The Happily Ever After Conundrum: Why the Romance Genre Endures

‘Bridgerton’ has taken Netflix by storm. The passionate exchanges, love that ventures beyond first sight and a happily ever after; every ingredient of a classic romance. But, why do we love romance? Is it the fantastical idea of happily ever after? Or an attempt to satisfy an inner desire to love and be loved, to become something more than we are?

Romance, as a genre, has programmed us to believe in true love at first sight, everyone has their own lobster, and racing to an airport to stop a loved one boarding a plane before proclaiming their affection is one of the greatest confessions of love. The idealism of romance is tempting but not necessarily accurate, leading us to cling to the dream of what the everyday could be instead of what it is. What if we walked out of the door one day and were swept off our feet by someone who adored every part of us?

Dowd and Pallotta state one ‘element of classic romance is the intervention of larger, structural or otherwise powerful forces that impede the progress of romance.’ We become hooked on the omnipotent force that cannot keep two lovers apart, hoping we will have someone that will feel the same way. We experience a catharsis when watching romance satisfying our desire for affection, and for happy endings.

The excitement of a new relationship combined with the tenderness of an older one is what the genre labels true love, conveniently leaving out the in-between. Reality ‘is glossed by a different reality, an ideal reality of what we would like to believe or believe we would like.’ Romance endures because it tempts us with this ideal leaving us with a sense of hope that one day we might have our own happy ending.

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Elena Rogers

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October 2021
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