I adore love stories. Growing up, I found I gravitated toward women writers of fantasy and science fiction because they tended to include romance in their stories, and I wanted that. Love is a fundamental human emotion, and I could get more into the story if it was included.
But, I’m finding that a shift is happening to include fewer love stories (or at least fewer of the obvious ones) in TV and movies created for women. And I kind of like it.
That may sound odd coming from a romance writer, but bear with me. Here are a few examples of the shift I’m talking about.
I took my son to see this high seas adventure, and we both enjoyed it for very different reasons. He loved the bad guy played by Jemaine Clement and the connection to the place his dad grew up. (My husband is filipino and grew up in Hawaii — a very different place than Oregon.)
I, however, was brought to tears when I saw a young girl having an adventure. Her goal was to save her people, not find her prince. When I was growing up, those movies were only about boys. But when I played with my friends, we played rocket ship, pirates, escaped slaves, and all sorts of other games — we never played “find a boyfriend.” (That was serious business when we grew up, never a game.) It was beyond inspiring to see Moana doing the things on-screen that I had dreamed of but had to live vicariously through a male movie surrogate.
This is a romantic comedy at heart, so the love story remains a focus, but in the second season, much of the drama that would typically be used to ramp up emotion about the love story was used to highlight the importance of the main female friendship on the show.
The main character, Liv, was turned into a zombie, and when she eats the brains she needs to function, she can see the memories of the brain’s owner. This comes in pretty handy for solving the mysteries of their untimely deaths, so Liv works with a policeman to solve murders. The best thing about the show is that they’ve never gone for the cheesy “will they or won’t they” crap that annoyed me about The X-Files. Surprise, surprise, men and women CAN work together without wanting to bone all the time.
Why love doesn’t always matter
Are you seeing a pattern here? Love is great, but it isn’t all that makes a woman. But for years romance was seen as the only thing women seemed to care about. Look at the debacle that was Pearl Harbor (the movie). They took a war movie and mashed it together with a romance to lure in the ladies. But neither story was served well and the movie was insanely long. Three hours long, to be precise.
So let’s all agree to make sure that women’s stories show all of their experiences. Workplace stories that show the daily struggles and victories. Coming of age tales that show the different ways women mature. Friendship stories that explore the nuances of platonic relationships. Adventures that capture our fighting spirit. Speculative works that show the different ways we respond to changes in our circumstances. And, of course, romance novels with the HEA (happily ever after) we crave.
Love and sex are part of our lives, but they don’t need to be the central focus of every woman’s tale we tell. When it is, it makes it seem as if women only have value in relation to the men they date or marry. That leaves out a lot of what matters to us — and the focus on male-female love stories leaves out a ton of women.
What do you think about this trend of focusing on more than just love stories? Share your thoughts in the comments.