I tried to be artsy with this picture. Photography isn’t my talent :p
Why have a blog? Fun fact about me: I’m a Communication major with a focus on Rhetorical and Cultural studies. Basically I’m learning how to think. How to be a rhetorical critic regarding Pop Culture, society, really anything. I look for the deeper meanings in things than what is directly implied. After finding those meanings I look at which cultural groups those meanings apply to. I also look at pop cultural artifacts such as films, tv shows, even advertisements and I try to figure out how they influence society. Does pop culture create the reality we live in or does pop culture react to our reality?
Let me give you an example of meanings and what those meanings mean to different groups in society:
For those of you who don’t know, this is a portrait of Selena Quintanilla, a beloved Tejano singer who was tragically killed during the rise of her career. Selena sang hit Tejano songs such as Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, Como La Flor, and Amor Prohibido. The interesting thing about these songs is that they were crossover hits, people who didn’t speak spanish, people who had never listened to Tejano before in their lives, listened to these songs. They sang along with her and Selena started to do what no other Latin artist had done before her, bring spanish and Latin American culture into the mainstream.
Thus Selena has become a symbol for minorities across the nation, especially young Chicano/a’s. She was the living embodiment of the American Dream. Selena was a Mexican American who broke racial and gender barriers. Her english debut album Dreaming of You, which she was not alive to see the release of, broke records. Her music bought people of all backgrounds together. So this is why you will see a lot of Selena art in predominantly Chicano/a neighborhoods. Whenever young, especially young Mexican Americans, see her, they think of her success. Selena was proud of her culture, she proudly sang in Spanish and constantly talked of her roots. She never shied away from who she was. So young mexican americans are reminded of that when they listen to her songs or see her murals in their neighborhood, they are reminded to be proud of where they come from, to be proud of their roots. They are reminded that anything is possible for them. So to some groups, Selena is a symbol for the American Dream and cultural pride.
But Selena also holds different meanings for different groups. Example: women. When Selena first started singing and touring, many venues would deny her from singing on their stages because they did not believe a woman should be singing on stage with men and touring with men. The Tejano scene at the time was extremely conservative and very much against Selena trying to break into the male dominated industry. Yet, Selena persevered. Not only did she perform anyway despite the backlash, she also started to wear bustiers (pictured above) which she would often design herself. Here’s an example of meaning taking on a different shape. Bustiers were considered trashy yet Selena was able to change that perspective. The bustier soon became trendy, feminine, and beautiful. So for many women, Selena became a symbol of feminism. Of empowerment.
Pop culture icons and artifacts have such huge impacts on our lives, on our day to day being. Sometimes we don’t even notice it.
So that’s a tiny example of what my focus is when I read things, watch films and listen to music. What do these things mean to me? What do they mean to other people? What are they trying to say? Are they political commentary or are they just fun outliers from reality?
That’s why I’ve started this blog. To apply what I’m learning in school to what’s around me. To stretch out my knowledge, put it in practice, so I can get better and better. I love looking at things from different perspectives. I love finding deep meanings in seemingly shallow objects. I love rambling. I love writing. So why not combine all of these things and have this outlet? So I guess my answer to why blog anyway is: why not?
Why romance? again I could shorten this and just respond with the question why not? But I like to ramble so here’s the longer answer.
My favorite book of all time. Ginger Scott can do no wrong.
I honestly don’t get why romance novels get such a bad rep. Like c’mon, they sell like crazy, have a rabid fanbase, and romance book festivals are like music festivals with authors being the stars. Except at book festivals you get to meet your fav rock star authors (one day I will make it to a book festival, it’s my goal honestly)
Romance novels are more than about the romance and their meanings vary from book to book. Some novels focus on family, some on tragedy, some on healing, some on addiction, anxiety, depression, comedy relief, suspense, political commentary, horror, I mean you name it, there’s a romance novel that tackles that subject.
Take the above novel for example, Wild Reckless by Ginger Scott. This novel tackled so many heavy topics in a beautiful, loving, and respectful way. Scott took on first love, the vulnerability of letting yourself love someone for the first time and being loved in return. She also tackled the subject of addiction and the toll addiction takes on families. She tackled the subject of cheating, divorce, and being the child of divorce. She wrote about suicide and the trickling tragic effect it has on everyone. Wild Reckless was a romance at its core, but it was also so much more. It was about saving yourself, loving yourself, and allowing others to love you too. About allowing yourself to love someone else despite what may or may not happen.
I’m sure Wild Reckless meant so many different things to many readers. That’s what I love about romance novels. For each reader, the novel can take on a different meaning. Someone can relate to the hero or heroine in ways that can save their life. Ways that can better themselves. Ways that can brighten their perspective on things. For me, romance novels are proactive in the way they influence society. They remind people love is out there. They remind people to be themselves, to love themselves and to love others. They remind people that every single person is going through something, you aren’t alone. Romance novels are about vulnerability and being okay with that vulnerability. These novels provide a bit of light in what can sometimes be a dark world.
The Hard Count by Ginger Scott could be seen as social and political commentary. The Hard Count focused on Nico, a young hispanic teen who attended a predominantly white school where he joined the football team and faced racial and class discrimination. Yet Nico persevered. He didn’t let these barriers knock him down. He took pride in who he was and worked hard for what he wanted. To some readers, this novel might have provoked critical thought. Have I ever been unconsciously discriminative towards someone who is different than me? Whether I have or haven’t, I need to try and be aware of these things. I also need to stand up for what’s right if I were to ever witness discrimination of any kind.
But for other readers, Nico reminded them to keep going, to keep being proud of who you are, to never let anyone make you feel inferior. Nico was the symbol of hard work, determination, and overcoming what may feel like the impossible.
See? Romance novels are so much more than what the label implies. They mean something to different people. They influence us to be better. To keep going. Happy endings aren’t just on the pages, they are for reality as well.
The most recent romance novel I’ve read is Managed by Kristen Callihan and man did this novel really just grab hold of me and refuse to let go.
Here’s what I love most about romance novels: reading about two people figuring out how to be vulnerable.
In Managed, Gabriel Scott is socially awkward. He comes off as brash, arrogant, and just seems to genuinely hate people. Then he meets Sophie. He starts to melt bit by bit and after a while, readers, along with Sophie, see why Gabriel is the way he is. He finally felt comfortable enough to share his life with someone, even the ugly parts that made him into the man he is today. Opening up to someone like that isn’t easy and doesn’t happen out of nowhere, it takes care and a whole lotta love for someone to reveal themselves in such an unapologetic way. And we can all relate to that.
Sophie hasn’t had it easy either. She used to be something she absolutely hated; she felt dirty, ashamed. She hid those feelings under the exterior of a bubbling personality and a constant barrage of jokes. Yet, with Gabriel becoming her close friend, she was able to reveal her life to him as well. Let him see the broken, ugly parts. And together, they healed. They loved. They loved the beautiful and ugly parts of each other and their relationship blossomed every second into something powerful.
They were vulnerable with each other, and that vulnerability led to strength. Despite vulnerability being our most tender feeling, it is also what makes us strong. Romance novels are about strength. The strength it takes for us to be vulnerable.
So again, why romance? Well, why not?