In Women Read the Romance: The Interaction of Text and Context, Janice Radway demonstrates how many women in the Smithton community read romance novels as a way to provide “temporary declaration of independence from the social roles of wife and mother” (48). The women used in Radway’s analysis consisted of primarily married middle age women who earned a high school diploma and had children. The women reported that reading romance novels provided a domain in which they could escape reality, relax, dream, and fantasize about love. This reading reminded me of the movie What Women Want featuring actor Mel Gibson. Both the movie and this reading illustrate how “a good romance involves an unusually bright and determined women and a man who is spectacularly masculine, but at the same time capable of remarkable empath and tenderness” (50).
The author notes that many of the women reported reading the end of the novel before they even bought the book to assure it would classify as a “good romance” novel. The formulated plot: beautiful woman + handsome man+ obstacle to overcome= happily ever after is used in romance novels and movies such as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid. The major difference is the age of the audience interpreting the text, however, the overall message is consistent. I would argue that this formulate plot presents an unrealistic conception of love, partnership, and happiness. Although unrealistic, these novels provide satisfaction to the women in Smithton. Finding a hobby that makes one happy and relaxed is important, and if romance novels provide that satisfaction then I see no issue with the women’s genre selection. I agree with Gills argument that the “constructionist theories of language and meaning would suggest that people’s accounts should be treated not as one-way mirrors to reality but as complex occasioned constructions” (25). When considering the Smithton women we must understand the way in which all forms of media, not just romance novels, have constructed what it means to find love, and be happy.