Over at Arwen’s she has a post-in-passing about romance movies and all the airport and chase scenes that are so prevalent in them. As she often does, though, she got me thinking.
What exactly is romance? It really seems to be one of the best-planned campaigns of all time. Built on deception, the lies engendered by romance have lasted for more than eight hundred years.
Here’s the thing, roughly speaking and taken directly from my brain, with no verifying facts in actual books: Eleanor of Aquitaine invented Romance to stop her ladies-in-waiting being summarily raped by knights. Perhaps she acted from compassion. Maybe it was only practicality. I’m not sure. But she and her daughter Marie encouraged minstels to sing about the love of a man for a woman who was untouchable to him. Too high, to far in the firmament. Women of their court used to vote on the ‘courtly’ behaviour of the men around them. Sort of like an uber-rich Medieval reality show, those knights got voted off the island if they looked to be lurkers.
All well and good, but what is romance today? Arwen protests that the “romance movies and airports and/or running scenes” must stop. And although these scenes are trite, the Hollywood Machine persists in giving them to us.
I wonder if maybe we have evolved beyond the chase as a metaphor.
Look at the evolution of romance novels between, say, the Sixties and now. Back in the day, the heroine was a passive secretary or nurse. These days, no one reading these novels will aceept a heroine who is passive in anything. She almost always is at odds with the hero in some way. Usually he must change to accept who she is, and often who she is is an active agent in her own destiny.
Strangely enough, the heroes in romantic movies and books are not generally men I, or any female I know, would settle down with. But real life romance does not translate well to The Grand Gesture. It’s all well and good to have the path of rose petals to the bed, but those buggers leave stains on cream wall-to-wall. Breakfast in bed? Nice, but I’m not hungry when I first wake up.
It makes me wonder if we are simply re-animating the husk of Romance, as a genre. Forcing it to dance a monkey dance for our decreasing sense of amusement.