Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why Romance is More Popular Now than Ever

Adam & Eve by Gustav Klimt

As Jimmie Cox once wrote, "Nobody knows you when you're down and out." Since so many people are down and out these days (and getter downer and more out), there has been a growing interest in things that not only survive but prosper in a tough economy: Hershey's Kisses, lipstick, and romance novels, just to name a few.

Lately, there's been a spate of articles on US News & World Report and other sites about why romance novels are enjoying even more sales than usual. Yes, why indeed. Let's analyze these winners for a moment, shall we--what does Hershey's chocolate, McDonald's, lipstick, and romance novels (which USN&WR rather inaccurately refers to as "bodice rippers") all have in common?
  1. They're relatively cheap. Or they can be (I still think $8 for a mass market paperback is too expensive, but admittedly that doesn't stop me from buying them).
  2. They all satisfy some basic need (McDonald's and Hershey's is food, so that's obvious; lipstick for beauty/fashion; and romances for love).
  3. They all make you feel good... well, except for McDonald's. Then you only feel good if you get the kid's meal.
Earlier, I mentioned that "bodice rippers" is an inaccurate term for romance novels. Not only that, but it's ridiculously outdated. As most of you probably know by now, I'm an avid romance reader, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've ever encountered a bodice being ripped in a novel, romance or otherwise. I'm sure they were being shredded like nobody's biznas back in the day, but nowatimes not so much. There are also people who refer to romance novels as porn for women--well, there are excellent erotic romances and there is definitely an audience that appreciates hot love scenes //eyes shift from side to side//, but I would say that is not the main attraction of romance novels at all.

Okay, kids, Bible quiz: what is one of the first things Adam does after he's created? He realizes he's lonely! The need for companionship, love, and to connect with another human being is one of the most basic needs we have besides food and water. Romance novels not only provide extended escapism, like movies, but an escapism geared toward humans' most basic desires: sex, love, and acceptance. I'm not necessarily saying these desires are more easily fulfilled when a person has money--not at all. As Jimmie Cox pointed out, the friends he made when he "bought bootleg liquor, champagne and wine," were not real friends at all. Rather, I'm suggesting that these desires become more glaring when you can't go out and get manipedi or a Dooney & Burke bag to make yourself feel better.

So is it any wonder that romance is one of the most universal themes in storytelling, let alone that it thrives in a bad economy? And do we really need any more articles analyzing why people enjoy romance novels? No, I don't think so--instead of analyzing, why don't you just give into your curiosity and buy one, hm?

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