as one cover depicted)
I have a personal vendetta against the cowboy ones because I have grown up in the cowboyiest place short of Texas and I'm here to tell all you fantasizing female romance writers that this IS NOT HOW COWBOYS LOOK OR ACT OR EXIST. COWBOYS DON'T STAND AROUND GAZING SEDUCTIVELY INTO THE DISTANT FIELDS WITH THEIR SHIRTS OFF OR UNBUTTONED AND MOST OF THEM DO NOT HAVE HUGE, OILED MUSCLES FROM FARMING/RANCHING. YOU DO NOT BECOME A BODYBUILDER FROM WORKING ON A FARM. SORRY.
unless you're me of course jk lol
As for the rest of these rather stupid and WAAAYYYY overused tropes, first of all, no. Second of all, just no.
I do not proclaim to be any great romantic expert or male aficionado, but I have come across a fair number of guys in my nineteen years and never met anybody like the males depicted in romance novels. Maybe I haven't met enough guys? Maybe I haven't been involved in enough sketchy, bad-boy romances/love triangles? I'm probably just innocent and naive and all that...but I do have one hypothesis and I'd like to pretend that I'm actually right. You can let me know whether you agree or not...
So, female romance writers and readers, you know those over-photoshopped magazine ads of super skinny models with flawless skin and hair and perfect bodies? Those pictures aimed at all of us and our insecurities, meant to make us hate ourselves and strive for an unachievable female beauty ideal? Yeah? I'm about to drop a bombshell on you, you ready?
The guys you portray/read about in your romance novels are guys to whom you are doing the EXACT SAME THING.
Those jacked, broad-shouldered, sexy, tall, dark, handsome, cardboard cutout, "perfect" men are your unachievable male ideal. And yes, it's just as damaging as the unachievable female ideal is to you.
I'm sorry to burst the bubble of your romantic fantasies
This isn't just a body image thing either, the personalities of men portrayed in romance novels is partially nonexistent and partially filled in with a base, bad-boy persona that has long ceased to be cool and has never, ever presented the promised of a healthy relationship. If this is how you expect and fantasize men to act and then whine about "not being able to find good men" well...
|this might be too harsh...maybe|
On an even more extreme (and moral) standpoint, in my oh-so-humble opinion, romance novels are pretty much just straight up women's porn and are doing no more good for female minds then other porn does to the minds of men. This is unhealthy. Unhealthy for ALL involved. It is not a "guilty pleasure", it's just plain guilty. It is doing neither you, the people around you, those whom you have a romantic relationship with now or in the future, or society in general any favors. In fact, it's only inflicting damage.
Don't believe me? Check the facts. There are an endless amount of studies and research poured into the effects of porn on the male brain and certainly there is just as much of an influence on the female mind as well. Even if your romance novel doesn't have explicit sexual scenes, there is an element of emotional manipulation as well that - for females anyway - is just as bad, if not worse, for your brain.
I see this especially in the Christian fiction romance that is stocked on shelves today. All the historical romance, contemporary, Biblical, Amish, etc romance fiction is chock-full of what I am tempted to call "soft emotional porn" that can totally have an effect on a woman's mind and her view of romantic relationships - especially if they believe that it's all totally safe and good and they aren't using any discernment or good judgment. As a young woman who, while not being super interested in romance as a genre, did read some Christian fiction romance as a teen, I definitely felt that there was a certain amount of emotional manipulation going on and I don't believe for a second this didn't have some effect on me. I certainly was set up to think of men completely differently then I have found them to be in my actual experience. While this was not devastating to me, it certainly had some lasting effects. I think that if you're going to write this way under the Christian fiction genre then you should be sensitive to the fact that young girls will be reading this as some of their first experiences with romance and maybe treat it as your duty to portray properly and take a little responsibility. Please.
At this point I'm probably sounding entirely like a prude. My argument against this would be simply that I'm not. I am comfortable to read books and series such as "A Song of Ice and Fire/Games of Thrones" in which there is a lot of sexual scenes. I think the difference there is that there is some (often harsh) reality at play and these romances are never idealized. Usually quite the opposite. But, to me, when romance is portrayed outside of stereotypes and cliches and with some actual realism and gravity, then there is much less danger of being deceived into looking at it as an ideal. Absolutely you should use discretion and discernment and not read what makes you uncomfortable when working through heavier content, but I think there is a difference between seeing sexuality portrayed impurely upfront and seeing sexuality portrayed impurely through the rose-colored glasses of romance novels. One is showing you something wrong, the other is showing you something wrong and trying to tell you it's right.
My personal belief is that the romance novel as a genre is deeply flawed. On the surface it is entirely ridiculous and embarrassing to me (and many others I know). Yet why do so many women keep coming back to it?
Because they're looking for something there, something that a romance novel will never, ever be able to satisfy.
Ladies, if you're looking for a romance story, start looking for a *good* one. I have read incredible romances set in books that have absolutely nothing to do with the romance novel genre. In fact I think this is the best way to search for them. Love and romance is one of those things that the harder you search for, the more you focus and obsess on, the stronger you desire, the further away it slips. To me the beautiful thing about romance is that it shows up when and where you least expect it, and those instances are far more fulfilling than any cheesy, re-hashed romance novel ever could be. Trust me. Just start reading stories and you'll begin to find it, here and there. Real romance and love will transcend a hot cowboy on a cover and has a much greater ability to lift a romantic spirit.
Now that my initially sarcastic post turned rather somber, let's lighten the mood a little. To help solidify in your mind that romance novels are pretty much confirmed trash, here are some of what I found to be the most hilariously bad romance novel titles. Enjoy.
(PS. I apologize if some of these are less than "family friendly", they were just so bad I couldn't help it)
- Seduce Me, Cowboy (this was the worst one Jonathan and I found yesterday)
- The Wall-Street Were-wolf
- Seduced Hearts: A Body-Tingling Romance
- Kill or Be Kilt (not even kidding)
- Grumble Monkey and the Department Store Elf
- Falling for Santa Claus
- A Prairie Dog's Love Song
- Fangs In Frosting
- Me Bear's Baby
- For Real
- Mermen Are Coming For You
- Prick of the Thistle
- One Night, So Pregnant!
- My Sinful Surrender to a Highlander Werewolf
- Heartbreak on a Stick
- Happy Birthday
- Learning the Dingo's Quirks
- Waking Up Married (the horror)
- Operation Cowboy Daddy
- My Bosses Gasses
- Tentacles of Trump
- In Deep
- In Deeper
|literally me the whole time i researched these|
I hope you had as much fun reading this list as I did finding it. Among the tears of laughter I am shedding there is also this sense of horror, shame and embarrassment creeping up upon me with the knowledge that other humans actually wrote, published, sold and bought these things? I am not sure what to think about humanity right now.
Well, hopefully you enjoyed my rant. Are you a romance novel writer/reader? Hopefully I didn't offend you too much, I do have a lot of strong opinions on this subject. Do you agree? Disagree? Discuss with me in the comments below!