Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fantastic Reality, or Realistic Fantasy?


I love Disney. Lifetime movies make me blubber like a baby. Heck, if they’re gooshy enough, Hallmark cards turn my eyes all shiny and moist. I’m a romance author, which means I have to be a hopeless romantic, right? Yeah, but, but...

But in my day job, I teach sociology. Not just any sociology: social inequalities. You want to know statistics about gender income equalities? Interested in discussing looksism? Dying to hear all about racial microaggressions? I’m your woman.

Given my two very different vocations, it’s inevitable that I experience some workplace confusion and ambivalence. For example, in the classroom, I have been known to say, “Jews report the highest rates of hate crimes perpetratedagainst them.” Silence. “Hey, you want to look at pictures of puppies?” Is it any wonder, then, that I constantly grapple with how much reality to stick in my romances? I’m a huge fan of escapism, of romantic conventions, of the predictability and simplicity of happily-ever-afters. Fan? I rely on them; they’re my old faithful, my constant comforts and joys (along with pictures of small, fuzzy things, of course). Yet, I’ve also devoted my life to stripping away cultural myths and encouraging my students to kick complacency to the curb and effect some kind of difference in their communities and worlds. How can I shave the real world from my literary one? Should I?
 
These are questions I ponder every day while clacking away on my latest novel. I want, I need the romance, the love that defies all studies and statistics. At the same time, the social scientist in me demands a measure of reality, of accountability for the crazy things we humans do to one another and to the planet. I know some reality is necessary, of course; a total fantasy that doesn’t map onto realistic human interactions would be neither relatable nor interesting. And who can disagree that a little bit of grittiness makes the fantasies feel slightly more attainable?

Escapism and gritty reality: how to balance these? What does a mashup look like, or, at the least, how much of one to include versus the other? I imagine this is a question we all face, particularly those of us who write about romance, one of the most fantastic and earthy human emotions.

5 comments:

  1. For me, reading, writing, and watching fiction is about escaping inequities. It's my pollux to the castor of the evils of mortal life. And as much as I like to itinerize life, this is something I have to follow my emotions on, and sort of let flow. Sometimes I read/write/watch a lot, or certain things, and other times I can't take my hands from the wheel.
    Interesting topic, and a great post.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback. This is a difficult topic for me. I read to escape, too, and I write that way. But I also want to play author-goddess, which means adding in juuuuussssst enough real, gritty social inequalities so that I can solve or at least address them and then feel omnipotent. :-D

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  2. For me, reading AND writing are escapism, but most of my writing is based on things I've experienced and shaped by what goes on in reality. I read an article that said American women have an unrealistic view of romance from reading romances. But aren't our books listed as fiction? Is it our responsibility that readers take our fictional works as reality? Or is it that things are so bad in peoples' lives that they seek better in books and hope for some of that to bleed into their real lives?

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    1. Thanks, Pip! I just had my Mass Media students read an article last week that discussed romances as ways for women to feel somewhat empowered. By putting feelings first and reveling in a world where women's lives take front and center, romances and other feminine genres validate women's experiences. I can send you the PDF if you'd like. :)

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  3. I have just installed iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.

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