Anyone want to check out a documentary film premiere at the Cut Film Festival in San Diego next spring? Novice filmmakers Cindi Finneran and Charley Reeves are premiering their documentary Reading, Riting, and Romance: Taming the Alpha Male, which examines the Romantic Times convention through footage of the 2007 convention and interviews with the attendees.
The documentary came about when Sharon Sala, who works with Finneran, suggested they “team up and document [the] convention,” and off they went.
There’s a 4 minute teaser video on YouTube featuring Kathryn Falk, conference attendees, and several of the ‘07 Mr. Romance contestants:
I’m really curious about this documentary, and I’m of three minds about what the trailer seems to indicate.
First, I don’t think you can properly appreciate or even understand the experience of the RT convention unless you’ve seen one and been there for the whole of it (which means my opinion means diddly since I had to leave early to go feast on the matzo this year). So to try to reveal the convention to outsiders, both to the convention itself and the genre on the whole, might backfire and invite more snide and demeaning comments about how silly, sexist, and sophomoric romance and its fans are, don’t you know.
I honestly don’t know that it’s possible to capture on film what makes RT the giant cluster of ?!! that it is, because underneath the costumes and the feathers and the contestants and the male beauty pageant and the balls and the matched sets of luggage that hold six foot chiffon wings are a dedicated posse of readers and fans of romance who live for that weekend. They save up all year and work for months on their costumes. It is impossible to overstate how much happiness the attendees squeeze out of the RT convention. They love it like I love donuts. I don’t know if it’s truly possible to capture that happiness beneath the costumes and festivities, which from the outside looking in miss ‘joyous and fun’ and might land squarely on ‘just plain weird.’ RT is a lot of, ‘You had to be there.’
Second, the degree to which the interviewees discuss Alpha Males in the trailer makes me pause. Phrases like, “We bring these women into the fantasy” and “We’re here for the ladies” give me the shudders because nothing says “silly empty-headed women” like the phrase “bringing into fantasy.” I didn’t think RT was so much about the Alpha Male, or the ever-present hero that embraces that archetype with his steely gaze and rock-hard abs. It’s certainly true that alpha maledom is a known element in the genre, but is that the avenue through which to introduce folks who aren’t familiar with romance to the genre? It’s not all Alpha males and wings, folks. Neither is it all women who “live in their books.”
Thirdly, I have to wonder about the way in which the RT Convention is being held up as indicative and representative of “Romance.” Given the “Romance is….” headers to each segment of the teaser, and the fact that the documentary revolves around the convention, the fans, and the authors, it would be easy for anyone who views the film to then presume that all romance readers are like those featured in the documentary. And if there’s anything I’ve learned in the three-plus years of running SBTB, it’s the simple fact that sometimes the only thing romance fans have in common is the romance novel itself.
My questions and reservations aside, I’d love to see this film, simply because RT and its surrounding Fiesta of Whoa are no doubt a ripe subject matter for documentary-style exploration. If you get a chance to go see the premiere, let me know how it is.
ETA – Thanks to Jane, here’s a link to the Daily Oklahoman coverage: