The Cultural Gutter

going through pop culture's trash since 2003

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

Whine. And Cheese.

Chris Szego
Posted July 7, 2011

Shakespeare claims it’s April, psychologists say it’s December.  But I think July is the cruellest month.  It’s hot; it’s grossly humid; I never manage to swing a proper holiday.  This year I have the added irritant of lacking air-conditioning both at home and at work.  Argh.

Thus, July find me as grumpy as a grated badger.  Which makes this the perfect time for the annual roundup of things that annoy me in the Romance genre.  As usual, this list is personal, highly biased, and about trends rather than specific books.

Urban Fantasy

That sounds misleading.  In fact, I love me a good urban fantasy.  I’m dancing with impatience for the new Jim Butcher novel (note to other anxious readers:  it’s due at the end of the month).  Adding a fantasy element to the here-and-now allows mythology and action to play off one another in unusual and exciting ways.

But Urban Fantasy is just that:  a Fantasy set in a city.  An Urban Fantastic Romance is more likely called a Paranormal, and I’m having some trouble with them at the moment. Specifically, with the sameness of them.  That’s a strange thing to say about a genre that relies on the appeal of a specific formula, I know.  But it’s not the sameness of content that bugs me; its the sameness of ornament.  The iconclastic characters.  The hunter vs hunted society.  The noir-like idea that the city is teetering on the edge of barbarism, and the heroine (or sometimes hero) is holding back the growing darkness with everything she’s (or he’s) got.

As a Fantasy, that’s a decent starting place.  But since a Romance is actually about the developing relationship between the two main characters, the Paranormal trappings usually become just that:  trappings.  When the archetypes of Urban Fantasy become boxes to check off, their power is seriously diluted.  While saving the world, you can have a romance in the spare moments around the edges of the action.  The converse rarely rings true.

One last whinge:  why is it that only the dark magics seem to get any page time? After all, unless physics has gone entirely off-line, for every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction.  If demons and the Dark Sidhe and goblins are all real,  so too must be angels and guardian dragons and unicorns.

Steampunk

Years ago I complained about Scottish Romances just hitting the marks of  plaid, heather, and brogue.  If you substitute corset, goggles and gears, and the exact same thing can be said today about Steampunk Romances. Steampunk is an aesthetic. A cool aesthetic, sure, and one that offers lots of intriguing possibilities. But it’s not a plot.

Zombies

To be fair, this one isn’t really about the Romance genre, as the shambling undead don’t easily lend themselves to Romance, what with the stench, and the bits falling off, and the eating of brains and such.  Of course there are a few Zombie-Romance anthologies:  they just prove Rule 34A*.  But this particular peeve is about the rising subgenre that plonk zombies into the middle of public domain stories. Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies started the parade.  Fine.  The first one’s always different.  But by this point, Austen has been most distressingly  be-monstered. Along with Shakespeare; Twain; Tolstoy; and Alcott. Not to mention actual historical figures; several kings and queens, and even children’s primers like Dick and Jane.  And then there are the original zombie stories, the wars, the apocalypses, the survivors, and so on…

As a bookseller, I implore you:  Enough with the zombies already!  Please, just stop.

Supernatural Boyfriend of the Week

This isn’t an actual subgenre, but an admittedly-snide label I apply to a certain class of Young Adult Romances.  You can guess what kind, right? Yeah, it’s the kind in which a girl meets a strange and wonderful new boy, who turns out to be a vampire/ werewolf/ fae/ angel/ merman/ demon/ magic user/ dead/ etc.  Again, as a basis for a story, it’s a fairly solid platform.  But the execution is often annoying. Especially when, in book two, another wonderful boy shows up, who is a shapechanger/ shaman/ wizard/ necromancer/ hunter of the first boy’s kind/ etc.

I want to emphasize that my carping does not mean I dislike YA, or YA Romances. Nothing could be further from the truth.  In recent years, most of the books I’ve loved best have been YA, and many of those contain wonderful romances.  It’s the after-school-special feeling of SBoTW stories that bugs me.  This type of story usually substitutes melodrama for emotion, and that just makes me tired.  I want to tell the characters to grow up.  To think for ten minutes, instead of emoting.  And while they’re at it, to get off my damn lawn!

 

*Rule 34A:  If it exists, there will also be a Romance about it.

 

 

Chris Szego is grumpy.  Obviously.

 

Comments

7 Responses to “Whine. And Cheese.”

  1. ProfessorMortis
    July 7th, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    Please, please, please someone stop the zombies.

  2. Carol Borden
    July 7th, 2011 @ 7:32 pm

    Professor– i’ve had zombie fatigue since 2007 and there’s still no end in sight.

    Chris– i especially love this, “Thus, July find me as grumpy as a grated badger.” great line, great image.

  3. Chris Szego
    July 7th, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

    Zombie fatigue is exactly right. Who knew it was such a contagious condition?

  4. Carol Borden
    July 8th, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

    I actually went back and included the “zombie fatigue” tag on this.

    In the zombie romances, do people try to snatch moments of love in the midst of a zombie apocalypse/plague?

  5. Anne
    July 11th, 2011 @ 1:00 am

    I too love “grumpy as a grated badger”. Classic!

    As I am on vacation in California (and am also fed up with the zombie festival of gore)I have to share with you the the demand of vegan California beach bum zombies for “grains, grains, grains”…

  6. CCBC
    July 11th, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

    Um, Shakespeare? It was Eliot, riffing on Chaucer.

    But I agree that there should be a zombie moratorium.

  7. Chris Szego
    July 12th, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

    You’re totally right! That’ll teach me to be so lazy.

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    The Gutter’s own Carol infiltrates Teleport City‘s limits to contribute to TC’s Space: 1999 series with her piece on aliens and what big jerks they are. “Space: 1999 taught me two valuable lessons. The first is that space is depressing and best represented by the color taupe. The second is that, with few exceptions, aliens are jerks.”

    ~

    The Dartmouth College Library ahs scans of the oldest extant comic book, Rodolphe Töpffer’s
    “The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck” (1837). (via @SoxOnTheBrain)

    ~

    At Graveyard Shift Sisters, Carolyn looks at Lizzie Borden’s Born In Flames (1983) and the character, Adelaide Norris. “Born in Flames was revolutionary for its time, and I think it is still relevant today. This film has many layers, with both a speculative as well as a science fictional representation of a parallel universe that denies oppression. One of the main characters, Adelaide Norris played by Jean Satterfield, came to the forefront for me because of her race and role in the story. Adelaide is one of the key characters who pulls the female troops together. With the help of her mentor Zella, played by civil rights lawyer Flo Kennedy, this young Black and gay woman tirelessly researches, advises, and recruits women to fight the good fight for equality.”

    ~

    A video tribute to interactive VCR games including: Nightmare (1991), The Fisherman VCR Bible Game (1989), Rich Little’s Charades (1985), Wayne’s World VCR Game (1992), Star Trek: The Next Generation VCR Game (1995) and Skull and Crossbones (1988). (Thanks, Beth!)

    ~

    At The Los Angeles Review Of Books, Suzannah Showler writes about the complexity of the reality tv show The Bachelor and her complicated love for it. “I love The Bachelor the way I love most things, which is to say: complicatedly. On the one hand, I think it’s a fascinating cultural product, one I find great delight in close-reading. But I also love it, frankly, because I just like watching it. I think it’s top-notch entertainment, and I will straight up hip-check my politics out of the way, and give up many hours of my life, in the name of being entertained.” (Via @idontlikemunday)

    ~

    At Comics Alliance, Chris Sims recounts that time the Punisher battled Dr. Doom. “It starts off with Dr. Doom kicking it in an extradimensional conference room set up by Loki to coordinate mass villainy, where he is just ripping into the Kingpin for being unable to kill the Punisher….Thus, in a sterling example of the ‘well then why don’t you do it’ school of super-villain cameraderie, Dr. Doom, a man who built a time machine in his basement, heads off to try his luck at fighting the Punisher, a man who has a gun. He does this, as you might expect, by luring him to a quarry and — after a brief exchange between a Doombot and a minigun — attempting to blow up his van with a tank.”

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: