I used to be such a starry-eyed believer of love. I thought that love conquered all – and that as long as you shared that feeling with someone, it meant that the relationship would last, In the theory of fairytales and movies, this may be the case, but in North American reality – not quite. Instead, love is only one of the many ingredients needed for a long-lasting partnership. But the concerning issue is – people put so much weight on the feeling of love, a feeling that inevitably changes, takes different forms and can get blinded easily.
1For the last few decades romance has been the popular genre par excellence in the English-speaking world. With sales figures that average around $ 1.36 billion a year, a readership of nearly 75 million people in the U.S. alone and a 13.4 % share of the American consumer book market in 2011, the popular romance novel is by far the best-selling genre in America (“About the Romance Genre”). In 2010 a staggering 8,240 new romance titles were released in the U.S., and 469 of these novels became national or international bestsellers. Harlequin, the most important romance publisher in the world, “publishes over 110 titles a month in 31 languages in 111 international markets on six continents” (“About Harlequin”). On average, the company sells about 130 million books a year (“Over Ons”) ; since its inception in the mid-twentieth century an astounding total of over 6 billion popular romance novels have been sold by this publisher alone (“About Harlequin”).
33These exemplary analyses of three aspects of the category romance’s material packaging indicate the systematic manner in which a double codification of this materiality is created. The potential for a double interpretation is a semiotic pattern that is present in nearly every aspect of these material conditions and that is implemented in a coherent and coordinated way. This suggests that far from being a random or coincidental effect, this semiotic pattern is a deliberate strategy on the part of the category romance novel’s producers, who seek to influence the reception and interpretation of the text.
Kirby: Joe and I were working for McFadden Publications at the time. McFadden had comics and in one of the books we did a feature called My Date. It suddenly occurred to me that McFadden was the biggest purveyor of romance in the world and was making millions at it, and we were sitting on top of the same thing, except that there were no romance stories in comics. My Date was a prelude.
The reason grudges are bad for your happiness is that the negative emotions associated with those feelings eventually give way to resentment and thoughts of revenge. This leaves little room in your emotional repertoire for anything else, like happiness, according to the Mayo Clinic. What's more, decades of research have linked the simple act of forgiveness to better overall heart health, less psychological stress, improved physical ability, and longer life.
22One of the most visually striking and remarkable characteristics of the category romance’s material packaging is the dominance of a standard design template that all novels published in the same line share. While each line or imprint has its own characteristic template, most of these templates also have certain elements in common (e.g. the spatial placing of certain elements). The line-imposed design template determines the look of nearly every aspect of the category romance’s materiality and is as such quite an invasive material and visual presence. It is perhaps most noticeable on the front cover, where its dominant color scheme, prominent imprint logo and overall composition create an extreme sense of similarity between individual category romance novels published in the same line (see figures 2 and 3). As we can see in these examples, the placing and (stylistic) execution of almost every element of the cover composition (from the title to the name of the publisher) is determined by the line’s design template.
Indeed, women changing themselves to conform to what a romantic interest wants is celebrated in these comics. A woman is defined by her relationship to men, after all! In a story in the first issue of First Romance, Betty is told by her friend that she should pretend to be interested in something that a boy is interested in to win his favor (“My Love Life”). She does so, he likes her because of it, and—that’s essentially the happy ending of the story (although there is a rather strange implication that now that she’s pretended to enjoy the boy’s interest, she suddenly actually enjoys it).
It might be that you've started dating a guy and you want to know if he's going to want a committed relationship or if he's going to turn into a stringer (i.e. a guy who strings you along for years only to finally break it off), or maybe you've already been strung along for quite a long time and you want to know how to get him to finally make a commitment.
32These latter two interpretations of the preview scene require extensive familiarity with creative dynamics and codes that are specific to the category romance format and are hence only developed by readers initiated in the popular romance genre – in other words, the category romance’s target audience. For these readers, the preview scene functions not only as a code signifying the novel’s romance generic identity (as it does to the public) but also as a codification of the novel’s singularity. As with the clinch and the design template, these different interpretations of the category romance’s materiality are also fundamentally tied to the public’s and the reader’s respective degrees of knowledge of and experience with the particular codes of the popular romance genre. The romance reader is able to develop a more complex and layered interpretation of the category romance’s materiality than the public because her extensive knowledge of the genre’s conventions and codes enables her to see differentiation where the public only sees similarity.
Robert Johnson, a Jungian writer, calls this “stirring the oatmeal” love, and describes it as: “…a willingness to share ordinary human life, to find meaning in the simple, unromantic tasks: earning a living, living within a budget, putting out the garbage, feeding the baby in the middle of the night. To ‘stir the oatmeal’ means to find the relatedness, the value, even the beauty in simple ordinary things, not to eternally demand a cosmic drama, an entertainment or an extraordinary intensity in everything. Like the rice hulling of the Zen monks, the spinning wheel of Gandhi, the tent making of Saint Paul, it represents the discovery of the sacred in the midst of the humble and ordinary.”
As I mentioned before, it may seem such a small step but it’s the momentum that’s the most important element here. Once you cross this off, you can focus on the meeting itself, then once that’s ticked off, you are in a position of starting a profitable retirement fund…and so the momentum continues. You are now on your journey to achieving your dream goal.
a zone not only of transition but also transaction : a privileged place of pragmatics and strategy, of an influence on the public, an influence that – whether well or poorly understood and achieved – is at the service of a better reception of the text and a more pertinent reader of it (more pertinent, of course, in the eyes of the author and his allies). (2)
17The clinch image carries a double semiotic code and has the potential to be interpreted differently by the public and the romance reader. To the public at large, the clinch image likely signifies simply the genre identity of the popular romance. This interpretation is based on the strong semantic connection between this image and the popular romance genre that exists in our culture as a result of the incessant reformulation of this type of image on the front cover of category romance novels since the 1970s.10 As a visually striking and instantly recognizable image with only a limited range of potential variations, the clinch quickly attained an iconic status and has become the cover design shorthand par excellence for popular romance. Although the constant reformulations of the image on a seemingly endless string of category romance front covers reinforce and perpetuate a number of cultural stereotypes about the romance genre, including interpretations of the genre as formulaic, overly sexualized and more than a little ridiculous, the category romance is steadfast in its love for the clinch cover.11
I used to be such a starry-eyed believer of love. I thought that love conquered all - and that as long as you shared that feeling with someone, it meant that the relationship would last. In the theory of fairytales and movies, this may be the case, but in North American reality - not quite. Instead, love is only one of the many ingredients needed for a long-lasting partnership. But the concerning issue is - people put so much weight on the feeling of love, a feeling that inevitably changes, takes different forms and can get blinded easily.