I've been doing a bit of background reading on the American Dream (if anyone has any books or articles they'd recommend, I'd be very grateful, particularly if they discuss the Dream in the context of popular culture) and came across this:
From its beginnings through the early twentieth century [...] the American success myth has been orchestrated around five basic beliefs which have served as recurring motifs: 1) American democracy allows its citizens to rise above any limitations into which they may have been born; 2) hard work brings riches and physical comforts; 3) these rewards come to those who are deserving of them (virtuous) and who 4) have the drive and ambition to attain them plus 5) a modicum of good luck. (Marsden 144)It struck me that if you put 1), 2) and 3) together in the context of romance, you're likely to find heroines who are hardworking, virtuous and of a relatively lowly social status who "marry up," and have no difficulty fitting into the lifestyle of their vampire/prince/billionaire/sheikh. I also notice that Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy fit this pattern rather well.
The Romance Writers of America's definition of the romance genre states that "In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love." This definition had always puzzled me a little, because if the love is "unconditional" why is it only being given out on condition that the lovers "risk and struggle for each other and their relationship"? I wonder if I need to approach this definition in the context of 2), 3) and 4). Certainly Jennifer Crusie, who helped draft the definition, has written that
My feeling on this, which I have expressed loudly and often, is that the romance novel is based on the idea of an innate emotional justice in the universe, that the way the world works is that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished.So it would definitely seem that the concept of "emotional justice" is derived from belief 3), that "rewards come to those who are deserving of them (virtuous)."
Number 5) of course, is not needed by those who are "fated mates" but even then, isn't it a question of luck (or fate) as to whether one has a "fated mate"?
- Marsden, Madonna. "The American Myth of Success: Visions and Revisions." Popular Culture: An Introductory Text. Ed. Jack Nachbar and Kevin Lause. Madison, Wisconsin: U of Wisconsin P, 1992. 134-48. [Excerpt.]