Today, I'm going swipe ideas from one of my favorite books about romance - Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz.
Several themes emerge from the essays in this book. First is the one discussed a couple of days ago: Twilight and other romances are fantasies. To quote Krentz's introduction:
[T]he readers are no more confused about this fact, nor any more likely to use their reading as a substitute for action in the real world , than readers of [Robert] Ludlum, [Robert] Parker, [Dick] Frances, and [Anne] McCaffrey. (p. 5)
The second theme of the book is a shameless song of female empowerment. In a romance, the woman lives. How many times do women die in male action movies because she found a man attractive and acted on it? How many great female characters in literature are punished for daring to act on her own ideas?
Not only do the women live, all of them win. Again, Krentz:
With courage, intelligence, and gentleness, she brings the most dangerous creature on earth, the human male, to his knees. More than that, she forces him to acknowledge her power as a woman.A cursory glance at the statistics of the causes of female death reveal the radical nature of these ideas.
Finally, for me, the most outrageous theme of romance (and Twilight) is the discussion of Male and Female. Long before Twilight came out, Laura Kinsale discussed the real truth of romance.
[For] a woman, a romance may be a working-through of her own interior conflicts and passions, her own 'maleness' if you will, that resists and resists giving in to what is desired about all, and yet feared about all, and then, after the decisive climax. arrives at a resolution, a choice that carries with it the relief and pleasure of internal harmony. (p. 39)Long before Edward came along, Linda Barlow described the romantic hero. Sound familiar?
Dark and brooding, writhing inside with all the residual anguish of his shadowed past, world-weary and cynical, quick-tempered and prone to fits of guilt and depression. He is strong, virile, powerful, and lost. Adept at many things that carry with them the respect and admiration of the world (especially the world of other males), he is not fully competent in the arena in which women excel- the arena of his emotions, which are violently out of control.This is why Twilight is popular. We are endlessly attempting to claim and integrate our power. It's not about falling in love with the endless git that is Edward.
Is this the sort of woman most women want? Of course not....[A]lmost from the beginning, I identified with the hero. I saw him as Self, not Other. And I dimly recognized him as one of the archetypical figures in my own inner landscape.
The romantic hero is not the feminine ideal of what a man should be. The romantic hero, in fact, is not a man at all. He is a split-off portion of the heroine's own psyche which will be reintegrated at the end of the book. (p. 49)
It is about understanding the parts of ourselves that are dark, angry, and dangerous.