The cultural backdrop of the 90s didn’t quite set the stage for a healthy relationship with romance. Classroom games included Kiss-Kill-Marry-Burn. Throwing stones at the window of a lover was considered dreamy. Complete song sequences were made where the girl finally gives in to the guy’s relentless pursuit after her refusals fall on deaf ears. It was a time of iffy social norms and even weirder dating scenarios.
These 4 moments stand out when I think how the 90s scarred my already ambiguous idea of romance:
I was born in the 90s. Which means the very first movie I saw in the theatre was Baazigar. As most people my age or older may remember- Shah Rukh plays a suave, smooth-talking charmer, out to avenge the death of his father and sister. It was 1993 and I was all of three years old. But this– this lopsided, psychotic, contact-lens-changing, sadistic smiling hero was my first brush with the word ‘romance’.
I was eleven and convinced that I’d be getting my appointment letter into Hogwarts anytime soon. I believe I even wrote Harry Potter in ‘My Favorite Person’, ‘Would like to go on a date with’ and ‘Want to grow up and be like’ columns in Slam Books, complete with doodled lightning bolts, for five years straight. But even you would agree that a self-conscious, pre-pubescent boy with a half-giant for a godfather made for awkward romantic hero material. After half-baked attempts to gain the attention of his secret crush Cho, he settled for his best friend’s sister in a sort of anti-climaxish way. Romance is totes not Rowling’s thing.
3. Mills & Boon:
Cut to 2003. A school friend suggests I read Mills & Boon, which she assures me is all the rage, and hands me my first (and only ever) M&B titled ‘A Married Woman?’. The protagonist- a tall, dark, handsome and brooding millionaire tycoon (but of course) is a man named Saul Rainer. Ah Saul Rainer! Every word out of his mouth is fine chocolate and every action makes the heavens rejoice. His tantalizing ways and blatant displays of romance is the stuff women’s bestsellers are made of. Looking back, I realize these novels are the reason why girls have sky high standards and simultaneous trust issues. I will never understand the selection of reading material in middle school libraries.
Next came the Twilight phase, in my history of twisted romantic plots. About an oddly unemotional schoolgirl who gets lured into a bloodsucking vampire’s fantasy world of age-defiance and werewolf-rivalry; Twilight is the literary nail-in-the-vampire-coffin about shaping the idea of romance on young impressionable minds. Bella drops her entire future in the human world, abandoning her parents and career plans, to raise a vampire child and propagate vegetarianism to their eco-system. Ironically, it went on to become ‘Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Book of 2005’.
That being said, the 90s did pave the way for the Digital Age of romance. Today’s equivalent of the Kiss, Kill, Marry, Burn is probably Swipe Right, Report Abuse, FaceTime, Block. But more on that later.
Also, Happy Valentine’s Day guys! Maybe I’ll curl up with a chocolate mousse and the Goblet of Fire (for the 11th time). What about you?