Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Popular Culture Association: National Conference: Romance Area #pcarom @pcaromance -- Part Two

This is session two of the Romance Area of the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association's national conference.

Please note that I'm a romance reader, not an academic. So these notes will be a lay analysis at best.

Romantic Masculinities

Poldark As Anti-Antihero: Rebooting Romantic Masculinity for an Age of Crisis by Kyle Sclabach

From the abstract: "Poldark’s charisma lies entirely in his ability to adopt, with chameleon-like perfection, any necessary guise from the entire catalog of nineteenth- and twentieth-century romantic male archetypes: stalwart soldier, bare-chested-laborer, heroic doctor, crusading lawyer, swashbuckling smuggler, self-made entrepreneur, paternalistic husband, doting father."

The 1970s Poldark series is second after the 1995 Pride & Prejudice series in popularity.

Polark's resurrection is like that of the Count of Monte Cristo. He's a charming rogue-like Indian Jones, Byronic Hero, Rochester (brooding, noble, secretive, morally ambiguous but with his heart in a good place), omni-competent, handsome, male protagonist under siege on every front. He has power, prestige, privilege, and some wealth, i.e., he's part of the nobility but he protects his tenants (lower orders) and interacts with investors (middle class). He's the idea paternalistic figure, worthy of his elite class status.

The thrust of the paper is that these days masculinity is under crisis from neoliberalism and progressive social change. So that is why Poldark, whose character reasserts all the concepts of the olden days, is so popular.

The romance between Poldark and Demelza follows the eight steps of romance as stated by Pamela Regis. (I display my ignorance here by being unaware of what those are. They're outlined in A Natural History of the Romance Novel.)

All Around Great Guys, Mostly: The Evolving Romantic Hero in Literary Webseries by Margaret Selinger

A literary webseries is a YouTube vlog episodic show with transmedia elements made for young people by young people. It adapts well-known literary classics and is a DIY low-budget film that's produced quickly to react to viewer response. The arc of a webseries follows a typical genre romance arc: a love story with a happy ending. Even Shakespeare's tragedies are adapted to end happily. Another characteristic of a webseries is that it defines what being "romantic" in the modern era entails and also includes romantic subplots featuring queer, multi-sexual, and pan-sexual characters having happy endings.

One of the first, and wildly popular, literary multiplatform webseries is The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Just as this is an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, the webseries Nothing Much To Do is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.

Alpha, Beta, and the Ambiguous Omega: The Diversity of Heroes by Veera Mäkelä

Mäkelä talked about alpha, beta, and omega heroes.

[I have talked about gamma heroes before, the quieter ones who unlike beta heroes do not display alpha tendencies in highly stressful, highly emotional situations but retain their quiet competence. Mäkelä's omega heroes are distinctly different from these gamma heroes.]

Mäkelä made references to Maya Rodale's Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained and Sarah Wendell's Beyond Heaving Bosoms. She uses Wendell's definition of alpha, beta, and omega. [I have not verified this.]

An omega hero is one who is a blend of the hard and soft traits and shifts as the situation demands. Mary Balogh's Dark Angel, Lord Carew’s Bride, and The Famous Heroine are examples of omega heroes. Balogh sets up these heroes with various tropes in initial evaluations and then contradicts or subverts them. For example, in Dark Angel, the male hero cries over the relationship.

The definition of a good relationship is when beta characteristics are directed within the relationship and alpha characteristics are directed outside the relationship (like towards the villain).

According to Jayne Ann Krentz in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, betas need to exhibit an alpha core, where the alpha traits are: head and protector of family and core of steel.

Mobility between social classes can be an omega trait.
[Hmmm. So an earl marrying a cit's daughter for her money to save his bankrupt estate is a sign of his omega-ness? It's a sign of desperation, and to me, it's an alpha trait as defined by Krentz.]

Constructing Black Masculinities in Romance Fiction by Julie Moody-Freeman

While the abstract says that the paper discusses romance book and magazine covers for representation of black masculinities and compares publications by various publishers, the talk did not cover that. It covered depictions of black masculinity within the stories.

Romance books break societal norms of black masculinity to recreate men who sustain the inner lives of romantic heroes.

Who is a good black man? He's one who is TDH (tall, dark, and handsome), responsible, loving, strong, autonomous, and professional. He loves and advocates for himself and for his community. He's a person of good character as seen by the black community and by other people. He's continually challenged by the heroine and the community—challenges are the norm for black masculinity. Such a hero is not just a provider with money but he has to man-up, show up for his family and his community.

Romance novels have templates of black professions, which are respectable and marriageable. For example, a hero writing music is subverting a typical alpha male hero.

These stories are by African-American writers writing for African-American readers. They're an uplifting of race through fiction.