The Weird Elimination of Romance from Comics

Monday , 17, July 2017 16 Comments

Diversity & Comics points out that something we’ve observed in written science fiction has now hit the comics good and hard:

“They’ve taken romance out of comics entirely. You look at all the comic characters, the classic ones– the cis-white males we have to eliminate or replace– every single character you name you can think of their great love and the story about it. You go Spider-man: Mary Jane. You go Matt Murdock: Electra. Iron Man: everyone! (Heh.) Wolverine: Mariko. Bruce Banner: Betty. It just comes at you; it’s literally throwing a rubber ball at a wall. You say it and you immediately come back with their big romance. It’s like… Khamala Khan: Bleah! (Nothing!) Captain Marvel: Uargh! Just all of them, all of the SJW characters. Not only is it post-Adventure– they don’t even have adventures– it’s also post-romance.”

And this is something that goes way back. No one has to think too hard to come up with the feminine foils to King Arthur, Robin Hood, John Carter, or Tarzan. Even Conan had Belit. But then, practically overnight… fantasy and science fiction got way too serious and sophisticated to tell the sort of mythical adventure stories that people have enjoyed for thousands of years.

Why?

16 Comments
  • John E. Boyle says:

    I’ve probably said this too many times before, but no romance = no love, just sex. And the Left says that all sex is good, it is Pleasure, and no one should be denied pleasure in any way, shape or form, without the chain of responsibility to tie them down!

    After all, No romance, no romantic love, no marriage, no children raised in the traditional home. That means that the Patriarchy will finally be destroyed and all children will be raised by the perfect parent: The State.

    Gag.

    I think that is one reason why so many of the great authors were memory-holed: Haggard, Burroughs, Tolkien, Moore, Brackett were all married and were each of them a true romantic. That the Left cannot tolerate.

    HAT TIP to Hooc Ott for pointing this out to me. Edgar Rice Burroughs in particular had something to say about love, finding one’s mate and building a family. It runs through almost every one of his books, and I think it is because he was writing for his children to read, and perhaps others as well.

    No wonder they hate ERB.

    • Xavier Basora says:

      John:

      Yup.I agree. In fact I was going to take a different tack: Romance is the ultimate form of cultural appropriate and would spoil the pristine chastity(!) of the gnostic superheros.
      Lord can you imagine the superheros dealing with the flesh and entrapping the pure spirit.
      It makes the superhero both superficial and insufferable and lack depth.
      xavier

  • Jon Mollison says:

    Hearing him mention the dearth of romance in comics was great – it’s a solid piece of independent verification of what we’ve been talking about for a while now. File this under: Not Just Us.

    • deuce says:

      Yeah, when I listened to it yesterday, I thought, “Ah ha!” and dropped Jeffro a line. D&C is doing good work. Ex-military and funny, too.

      #OtherPeopleSeeItToo

  • jic says:

    Well, the good news is that comics have been virtually dead as mainstream popular culture for over 20 years now anyway.

    Actually, I may have to change my definition of “good”…

  • It reminds me of 2004’s Identity Crisis at DC. In it, Sue Dibney, the wife of the Elongated Man and half of one of DC’s most charming romantic couples, was murdered by someone shrinking into her brain and then burning the body horribly. Later, its revealed that some time in the past Sue was raped by goofy Teen Titans villain Dr. Light and then a bunch of mind wiping happened (including against Batman). And then its found out that the real killer was the Atom’s ex-wife, who went completely insane.

    It was depressing, abhorrent garbage that was critically lauded by the Comics press.

  • caerrig says:

    It’s not just comics.
    Romance is missing from everything and replaced by something less, usually sex.
    It’s not just romantic love, it’s romance, yearning. The difference to me between the classic SF and modern is romance and yearning.
    Someone, who I cannot remember said man was not meant to stand on the shore gazing over the sea, he is meant to sail it to see what is on the other side.
    So it should be with SF and real life, we shouldn’t be gazing at the stars we should be reaching out and travelling to them, if only to see what’s there.
    What kill us and modern SF is unrelenting, navel gazing, dystopian crap. We need to dream and romance is part of that, whether we believe in love and romance or not we should at least dream it might be real.

  • Chris M. says:

    That explains why Superman’s rebirth has been good.

  • Charlie Baud says:

    Frankely, there’s too much romance in stories nowadays. Sure,superheroes used to have love interests, but that was never more than a way to provide motivation for certain stories. Someone to rescue, etc…

    Now every story is about relationships. Part of the general feminization of the media. I’ll use the example of the latest Avatar comic. The whole damn thing is about Korra dyking it up with Asami and everyone reacting to them dating.

    Romance can have a place in stories, but only sparingly, or else things drift too far into cloying sentimentalism. A hero should have higher concept of duty than mere sentiments.

    • Now, I haven’t read the storyline you mention, but from your description and from what I have seen in other media, it seems unlikely that the relationship is really a romance in the classical sense.

      Homosexual storylines are very seldom written as romances today. Romance involves a particular kind of conflict between characters. I know that sounds odd to say it like that, but think back to the classic screwball romantic comedies–say, anything with Cary Grant in it.

      There is tension between the characters, a sense of them proving their suitability to each other. A negotiation, if you will. The subtext is “how can I trust you to honor your promise to me?”

      (I recently watched “North By Northwest” and the ending shows that dynamic with Grant risking his life to save Eva Marie Saint and in so doing showing that he is worthy of her.)

      Like any other conflict between characters, there must be an element of risk to be be exciting. We fear that Grant may turn out to be a cad, or Saint a Jezebel. It is that potential for disappointment that keeps the tension interesting.

      Modern portrayal of homosexual relationships are forbidden to have any internal risk and hence no internal tension. The story is all about, as you say, “everyone reacting to them dating.”

      The characters themselves can’t be shown to be flawed or to have misgivings. What you end up with not a romance, but a political set piece.

      And, now that I think about it, it may be that heterosexual relationships in modern fiction suffer the same problem. The female character must be perfect, so that all the flaws in the relationship come from the man. Consequently, the man is either shown to be obviously unworthy of her or she is shown to be condescending and settling for a partner below her station. Neither yields a satisfying romance.

      • As an aside, I was trying to think of well done homosexual romances, and I had to go back to 1985. Two films released that year qualify, I think, “Desert Hearts” and “My Beautiful Laundrette”.

        In both of them the reaction of one partner to the pressure of “straight society” is an element in the tension, but it is internal to the character’s own struggles, not something entirely blamed on outsiders.

      • Charlie Baud says:

        I take your point, but you’re talking about Romantic Comedies, not Adventure Stories. Romance should at most be a tertiary element in them or else they become a distraction. They are hardly necessary.

        • I agree that Romance is an optional extra in Adventure stories. My point is that if it is there, it should be a compliment to the Adventure plot and not contradictory to it.

          That, for me, is when Romance becomes a distraction, when the relationship between the characters when they are in “Romantic Mode” is antithetical to the relationship between the characters when they are in “Adventure Mode.”

  • And now I think I have a topic for a new blog post–the necessity of a credible threat that either side may fail to uphold their end of the social contract in order to write a compelling romance.

    As an exercise, can anyone thing of an example in modern media (since, say 2000) of a relationship that is shown to have ended through the moral failing of the woman?

    It’s always the man who cheats on his wife–never the reverse. I think there is a lot to that.

  • deuce says:

    “As an exercise, can anyone thing of an example in modern media (since, say 2000) of a relationship that is shown to have ended through the moral failing of the woman?”

    Fer Crom’s sake, Misha, you’re not even giving us a fighting chance to find an example! #ItsTheCurrentCentury

    I quite agree with the statements in your posts above. Modern writers — even if they’re capable of writing a compelling romance — are crippled by the strictures and taboos of modern entertainment. Any flaws or weaknesses inherent in non-male non-cisnormative characters are seen as ATTACKS on that identitarian category. Thus, it always falls on cishet white men to be the source of problems in a relationship. Non-cisnormative relationships are always boring because neither participant is allowed to screw it up lest a pall and slanderbe cast upon the entire category of those relationships. D&C points this out in one of his videos.

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