Trying to Understand the Romance Genre

I don't really understand the romance genre. It seems too much like it's the same story over and over again. It's less like characters acting in the world than a plot with whoever thrown into it. In the end I think the whole thing centers on value, like the rest of life.


I posted this in a romance reading group a couple of months ago. People seemed to think it was about right.

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Does this ring true for the reasons behind this trope?

A young, attractive woman is pursued by two men. (Because she wants to feel valued.)
After some internal turmoil she chooses the more powerful, wealthier, and more dominant man. (Because she wants to feel valued by a man that she values, which is a man that is effective in the world.)
As the relationship develops he learns to value her so much that he loses much of his dominance and now sees her as an equal. (Because she wants to be as valuable as the man she most values.)

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This can change somewhat, and those are the better stories. Sometimes there is ambivalence and moving back and forth.

The movie Titanic goes directly against step two. (It's the most watched movie in history.) But, she still chooses the man she values more. She just doesn't value money and power and values adventure and freedom instead.

The two men as options thing seems to be a darn near universal though. I think this might be because romances are all about the valuing of people. And, you can't show what you value in a person without a choice to reveal your values. When you choose one person over another you are clearly saying that you value them more. To show that in a story you need at least two choices. Two choices also makes it a clear choice.

Let's see if I can come up with a better formulation that covers more of the genre.

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A woman has a choice between men. (Which will reveal her values and her ability to perceive those values in others.)
She works to make the correct choice, which is the man that has more of the attributes that she values. (Because living is the act of valuing.)
The development of the relationship is a record of the growing mutual valuation. (Because that's what you need to have a relationship.)

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That seems to be better in some ways. It's quite general, but that's what you get when you're trying to lay out the basic idea behind an entire genre.

It seems that the basic definition of romance is something like a story focused on the valuing of people, usually centered around a positive valuation.

I shall have to think about it more.

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