chapter  1
26 Pages

Mass-Produced Fantasies For Women

Although Harlequin Romances, Gothic novels, and soap operas provide mass(ive) entertainment for countless numbers of women of varying ages, classes, and even educational backgrounds, very few critics have taken them seriously enough to study them in any detail. e double critical standard, which feminists have claimed biases literary studies, is operative in the realm of mass-culture studies as well. One cannot find any writings on popular feminine narratives to match the aggrandized titles of certain classic studies of popular male genres (“e Gangster as Tragic Hero”) or the inflated claims made for, say, the detective novel which fill the pages of the Journal of Popular Culture. At a time when courses on popular culture have become semirespectable curricular offerings in colleges and universities, one is often hard put to find listed on the syllabi a single novel, film, or television program which makes its appeal primarily to women. As Virginia Woolf observed some time ago, “Speaking crudely, football and sport are ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial.’ And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction”—to popular fiction no less than to the fiction in the “great tradition.”1