No one can deny the fact that Colleen Hoover is a best-selling author. Her popularity is only growing, with a massive following from her romance novels, a large fanbase on social media and huge exposure for each novel she releases.
However, her portrayal of romantic relationships can be seen as harmful, writing women with submissive and passive undertones that only reflect the damaging stereotypes of outdated gender roles.
Many of the relationships in her books have problematic themes, some of which her readers say glamorise and romanticise abusive relationships. Balancing her submissive depiction of women, she writes her male protagonists as controlling and possessive. One of her most well-known works, It Ends with Us, has her main male protagonist, Ryle Kincaid, shove her female protagonist, Lily Bloom, causing her to fall and hit her head on a cabinet. This depiction of violence is one of Hoover’s largest controversies, with this worrying behaviour only resulting in the couple ending up together at the end of the book.
This again brings back in the idea of her submissive depiction of women, as she limits their autonomy, with them putting the needs of their male counterparts above their own. She has a narrative that reinforces that women should prioritise the needs of men and can neglect their own ambitions and desires.
To carry on from this, her writing perpetuates the image of women as sexual objects. She describes her female characters in terms of the physical and sexual characteristics, rather than by their personalities. Negative female representation can affect how people see themselves, especially if they internalise the idea that women are there to fulfil male pleasure
A lot of her plotlines focus on her female protagonists being saved from detrimental situations by a man, which creates a ‘damsel in distress’ narrative, and again reinforces the idea of her female characters as these submissive creatures whose entire character arc is defined by a man.
Many of her loyal readers state that she is only reflecting modern society in her depictions of romantic relationships, which then opens the conversation of whether it is a societal problem, rather than the author’s own writing style. Is Hoover simply just creating a discussion of problematic relationships which she has mirrored from society?
Despite these controversies, she remains a popular author, with her works usually being a main focus on the so-called ‘BookTok’ on the social media TikTok. She writes a certain genre that appeals to readers, and while her writing is heavily argued to be damaging, it is fiction, and in that way, her readers should be allowed to enjoy it, as long as they recognise why these depictions can be harmful.
One of the main things to take away is that these messages are ingrained in much of the fiction we read, and as readers, we need to recognise that while these books are popular, they are harmful. Women’s representation in literature is especially important in Women’s History Month, and especially as these books are modern, it has to be said that the glorification of abusive relationships is particularly frightening.