Infatuated with Regency

In a tech-driven society where logical thinking is valued and hookup culture is the norm, some people desire going back to regency times, with hand-written ball invitations and traditions of courtship. The closest substitution is wearing a Teuta Matoshi gown, setting up a high tea and listening to a light academia playlist.

From left to right: Dior’s Spring/Summer 2021 campaign and Teuta Matoshi’s Blossoming Merlin Gown

Everyone can live their fantasy with the royal core aesthetics becoming a design trend. Lirika and Teuta Matoshi’s whimsical gowns gained their earliest recognition through social media. Dior’s 2021 Spring/Summer Collection reflects this trend. Many pieces are regal gowns with floral embellishments and zodiac motifs. Nike embraced the floral theme with their anticipated Blazer sneakers. Corset tops like the Victoria Secret’s floral top became a TikTok viral trend. It’s a little taste of embracing the fairytale adapted to modern living.

It is a royalty core regency romance phenomenon after the massive success of Netflix’s Bridgerton. Based on a historical romance series, this guilty pleasure romance is a combination of the nostalgia of a Jane Austen novel and the scandalous Gossip Girl set-up. It allows viewers to fantasize themselves in a fairytale as a daughter of an established family, débutantes coming out to attract a rich handsome prince and become a princess.

Regency romances are a subcategory of the romance genre. Jane Austen originated it with her witty, perceptive social commentaries. The highly social backdrop and preoccupation with social standings in Prince Regent’s (later George IV) reign between 1811 -1820. Later regency adaptations are bolder and more adventurous to meet the broader appeal. It reflects how these stories are fairytales with erotic undertones, fulfilling the women’s fantasy without the naivete. It is fascinating to see why regency romance emerging as romance isn’t usually in the mainstream consciousness.

“Hollywood would rather do the 48th Pride and Prejudice,” — Julia Quinn

The romance genre is often overlooked, despite “selling tens of millions of copies each year with approximately 10,000 new titles annually” 1. LaQuette, the president-elect of the Romance Writers of America states the romance genre “keeps the book industry running,” holding 26.4% of the consumer book market. ¹ ² On the contrary, romance doesn’t deem profitable by showrunners in comparison to superhero films, detective shows and reboots. If adapted, their default network is on the Hallmark channel as a low-budget made for cable movie. “Hollywood would rather do the 48th Pride and Prejudice,”as quoted by Julia Quinn.¹

The genre is mostly written and read by women in numerous subgenres with two key elements: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying ending. The common romance tropes of being sentimental, trivial and dealing with emotions are disregarded as not being intellectually challenging enough for men to enjoy. LaQuette states “It teaches women to demand equal treatment, to demand orgasms. It creates the expectation that men should have emotions and show those emotions and have compassion for the people around them. In a patriarchal society, those things are not necessarily celebrated.”¹

From Left to Right: (1) The Villiainess Is Adored by the Crown Prince of the Neighboring Kingdom, (2) I Reincarnated into an Otome Game as a Villainess With Only Destruction Flags… (3) Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter

The same ideals are applied to the Josei (women ages 18–30)and Shojo (young girls ages 13–18) manga genre with an anime twist. A royal or fairytale romance where the office-working heroine mysteriously enters into a fictional Western European country and consequently gains the crown princes’ attention. These stories are a safe space for women exploring their hidden desires by enjoying smut or sweet trivial love stories without societal judgment by the partichary.

Mackenzi Lee’s non-traditional romance YA novels

There is a common debate that romance can be seen as feminist pieces despite men presenting as aggressive and women as submissive. It is also not inclusive with many romances’ ideal fairytale endings are marriages between straight, white, able-bodied couples above others.¹

The Romance Writers of America organization are taking steps and encouraging inclusivity with who writes the romance and the characters being depicted. If the Bridgerton series doesn’t fit the bill, Vox published articles featuring Mackenzi Lee’s works, including A Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, a gay regency YA adventure novel, and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, a nerdy queer girl YA fantasy novel.

The fantasy of regency romance reflects the romanticist ideals in current pandemic times. It’s the same method of escapism as visual aesthetics being nostalgic and the freedom to be yourself. Many romance lovers and newcomers looking to validate their desires and emotions like a Disney Princess. Instead of seeing ourselves as the side characters, we all have a chance to be the protagonist with our feminine attributes.

References

[1] Soloski, Alexis. “For Television and Romance Novels, Love at Last?” The New York Times, 6 Feb. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2020/12/28/arts/television/bridgerton-outlander-romance-novels.html.

[2] Lee, Linda J. “Guilty Pleasures: Reading Romance Novels as Reworked Fairy Tales.” Marvels & Tales, vol. 22, no. 1, 2008, pp. 52–66. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41388858. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

[3] Romeo, Jessica. “Why Are So Many Romances Set in the Regency Period?” JSTOR Daily, 24 Feb. 2021, daily.jstor.org/why-are-so-many-romances-set-in-the-regency-period.

[4] Wyatt, Neal, et al. “Core Collections in Genre Studies: Romance Fiction 101.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 2, 2007, pp. 120–126., www.jstor.org/stable/20864838. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

[5] “Find Your One True Love: Book Lovers and the Romance Story.” Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture, by CATHERINE M. ROACH, Indiana University Press, 2016, pp. 3–27. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19zbzq4.5. Accessed 18 Feb. 2021.

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Designer + Art Educator — manping.co

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Man-Ping Wu

Man-Ping Wu

Designer + Art Educator — manping.co

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