Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bodice Ripper

From Wikipedia:
A bodice ripper is genre of romantic fiction, often historical fiction, in which the heroine often loses her virginity by force. They are typically full of unrestrained romantic passion. Usually the cover depicts a female whose bodice is being ripped by a muscular, often shirtless man. Often she first resists him, but is later overcome with passion.
They may be viewed as a form of escapist fiction, with the historical background providing a way of allowing the reader to indulge in a rape fantasy without guilt.

Has a term ever done more damage or been more demeaning to an entire genre of writing than this one has?
In one fell swoop, it makes all romance books – or at least historical romance – sound like trash.
I googled it and here is some of what comes up:

men look at photos, women read bodice-rippers. Sexual interest is normal,
healthyand fun. sex crimes are horrible, but There is a huge difference between

Or this gem:
Can we agree to escort her to a comfortable upstairs room where she can
bebrought her meals and a new bodice ripper every few days?

Or how about:
... Read this if you are looking for something other than a mindless bodice
ripper.Although judging from the reviews here, most people aren't. ...

This one amuses me though:

I can see where some people might confuse me with Fabio, what with all
theweight-lifting and modeling for the covers of bodice-rippers I've been

Every time I hear that phrase I cringe. It brings to mind some bleach blond big-chested bimbo trailer trash nymphet. That is NOT what the romance genre is about.
I’ve been reading romance books for years and years and when they began to grow in popularity in the 80’s there may have been a case. Read any Rosemary Rogers or Kathleen Woodiwiss and they fit into the mould of what that term illustrates. Dumb women being treated like dirt by supposed heroes. I read them, I hated them and I gave them up for a number of years because of the negativity and hidden messages I found in them. But when I came back to romance, the genre had changed entirely. There were still the occasional throwbacks, but for the most part the hero no longer said “I love you” by forcing the heroine into having sex and the heroines were more intelligent and a lot less naive and twittish and didn’t take nearly the shit from the heroes as they did when romance in it’s newer form first emerged.
So it bothers me to the nth degree that this phrase is still being used today. And it also bothers me to that same degree that many of the covers we still see reinforce that stereotype. That’s part of the reason why it seems I’m so harsh with Avon covers. In the back of my mind, I’m wondering whether their marketing department has a secret disdain for their readers. Men with naked chests – even in the winter scenes, and women with overflowing and obviously false boobs (breasts, bosoms – it was a hard thing deciding what word to use here – odd that!) still scream “bodice ripper” Still – to give Avon their due, from some of the covers Sybil has posted lately – they are improving – although we aren’t seeing the back covers. My choice – if I were to ever have a say-so would be to have the hero/heroine posed together and at least moderately covered up in a step-back cover. – But I digress.
We don’t have the same type of romance nowadays that we used to so why used the same terms as they did back then?

I mean after all, how many still use the term groovy?

And does this irritate other readers as much as me or is this just a Krisite thing?

‘til later


Megan Frampton said...

It is not just a Krisite thing...and if you hate it as a reader, imagine how you feel when you say you write romance, and they smirk and say, "oh, a bodice ripper," because that's the ONLY FREAKING THING they know about the genre. Ha, ha, so twenty years ago, asshat.

CindyS said...

"bleach blond big-chested bimbo trailer trash nymphet"

Hey! I resemble that remark!! Actually, take the big-chested and trailer out of there and that'd be me ;) I even managed to streak my eyebrows!

I hate the term bodice ripper but then I am trying to make it one of those secret thrill things. You know, hear that and look down your nose at the person and say (in my rich Biff/Buffy voice), only feeble minded ignorant idiots still think romances are bodice rippers. Really, get a clue or better yet, learn to read.

I think it is just another thing that people can hold over another person. 'Oh, I'm so much better than so and so because she just reads that smut. Hmmm? The last thing I read? Oh, I don't have that kind of time.' Grrr.

Dang. I was trying not to get my dander up.

You sing it sister!!

Oh, and I am so going to use Megan's line 'that's just sooo 20 years ago, asshat'. Yep, I'm going to be winning friends and influencing peeps!


CindyS said...

Dang. I also meant to mention that when I play Scrabble or Upwords with my family I use words they don't believe exist. Not only do they exist but I am able to tell them what it means. Usually I get the whole, 'how would you know that?' when they discover it is a word and I'm right. I respond with, 'I read' and you better believe they know what I read!!

CindyS (again)

ag said...

oh, cindy,

I love your lines. I'm gonna try perfecting the accent.

Really, romance novels have evolved over the years, because we readers have also evolved. They should update that definition, man!

Great detective work, Kristie.

sybil said...

Maybe they heard you kristie :)