Romance Novels Deserve Better Than This
Last week, two Twitter users named @AriValde and @booksandwine, both of whom are book bloggers, each received an e-mail requesting that they review a book, to be released online sometime in March, called More Than A Slave by Anaelle Gadeyne. The premise of this book?
Yes, you read all of that correctly. More Than A Slave is about a forbidden romance between a Black woman who is a slave and the White man who owns her.
Needless to say, their response to the review request wasn’t very enthusiastic.
A reminder of why #diversityjedi is so important: just got a review request for a book about a slave who falls in love with her owner. WTF?— Ari (@AriValde) January 29, 2017
White people, I'm pretty sure it's not okay for us to romanticize the antebellum master-slave relationship.— April Books & Wine (@booksandwine) January 31, 2017
There have been and continue to be stories of this type that are supposed to be considered ‘romance.’ Luke and Laura, long considered to be the ‘supercouple’ of General Hospital, is a long-lasting and passionate romance that all started when…he sexually assaulted her on the floor of a nightclub while he was drunk. And in 2015, Bethany House Publishers, a Christian publishing imprint, published For Such A Time by Kate Breslin, about a young Jewish woman who finds herself falling in love with one of the Nazis who is holding herself and many others like her as prisoners at Auschwitz.
In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.
Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy.
Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp’s prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?
Twilight and Fifty Shades Of Grey are just two of the most recent and most popular examples of stories containing the Draco In Leather Pants trope, in which young women find themselves in unhealthy and unpleasant relationships with men who show little to no respect or empathy towards them, but still insist that there is good in them that they will eventually gain access to through the power of love
, as well as the power of what will hopefully be good dick.
It’s one thing to include such a trope in a story about vampires and werewolves. It’s another thing to include that trope in a story where the BDSM lifestyle is portrayed in a way that is insulting, inaccurate, and just boring and poorly-written. But to include the Draco In Leather Pants trope and use it as the basis of stories that involve Nazism, slavery, concentration camps, and the Holocaust is insulting, infuriating, and just really fucking stupid. Nazism, slavery, plantations, concentration camps, and the Holocaust are all places and things that existed and occurred in real life. And if any of the authors of these stories had bothered to read any nonfiction book of above-average quality or acquaint themselves with Google to read more about any or all of them, then they’d know that there is absolutely nothing fucking romantic about any of those scenarios!
If you’re a person who can look back on such historical occurrences in which millions of Jews were taken into concentration camps, separated from their families and friends, so they could face abuse and torture before being murdered…where millions of Africans were kidnapped and separated from their families and friends, sold into lifelong servitude that involved constant rape, physical/emotional abuse, and murder…and you’re still able to look like this…
…while imagining a love story taking place in either scenario, especially a love story between the one being abused and the one doing the abusing, then I have to question both your levels of intelligence and your levels of empathy, while also looking at you like:
In Quentin Tarantino’s film Inglourious Basterds, Shosanna Dreyfuss is a young Jewish girl running and hiding from the Nazis, along with the rest of her family. Unfortunately, the Nazis find out where they are and shoot them to death, Shosanna being the only survivor of the massacre. Four years later, she has taken on a new identity as the owner of a movie theater, where she attracts the attention of a young Nazi officer named Frederick Zoller, who makes it very clear that he is attracted to her and would like to know her better. Shoshanna has no interest in getting to know him better, and when Zoller asks why that is:
Shosanna: I don’t wish to be your friend.
Zoller: Why not?
Shosanna: Don’t act like an infant. You know why.
Zoller: I’m more than just a uniform.
Shosanna: Not to me. If you are so desperate for a French girlfriend, I suggest you try Vichy.
Even fictional characters roll their eyes at the thought of a Jewish person and a Nazi being friends, let alone romantic partners. Because there is absolutely nothing romantic or even appealing about such a thing, and when it comes to the people whose lives were destroyed by Nazism and slavery, there really was no such thing as choice or free will when it came to what they said and did while held in captivity, so all you’re basically doing when telling stories in these particular settings is that Stockholm syndrome, forced seduction, and rape are all romantic and that these are things that people should aspire for when it comes to their own romantic and sexual satisfaction.
You don’t need to use the horrors of what happened in real life to tell a love story that is worth reading. Creating fictional characters and universes is more than enough to achieve that particular goal.
And if I wanted to be disgusted and repulsed by a love story, I’d just watch this:
P.S. Getting married and having your actual wedding ceremony take place at a plantation, a place where hundreds of Black people were beaten, tortured, raped, and murdered while forced to perform hours and hours of painful work on behalf of their captors…that shit is neither cute nor romantic, no matter how historic and beautiful the plantation is. So knock it the fuck off!
(Why yes, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, I am talking to you.)
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