Dear Regis Philbin

Romance novels and their writers took it on the chin again today, courtesy of Regis Philbin.

This morning I happened to be watching Regis and Kelly while I had my morning coffee since I'd overslept. The daring duo called a woman for their daily quiz. Regis said, "I understand you like trashy romance novels?" He went on to ask how raunchy they were. He confessed that he'd never read one.

SOS (And you know what that means!)
I'm always amazed that no one hesitates to brand romance novels as trash. The genre written primarily by women for a mostly female audience is considered fair game to denigrate and disparage by everyone from the snotty Half Price Book Store clerks to television celebrities.

Other Genres Get Respect
Horror novels aren't called malevolent, evil trash. Serial killer novels aren't called depraved, gory trash. Even male-authored romance novels, which are usually marketed with great acclaim and sold under the guise of general fiction, aren't called trash.

Rodney Dangerfield Of Literature
So why is a book with romance on the spine called trash. This genre that is primarily about male-female courtship, sometimes with consensual sex, and with the end goal of a committed relationship is the Rodney Dangerfield of the literary world.

You know, I've been married 31 fabulous years to the most wonderful man in the world. That's a romance in the real world and that kind of magic is what romance novels try to give a reader: the possibility that a man and woman can fall in love and live happily ever after. I take umbrage with anyone who says a relationship like that is unrealistic and unachievable. I take offense when someone says that romance novels, which are all about that type of male-female relationship, are trashy books.

Old School Thinking
If nothing else, Regis, it's really old school for anyone to label romance novels as trash. You're not the first. You won't be the last. It wasn't even an original or witty comment. But it did offend. Not just me but probably the other 12,000 plus members of Romance Writers of America and the millions of fans who have made the romance genre the best-selling genre in history. And that's just in this country. There are comparable writing organizations in other countries along with legions of readers.

Call To Action
Next time, it would be more original if you said something laudatory about the genre. Call the headquarters of Romance Writers of America and get someone who knows something about the genre to be on your show. Now that would be a real shocker! I'd be the first to applaud, and I wouldn't be alone.


  1. I happen to hear the same comment.
    Branding romance novels as trash shows ignorance. I've run into that kind of snobbery before. It's always someone who's never read a romance novel, sometimes male, sometimes female. A number of men we know happen to have read and/or purchased my romantic suspense novel THE INFERNO COLLECTION. Without fail, each one of them had complimentary remarks to offer. I don't take such remarks as Regis's to heart, he's just displaying his ignorance.

    Jacqueline Seewald

  2. Here, here, Joan. Once again, ignorance rears its ugly head. Regis should read a few romances before "trashing" them. What a jerk.

  3. If Regis wants to be ignorant and call romance novels trash, then let him. If he wants to offer an opinion, then he should read one first! I'd really love to see him tell Nora Roberts face to face that she writes trash.

  4. Joan, I loved your rebuttal to Regis's arrogant and unresearched remarks. He was probably only repeating what he'd heard thus stereotyping without much thought to the consequences. Thank you for defending the genre and for taking time to write the station. Otherwise, he would continue to have a low opinion on a subject he knows nothing about.

  5. Well, if RWA didn't allow erotica to disguise itself as romance instead of what it really is - pornography - the romance genre might be able to garner some respect.

    Really people. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, smells like a duck, and sounds like a duck - it's a duck!

    Obviously I'm not going to sign my name on this, because I have seen the rude responses of erotica writers to even the mildest of criticism in last month's RWR, and elsewhere.

  6. On the other hand...

    How many of you have ever been on the television set of LIVE with Regis and Kelly?

    If you had been (as I've been twice behind the scenes) then you would know that the majority of time Regis is reading from little blue prompt cards written by the producer.

    Just because he calls it trash, doesn't mean that someone wasn't literally putting words into his mouth. Television is a very different medium than the printed word and things aren't always how they seem.

    Just a heads up so we are not acting out of ignorance either.

  7. So, Get Gelman (if that's his name...I've seen more lampoons of RP than himself).

    Actually, I've seen a few of those other fields of lit called trash entirely too often, and sometimes in reading romantic suspense or erotic romance, it seemed that some writers were willing to phone it in (common everywhere), and some to deliberately sabotage their own effects (in the romantic suspense), an odd sort of self-denigration/"don't take this at all seriously" ploy that feminists have diagnosed in other aspects of too many women's lives.

    But, yes, down with ignorance!

  8. Read about this over at cata-romance yahoogroup. Well done!

  9. Thanks for all your comments. You each made some good points.

    I just wanted to respectfully point out one thing to Anonymous who thinks the trashy romance label is because of erotic romances. I've been in this business a long time. Trashy was the adjective of choice for decades, long before the rise of erotic romance. Even erotic romance, which is different from erotica, features a monogamous, committed male-female relationship.

    The great thing about the romance genre is that there is a sensuality level for every reader's taste.

  10. Great rebuttal from everyone actually on the Regis comment. I intend to write the show. I've heard many people say "trashy" novels or "those" novels (complete with wiggling eyebrows) and I've had the whole debate about how "formulaic" romances are. It's hard for them to continue the arguement when you point out that just about every other genre is formulaic as well - when's the last time James Bond lost? or the world completey ended in a Stephen King novel or Alex Cross didn't catch the killer? Formula is formula and consistency with nail-biting writing. Did Brom Stoker's villain win in the end? What about Dr. Frankenstein? Formula from the word go, even if it was in its infancy.
    And for Anonymous - hiding behind that moniker doesn't bother me - you're entitled to your opinion. I write traditional romance, erotica AND pornography and I can tell you that erotica and porn are NOT synonymous. Not by a long shot. However, it's much like the radio - if you don't like it, change the channel, but why would you devalue a fellow writer's efforts? We're all writers and we should all support each other, regardless of our own personal tastes. Think about it.

  11. I write erotic romance, not to be confused with pornography, and I say that I really don't give a rat's badonkadonk if Regis Philbin has read a romance, thinks they're trashy, or was looking to secretly get his rocks off by asking about how hot the book got. What I do care about is that all too many authors already feel they must keep their success a secret and the term "trashy romance" is exactly why.

    BUT I doubt seriously he's gonna influence a romance reader to suddenly throw out all their Nora Roberts and Iris Johansen. LOL

  12. Believe it or not, I've had someone close to me call my erotic romance "trash" and mean it as a compliment. The "trashier," the better, it seems, LOL. For some readers (who aren't writers), "trash" is synonymous with "beach read," "entertaining read," etc. They don't consider it an insult. I've pretty much chosen not to let this stuff affect me...unless I have PMS. Then watch out.

  13. When was the last time somebody referred to the work of Nicholas Sparks as "trash"? I agree 100% Joan--don't knock anything 'til you've tried it.

  14. I think the impunity to call fiction by and for women "trash" is just one more symptom of the continuing and very much alive anti-female, gender discrimination that is rampant but unremarked in this country. Racism is still alive but people know enough to be ashamed of it. Not so of genderism. It's perfectly fine for Regis to bash women writers and readers on a show whose prime demographic is women.

    And viewers will continue to watch. When will Regis change? Never, probably, because even women don't think it's "a big enough deal" to make waves about. People of color know better. Wish women would stand up for ourselves as well. Feminists won the right to equal careers, but we still haven't won equal respect. We should, rather than excuse degrading attitudes as "ignorance." It's no excuse.