Hot Docs 2015: Love Between the Covers
Laurie Kahn opens her new documentary, Love Between the Covers, with a statistic: over 75 million Americans read at least one romance novel last year. If that little gem isn’t news to you, perhaps you’ll be surprised by the fact that romance is the biggest selling genre out there, outselling every other book genre, including horror, science fiction, fantasy and mystery.
Despite their massive popularity and success, romance novels have been derided and sneered at, dismissed as formulaic pap. And sure, romances tend to adhere to their generic conventions, complete with a happily ever after, but so do all genre novels. That’s what makes them genres – they subscribe to repeated patterns, themes and tropes. Can you imagine a mystery novel where there isn’t a crime to solve? Or a fantasy novel without someone with a supernatural power? Of course not.
Romance novels don’t function any differently than any other novel genre. And they’re ridiculously popular, not to mention highly profitable. So why are they so looked down upon, such an embarrassment to the literary world? Kahn’s new film is an exposé of sorts. It takes a look at this billion dollar industry – the publishers, authors, and the readers – and reveals the truth of why the genre is so maligned. Romance is the only genre that is written about, by, and for women.
Kahn traces the roots of the modern romance genre through the 19th Century rise of the “domestic romance”, the influence of Jane Austen, and the shift of women into the role of author. Genre novels generally have a fairly long history of being maligned by the literary community, but none so much as the romance. The academics in the film posit that this is because romance novels treat women’s sexuality positively, whereas, for centuries, literary works have positioned romance as tragedy, a warning to women against the dangers of sexuality freedom.
Kahn shows us the world of romance novel cover art, the ins and outs of the self-publishing revolution, visits the Romance Writers of America convention, and interviews some of the giants in the industry. Whether or not you’re a fan of romances, Kahn’s documentary is a fascinating look inside the much-maligned genre, a group of authors that are at the forefront of the e-book revolution, and a community of readers that remain invested in a healthy dose of dreams, hopes and wish-fulfillment.
Screening Times for Love Between the Covers
Sat, Apr 25, 9:00 PM Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, Apr 26, 4:15 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Fri, May 1, 9:30 PM Fox Theatre
Gallery for Love Between the Covers