A circular argument has been more or less universally accepted whereby only those films that include certain conventions and a certain ‘conservative’ perspective on relationships are romantic comedies and, therefore, romantic comedies are the most conventional and conservative of all genres. If a film threatens to be mildly interesting in cinematic, narrative or ideological terms then it cannot possibly be a romantic comedy. It is a very popular argument and one that manages to contain the genre with very strict and narrow parameters

Celestino Deleyto, The Secret Life of the Romantic Comedy, 2009 (3)

As transformative work, fan writing always, in a sense, begins in the middle of a relationship, a conflict, or a world. Even in fan fiction where the story depicts characters meeting for the first time, those characters have a pre-existing relationship in the source-text and in the minds of readers.

Within commercial romance, a similar process occurs. In commercial romance, genre archetypes also serve as pre-existing types of characters and worlds for an individual story to build on. As with all literary genres, each romantic hero or heroine’s story leans a little on the ones that came before it. Like fan fiction, commercial romance sub-genres are also organized around common story-worlds and motifs (the regency, the paranormal, the contemporary western, etc.). Both commercial and fan authors rework these archetypes and storytelling traditions, contributing their own ideas about romantic conflict and their individual voices into these larger connected pools of stories. In this way, both styles of writing engage in the practice of remixing and transforming pre-existing work.

From Fandom Then/Now: Romance & Fan Fiction

What do you think? Do you buy the idea that the production process for commercial romance has such similar properties to the production of fan fiction/transformative work? Comment at Fandom Then/Now.

Fifty Shades of Remix: The Intersecting Pleasures of Commercial and Fan Romances by Katherine Morrissey

Fifty Shades of Grey’s past as a work of Twilight fan fiction has turned a spotlight onto the conversion of fan works for the commercial romance market. Fifty Shades reminds us of the increasing flow of texts, readers, and writers across these two categories of storytelling. Blurring traditional genre categories, stories like Fifty Shades represent a challenge for fan and popular romance studies. While scholars need to be attentive to medium specific contexts, the impulse to deny intersection may signal problematic assumptions and artificially segregate these storytelling forms. This paper reexamines past work on the differences between fan fiction and romance, arguing for greater attentiveness to the ways these two modes of storytelling intersect. Focusing on the importance of intertextuality and play with form in romantic storytelling, the paper argues that greater attention to these qualities offers new ways for us to study texts like Fifty Shades of Grey and may help scholars reconceptualize the relationship between fan and commercial work.

My article on Fifty Shades came out in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies this week. :)

…almost any romance author you speak to about the genre will quickly tell you that what they write is not true life but a fantasy. The critical space between what one reads and likes and what one actually does is something that critics of the genre must remember, especially because their own policing of women’s desires is the product of the patriarchal system they are trying to criticize. MacLean argues that “we have to give ourselves permission as women to have fantasies. We aren’t saying that men should threaten sexual dominance or harassment or abuse. But it’s okay if we, at some point, find the idea of that threat hot.” In a society that often wants to boil women’s sexual experiences into the polar opposites of purity or sluttiness, romance novels, even when we may as individuals judge their plots to be problematic, are the largest cultural space available for women to read about and imagine their own sexual fantasies.

Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism,” Jessica Luther, The Atlantic

(I agree with a lot of the ideas in this article re. present day romance, but I’d feel more comfortable with them if the author seemed a bit more aware of what was going on in romances in the 70s and 80s.)

“…almost any romance author you speak to about the genre will quickly tell you that what they write is not true life but a fantasy. The critical space between what one reads and likes and what one actually does is something that critics of the genre must remember, especially because their own policing of women’s desires is the product of the patriarchal system they are trying to criticize. MacLean argues that "we have to give ourselves permission as women to have fantasies. We aren’t saying that men should threaten sexual dominance or harassment or abuse. But it’s okay if we, at some point, find the idea of that threat hot.” In a society that often wants to boil women’s sexual experiences into the polar opposites of purity or sluttiness, romance novels, even when we may as individuals judge their plots to be problematic, are the largest cultural space available for women to read about and imagine their own sexual fantasies.“

Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism,” Jessica Luther, The Atlantic

(I agree with a lot of the ideas in this article re. present day romance, but I’d feel more comfortable with them if the author seemed a bit more aware of what was going on in romances in the 70s and 80s.)

The romance genre is partly defined by content and mostly by the way it is distributed and consumed. The early novel and romance fiction are written and especially consumed by women. This consumption is framed as private and purely for pleasure, and this as something like a guilty secret.

(Catherine Driscoll, “One True Pairing: The Romance of Pornography and the Pornography of Romance,” 80)

The romance genre is partly defined by content and mostly by the way it is distributed and consumed. The early novel and romance fiction are written and especially consumed by women. This consumption is framed as private and purely for pleasure, and this as something like a guilty secret.

(Catherine Driscoll, “One True Pairing: The Romance of Pornography and the Pornography of Romance,” 80)