Every year, Valentine’s Day brings with it the release of movies that fall into the much-maligned genre of “rom-com.” Warnings against romantic fiction go back at least as far as 1605 to Cervantes’s Don Quixote. More recently, the novelist Curtis Sittenfeld casually dismisses “most romances [as] badly written.” Ella Cerón in GQ calls them “one-degree-from-creepy.” Others consider the genre “emotional porn.” And in the Christian world, some voices warn that romance fiction is not “edifying” in the definition of Philippians 4:8.
Not unlike a lot of single women, I have a complicated relationship with romantic narratives and for a long time, simply didn’t enjoy them. In my 20s, I became a career-driven woman who people didn’t think was “into that kind of thing,” so I started to think I shouldn’t be. Then came the experiences with real-life romance. I went through some relationships that left me feeling prickly about ideal romantic stories that unfailingly led to a “happily ever after.” (The Romance Writers of America defines the modern genre as “a central love story” with “an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending,” so a happily-ever-after in some form is required.)
During the years when I couldn’t enjoy romance, I felt rather proud of my aversion. I was like Rebel Wilson’s character Natalie in the recently released movie Isn’t It Romantic, calling romance and rom-coms “unhealthy, unrealistic, and toxic,” especially for women.
Although I wouldn’t defend the entire genre, nonetheless I have come around to the counter-argument Natalie’s best ...1
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