Monday, September 24, 2018

The Hollywood Romance Subgenre and Why It So Seldom Works

It's a rocky ride--if a writer is willing to tackle the rocks.
A number of romance novels center on Hollywood, as in Hollywood stars falling in love, ordinary citizens falling in love with Hollywood stars, directors falling in love with actors, etc. etc.

With few exceptions, the romance-set-in-Hollywood (or with Hollywood characters) seems to generate more failures than successes. Why?

I came across one possible explanation when I recently read a Hollywood romance by L.A. Witt who also writes military romances. The Hollywood plot was strained where the military plots are usually not. The reason why was obvious.

In both the Hollywood romance and the military romance, a character's livelihood is placed on the line by the romance. This can happen in Hollywood, a reality that Blue Bloods tackles in one episode. In the military, despite the repeal of DADT, certain rules against fraternization still remain.

Nobody ever writes a romance like this. Disillusionment
is the name of the game.
In the first case, the characters rail against "the man" (the studio) and the public and their desire to work without being hampered by social disapproval. It's hard to feel any kind of sympathy, NOT because I think those forces don't exist. Or because I believe a person should give up everything for love but precisely because I don't think so. Make the hard choice. Decide whether the relationship is worth the career. Move on.

In the second case, with the military, the characters can rail all they want. The military ain't budging. So they don't. They have more than their egos to worry about: dependents, retirement, long-term career options.

With the military romances, Witt does a good job pointing out that people can't simply flush their lives down the toilet. You enter the military at age eighteen. Deciding to throw it away at the age of thirty-five for love, especially when retirement is a possible option, is seriously stupid. Some of her characters do make that choice, but they make it with their eyes wide open.

This serious consideration can happen with Hollywood plots, and L.A. Witt produced a second Hollywood romance (To My Future #1 Fan) that did work. But it worked precisely because the actual sacrifices and gains of the lifestyle were acknowledged. Is constant scrutiny by the press, which neither one of us can prevent, worth being together or not? Can we learn to play the game? Or should we ignore the game and leave this lifestyle behind? 

Be clever! Use the rules!
No point in complaining about the conditions of the game--not when the characters signed up for the game in the first place.

I've deliberately left many of the plot details of these books vague. Based on reviews I've read, the Hollywood sub-genre romance is problematic across M/M and M/F. That is, using Hollywood to create conflict between romance characters is problematic, no matter who those characters are. It can be done. Generally speaking, it might be best to leave it alone.