While we at the Riot are taking this lovely summer week off to rest (translation: read by the pool/ocean/on our couches), we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Wednesday, July 8th.
This post originally ran June 12, 2015.
So, you want to write a romance novel think piece. Congratulations! You’ve chosen to do a critique of the most commonly maligned literary genre on the planet. Romance criticism is a goldmine, and you’re not one to look a very dead gift horse in the mouth.
Perhaps you’re worried because you don’t really know anything about romance. Relax. The beauty of this type of article is that anyone who’ll publish it won’t know the difference! Simply follow these simple steps:
- Use an image of Fabio. He hasn’t graced a romance novel cover in decades but you want your readers to think they recognize him as the guy who’s on all the covers of those books they don’t read.
- To set the right tone, try to get people snickering along with you as early as possible. If you’re of a creative bent, begin your article with romance-style prose. If you’re not sure what that style is, guess.
- You may have heard that confirmation bias is a bad thing, but actually it’s a necessary building block of the kind of article you’re hoping to publish. Read just a few romance novels that will prove your point, and then stop. You don’t want to get confused about your own angle.
- Avoid researching your topic. It’s best to offer some background and then jump right into personal opinion. Getting specific (for example, referring to any actual romance fiction or interviewing romance readers or bloggers) only encourages informed disagreement.
- Try to establish your think piece’s place in a long romance reporting tradition that expresses the exact same concerns in the exact same way. You don’t want originality here: your points will have more force if they have already been made countless times.
- Focus your article on something having to do with sex. Now, here is where you can give it your own unique spin by choosing among the following options:
- rape in romance
- near rape in romance
- non-consensual sex in romance
- rape in romance
- Refer exclusively to historical romance. While historicals are one of ten romance subgenres, they’re the only kind that your target audience has ever heard of.
- Emphasize the harmful effects of romance on impressionable women who, despite having spent approximately 1000 more hours than you have reading it, never considered them before. Trust me, they will appreciate your bringing to their attention the little known fact that a commercial literary form produced in a culture marked by sexism, racism, classism, and ableism might be problematic.
- Make your audience aware that you only read romance novels for a laugh or for “research.” This is a dirty job that you are doing out of concern for the women. Ignore critics who throw around terms like “internalized sexism.” Remember, they are biased “fans” and you have the purest kind of objectivity, born from near complete ignorance of your topic.
- Be sure to make sweeping statements. What they lack in accuracy, they make up for in boldness. If you’re worried about generalizing over tens of thousands of books, just throw in hedge words like “some” or “many”, which you can defensively quote in the event that actual romance readers show up like ants at a picnic (#notallromancenovels is a good hashtag to have at the ready in the event of Twitter blowback).
Finished? Congratulations! Now just sit back and enjoy the appreciative comment thread full mostly of people who, like you, have strong negative opinions about romance and its readers and want to share them with other people who also, like you, do not read romance. You’re giving them the rare gift of having their sexist ideas about the low quality of women’s writing and the lack of discernment of women readers affirmed on the internet, and what’s the harm in that?