Thursday, November 13, 2008

Porn for the mind

I love romantic novels. Not Harlequin Romances or other formulaic romance novels that are basically about sex (not that I'm putting them down - they're just not my cup of tea), but reasonably well-written novels that include a romantic element. But yesterday, when I was discussing the Twilight series with two of my coworkers (I've only read the first two books, so don't give anything away!), it occurred to me that romantic novels (and Harlequin romances, too) are really quite unfair to men in the sense that they give women unrealistic expectations of how men should act.

Here's what I mean: as my coworkers and I were discussing the Twilight series and how romantic and thoughtful Edward is in the books, one of them said "I think all husbands should be required to read Twilight so that they can see what they're up against and what we're comparing them to." And I realized that as women, we do sometimes compare real-life men to fictional characters in books, and it's really unfair! Because of course, Edward Cullen is not a real person. He's unrealistic, not only because he's a vampire, but also because he is a fictional man that has been imagined, created, edited, and given dialogue written by a woman. So he's not even a fictional male acting like a real male, he's a fictional male acting in a way that a female writer thinks that men should act. And expecting real men to act the same way that a female-created fictional character does is doing men a huge disservice.

It's unfair in the same way that a man comparing his wife to a Playboy centerfold is unfair. Playboy centerfolds are chosen from among tens of thousands of women who have spent thousands of dollars on plastic surgery in order to more closely fit society's ideal of what a woman should look like. Then, trained professionals spend hours doing the models' hair and makeup using abnormally expensive makeup and hair products, at which point, highly paid professional photographers take HUNDREDS of pictures of these women using expensive cameras, special lenses, and extremely flattering lighting. Of these hundreds of pictures, only the very best and most flattering are chosen, and then these pictures are airbrushed to remove any possible flaws that might still be showing despite plastic surgery, professional makeup, expensive lighting, and professional photography. So, if I were to roll out of bed after four hours of sleep, with no makeup on, while I had the flu, and my husband said to me "Why can't you look more like a Playboy centerfold? They look perfect!" no one could blame me for knocking him unconscious. Because by the time a photo makes it into Playboy, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone into making sure that the woman in the picture looks better than any woman (including the model herself) could ever look in real life.

And while most intelligent people can understand this about Playboy, sometimes as women, we don't realize that we are holding our husbands (or boyfriends, or random men on the street) to similar ridiculous and impossibly high standards by expecting them to behave like fictional men in books. The kind of high standards that, if they were used on us, would infuriate us. Any guy could sound romantic if he had a professional female author writing his dialogue. Any guy could make a woman melt if the author of a New York Times best-seller was in charge of coming up with all of his romantic ideas, and then a team of editors, proofreaders, and publicists examined his life with a fine-toothed comb and suggested thousands of changes. Mr. Darling does not have those things. Neither, I expect, do any other husbands or boyfriends, and yet we expect them to act like they do. I've totally been guilty of this at times, but no more! Am I going to stop reading romantic novels? Heck no! But I am going to be perpetually thankful that I married a real, live, amazing-but-not-unrealistically-perfect man instead of a fictional character, and I'm no longer going to compare him to men in books. By doing so, I'll be giving him the same respect that he gives me by not expecting me to perpetually look like I've just stepped off of the pages of Playboy. I'm encouraging all of you other fabulous wives and girlfriends (both current and future) to join me on this. Who's with me?

15 comments:

MelO said...

VERY good point, Tova Darling!! So so true...

But I don't really think it's too much to ask to be perfect...afterall, I AM!!!


(bwaaa ha ha ha ha ha!)

Braja said...

I love this, "Any guy could sound romantic if he had a professional female author writing his dialogue. Any guy could make a woman melt if the author of a New York Times best-seller was in charge of coming up with all of his romantic ideas" So many are brainwashed by the 2hr solution to problems, the happy ending, the scripted lines. Wow, Hollywood has a lot to answer for, but won't...

kim said...

Um, you are sooooo right. I told my husband he should get goldish contacts so he can pierce me with his stare.

That's not unrealistic is it? They want us to get boob jobs! :)

Piece o' Coconut Cake said...

Duh, that shit'll fuck you up! The only way to achieve that is to become a lesbian. Seriously.

The Mom said...

I saw the Twilight books right next to the kids section at the bookstore, not sure I want my 10 year old to read mature content yet.

But I wanna!

Tova Darling said...

The mom - the books actually are quite clean. They're intended for teen girls, I think, so there's not any sex. It's just that adult "girls" like us kinda hijacked the series and claimed it as our own.
I'd still suggest reading it yourself before giving it to your ten-year-old, since only you can decide what's appropriate for your child. :)

Dr Zibbs said...

I strive to make females hot through my ridiculous use of prose on my blog. It seems to be working pretty good so far. Of course I have a bunch of sisters and worked with 85% women for years so I have a headstart. And can I end this by saying the use of those glasses on your faceless manequin head brings out the beauty of your soul?

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Bravo Tova! Well said. And I m with you!!! I know from working in the business that 90% of the women who buy beauty products do so to make THEMSELVES feel good. The other 10% buy them because they need to.
I must read this "Twilight" series. My 14 year old has been after me for weeks an I am even more intrigued now after reading this post.
Oh, one more thing..Zibsy, (she said ever so softly) That last line in your comment to Tova was one of the sweetest compliments I have ever heard. So true about Tova and so nice of you.

Former Fat Chick said...

Once you have been marreid a couple of years you realize all the stuff is BULL and you just need to get over it. I say: If you want flowers, plant a garden, don't sit sit around and wait for someone to give them to you!

Aleta said...

Excellent point and I'm with you! Greg is a male. All Male. And I wouldn't want him scripted from a novel.

Not The Rockefellers said...

I am with you on this Tova.
I have been with my husband for nearly 25 years.
It really has not been a romantic novel all of the time and Playboy has never shown any interest in me whatsoever.

But..we matter to each other. Plain and simple.

Peace - Rene

Cora said...

Too true!

Gosh, I better get my act together and start reading the Twilight books! I think I'm the only one in the world who hasn't. (ACK!!)

Pleasant Drive said...

Amen, sister! Let's let go of preconceived ideas and unrealistic expecations, and just enjoy the spouses that we have! very profound ideas.

Elaine said...

This is great, I love it.

ÄsK AliCë said...

I'm SO with you!

In my opinion, we don't devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks. ~ Calvin & Hobbes