Monday, January 10, 2011

Did Jane Austen Get It Right?

Last night I took a night off and watched a movie. Since there was nothing worth watching in the new releases, I ended up watching Persuasion. I'm not sure what version it was, but it was good.
I'm a sucker for Jane Austen. She was a woman whose ideas were before her time, but I think, as far as romance goes, she got it right.

As a writer of romance, I'm consciously watching people, watching movies, reading books, forever waiting for that "Aaaaah..." moment, when the guy does something completely unexpected and utterly romantic, the girl stands there speechless, knowing that this is the moment she's been waiting for her whole life, he smiles, moves a little closer..and cinches the deal.
Yes, the skeptics among us will cry foul. That's not realistic. Movies are totally contrived. So are a lot of those romance novels you enjoy reading.
Okay. So what?

What's wrong with romance? I'll tell you what's wrong, in my opinion, at least. You see, I believe in today's society, the majority of us do not even know what romance means. Hollywood and people in the limelight, people a lot of the younger generation look up to and I'd go so far as to say idolize, have put such a skewed version of the term out there, that in another ten years or so, I'd be surprised if anyone under the age of twenty-five could even tell you who Jane Austen is.
Romance is not sex.
Interestingly enough, most movies out there today give a contradictory message. The two main characters in question must jump into bed together, and usually within the first half hour of the movie. How else are they going to know they're truly made for each other?

It's easy for me to sit here and be snarky, but really, the whole thing just makes me sad.
Are there any girls out there anymore who care whether or not a guy knows how to be chivalrous? Yes, it's a big word. In fact I wonder if it's even taught in schools today - the word and its meaning. In essence, I suppose what I'm asking is this.
Where's the respect?
Girls don't seem to want it. Guys sure don't seem to know how to give it. Marriage is an old-fashioned ideal that's really just an excuse to have a big party, and who wants to spend that kind of money when you're not sure it's going to work out?
It seems happily ever after has become happy until one of us decides somebody else is a better catch and moves on.

I suppose, to be honest, these are some of the underlying reasons I write romance. I want to preserve romance for what it was meant to be. Yes, my characters won't be perfect. They will make mistakes, but at the end of the day, they will be different because of how they treat each other. I still believe that deep down, every girl wants to be courted. She wants to be cherished, loved beyond reason, she wants to be respected.
And perhaps there are a few guys left in the world who will have parents who've brought them up to do just that.

I may sound terribly old-fashioned here, but have you ever walked through a crowded mall and had people push past you as you make your way to the exit, tripping over your bags and small children, but then you look up, and there in front of you is a gentleman, holding the door open for you. Isn't it nice? Don't you breathe just the tiniest sigh of relief, smile and thank him as you walk by? Who taught him to do that? Take a look next time - I'll bet that guy is over forty. Unless you're in the South. I hear they have better manners down there.

My daughter and her friends are You Tube addicts. It's the generation. However, one of the things they love to watch are those wedding videos - and there are a ton of them out there. Every now and again one pops up that outshines them all. In that one moment, you see it.
True love.
It's that "Aaaah..." moment.
And it makes you believe again.
I watched one last night that I must share with you.
Then you tell me. Did Jane get it right?

Gene + Jill // Two Pease in a Pod from capture studios on Vimeo.


Jennifer Shirk said...

I write sweet (secular, although I'm Christian) romances so I know what you mean about loving the real "romance" in romance. It makes me sad, too, for my own young daughter that books (and movies) like that are so hard to find.

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

I agree. I have to tell you that the pic you have up from Pride and Prejudice made me save your blog for last! I LOVE THAT MOVIE and your post lived up to what I was hoping to find. THanks for the great post!

Romance IS losing it's ground. I like sweet and write sweet romances, but sometimes the sex before marriage is there, not all my characters are practicing Christians. It's sad, but it's the true state of affairs today.

I work on making sure my boys and my daughter know what romance is and that a marriage isn't defined by the wedding day but more of the work that goes into the relationship before and after the day.

Great post Cathy! Thanks!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Well said, Cathy! I'm trying to teach my son to be that gentleman who holds the door for you someday and I look forward to teaching my daughter to not settle for anything less than a gentleman. Rare things indeed in our society today.

Katie Ganshert said...

Ooo! Ooo! Ooo! Chivalrous was the first word I taught my students this year!! We had this big long discussion about boys growing up to be gentlemen and what that means!

I so agree with everything you are saying. It's why I write romance too. Every woman does want to be courted. And that's exactly what God does with us!

Great stuff, Cathy. :)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

What a great video!

This post was beautiful, Cathy!

Keli Gwyn said...

Our daughter turned 20 on New Year's Day. She's a wonderful young woman with godly values who is active in her church, a friend to many, and is not rushing to find a guy. Instead, she's waiting because she wants the kind of marriage Gwynly and I have. She's seen what a true gentleman looks like, and that's the kind of man she wants--one like her "Daddy," as she still affectionately calls him.

My daughter understands what romance is and what a special role it plays in a healthy, God-honoring marriage, and that makes this mom very happy.

Catherine West said...

Between our writing and our parenting, maybe we will be able to help turn things around!!
Keli, sounds like your daughter and mine, just turned 21, have a lot in common!! I'm so glad she's taking her time and not rushing out just for the sake of 'dating' too. :0))
Katie - woo hoo! Teacher/writer, that's a dangerous combo huh?

Cherie Hill said...

So glad I found your blog! I LOVED this post . . . totally filled with truth. I'd love to read your novel when it comes out! Maybe I'll finally read some TRUE romance! :)

Catherine West said...

Thanks, Cherie! Keep watching the blog and check my website for updates, but I'm expecting the release to be early March. You'll have to let me know how you like it.

T. Anne said...

I think every book (general adult fiction) should have an element of romance in it. ;) All of mine do and I think it's what most readers want. I always feel taken for a ride when I start a book and I find out it's not going to have a love connection in it. It must be a girl thing.

Anonymous said...

I loved that wedding video. It almost made me cry..:D

I think your so right about romance these days. I think that’s why women like to read romance novels. I read a lot of young adult books and there always seems to be this lonely naive girl looking for a prince charming unfortunately the popular male role seems to be a dark gentlemen who is a stalking creeper, obsessed, controls and consumes the female. I think there is a longing for the long-ago gentlemen that we don’t see in modern culture. I’m all for a gentleman resurgence!!!