Looking for Reality in Romance
For many educated women reading romances is an integral part of their lives. Most women have tried to read them at some point. Unlike most other consumer articles of popular culture, these novels are targeted for women. It does create a problem for feminism. "The Mills and Boon romantic novels are written by, read by, marketed for, and are all about women. Yet nothing could be further from the aims of feminism than these fantasies based on the sexual, racial, and class submission which so frequently characterise these novels. The plots and elements are frequently so predictable that cynics have suggested that Mills and Boon's treasured authors might well be computers."1 It is very common to denegrate romance as a king of fairy-tale and therefore unnecessary for any serious discussion. While on the one hand it is a genre for and by women, on the other hand it reinforces the patriarchal notions of "masculinity' and "femininity5. It then becomes difficult to account for the immense popularity of romances among women. Romance means big business. "The average print run for each novel is 115,000".2
Romance fiction, as we understand it in the late twentieth century, has all the elements of a fairy-tale. It is the tale of a young woman who is apparently not interested in living happily or is forced to lead a miserable life, until she meets her Mr. Right. Mr. Right, as the word sounds, is the perfect/proper man for this woman. Again he is the person who is going to put everything right in order for the young woman. The grateful woman falls in love and marries him. the subtext of this story is easily identifiable in 'Cinderella' or 'Sleeping Beauty' or 'Snow-white'. It is in 'Sleeping Beauty' that we find the waiting princess whose childhood and adolescence has passed away in sleep. She wakes up in her youth only at the arrival of the prince.
Research Scholar, School of Women's Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta.
Social Scientist, Vol. 28, Nos. 3- 4, March-April 2000