The Psychology of Romance Novels or Period Dramas

There are plenty of articles on the Internet from psychology resources that state romance novels are bad for women. Some say these books give women unrealistic expectations when it comes to romance and can damage real-life relationships. Perhaps the psychologists think it’s mental porn for women, somewhat like the damage visual porn inflicts on the male species. There’s also another camp that says romance movies are bad for you as well. (Let’s all stick our heads in the sand so no fantasy touches our lives.) Here are a few for your reading enjoyment:

You Won’t Believe How Romance Novels Affect the Psychology of Women (“Leading psychologists are of the opinion that romantic novels can have a huge impact on the psychology of women; sometimes, making it unhealthy for relationships.”)

The Allure of Romance – Why do romance novels sell so well? (Psychology Today says, “And that reason could be that romance novels give women something they need, and do it in a way that the world around us cannot.”)

Are Romance Movies Bad for You? (“Researchers are beginning to ask whether the make-believe world projected in “rom-coms” might actually be preventing true love in real life.”)

In today’s world, there are many other avenues of fantasy that readers take besides romance novels. Readers whisk themselves away in sci-fi planetary adventures or magical make-believe realms with dragons. Are these psychologically damaging as well because it’s not reality? I dare say in this day and age, humans need to escape reality occasionally either in books or film. As we deal with climate change, pandemics, wars, racial strife, and the other ailments of the world, it makes sense to take our minds elsewhere. If we don’t take a step outside reality for a few minutes, we’d all end up in more psychologist’s chairs doing therapy.

Many women read historical romance – both married and unmarried. In fantasy they read their duke-centric historical romance, daydreaming about calling the hero “Your Grace” and being swept off their feet in the Regency era. When the bookmark is placed or the eReader turned off, they lift their eyes to see their husband in a tee-shirt and blue jeans and sigh. The question is does it affect their marriage or does the affection they hold in the world of reality remain? I’m laughing as I write this because, in all honesty, I think most women accept the reality of life but enjoy the soothing thoughts of something a bit different between the words of a romance novel.

On the other hand, there are plenty of unmarried women in no relationship whatsoever. Do historical romance books raise their expectations too high when looking for a man, or does it actually fill a need in their lives to fantasize about what it would be like to be loved. I dare say it fills a void.

In the end, anything we do can lead to unhealthy addictions, but psychologists declaring with certainty that romance novels or romance films are bad for our mental health is a bit of an overstatement. Mentally healthy women can grip reality and “not allow their real life’s happiness to hang in the balance over a fictional character.” ( I found this beautiful quote from someone in Facebook’s Sanditon group, attempting to bring calm to the masses who have lost their senses over Theo James not returning.)

Romantic stories have been around for centuries. Did anyone complain to Shakespeare that his story of Romeo and Juliet was contributing to the high number of suicides by star-crossed lovers? Were Jane Austen’s novels deemed unhealthy for women for the past two hundred years?

Chime in. Why do you read historical romance or enjoy period dramas in film or television? Escape? Relaxation? Daydreaming? Pure enjoyment? What deep psychological need does it fulfill in your life? As Jane Austen once said, “The person, be it a gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

One thought on “The Psychology of Romance Novels or Period Dramas

  1. I read, write, and enjoy historical fiction/romance. That said, I have faith that most women know the difference between fantasy and fact.

    I’m sad that romance novels take the hit for the unrealized expectations of a few, but that isn’t the fault of authors or the books they lovingly write. These novels are a comfort to some, and an escape for others. Negative impacts on marriages says more about the marriages than the novels. Blaming the novels is unreasonable in the extreme.

    Number one pet peeve: Inaccurate or unnecessarily embellished onscreen portrayals of historical events or real people, in that someone feels they must apply modern day sensibilities to the factually historical in order to make history more relevant. Fine for fictional characters, but don’t change that which is established fact. History is relevant as written.

    Like

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