If you’ll recall yesterday’s (now edited for spelling) bite, I yammered on about romance and the Rodney Dangerfield syndrome. You know, I don’t get no respect.
If you had enough of my terrier-like nip on Monday, I advise you all to turn away if you don’t want another one on Tuesday.
Oops, too late!
All righty. to recap: I bemoaned the fact romance lacks a voice in the literary world. I said romance readers have been brainwashed.
And now, I’m gonna piss some people off, but this is my soapbox and I’ll look like an idiot if I wanna.
Yes. Brainwashed. I mean that too. Romance readers buy into the idea they’re supposed to be ashamed of what they like to read. This is a huge reason why the genre lacks acceptance in the literary world.
Another reason is more a personal theory. I am of the opinion that romance is, at times, a little too prescriptive and narrow and unwilling to change. This is something I think that keeps it from being fully recognised as a ‘literary’ work.
"What’s that?" you say. "How is romance prescriptive and narrow? How on earth is romance unwilling to change? Romance has changed by leaps and bounds!
Ok, I don’t really want to go into the history of the romance genre and how it’s developed over time now, but I’ll briefly mention the evolution of the Harlequin-Mills&Boon’s ‘dime novel’ and how the women’s movement influenced female heroines in romance–much like in the world of Barbie, and how she went from Secretary and Stewardess to CEO and Pilot. There’s the whole sex part too, as in heroines get to have it and not be classified as ‘bad girls."
I’m talking about the unwritten rules that prescribe what a heroine can and can’t do, what she can and still can’t be, what a romance story can and can’t include. At its heart, romance is escapist fantasy. A vampire is fine. An alien is acceptable, so are assassins and spies. But a romance heroine can’t be a Judd Apatow pot smoking loser who lives with her parents. She can be too stupid to live, or a divorcee, or innocent, but heaven forbid she has a foul mouth–unless she fights vampires or double agents and then it’s Ok to let fly with the fucks and shits and sons of bitches.
What I’m getting at is how it’s just dandy to cross your paranormal with your romance, but not your romance with your women with an attitude.
Don’t you dare say, hey, now, Old, what about Chick Lit? Chick Lit is not romance, people, but it does highlight my point. In Chick Lit, a heroine can have some major ‘tude. She can swear like Marine Sergeant Carter or be Samantha from Sex In The City. She can be materialistic, flakey, and even mean spirited. Yet, take that attitude and give it to a heroine in a contemporary romance and suddenly that shit won’t fly. The hero can be a brooding dickhead who changes. The heroine can merely transform from ugly duckling to swan. The contemporary fantasy has to remain in a much smaller, prettier box.
Now why is that?
I dunno, but I’m going out on a limb here. It’s a little wobbly and kind of a stretch, yet I’m hanging it out there anyway. It’s my brain and if it’s been washed then it’s up to me to hang it out to dry, right? So maybe, just maybe, if contemporary romance would open up a little, be a little less rigid about rules of heroine behaviour and allow for some materialistic, flakey, mean spirited attitude to infiltrate the fantasy, the way a vampire infiltrates the community, contemporary romance might climb up a rung in the literary world.
Oh, quit your laughing. It’s my theory and I’m entitled to it.
Now get off my green. You’re blocking my putt.
And as a completely unrelated side note, Glenn Tilbrook’s new CD is out TODAY!