Tired Tropes: Showmance

Today, I’m going to talk about the most tiresome of tiresome tropes, the showmance.

Johnny Hot Ass, CEO of Money-to-Burn Industries, or Duke Grab-a-Lot-of-It, Heir to an ungodly fortune, are looking for a girl to play the role of fake wife/significant other. They may or may not want to have sex with her, but a “relationship” is utterly, completely out of the question. So they say. But by the end of the book, TRUE LOVE trumps what began as purely selfish interest. They all live happily ever after.

A great reader of Victorian romance, I find it strange that today’s audiences can enjoy books like these. What these arrangements amount to is a kind of high-class prostitution–think Pretty Woman with a period piece budget. The girl getting, if not cold hard cash, at least some benefit from it other than the BENEFIT that sometimes comes with it.That the characters realize their shallowness in time to save something out of this wreck of virtue is hardly reward enough for having to spend any time with them. It’s like enduring sloppy kisses and cheek pinches from a stinky old aunt merely for the sake of the dollar she gives you for candy on her way out the door.

These stories are in bad taste, surely. But what’s worse, utterly impossible to believe. How many times, in real life, has a mercenary showmance turned into a genuine romance?

I can think of one such showmance than ended on a far sadder note. At the age of 37, England’s Queen Mary I married the far younger Prince Phillip of Spain. A politically advantageous marriage, contracted in the best interest of the parties and the countries they represented. It didn’t take long, however, for poor Mary to fall in love with her handsome husband. Sadly, he didn’t return her affections and soon found means to absent himself from her court. Probably to avoid the unpleasant necessity of performing his husbandly duty. Mary believed herself pregnant and showed symptoms of being so. But no child was born of this loveless marriage. And death mercifully dissolved it sometime later.

Though it grieves me to admit it, I don’t think showmances are going away any time soon, even if they lack credibility, because today’s readers have made their peace with marrying those you don’t love for the sake of plenty of hot sex, the sooner, the better. The older style of courtship–getting to know the man before you FUCK him–just ain’t going to cut it. Sorry!

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