Katie Morrissey (@_katiedidnt [on twitter]) presented a paper called ‘Digital Romance: Crowdfunding & Multiplatform Love Stories’ on romance stories distributed online. These stories, known for their interaction and the specific media platforms they use – are an example of convergence culture – ‘where old and new media collide’ (to borrow a phrase from Henry Jenkins, whom Morrissey cites). Focusing on Check, Please! by Ngozi [Ukazu], a story about two male hockey players falling in love disseminated on Tumblr and Twitter, and Fresh Romance, a multi-author serial comic which has appeared online and in print.

Morrissey described Check, Please! as difficult to define and analyse. She noted that it is difficult to know what terms to use for these texts – are they romances? Fiction? Chick lit? These texts also self-define as not romance – they label themselves as more diverse, savvy and sex-positive, defining themselves against a monolithic idea of romance. Morrissey proposed that such romance could be labelled ‘born digital’ – a term she applies to romances that began online but have now moved to print (although she does wonder what might we ‘lose’ by calling something ‘born digital’?). She argued that, as scholars, we look at romance in very fixed contexts and that we need to expand out methods to include convergence items like these. She proposed three strategies for this and asked for feedback:
Focus on a single text and trace its development through different media forms
Conduct a macro/micro level genre analysis
Look at individual readers and patterns of how they read

Amy Burge, “#ConferenceReport: PCA 2017,” Pink Heart Society, May 3, 2017.

I would really love to hear what other people think regarding the concept of a “born digital” romance, as well as on these ideas for methods.

Also, I’m trying to collect more examples different of “born digital” romances. Do you have any you’d like to send my way?

Romance fiction is porn, but it’s a particular type of women-oriented feminist porn with a telos, or narrative goal. Romance fiction is teleological, building and driving toward this climax of the narrative. This narrative goal, I argue, is the happily-ever-after moment best encapsulated in the hero’s declaration of love. In other words, the moment where one most sees romantic fiction as pornography is, paradoxically, not in the sex scenes themselves… Instead, one sees romantic fiction as porn in the happily-ever-after ending, especially in that key moment of climax when the hero declares his love.

Catherine M. Roach (Happily Ever After, pg 101)

If feminist porn is first and foremost about highlighting women’s sexual pleasure and about the politics of producing that pleasure… then no cultural production better matches this mandate than romantic fiction… Central to romance fiction, as to feminist porn, is the depiction not simply of sexual activity but of women’s sexual satisfaction

Catherine M. Roach (Happily Ever After, pg 94)

There is an inexorable circularity in the dominant argument that condemns romantic comedy as the most mediocre and repetitive of genres because, since a romantic comedy is a love story with a happy ending, all romantic comedies end the same way. If we accept that there are other dimensions to the genre apart from the happy ending then the recognition of much greater formal and ideological variety will immediately ensue. The ending of the romantic comedy appears to be so highly conventionalised that it seems critically tendentious to draw so much attention to it, overlooking what makes the genre rich, varied and, in sum, culturally important.

Celestino Deleyto, The Secret Life of Romantic Comedies, 2009 (24)

Filmic texts are meeting points in which various genres come into contact with one another, vie for dominance and are transformed. Whereas in many films one genre is clearly dominant over the rest, many others register the presence of more than one genre. Genre mixing is, therefore, not particularly specific to a tradition of films, nor a period of the history of cinema, but something inherent to the workings of film genre

Celestino Deleyto, The Secret Life of Romantic Comedies, 2009 (14)

A circular argument has been more or less universally accepted whereby only those films that include certain conventions and a certain ‘conservative’ perspective on relationships are romantic comedies and, therefore, romantic comedies are the most conventional and conservative of all genres. If a film threatens to be mildly interesting in cinematic, narrative or ideological terms then it cannot possibly be a romantic comedy. It is a very popular argument and one that manages to contain the genre with very strict and narrow parameters

Celestino Deleyto, The Secret Life of the Romantic Comedy, 2009 (3)

Negotiating between the private and public, the past and the present, Hollywood romantic comedy seeks to shape coherent perspectives on love from the contradictory utterances that compose it. Conceptualisations of love may be constantly in flus – along with broader configurations of romance, sexuality, gender identity and marriage – but the genre routinely celebrates it as an immutable, almost mystical force that guides two individuals who are ‘made for each other’ into one another’s arms.

Frank Krutnik, “Conforming Passions?: Contemporary Romantic Comedy” (138, in Neale’s Genre and Contemporary Hollywood, 2002)