discussions · romance

Reflections: Problematic Aspects of Romance

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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9 thoughts on “Reflections: Problematic Aspects of Romance

  1. I actually barely read the romance genre – and when I do, it’s usually M/M, which is LEAGUES better, in my opinion – but, yeah, I’ve noticed these things as well! Even YA went through this spell after a million and one Twilight rip-offs were published and featured controlling “bad boys,” submissive girls, and misogyny left and right. Thankfully, YA grew past that, but romance is still stuck like that (and I’m blaming 50 Shades for that). 😝

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read M/M romances in different genres, but never specifically in the Romance genre. I’ll have to rectify that, so maybe you can recommend some? And yes, of course, every genre has a whole spectre of different problematic aspects. YA can also be tricky at times, not in the same way as Romance and with the same issues, but some of their own. It’s always important to discuss it though!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, gosh! Uh, I think my favorite pure romances were Goodbye Days by Sarina Bowen, the Him duology by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, and probably a couple of others that aren’t immediately coming to me right now. 😝

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes! Romance definitely is a problematic genre – though of course good romantic books exist and in a way, all genres can be problematic – but the genre romance is filled with some issues. Also, considering the fact that this genre is read mostly by young girls, it can be potentioally devastating, because young girls grow up reading problematic things and considering them as ‘romantic’. It’s extremely, extremely important to admit these problems. I especially agree with you on the tragedy porn point. I’m SO SICK of characters having sad pasts and a tragedy so that that can create sympathy in the readers and the other characters and used a plot device. Of course tragic things happen – but using them merely as a plot device for sympathy and character deblopment is SO wrong. Great discussion btw 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes exactly! Every book can have some problematic aspects. The point is to acknowledge them and talk about them. And I so agree with you, the main problem with romance is its audience, not just young girls but women in general, who are constantly exposed to this idea that a controlling relationship is a romantic one. Thank you so much and thanks for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

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