This book is one long INTENSE blackpill. It’s also literally a novelized Hallmark movie. I’m so freaking confused.
(Note: Blackpill or redpill, take your pick-they’re the same-blackpill just has a dash more nihilism).
Let’s dig into it. The main plot thread is a budding romance between two elderly people: Arnie and Muriel. Arnie has loved Muriel for years, but she has always turned him down. When she rejects him once again, and her friend Dot makes a move on him instead, Muriel is suddenly left wondering if Arnie might be a good catch after all.
Poor freaking Arnie. Muriel has no interest in Arnie until Dot pretends to have an interest in him. There’s the first blackpill. Women practice hypergamy and are only interested in men who have a higher SMV (sexual marketplace value) than they do. The fact that this trick works is treated as whimsical and funny by the narrative is awful.
NO! This is sad! I get so annoyed when I see evidence of this SMV hypergamy in romance novels. Fellow women! You embarrassing me in front of the manosphere out here! All of those rogue/rake/player books prove this hypergamy. The other woman who shows up to give the MC some competition (like the exes and the older woman in 50 Shades). Do women actually get off to dread? Repill men argue that to keep a woman interested, you have to keep her in dread of losing you. Dot’s attraction to Arnie proves to Muriel that he is a worthy mate because another female is interested in him. And hey, a guy can’t be attractive unless you’re constantly worried another woman will take him. Amirite? /s
I hated everything about that. Being attracted to men based on whether or not OTHER women find them attractive should not be normalized or treated as cute. All the dudes on r/asktheredpill telling each other build dread in their “plates” and LTRs, yeah when women’s fantasies look like this it isn’t hard to see why. But I don’t believe this is an issue of “woman’s true nature” and all that jazz. I don’t think this is a biological thing. I believe in the power of media, the power of stories to both reflect and shape our realities. If fiction would stop treating dread and hypergamy as normal/cute/romantic etc, well then maybe we would see far less of it in the real world.
And oh GOD, the backstory from pages 88-89. After Muriel’s first husband dies and Arnie makes a tentative romantic gesture, Muriel tells him that no man will ever replace Stephen.
“And she’d truly felt that way…until Waldo came along….’I’d be happy to pay for the lady’s drink. Put it on my tab,’ a deep voice behind Muriel said.
She turned to see a TALL MAN WITH BROAD SHOULDERS and an equally broad smile and she felt the same fluttering in her chest as what she’d felt the first time she’d seen Stephen.”
Gee. I wonder why.
So, Muriel is all set on men until Chad Waldo shows up to pay for her coffee and be tall at her.
Muriel’s idiocy is pointed out to her in a flashback scene, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point this out. The narrative does attempt to salvage a bit of integrity with the high school flashback scene pages 211-218. YES. Arnie has been waiting on the sidelines for Muriel since high school and she is a freaking grandmother now. All while poor Arnie has never been married once.
Here is a good example of the narrative attempting to show us that Muriel is wrong for the way she treats Arnie (to be clear, I’m not saying she owes him a romantic relationship BUT she uses him for emotional/financial support in a way that is totally one-sided. She hardly thinks of Arnie as a person. She admits this to herself at one point, but the book falls short of REALLY sticking the landing and I’ll explain why in a minute.)
From page 217: “And so it had been all through high school-Muriel always dating the best-looking, most testosterone-loaded boys; and Arnie, the one who’d been the perfect match all along, looking on. He’d continued to look on as she’d fallen for and married two other men.
Funny, now who was looking on? It served her right.”
Um…yep. And that would have been a GREAT moral for us readers to walk away with, but alas, oh….poor Arnie. Here is some more cringe for you.
This is a nice fat 80/20 blackpill for you. From page 211. “Suddenly, it was the fall of her sophomore year in high school again. A new boy had moved to town and EVERY GIRL HAD BEEN EYEING HIM. Bill Bernard was a junior, AN OLDER MAN. He was a football player and he had the husky build to prove it. He was rugged and sexy, and with his blue eyes and blonde hair, Muriel and her best friend, Pat, had dubbed him the Viking. Half the girls in school had crushes on him, including Muriel.”
Yep. It makes perfect sense to only want a dude because other women want him. That’s how you build a long-lasting and emotionally-healthy relationship /s
I say the book tries but doesn’t stick the landing, because Muriel and Arnie do end up together. Oh Arnie, you poor beta f***. And the narrative treats this like some huge win for Arnie.
At the end of the book Christmas party on page 288. “Happy New Year, everyone. And congratulations,” she said to Arnie, who was looking like a man who’d won the lottery.”
Really? He spent decades alone, watching the woman he loved choose Chads over him. He will NEVER have children. He will NEVER have a family of his own. His youth and hers are gone. Muriel probably only picked him because she didn’t want to die alone…..freaking A. Poor, poor Arnie! This is the best a man who isn’t conventionally-attractive can hope for? That a twice-widowed eldery grandmother will eventually decide that he’s good enough to run out the clock with?
Look, here’s what should have happened: the narrative should have punished Muriel for her choices. Every choice FOR something is a choice against something else. When she chose the tall masculine men over Arnie, she shouldn’t ALSO get to have sweet and kind Arnie in her old age. She shouldn’t get both.
This is disrespectful as hell to all men who are not conventionally masculine.
The narrative effectively says, “If you’re not a macho man, you might spend decades alone, and never have children (because of course we gotta end those beta genes), but if you’re a real good boy, you might get to sleep next to an elderly widow for four of five years before you croak. And if this happens, YOU JUST WON THE LOTTERY.’
And I’m so sick of seeing romance novels prove the manosphere right. I’m sick of reading about dread and hypergamy.
I’m so uncomfortable with how often the romance genre makes the manosphere’s points for them. It’s one thing to see a bunch of men online say this stuff. It’s another when books catering to female fantasy make the exact same points and they’re absolutely shameless about it.