Finding out what type of pop culture is good for the soul

In the world of pop culture, there is a lot to choose from, and not all of it is good. Many movies, music, and plays have been influenced by the post-modern philosophy of our time.  Some is worth knowing about, some is definitely worthy of steering completely clear of.  At times, it is helpful to engage with the world, not to swallow the media whole and believe all that it is peddling, but to increase our use of discretion, so that we can pursue beauty and truth with more intention and integrity.  There is a time and place for mediation, and a need for discretion between the two worlds of modern-day entertainment and classic religious art, music, film, and the like.  Ignorance isn't always bliss, for it is always better to be able to discriminate between the good and the bad and articulate what is and isn't worth our time.  Thus, my little experiment into one aspect of our modern culture... the romance novel.

I have never been one for romance novels. Although I have read 20 books this year so far, it is unimaginably surprising to find myself picking up these types of books.  I have honestly never found them tasteful, interesting, or good literature, so I have steered completely away from them.  I have to admit that I read a few in the genre of Christian Historical Fiction romance when I was in middle school, but beyond that, nothing. This year I have actually read 3 romance novels.  One is more like a YA account of high school romance and it was super cheesy, and two were straight-up in the romance genre. And then there was that one I could not finish.  Did I convert to wanting to read more? Or not?   Read on....

First, let's talk about why I ALL OF A SUDDEN, out of nowhere, decided to read the romance genre.  Two different podcasts I listen to mentioned good romance, and I have to admit I was intrigued by what they said.  My guard fell a bit in terms of moral standards when I heard about the existence of Mixed Race/Multilingual/Ethnicity subset of Romance novels. Repeat mentions of several books in particular really started to peak my interest, because I am completely fascinated by the issue of racism in literature and at large.  The second reason is that I read a fantastic and very sexy novel (but not romance genre) last year, entitled Erotic Stories for Punjabi Women -- an insanely interesting and very well-written novel about women from India, who are first generation immigrants, writing Romance fiction in a class in London.  This piqued my interest to look into books that billed themselves as steamy, whether or not they're actually racy- that being open- or closed-door romance.

Alright, now let's talk about my verdict.  Here are the three books I read: 
To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

I read the book and I watched the movie about this interesting high-school aged Asian girl with crushes on several different guys. Her love letters are mailed accidentally and quite a bit of drama ensues as the boys found out her true feelings.  My interest in this book was piqued by NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, which billed it as a sweet look at an interracial couple, with remnants of 10 Things I Hate About You and Perks of Being a Wallflower.  A good soundtrack, funny dialogue, and an unexpected cast of characters with a twisty plot.  I had high hopes for this book, but I was disappointed by both the book and the movie (I subsequently watched the movie, after reading the book).  I didn't find it bookish like the movies I heard it compared to.  I found it shallow, cheesy, and annoyingly long.  I hoped the movie would pick up the pace and bring out the things I would absolutely fall in love with, but to me it was Dorky and felt like a bad teenage rom com. I feel like it was written to be a money-making trilogy and a "there's nothing better out there" in pop culture these days on Netflix. Perhaps for a younger generation, this would captivate, but for me that was a no.



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