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Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Why I'm not a fan of the Romance genre


There are a few literary/film genres I have never cared much for. Westerns are one; I find them SOOOO boring. Never seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly but I do love Gran Torino. Another genre I don't care much for is horror. I like psychological thrillers, dark dramas, or horror that has a good story (I enjoyed the 2017 It movie), but I find 'pure' horror boring and contrived - jump scares, possessed children, gore, no real plot.

And then of course, the romance genre. Romance films and books are predominantly enjoyed by women. I've never cared deeply for them and I'll explain why. As a child my favourite author was Jacqueline Wilson, who wrote social realist dramas about children in difficult situations, but with lots of warmth and humour. Mental illness, divorce, poverty, even physical abuse against children is woven into many of her books among other heavy topics. 

I also read 'chick-lit' in my teens, but it had a greater focus on friendship and self-development, with relationships being more of a side storyline. Just Listen, one of my favourite teen books by Sarah Dessen, is about a girl who was raped by her best friend's boyfriend and ends up finding herself again, and does meet a lovely guy in the process. 

Haha, real life 'Coming to America' (if its true)
Mostly, I like grit and drama and dark humour. I like stuff that makes me think, hooks me, has me entertained and subverts my expectations. The romance genre tends to lack that. A guy meets a girl, they'll go through trials and tribulations, and then they live happily ever after. LAME. (Btw; if you enjoy the romance genre that's totally fine, this is just my opinion). I'm not an optimistic happy-go-lucky type of person; I have an existential nihilistic attitude to life, in that life is full of shit, but you need to accept it and find your own love and joy within. 

I don't find reading an entire book or watching an entire film about two people falling in love to be interesting. I like romance when its woven into a story; 11/22/63 by Stephen King is an adventure-thriller about a guy who goes back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination. The relationship between the protagonist and his love interest is heart-warming to read about and I root for them, but it isn't the main plot of the story. 

Relationships and being with someone is a big part of the human experience, but I don't see it as the core of my existence. Life should predominantly be about finding yourself and what makes you happy, and discovering things along the way. (Its especially important for me to tell myself that because I've spent a lot of my life being overly-obsessed with being in a relationship).

Thank. You. 
Additionally, the characterization of the men and women doesn't seem to lack much depth. I was reading about how a lot of classic romance novels depict rape fantasies and women reluctantly 'giving in' to sex with men which I honestly think is appalling - I mean sure I get it as a kinky fetish and all that if the writing is specifically erotica, but for classic romance its not really presenting a healthy view of how women should see their own sexuality. Fifty Shades of Shit is one of the most popular novels of our time, loved mainly by women, yet the relationship between Anna and Christian is far from ideal. I think its disgusting and messed up and really can't see the appeal. (No, I haven't seen the movie but I've read the plot and watched videos about it, plus seen 'Fifty Shades of Black' which is hilarious and much better).

And then the characters. I've never found alpha male men attractive; the guys that most appeal to me in fiction are Tyrion Lannister, Atticus Finch and Jon Snow. Romance novels seem to depict this yawnified trope of powerful, wealthy alpha men and submissive women who desperately need to be rescued. I can't relate to that at all; Aurora is my least favourite Disney princess (loved her as a kid though) because she's boring and doesn't do much. Where's the agency? Where's the standing on your own two feet and coexisting with a man as an equal? Jane Eyre is one of the most famous romance novels of all time (and one of the few I've read), yet Mr Rochester is an awful guy. He's cruel, taunting, creepy, locks his ex-wife up, has a massive ego and plays stupid power-games. If a guy like that came into my life I'd tell him to fuck off. 

Sure, everyone likes to be taken care of, but its the fact that romance stories portray women as being 'incomplete' until a man comes along, rather than having their own life and things going for themselves and then a man complimenting their life with mutual respect. I think that's an awful message to sell to impressionable young women. Rom-coms present an idealized version of romance in which a guy comes along and solves everything, but in reality that isn't the case. Even people who do end up in fulfilling long-term relationships know that it takes work and compromise.

I guess some of this may come from a bit of cynical bitterness as I haven't been in love or a long-term relationship (had several 'short-term' ones though), but even when I have been in relationships I haven't suddenly thought life is wonderful and everything is great and romance is the key to life. Even if you're with someone who makes you feel happy, you still have to get on with regular life and all its disappointments. I don't think relationships make a massive difference; you can feel good or shit in or out of one, and its better to be single than to be with someone who makes you feel miserable or lonely.
Still a better love story than Twilight.
With relationships and friendships - for me - a person comes into your life and has a strong impact on you - negative, positive or a bit of both - and then they disappear and fade into the background. You break up, or fall out, or stop talking, and then you find someone else. Sometimes that person may be in your life for a few months, other times for decades. Placing too much 'need' for other people isn't healthy in my books; even the phrase 'you complete me' implies that you can't feel complete and whole by yourself, which is dangerous. 

So to sum up, I dislike romance stories because I think they're boring and don't tend to have a story line that intrigues me; the gender polarization pisses me off (and I'm not even a feminist), a guy can be an arsehole but if he's rich and powerful its 'sexy', and women are incomplete without a man to sweep them off their feet. 

A few non-romantic books I would recommend:

A Song of Ice and Fire - amazing story, incredible characters, messes with your emotions in every way.

Kill Your Friends (J. Niven) - hilarious satire set in 90s Britain about a psychopath who works in A&R.

Every Last Psycho (Z.Macha) - dark YA compilation of two novellas about teen girls and mental illness. Available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07F44CMNJ

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - beautiful, heart-warming and sad story about loneliness, friendship and accepting your past. 

The Circle (D. Eggers) - satirical dystopia about a major internet conglomerate being the modern-day Big Brother.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - lovely, funny and sad tale about an autistic boy who finds himself.

Animal's People (I. Sinha) - darkly humourous  story about a poor orphan boy in India who was a victim of a major gas leak incident and has to walk on all fours due to spinal injury.

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