I’m fascinated by the huge success of the Fifty Shades of Grey novels, which is listed as contemporary romance, women's fiction novel. I didn’t read it, nor do I ever plan to read it. I looked at some statistics and reviews, that’s as far as I’m willing to go.
The interesting fact is that the books sold 100 million copies, and about 58% of the readers loved it, despite the fact that, according to the opinion of many reviewers, the author justifies abuse and perverse relationship.
This made me think. Perhaps most readers and movie goers are getting bored with regular romance novels and movies? Are readers abandoning the regular romance and more interested in erotica, kinky sex scenes, domination, deviancy and abuse? The more perverse the better?
It really seems like to me, what else could explain the huge interest in these books?
Romance authors usually don’t spell out every single move the lovers make, or every single thought that runs through their head while making love. Romance writers have their clever ways to trigger the reader’s imagination and send tingles to the right places at the right moment. Also, the majority of the books are well edited, the plots are fascinating and they provide hours of great entertainment. Romance authors don’t promote physical and mental abuse, or perverse sexual activity.
However, it seems like most readers want more. They don’t seem to care about bad writing, grammar mistakes, limited vocabulary, or as my friend who read the first book put it, “This book seems like it was written by a sick minded, horny high school dropout teenager. I bet my shoelace has a wider vocabulary, and the story is nothing like a consensual masochistic- sadistic relationship, which is a role play. This story is sick and demeaning, and justifies physical and mental abuse.”
Listing this book as contemporary romance really bugs me.
"Contemporary romance is a subgenre of romance novels, generally set contemporaneously with the time of its writing. The largest of the romance novel subgenres, contemporary romance novels are set in the time when they were written, and usually reflect the mores of their time." Bestselling author Nora Roberts sums up the genre, saying "The books are about the celebration of falling in love and emotion and commitment, and all of those things we really want." Women's fiction (including chick lit) is not directly a subcategory of the romance novel genre, because in women's fiction the heroine's relationship with her family or friends may be as important as her relationship with the hero. The general definition, as embraced by the RWA and publishers, includes only the focus on a developing romantic relationship and an optimistic ending.
Does the Fifty Shades of Grey fits into this genre? You decide, I didn't read it.
Although not listed as erotica, let's see if this book would fit into the genre:
"Romance erotica seems to be on the rise as more women explore this new subgenre. Erotica is a term used to describe scenes in the novel that are risqué but not pornographic." I doubt this book fits into this genre either.
Are most readers getting desensitized and want more excitement than the good old romance novels usually offer?
This made me realize how we became desensitized to horror movies in a relatively short time. When I was a teenager, I always had a pillow in my hands, so I could hide when the scary parts came on, in even mild horror movies. I’m not a big horror fan, but if a movie doesn’t gross me out too much in the first five minutes, and my friends say that the story line is good, I give it a try.
When the Dexter series started, by then I was desensitized and watched him hacking people to pieces without a flinch. And, I guess I kind of developed a morbid fascination and watched the series. I also watched the Walking Dead, and I didn’t throw up or hid behind a pillow at the gory parts.
Those movies are not my favorite, I’m still a hopeless fantasy fan, and when I occasionally read or watch romance, I like to use my imagination.
However, it makes me think:
Is the time near when the good old fashioned romance stories will be passé?
Will romance writers be forced to incorporate whips, handcuffs, leather strips and gags into their stories?
Will they have to make their characters scream in pain, bleed and be humiliated in order to meet the expectations of romance readers?
Is the future of romance includes handcuffs, leather strips, gags and other torture devices?