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A Rare Romance
I am at a minority.
In which, I mean, I have always been a minority.
I am one of those rare people who find romance, any type of romance, tedious. I read works of fiction and I roll my eyes the moment the Inevitable Love Interest eyes the main character, falling in love in an instant despite everything. I loathe the Romantic Plot Tumor and the Love Triangle as much as I loathe cancer. I close the book anytime the main character, male or female, begins dragging on about the adoration of a simple crush. It's one of the reasons why I avoid YA at all costs, it's one of the reasons why I've declined to read any of the supposedly 'good' romance novels. I can't stand romance. Sex, perhaps, but not romance.
And honestly, I'm probably the only person who thinks this. I know its cliched to claim your superiority over others because you see something they don't, but I'm not trying to do that. I will never suggest romance should die. I will never suggest that people who read romance are weak. But in a world that practically glorifies 'true love' and sets a standard for all women to like E.L James and Stephenie Meyer, I get so much excitement from reading female led books that don't have a love interest.
I have never thought of this as much, before, because I usually avoid the romance ghetto of my local Barnes & Noble. I've been immune to it for some time now. But then I picked up a book from a suggested author, whose comic series I used to really like for its strange atmosphere. You see, he's a novel writer, and novel writers write novels (obviously.) So I thought, 'Well, why not read something other than comics from the man? He's obviously talented.' And while I did enjoy that book, one thing completely ruined the experience for me; a love triangle.
That was when I knew I had a problem.
This was an award winning author. Everybody's broken their backs to give him as much credit as possible. Some has hailed him as the best writer of the modern century, and I disliked his book because it had a love triangle in it.
I have ruminated over this fact for weeks, and it's only now that it struck me that I had a reason. It's the one reason why some love stories annoyed me endlessly, and why others don't. It's the one reason why Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol has become a guilty pleasure of mine while Inferno made me see him as a horrible writer in general. The one reason why I praise Gone Girl endlessly despite the fact it's just as much as a love story than anything.
I'm the biggest fan of Gone Girl you will ever meet. I am also a big fan of Gillian Flynn's other book, Sharp Objects. Both those books highlight Flynn's uncanny ability to put dimension in her women, something I rarely ever see in popular female or male authors. But I can't help but admit that, despite Sharp Object's relatively asexual vibe (except for that one scene,) Gone Girl is the superior book (for once, the public actually chooses the good book as the most popular!) And yes, though most people have argued its a mystery than anything, I still think its a love story. Its a shameless love story between a meticulous sociopath and her repressed husband. And, in all due respect, it's probably the first love story I actually liked.
It's because she gives equal dimension to both characters. It's not one character longing to get the admiration of another and then earning it, its the story of two enemies in a volatile marriage realizing that, for better or worse, they need each other like darkness needs light, like the earth needs the sky, like the moon needs the sun. It's not your typical 'Boy Meets Girl' scenario. It's a conflict, and you can feel both of them fighting for it. Amy Dunne is a player in the game, not a trophy.
And honestly, that's what I feel is missing in most romances. I'll take that recent novel I read, and I'll just point it out: it's Anansi Boys. There, I said it. I disliked Anansi Boys because of a love triangle. I was afraid to say it because I do believe Neil Gaiman is a terrific writer, and I know his fanboys/girls will probably ravage me for insulting his likeness. Let me put it out here--the only thing I disliked about Anansi Boys is the love triangle. Everything else is brilliant, especially how Charles Nancy defeated Tiger. But not only did I absolutely hate Rosie and her replacement Daisy, I prayed to God in the (spoiler alert) proposal scene Charles wouldn't do it, and he did it (spoiler ends.)
It's not that I don't want a happy ending. Of course I want a happy ending! Who doesn't want a happy ending? What I don't want is a happy ending hinged on marrying a character that has no life outside of the male main character. Daisy I can forgive, as she's made it clear she's her own woman, but Rosie gets on my nerves. Yes, jump at me with questions of "She saved herself!" and "She's a charitable person!". I don't care. It became clear to me from the beginning she was only there as something for Spider and Charles to fight over, (spoiler) something for Spider to eventually win, and then Daisy quickly became Replacement Rosie to Charles (spoiler ends.)
And that's what I despise of stories like that. When women are capable of being replaced with attractive lamps. It's more forgivable in Gaiman's case, as he at least gave Rosie and Daisy motives and ambitions other than getting a man, but I've read so many other authors who make it clear that their women are nothing more than attractive lamps. And it's not only women. Obvious Male Love Interests are not above my radar, but as most of the time they have more interesting personalities other than 'abs', I tend to give them warnings. I have read obscure tween love stories, and I assure you, they treat their male love interests just as badly.
I will always be a minority in this. I will always have one of my friends saying, "But you've never been in love," as a reason for why I dislike romance. And honestly, they might be right. But here's a thing: I don't actually dislike romance. In fact, it makes up a good portion of my reading. Just not the published ones.
Yes, I read fanfiction. Sherlock Holmes fanfiction, mostly. Go ahead and laugh, I'll wait here. Good? Good. The majority of my Wattpad library consists of gay love stories between Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes of the BBC series (laugh further. Get it out of your system.) One that I especially suggest is Memorize Me, from the website Archive of Our Own--whether or not you like that sort of thing, I suggest you read it. It's quite good. It tells the story of a schizophrenic Sherlock Holmes who wakes to find out he's married to his nemeses, and must fight a battle between his mind and his heart; should he believe Moriarty, or should he succumb to his possibly deluded senses?
See, I don't like all gay fanfiction. But most of them are alright to me. Why? Well, that's simple; because the two main characters are usually equal in the relationship. Nobody is made into a trophy, nobody lacks any personality. Both of them remain characters, but that doesn't affect the relationship. I feel for both of them, and I want them to get together. I do not feel that way towards Katniss Everdeen and Peeta. I want Katniss Everdeen to throw Peeta aside and kick down an Orwellian government like she was made to. I want Katniss Everdeen to have internal conflict about selling herself to the public eye for sponsors. I want Katniss Everdeen to drop the mic and ride off a train singing a Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A'Changing" with an electric guitar.
I will always be a minority. I will probably get a lot of people trying to justify romance in the comments section, even though I'm not attacking it as a genre. I'm attacking it as a method. I'm attacking it as a cliche. The best romance is the romance that looks at both characters in question as people first; and, unfortunately, it's probably the rarer romance.