Sunday, February 27, 2005

Re-covering Romance Novels

Some comic relief and subversive silliness this weekend: romance novels, or actually their front covers. Everyone has giggled and rolled their eyes at the supermarket checkout lines just glimpsing those pulp fiction covers, a whole genre unto itself featuring pastoral scenes in lurid colors of idealized eroticism and sentimental heterosexuality.
The tall dark beefcake bursting out his shirt -- due to a mixture of steroids and the feminine hands hovering nearby-- who is typically both an overly healthy noble savage yet also one who inherited a wealthy nobility. And the the object of his gaze, the more civilized young woman who compels his attentions, always more clothed than the man aside from one bare shoulder, in fact strangely over-dressed for the occasion. The fantastic escapism is not so much the problem here as is the limited gender stereotypes. Can the contents be as incredibly bad as the covers?

And can the covers be bad enough to become high Camp, as Sontag might have hoped some 40 years ago?

Maybe. But they probably need a little help along the way. See link above for a fun series of "re-imagined" covers by Longmire. This parody of cheesy art, reappropriated for a more sane consciousness of the social formation, is what the Situationists used to call "detournement". Twisting, diverting, re-contextualizing, juxtaposing, taking back the alienating forms of social images for a more liberating practice. C.B. gave me the headsup on this site. And Longmire is asking you to send in your own attempts -- I look forward to seeing them!


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