Gothic horror sounds like the antithesis of romance, but the dark and brooding genre is very appealing to fans of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. A very modern example of gothic horror on television is Supernatural. The show uses a mixture of the modern monster hunter versus the dark gothic horrors from ghosts to demons to vampires and more. In fact, the very first episode of the series embraced the lone woman in the dark who needed saving in the very first episode, albeit as a ‘Woman in White’ rather than as a heroine. Other notable differences are the fact that Supernatural features two male leads, the brothers Winchester, who do have romantic entanglements that end badly as often as they end well. In season four, for example, the brothers were entangled with a demon and an angel respectively. Ten years in, the only certainty in the life of the Winchester brothers is that it is uncertain and their fraternal connection has survived heaven, hell, and everything in between.
Making Gothic Romance Work in the Modern Setting
In most gothic horror with romance, the romance most often ends in tragedy. Frankenstein offers a look at how the romance of Victor and his love ends horribly. While Frankenstein does not focus solely on the relationship of the two characters, it does show how Victor’s monstrous actions affect his family and ultimately kill his love.
Fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will definitely recognize the gothic horror influences in that show. None of Buffy’s relationships end well. Her love for Angel must remain unrequited or he turns into the monster Angelus. Spike’s love for Buffy is unrequited, despite the fact that they form a close bond and he even goes so far as to earn a soul for his own redemption and sacrifices himself to save her. In the end, Buffy is alone amongst many and one is left to ponder whether she will ever be able to find a love that does not end in tragedy.
Horror, Romance and Angst
In comic books, the concept of gothic horror and romance remains firmly alive. More often than not, the hero and the heroine do not live happily ever after. The ongoing nature of serials precludes the HEA and lends itself more to the tragic romance such as that experienced by Alison and Nathan on Eureka. The show was science fiction, but the gothic level of romantic tragedy that exists when Nathan sacrifices himself on his wedding day to save the town cannot be denied.
More recently, I watched The Book Thief with my daughter. She’d read the book earlier this year and to say the film didn’t have a happy ending wouldn’t be entirely true, and yet it is through such utter tragedy that we learn the real value of things: such as friendship, love, and yes, loss.
The deep and passionate response to all of these suggests that romance audiences do not just crave the HEA. Sure they want it, but they are also touched by the sublime stories that explore the darker, passionate side of the human psyche.
Do you enjoy gothic horror and romance? Would you read a story knowing that at the end there is only tragedy awaiting the couple you rooted for?