Romance in the Modern Era

Romance in the modern era is a battlefield. After simultaneously reading a series of trilogies, all of which inhabit the perfect love story, and reading various criticisms towards these novels, I write this blog.

The number one, best seller Fifty Shades of Grey has received mixed opinions. However, I write from personal experience of the reaction I received when telling friends that I had read this novel. They were surprised that I had enjoyed it as I hold strong feminist views. However, I explained how main protagonist Anastasia Steele is the epitome of a modern woman as she does not succumb to the perfect Christian Grey. She is the reason that he is able to fall in love, as she does not submit to him as every other woman. (I write consciously about each novel in this post with anticipation that some of you may not have read them!)

But more importantly, the novel represents the behaviour of the perfect male. Although Christian Grey has various problems that beautifully unfold within the love story, he epitomises what every woman is searching for; quite simply – a gentleman. He is gentle, caring, but, more enticingly, over protective. Some feminists or women in general, may argue why a modern woman, who is independent and able to protect herself, would want a man who is over protective?

I have always battled with the question: should a man pay for dinner on the first date or should women pay half? On one hand, women want to be equal to men, yet on the other hand, we still want men to behave like gentlemen.

Thus, I return to answer the question of why a woman would want an over protective man that overly cares, shows a woman that he will fight her battles on her behalf, by using a quotation from the 2011 best seller Gabriel’s Inferno. Female protagonist Julianne Mitchell states to her lover Gabriel ‘you are overprotective’ to which he replies ‘this is how a man behaves when he’s in love.’

Why reject over protectiveness if this is what love is unless we are trying to recreate the idea of love to fit with the notion of the ‘New Woman.’ Personally, I believe that ‘old is gold.’

Each novel that I have read includes the perfect male and I realised that the defining quality of that perfect male is their over protectiveness and, of course, their showering of sweet nothings. Deborah Harkness introduces us to Matthew De Clairmount in her novel A Discovery of Witches. Uncannily similar to Twilight, this novel presents how Matthew loves Diana so much so that he is willing to create a battle to stay with her. Fictional and unrealistic as the plot may seem, Matthew, and Edward from Twilight, share the similarity of battling for their love; something that is vehemently pulling on the heart strings of the consumer mass market, including myself.

I recently attended the E L James Q&A session in which women and men shared their experiences of reading the Fifty Shades trilogy. One woman spoke of how an elderly man, after reading the novel, had been reminded of true love and had fallen in love with his wife all over again.

Some acquaintances of mine have criticised the novels for being poorly written. After studying a degree in Literature, I fail to share their criticism. When reading a novel, one should let go of the bare reality of the writing, structure and intellect, and instead should escape in the words. For me, successful literature does not need to be written in riddles or the language of Chaucer, it needs a story in which reality and fantasy intermingle; where you cannot put the book down because you are immersed in another world.

Is scepticism killing romance? Indulge and you will realise it is there; alive and awaiting you. Be the woman who is told that being without you ‘is like enduring an endless night without stars.’ (Gabriel’s Inferno.)

I do not attempt to speak on behalf of all women as I do not have such authority to do so or such knowledge. I am merely putting forth that by submitting to the medieval chivalry that these novels portray, we are not leaving behind the ‘New’ but strengthening what it means to be a ‘Woman’; treated with respect by men who behave like gentleman – opening car doors and delivering flowers that hold greater symbolic meaning. Maybe, just maybe, by seeking this idyllic vision, we will combat domestic abuse suffered by women.

‘When a man kneels before a woman, it’s a gesture of chivalry. When a woman kneels before a man, it’s unseemly.’ ~ Gabriel’s Inferno