I am a romance lover. This is a love affair that goes back twenty years and will burn until the day I die. I love stories of love, of hope, and triumph. So do millions of other readers. And yet we have, since the inception of the genre, been insulted for our reading choices, been made to feel that we are less–less intelligent, less refined, less worthy (never mind the fact that Romance makes up something like 50% of ALL books sold).
I kind of hate getting into discussions about books. It’s this totally dangerous proposition. If I happen to come across someone else who loves romance (or YA), then it CAN lead to fabulous and enthusiastic discussion. Or it can lead to a great and utter ragefest because someone whips out completely erroneous and unsupported “facts” about “bodice rippers”, which, in case you didn’t know, is an obscenely outdated pejorative term meant to convey disdain toward the entire genre. Very little makes me stabbity more quickly. Because NEVER does anyone who has ever actually READ romance make these statements. (Include also the generalization that “Romances have no plot”, “Anyone can write one”, and “They aren’t real books.”).
Anyway, last week, a WOMAN AUTHOR, Joanna Robinson, wrote an article entitled “Does the New Outlander Series Have What It Takes to Be More than Just a Bodice-Ripper?” (Linked with DoNotLink, so they won’t get credit for your clicks), which was full of ill-informed, lazy opinions that proved that a) Ms. Robinson is not a reader of romance, b) She has not read Outlander, c) She’s a completely lazy journalist, and d) She apparently doesn’t grasp that the intended audience of her publication is actually the very women she’s insulting in her opinion piece.
Now, I’m not here to rebut her article. @LadyRaven15 and Megan Frampton have already done so quite well, thanks ladies. But what I did want to talk about is the fact that Robinson whipped out the old chestnut “Bodice Ripper” (in the title, no less) AND felt compelled to add in the gybe “in order to become a true hit, Outlander, a steamy, time-traveling romp through Scotland, is going to have to find a way to appeal to more than just your dear old mum. In other words, it can’t just be Fifty Shades of Plaid.”
Oh no she didn’t!
Except, yeah, she did. And, now that I think about it, she’s not the first one I’ve seen do this.
50 Shades of Gray is obscenely popular. Whether you love the books or hate them, they’re out there and the terms and all the pejorative connotations that go along with them are a part of the popular consciousness. While that very popularity has done some great things in opening doors to books that might not have stood a chance before (why HELLO, new adult as a genre!), I sometimes wonder if it’s done more harm than good for the romance genre as a whole. Because ye old Bodice Ripper insult was bad enough being based on the stupid 80s era book covers. But all the 50 Shades connotations–because the books have been so controversial–manage to pull romance down to an even lower rung of the ladder of respect (if that’s possible) by imbuing an additional layer of depredation–romance has become “Mommy porn”–a term which I’d like to see stricken from the consciousness of the world because it’s insulting on too many levels to count. And I just can’t think about that right now because it’s bad for my blood pressure.