Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review of St. John's Screening and Talk "Love Between the Covers"

Reviewed by Nadia Mushib
Of course people have a derogatory view of the romance industry –
 it’s for women, by women, about women.

“Love Between the Covers” is an unusual glimpse into a meritocracy in action. An avid romance reader, myself, I never really questioned the dynamics of this genre. Most of it did not surprise me - the photo shoots, the content, the writers ethic, and the metaphorical “flame behind their ass”. The one thing that did surprise me was how close the authors and readers interact. Hugging at the conventions? That is the biggest security issue when you go to ones for any other genre. And being able to not only have your work read, but also critiqued by these same authors is literally out of the question.
So why then is it that this industry allows this, even promotes the “pay it forward” mentality? Because it is female dominated. Society still places this image of a motherly figure into our heads, women are still supposed to take care of and be the soft sex. That is why they are so matronly at the conventions and allow people to hug them. They are not viewed as true artists. People have this respect for other genres and especially male artists. Usually the mass majority does not run up to the talent and hug him, but in this industry not only do they do that, it is okay to do so!  
"[This] feature-length film takes an affectionate look at the vast, unheralded community of women who have effectively kept the publishing industry afloat." – The Boston Globe
I was reading some comments about the documentary on social media and one that I came by was a young man complaining about the sexualization of males on the cover of so many romance novels. Boy did he get major backlash. Girls are so often sexualized in the media, on social media, in public all around that a lot of people do not even notice it. In terms of sales, it makes the most sense. The majority of readers, i.e. buyers, are females, therefore it would make financial sense to appeal to the opposite sex. Just like the SuperBowl commercials usually have half naked girls with large breasts prancing around on screen. It is all about the marketing strategies.
Beverly Jenkins, pioneer of African American romance, made the funniest yet truest comment in the whole documentary.  Black women have never been made to feel beautiful in society and African American romance gives them that feeling, that emotion they have been missing. But she has received backlash for beautifying the black girl because people “can’t relate”. But like she states in the film, if you can relate to werewolf and vampire romance and not black romance, that is a problem.

This documentary really showed that anyone could be a writer, whether they make it a profession or they just write for themselves. So many of the women showed began writing because their romance was not popular or even considered a romance yet. Just look at Len Barot. She began writing lesbian romance fiction while she was a surgeon. Susan Donovan and Celeste Bradley wrote romance through their divorce. These female novelists are from all walks of life, they are the every day people like you and I, but the one thing uniting them is romance. Sarah Wendell, romance blogger and reviewer, voiced it best, “[The romance industry] is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually uplifting and affirming.” 
Screening and Discussion with Professor Kathleen Lubey
and Natalie Hallak, SJC ’15, HarperCollins
Sponsored by History, English, and Women’s & Gender Studies

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