Monday, March 20, 2017

A Rant Against Romance Novels...

  Well, once again this week I did not get my post out at the appointed Sunday time (sorry about that). However, taking the day and going out on a date with my wonderful fiancee is what gave me the inspiration for this post, so I guess it's not a bad situation all things considered?

  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. 

mindblown

  I'm sorry to burst the bubble of your romantic fantasies i'm not really but i'm trying to be kinda nice but really guys, if you wonder why men you read about don't exist it's because they freaking don't? You're training your brain to expect something that isn't real, just like guys who stare at pictures of hot babes. It's the exact same thing, you cannot logically pretend it's different. If you think that women should not be idealized and held to some fake beauty standard (and they absolutely should not be) then maybe don't do it back to guys? Maybe?? 

  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!


6 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you about romance within novels of a greater scope, rather than romance as the complete focus and "end-all." I believe that is ultimately why romance novels fall short: they portray romance as the great answer to life, able to fill the void and answer the questions of "Why am I here on this earth?" Romance is just one slice of life. And if you zoom in too close on it, you end up with something artificial. Kind of like pretending life is made up of Saturdays (I wish). As authors, we won't actually provide lasting encouragement and inspiration unless we help people embrace all aspects of life (not just the Saturdays, and not just the romance).

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    1. YES. Exactly! You made the point better than me. I love what you said about "romance is just one slice of life. And if you zoom in too close on it, you end up with something artificial." That's so true, you hit the nail on the head and I totally agree. That's ultimately the heart of why these novels suck.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Beth! :D

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  2. okay like what even with those titles?!?!?!?!
    SEDUCE ME COWBOY WHY WHY *cringes for 948309284 years*
    But I so agree. I don't normally read romance like just romance novels (in Christian fiction).
    I don't love it and like you said, it's an emotional manipulator whether it's on that creepy shelf or among the many many amish books in Lifeway.
    I like books that have romance as more of a side thing and when it's realistic. Not barbie girls picking up Mr. tall dark and handsome with a pumpkin latte in hand.

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    1. I know right?? The agony I waded through to find these gems/horrors was great and should be appreciated. There were so many that were just terrible but unfortunately too inappropriate to share on a family-friendly blog. :P
      I agree completely. Romance is just so much better when it's not the focus of a story. Some of my favorite romances happen in adventure stories where the stakes of the relationship are much higher and people could die at any time and slowly fall in love through their shared traumatic experience. Those are so much better and more genuine, I don't understand the attraction to romance novels.
      Thanks so much for checking out my rant, Hannah! XD

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  3. Yes, I completely agree with you!! You nailed this on the head, Emily! Romances create the BIGGEST unrealistic expectations. And "Christian" romance does not mean it's not damaging! I've read some Beverly Lewis (the Amish Christian romance XP) and it wasn't all healthy :/ Wrong was wrong & right was right, but ... Rumschpringe is a do-whatever time of your life, sooo. Hehe. -_-

    *sigh* While I don't avoid books because they contain romance, I rarely enjoy them if romance is the actual focus of the story. There, I said it. Sometimes I enjoy them initially because I'm wrapped up in the story and the next time ... there's nothing there :/ It's like binge eating or something. Not that healthy.

    And I live in Texas and can vouch for the fake cowboy thing. 1) not that attractive, 2) not that muscular, 3) accents ain't pretty, 4) yes they do have egos and it is NOT attractive. Or healthy. Again. The exceptions I know aren't seductive people or that tall, so you're outta luck, ladies.

    I'm a romantic--I am. But I'm also an INFJ, so puh-lease. Romance is not the answer to every life question. It's certainly not my favorite thing about earth, and WHY is there no story without it anymore?! Must we all resort to sorceresses and squids? 'Tis but one slice of life.

    Thanks so much for sharing all of this. You're a braver woman than me! *cries tears of laughter and shame* Those titles though. Soooo not okay XXXDDDD

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    1. As I thought about it more I realized that yeah, all the Christian fiction romances I've ever read definitely were setting up some unhealthy expectations and it was actually quite startling how I had never realized it before. I was quite annoyed to be honest. But yeah, Amish Christian romance. Ugh. Can that not be a genre anymore? I think it's full, just saying.

      Oh, and also, another rant, whenever people write Biblical fiction about women it's ALWAYS just a romance, like the girls have no other agency. They're either a seductress being redeemed by a man or an innocent, godly virgin fighting against the temptation of her emotions for a man. It's not cool. I don't think the women in the Bible had no character outside of romantic relationships. So yeah, that needs to stop too.
      All these points I'm coming up with now. XD

      Your binge-eating comment sounds pretty spot-on, I totally agree.

      To be honest there are the nice cowboys who really aren't that romantically interesting and then the really not-nice ones who I suppose are romantically interesting if you like parties and beer and sleeping around the rodeo circuit. At least that's what it's like here, but yeah. I don't understand the cowboy attraction. Even as a horse-lover I've never been attracted to cowboys. They're too egotistical and often are just show-horsemen anyway. :P And they are NOT BODYBUILDERS EVER I DON'T KNOW WHY THESE COVERS ARE LIKE THAT??

      Sameeee (about being a romantic/INFJ). I am both a hopeless romantic and a cynic so if it's romantic it better be GOOD is all I'm saying. And yes, it is not the be-all, end-all of anything ever.

      Haha, I love your TSatS reference there. XD

      Thank you for reading! Yesss, those titles. I found a great tumblr page dedicated to bad romance novels and yeah, it was quite an interesting experience. There were so many more that I wanted to share but were too inappropriate! :P

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