07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Holding out for a hero

There’s a British comedy show called ‘How TV Ruined Your Life’. It’s a humorous rant about how television has made everyone miserable by creating unrealistic and impossible expectations of how our lives will be. Television, it argues, has become one giant, mocking, 24/7 advertisement for stuff we’ll never have.

On TV, people’s lives are non-stop dramas of glamour, sex and instant celebrity – and that’s just the reality shows! Fictional TV characters aim for the stars when it comes to success in careers, friendships and love – nothing less than the miraculous will do. People quit great jobs, abandon loving boyfriends, walk away from situations that any of us could only dream about – because they’re holding out for more. Good isn’t good enough. Everything has to be perfect.

Lizzie, your life sucks. No, really.
Perhaps there should be a show called ‘How Romance Novels Ruined Your Life’. Because our characters behave like this all the time – and get rewarded for it. Lizzie Bennet shuns an advantageous but boring marriage to hold out for a hero – and does she end up miserable? Of course not. She gets Mr Darcy and Pemberley and his zillion pounds a year.

Of course, real life isn’t like Austen. Real people settle. This ain’t Pride and Prejudice. It’s more like ‘Game of Thrones’, where crappy things happen to you no matter how much you don’t deserve it. Mum told Robb Stark not to abandon his duty and marry for love, or it’d only end in tragedy. Guess what, Robb? Shoulda listened to Mum.

Mum told you so, Robb...
Naturally, like most British comedies, ‘How TV Ruined Your Life’ is more than it seems. It holds up a mirror to how vacuous the ‘entertainment’ industry has become, how banal is the cult of petty celebrity, and just how dumb the money-grubbing gutter-dwellers who produce TV shows think we are. Because their solution to all this unrequited envy, of course, is: buy more stuff.

Still. You can’t argue with popularity. There’s something about holding out for a hero that captures our imagination. We secretly admire these bull-headed characters who will risk everything for a chance at perfect happiness. We ask ourselves: would we do the same? What would we sacrifice for happiness? How much is enough?

I think most romance readers know the difference between real life and a book. Unrealistic expectations aren’t an issue, because they’re reading for escape and fantasy. If there was actually any danger that the heroine would have to settle? Readers would put the book down.

Because, unlike in real life, when you're curled up with a romance book, emotional fulfilment and eternal happiness are cheap. In romance, we all get to marry Mr Darcy, at least for a little while. And apart from a couple of bucks for a book? We didn’t have to buy anything.

And that's worth celebrating.


Paty Jager said...

Great post Erica! It reminds me of my daughters saying, "We don't want to read your books and see what you and Dad do." I set them straight. Romance books are fantasy. The reader lives vicariously through the characters. That's why we plunk down our money and enjoy the ride, knowing that's what it is, a ride.

Judith Ashley said...

Yes! There is a difference in escaping in a book and watching mindless t.v. to escape from the drudgery of one's life. For one thing, reading actually stimulates the brain (there is research that shows that's true) while watching t.v. not so much (same research). And I'm not bombarded by advertisements for things I don't want/need from companies whose business practices are suspect.

Great post, Erica!!!

Sarah Raplee said...

Yes, definitely worth celebrating, Erica!

I really enjoyed this post.

Erica Hayes said...

Thanks for visiting, ladies :)

Mindless TV has its place, for sure. I don't mind the odd veg-out in front of some silly show, just to switch off for a while.

But I always find good stories more rewarding, whether they're on TV or in a book - even if they do have a ridiculously happy ending!

Anonymous said...

Well said in a NUTSHELL Erica...

Melia Alexander said...

Great post, Erica, and so true!