THE STIGMA OF ROMANCE
Beware…somewhat ranty post ahead! Every so often something pops up that reminds me of the stigma of romance books and the perception most people have about the genre and the industry. I recently saw a romance author being attacked and called a writer of smut when she was commenting on Twitter about something not even book related (a historical romance author at that!). And most recently, a video popped up from the RT Book Lovers Convention featured on ABC about the genre … and the cover models. I found the reporter doing the interview to be condescending, and it just gets me ranty. In the end, it all brings me back to this. I’m tired of being portrayed in the light that we usually are!
First of all, not all romance readers are the same. Same goes for authors. And SAME GOES FOR ALL OTHER GENRES! Just because the stories we read have an HEA doesn’t mean they are any less intelligent. And while there are many romance subgenres, quite frankly, I’m tired of being put in a condescending box where apparently all we care about is fawning over male cover models who, at times, moonlight as strippers. I love a good man candy cover as much as the next girl, we all know that. I’ve been known a time or two to pick up a book to read just because of a nice set of abs. And I have enjoyed taking a picture with a cover model when attending RT myself. It’s part of the fun! But to reduce an industry to this… just a bunch of women who are inappropriate with male models and where the stories… are basically the same thing over and over…. Well, this is not Magic Mike people and not all romances are created equal! There is no magic formula that allows writers to publish yet another romance book, and us as readers have more intelligence than just wanting to read the same thing over and over. And I’m not even going to get started on the mommy porn thing!
The romance genre is comprised of smart women who write and read stories to escape their daily life and for entertainment. Just like every other book out there! Why is a thriller a “better” or “smarter” book than a good contemporary romance, for example? I happen to enjoy both and I don’t think to myself “I’m feeling smarter today, so lets read a thriller.” This mentality, which is the norm in society, is often pushed by people who have never bothered to pick up a romance novel themselves and then talk and judge without any knowledge. Authors continue to be put down by their peers. And readers often feel the need to hide what they enjoy!
Guess what! I read according to my mood. And my reading is 90% in the romance genre as a whole, but exploring a wide range of subgenres. I do venture out of romance as well, at times. Sometimes I enjoy a simple and fluffy well written romance story. Others, I may be looking for an emotionally charged erotic romance. I have a passion for figuring things out and can’t say no to a good thriller. I even feel the need to read a biography or personal growth book from time to time. Other times, I want a book to twist my insides, tear my heart out and take me on a roller coaster ride that I didn’t see coming. I often want to get lost in a magical world where our normal rules don’t apply. So why is ANY of that a bad thing? First of all, how are all those things generalized as smut? And why is there a preconceived idea that those stories are just the same idea told over and over? Then, can’t we say the same thing for crime novels? It’s such a stupid statement!
I admit I feel that this view of the industry is often reinforced by the behavior of some. I love the book world and the book community we all have come to be a part of thanks to the internet that has brought us together. Geeking out about my love of authors and discussing my latest book boyfriend is one of my favorite things! I look forward every year to spending time with people from this community at book events, signings and conventions. But here’s the thing. We are also responsible for how people view us, and the fact is sometimes some people can make us look bad. To have a cover model on national TV stating that models hook up with readers at RT is just unacceptable to me! How can anyone take us seriously if we don’t start ourselves?
I happen to be friends with several cover models who take this business seriously. They are making money by selling covers and they carry themselves professionally. And yet, if the media portrays what they do as just a bunch of men stripping for crowds of rowdy women where apparently everything goes, then how can these men be taken seriously at their profession?
Us romance readers, we come with many interests. Just like any other genre out there. And we are a fun group too, that’s the best part about it! But I think it’s time to first ask for some respect, the same given to readers/writers of any other genre (with the good and the bad). It’s not okay for reporters to have a condescending tone when talking to romance readers or authors, maybe they’re just not the right person for that interview if that’s how they feel. It’s demeaning to everyone involved in this billion dollar industry and just wrong on the media for shining the light on it that way.
I’m just tired of people being made fun of for the things they enjoy reading! There is nothing wrong with reading to enjoy yourself, it’s about having fun! And I really hope that those who keep thinking they are so much better than romance will give the genre a shot. You never know what might hook you. Because no, it’s not always the same story over and over again!