Let’s reflect on the Romance genre, shall we?
A little over a month ago, one of my favorite booktubers, MyNameIsMarines, posted a video about problematic content. The video is amazing, and she is so articulate about the topic, which is definitely important. She discusses how we use the term problematic, and how we should talk about problematic content and the video really inspired me and got me thinking, so you should check it out. And you should subscribe to her channel, because she is one of the most honest and critical reviewers out there and you need to watch her videos.
So, prompted by the video, I started thinking about books I’ve read and the problematic aspects of them. Now, it’s no secret that I like the Romance genre. I find it relaxing, easy to read and I really enjoy it. It’s not something that I can constantly read, but once or twice a year, I binge read a couple of Romance novels, so I’ve read a fair share of these books. I LOVE some of them, a lot, like genuinely love them, but it is definitely true that some aspects of the whole Romance/New Adult genre are problematic. There are tropes that are propagated throughout the genre that should not be ignored or pushed aside.
Firstly, the romance genre can be some sort of tragedy porn. What I mean by this is that, usually, the characters’ lives are struck by tragedy and that’s used as a plot point. You see a guy whose father is abusive, and that’s used as a way to explain why he is an awful person, or that’s used as a plot device to make the story more dramatic and to create false friction. I am all for representation of difficult experiences, BUT not when they are done for the sole purpose of making your storyline work, which otherwise wouldn’t. The most prominent use of this is rape. This is something that really bothers me, but rape is used as a plot device often in these types of stories. Of course rape happens, and it’s important to discuss it, but when it’s used to create depth for the character, and then is not important for the character development, that’s when the problematic kicks in. The emotional trauma resurfaces only when it’s convenient for the plot and it manufactures conflict when there’s none. And the male lead “fixing” her is so stupid.
This ties into another huge problematic aspect of the romance genre, and it’s the subtle mysoginy. It’s all over the genre, and in sometimes very subtle ways. Often it’s actually the female heroine expressing this thoughts, while slutshaming other female characters. It’s particulary concerning when you think about the fact that most of the audience for these books are women. And also the glorification of abusive relationships is something that can be seen in the genre. Sometimes it’s more obvious, but sometimes it’s in the little things. And again, that should often be pointed out.
So, saying “I loved this, but here’s what’s wrong with” is so important and it needs to be done more. We have to stop being blind to the stuff that’s going on right under are noses, just because we happen to enjoy it. It’s a concious effort that you have to make, but it’s still important that you do.
When I was younger I used to be so defensive about people calling out the books I love, but I’ve realised that you should always listen to other people’s opinions. Especially when they are people who had different experience to your own, and can offer valuable insight to a problem you were unaware of.
So I hope you enjoyed this kind of post, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Do you find this genre problematic? What do you think about loving something, but still recognizing it’s faults? Do you feel the need to defend a book you love when someone deems it problematic? Please share your insight in the comments below, and be sure to check out Marines’ video!
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