The Power of Stupid Romance Stories

Dearest Daniel, if you actually told me you were going to surprise a girl with a kiss in an attempt to make her love you, I’d probably pepper spray you myself. Yeah, no one should do that. Ever.

Your post last week actually touched on a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot in recent years, which is how the media shapes our perceptions of romance and how damaging that can really be.

I’d never really understood what a tsundere was until I read your post, but it sounds like an incredibly destructive idea that lands people in awful situations. As you said, if you met a tsundere in real life you would never, ever tolerate her behavior and you never should. Treating people like crap and emotionally manipulating them so they’ll stick around despite being treated poorly is not okay and I’m very sorry you had to go through that in real life.

And instead of telling us to leave a situation like that, the tsundere storyline is teaching us to tolerate it, to accept this shitty behavior because it means she loves you.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.

The tsundere isn’t the only awful romance stereotype out there either. Look at any romantic comedy or grocery store romance novel and you’ll find a ton of awful, and super destructive, ideas about what romance and love really is. Ideas like how the perfect man knows what you want at all times with being told, or love at first sight, or how happiness begins when you find your soulmate, or how arguments can be solved with one expensive gesture, or…

Well, I could go on for a while. The one I really want to talk is actually in the same vein as the tsundere. It’s the idea that abuse, sexual assault, and controlling behavior can actually be romantic and a sign that someone loves you. The most common examples would be Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey, in which men stalk, abuse, and control women because they “love” them.

Wrong. So wrong. Like uber-wrong. Turbo-wrong.

I’ve never actually read Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey. I did see the first Twilight film, but I never saw the other two…three movies? Nor did I see 50 Shades of Grey. I know that seems weird, but I swear I never did. When Twilight came out there was a weird division between Twilight and Harry Potter fans at my high school so I could only be a “real fan” of one. Thankfully, I chose Harry Potter and missed the Twilight train. When 50 Shades of Grey came out, I was in college and just wasn’t that interested. Besides, it was a re-write of a popular Twilight fanfiction and the 15-year-old in me was like “No Twilight, only Harry Potter!”

Anyway, this “abuse means love” idea can be found in any genre, not just romance. The example I’m going to use today is Game of Thrones, specifically the relationship between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Game of Thrones, but good lord, it is full of really awful ideas about romance, love, and sex.

I feel particularly passionate about the problems with the Daenerys and Drogo plotline because it was changed in the television show and they made it worse. You heard me, they made it worse! I am so angry!

In the book, Daenerys is sold to Khal Drogo by her brother Viserys to create an alliance between Viserys and the Dothraki. This is awful by itself, but that’s not the point. In the book, Drogo marries Daenerys and, despite a language barrier, is actually gentle with Daenerys on their wedding night. He lets her undo his braid, which in the Dothraki culture is the ultimate sign of trust from a male warrior. I won’t pretend she wanted to be there. It was still an awful thing her brother did to her, but in the TV show the writers made it worse. Drogo treats Daenerys like his property and takes her by force. He rapes her.

This is awful by itself, but then it gets worse because as the show progresses, Daenerys and Drogo fall in love. They are absolutely head-over-heels for each other and I will admit are by far the cutest couple on the show.

But that doesn’t change the fact Daenerys fell in love with her rapist.

What this show is basically trying to tell me is that Khal can treat Daenerys like property, abuse her, and by defnition rape her and that’s okay because he loves her. Daenerys just needed to let it go and love him. The beginning of their relationship was just a rough spot. See how nice it is now?

Turbo-wrong. Super wrong. Don’t-try-to-pull-this-shit-on-me-HBO wrong.

Game of Thrones is now coming up on season 6 and there are way more problematic things going on than Daenerys and Drogo’s relationship, but I won’t get into them right now. The point of this post was to talk about destructive ideas of romance, which I think I did. Now I also know that to some Game of Thrones fans my ideas are a little controversial, but this is how I feel. Daenerys has gone on to become one of the most powerful women in the entire GoT universe and I might argue she couldn’t have done that without marrying Khal Drogo, but that doesn’t excuse the show writers turning what was a kinda shadey romance story and making it rape.

Okay, I’m done now.

-EMS

 

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