HAPPILY NEVER AFTER….The Romance Story in Popular Culture
Last weekend, I attended the 25th Anniversary Romance Writers of Australia Conference at the Stamford Grand Hotel, Glenelg, South Australia. It was a grand affair, fitting of the venue and the theme: Ain’t Love Grand. This year the RWA aligned with Flinders University to present a parallel academic stream of workshops available to the 400 delegates there. I was really keen to meet up with some of my favourite authors and to feast on the writing workshops from international and local guest writers and publishers, but the academic stream piqued my interest. On the evening of my arrival, prior to day one, I put off checking into my beckoning 5-star luxury beachside accomodation to attend a free public event in Adelaide city; Representations of Love and Romance: Scholars and Authors in conversation. Scholars from the University of Alabama, Melbourne University, and the University of Western Australia, as well as a Medieval Historian, NY Times bestselling author Heather Graham, romance author May McGoldrick and Hollywood script consultant Michael Hauge, formed a panel to discuss the writing and representation of romance in popular culture.
My eyes were opened: popular romance books perhaps do not denigrate women as mindless waifs waiting to be swept off their feet to ride off into the sunset with a handsome, but often harsh princely type. Rather, they can teach us about dreams and relationships in ways that women want them to be: she wants to fall in love with the hero – who must have integrity and be lovable, and the heroine will overcome trials, be in control, can keep her career and – horror of horrors – even have a past!
I ponder about other forms and genres of popular escapism and fantasy. The notion of romance is rooted deeply in our popular culture: from the Bible, in songs, advertising, and high culture, there is a powerful romantic narrative of how to live the good life.
Why can romance be generally regarded as acceptable, but seen as mindless and embarrassing in print? To expand on this question, here’s an article that appeared in The Guardian newspaper this week: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/24/mills-and-boon-romances-are-actually-feminist-texts-academic-says?CMP=share_btn_link
As for myself, in between reading more literary tomes, for respite I love to devour rural romances and what I loosely term women’s fiction. So why do I shamefully drop the Romance/Women’s tag, to Rural/General fiction when I describe my choices? Do you?
I have just learned that romantic fiction is the biggest publishing sector in the world: that there are entire societies of romance fiction enthusiasts, practitioners and scholars in its grip. At the Conference I finally found a safe place to come out. When asked “What do you write?” I found myself answering, “Historical rural fiction, ummm,” head nodding and bright-eyed, “with romantic elements!”
What do YOU read and write?
#PopularRomanceStudies #WomensFiction #RuralRomance #WhatWomenWantToRead #AintLoveGrand #RomanceWritersOfAustralia