When I was twenty and Grandmother was the age I am now, I couldn’t imagine ever being as out-of-date as that tiny lady born before the dawn of the Twentieth Century. How could she find knee-length skirts, two-piece bathing suits, and rock ‘n roll distasteful? Now that my own granddaughter is twenty and I am the out-of-date grandmother from another century, I’m seeing the world from different place.
What is my concern, you ask.
So glad you inquired. I’m disgusted, affronted, and apparently in the minority. While running the risk of sounding as old fashioned as my Nineteenth Century grandmother, I want to ask when pathetic writing became the mainstay of a ‘modern masterpiece’. I’d like to know how ‘abuse’ has become synonymous with ‘romance’. Could someone explain to me how language once kept out of the hearing of small children is now the common conversation among the playground set? And when did women’s magazines, the ones hanging in racks in the family grocery store, become sex instruction manuals placed eye level to ten-year-old children?
This is the week of Valentine’s Day, that Cupid-hearts-flowers-candy respite from the woes of winter. Love is in the promise of a young man’s glance and an old one’s touch. It’s the innocence of a first crush and the ‘remember when’ of the widow’s memory. At least I thought it was, until a couple of events this week gave me an unpleasant wake-up.
I write romance and I’m proud of my work. I try to create interesting characters who will hold the reader’s attention. Making them live in the mind’s eye is the ultimate goal, but if a reader is simply entertained, I’m satisfied. I believe love between individuals is shown in kindness, respect, care, and support. My hope, every time I begin a story, is to bring my characters to that place. In my mind, a hero is as romantic washing the dog or changing the baby as he is pouring champagne or racing after the distressed damsel. And a heroine is as endearing roofing the house or driving the tractor as she is running through the daisies to her true love. On the other hand, abuse is not romantic. Manipulation is not love. Stalking is not exciting. Ask any woman who has been on the receiving end. So I am appalled that the 50 Shades movie–billed as romantic, exciting, hot, fill-in-your-adjective–has garnered so much anticipation. I read the thing and wondered what generated all the acclaim. The writing is fourth rate, the characters unbelievable and unsympathetic, and the storyline glorifies a stalker and victim mentality. I have associates who write erotica and do an excellent job of it. The 50 Shades mish-mash is an insult to the professionals who work in that genre.
The other media event that sent shock waves to my mind was the sports magazine that produces an annual swimsuit edition. This year’s offering arrived at the home of my significant other today. He is a mature and intelligent man, interested in golf, baseball, basketball, and though he’s along in years, he appreciates a lovely girl. Still the cover of the swimsuit edition had him speechless. When I looked at it, I saw why. The gorgeous cover model’s provocative pose suggested the magazine had more in common with a bordello than a basketball court. And this is a magazine that is often left in the dentist’s or doctor’s waiting room. Am I the only person who finds this tasteless?
All right, I’m not in the swing of the new century which is, I realize not so new. We’ve moved fifteen years into the 2000′s and I suppose I am somewhere in the 1960′s. I have become my grandmother. I plead guilty. But is there something wrong with me that I would prefer not having to watch a ten-year-old page through the naked models of the swimsuit edition while I’m waiting to have my teeth cleaned? Am I somehow unrealistic to hope that my impressionable granddaughter won’t read a book or see a movie that paints an abusive psychopath as romantic and desirable? Am I railing against bathroom vulgarity when it’s only a freer form of speech?
I may be the little old lady, doddering along in my print dress and tennies, nattering about ‘In my day, you young whippersnapper, we did things right.’ And perhaps all of this is just the way things evolve as the world sheds its worn-out Victorian prudery. Maybe so. But let’s applaud good writing and label schlock what it is. Let’s recognize cheap exploitation and not dignify it by calling it a ‘love story’. If we are going to pose lovely young women in a provocative manner, let’s not pretend the result is a sports magazine. And if we are going to use language once thought only suitable for the bar or barnyard, let’s recognize that the small ears around us are going to hear, young minds are going to remember, and young lips will repeat what they hear. Some of us are still shocked to hear a five year old grandniece drop a series of f-bombs at the ice cream party.
Okay, I’ve vented my disgust with the present. I believe I’ll go read a nice Tudor historical and rage at parents who used their children as political pawns. Maybe there will be a juicy palace intrigue. Or a good war among rival cousins. That should take my mind off the Twenty-first Century for a while. Thanks for letting me have the podium.