Whilst formally resigned to it's own section at the back of the book store I have been noticing an unyielding prevalence of romance novels in the best seller sections of late. The most inescapable being 50 Shades of Grey. This has been confusing me and the more I thought about it the more it has been making sense as well as infuriating me; I decided I needed to sort out why.
Firstly I believe the reason for the sudden influx of romance novels of late can be traced down to one source. Twilight... Why do I keep finding reasons for getting annoyed at this book. Twilight had revitalized and revamped romance and, whilst not creating, popularizing the 'paranormal romance' genre. Walking in Dymocks the last few days I saw; to my despair, that the paranormal romance section had ballooned to the size of the now joined Fantasy/Sci-fi genre. I don't believe this will be a permanent change; just like all trends it shall ebb and flow into a new one but the fact that paranormal romance is even separate from romance whilst fantasy is now lumped together with Sci-fi is somewhat baffling to me. This is for a very simple; and yet very complex, reason. The internal conflict is dramatically limited in paranormal romance, and yet comes from an almost universal source. And this is 'temptation'.
Before I dive into an analysis of temptation in literature I should first mention my utter distaste for using the word 'universal'. I'm saving my analysis of motivations and internal conflicts in works for a later date as it is truly to large to cover here.
Temptation is something that can be understood simply; a short term benefit for a long term risk. In romance this comes down simply to the more attractive but unstable partner vs the stable yet dull partner/life. Novels using temptation are a way for us to experience the riskier option without the consequences affecting us in real life. So far so good. I don't personally have a problem with romance novels although due to the ease of writing a 'temptation' plot I find a lot of the genre to be... simple at best and laughable at worst. However it still does allow some more conflicts and is not completely limiting.
Paranormal romance however takes this to the furthest level. Not only does it have to rely on temptation we are always aware of what we will be getting and what we will be giving up as a consequence. I cannot, at all, take the paranormal romance genre seriously. I don't mean to offend anyone who does; nor am I saying that any book writing in the genre is automatically worthless. My personal distaste for it comes from a very strong belief that the inherent promise of paranormal romance's temptation is a lie. You will be transformed into an ageless, unchanging frozen moment in time. Just because you biologically do not change does not mean that you are not changing. I'm willing to accept that it is perhaps more difficult for the world to inflict change upon you as you are no longer human but you are not in complete control of events. Things will still happen around you and they will have an affect on you. The point is you are not always going to be the same person as you are when you are 'changed/transformed/having given into the temptation' nor is your partner.
People changing is the inherent risk in romance, both in novels and in life. The chance that this person will not be the same person, five, ten fifty years down the road of being together is not even really a chance... it's a given. Real romances and the best love stories are the ones that cause you to believe that even when the couple change they will love the new partner as much as they loved the one they used to be and not just because of what they used to be. To me; this fact makes the temptation element in paranormal romances simply not worth it. Should the you drift apart in a romance novel you can find something new and meaningful in your world or with other connections such as friends or family. In paranormal romance you are completely isolated; not just from your previous life but from the world. Interview with a Vampire did a fantastic job of displaying and showing this isolation. This forces you to be completely dependent upon the other person for companionship and turns your secluded lovers nest into a personal prison you cannot escape as there is a world outside that you have no bearing on, no real understanding of and no way to enter.
Essentially I find paranormal romance as a genre to be incredibly limited as the core driving force appears to be so cemented in the idea of temptation in a form we have seen hundreds if not thousands of times before in basically every media there is. Why then, can I understand how Twilight has caused such a insurgence of the genre and appears to have given it more of a legitimacy to readers (except of course those who hate Twilight).
It's because the more I thought about it, the more I realized how incredibly innovative Twilight is for the genre... and yes, I do mean that sincerely. I was thinking over how I have defined temptation and how the paranormal romance genre uses it and I came to the startling revelation of Twilight's reversal of it. It is still very much focused around temptation; but it's not really the main character Bella who is being tempted; I don't think she is even being motivated by romance. Should Edward not have been in the story and Bella simply come across the other Cullens I think she still would have made the decision to become a vampire. The transformation simply does not hold the weight it does in other books; it is clearly established that you can be a vampire without completely loosing your humanity as you do not have to take human life to survive. You are not isolated as the vampires often form clans or in the case of the Cullens a 'family', as well as there being a structure to the vampire world that creates it's own sense of being an existence despite whatever the humans may be up to. It is even shown how the vampires are able to live, partially mind you, in the human world before moving on to another area.
If Bella is not being tempted than who is? Well, Edward is. And we; through projection onto Bella, are turned into the tempters ourselves. Other works have of course included the supernatural being falling for the mortal being, an example very close to the form of Twilight is the Nic Cage movie City of Angels. Yet then, we have the supernatural changing for the mortal. In Twilight the mortal is still the one who changes but the temptation is the supernatural; who has to chose if they corrupt the mortal to gain them for 'eternity' but force the one they love to give up their life for it. Now, disclaimer time. I am simply looking at the plot elements of Twilight, and based on what I'm saying you would think I recommend Twilight as it truly does bring an interesting new dynamic to a genre deeply routed in the traditional and cliched till it has become mundane. I am not. I do think there are some interesting ideas in Twilight that can be discussed and used to shape other ideas but any novelty with the plot is completely undermined by the terrible characterization. By having Edward being so controlling; no doubt a consequence of Stephen Myer being under the misconception that Heathcliff is a 'romantic' character. And Bella being so needy and co-dependent, we are left with a temptation that holds no weight. Edward's claims of not wanting to ruin her life come off as hallow when he controls her so much and she so willing lets him.
Paranormal Romance appears to be fading more into the background. With the last Twilight movie coming out soon I believe there may be a last small resurgence of it copy cat books however even fans are starting to become sick of it. No matter how much you enjoy a style, flooding the market with copy-cats works shall always make it become tiresome. Now being replaced by Twilight fanfiction... sigh. For better or worse it appears as though Romance shall now have it's time hogging the best-seller list; whilst I personally feel it's for worst it shall pass. All genres will time and time again return to the spot light after a sudden popular title inspires it's army of clones and I shall personally sit by and bide my time till Fantasy comes round again.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.