d.c. has no love for the harpooned heart

Seems I wasn’t the only one who picked up on recent reports demonstrating the mass relocation of "highly skilled, highly educated, and highly paid Americans to a relatively small number of metropolitan regions," such as Washington, D.C.

The Greater Washington Initiative, a non-profit affiliate of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, recently launched an advertising campaign designed to seduce businesses with our region’s intelligentsia workforce. The ads are currently running in local publications and the Metro advertising system. Though I’m not sure there are that many major local employers (the Federal Government being one) who are considering moving their base of operations to other cities with similar advertising schemes – it’s nice to see our collective IQ as a selling point for regional development and investment.

Yet the high-brow humor employed by the Hrabal Creative ads has at least one group of people hot and bothered – and not in a good way. Both the Washington Post and New York Times published articles highlighting reactions from romance writers, and readers, to an add that depicts their favored genre as worthy only to the feeble-minded.


The New York Times quotes Nora Roberts, a Maryland resident and best-selling author, stating:

“The fact that Romance novels make up about 50 percent of sales of all mass market fiction should be an indication of how many passengers are reading a Romance novel on the D.C. Metro, and how many might be insulted by this ad.”

Click through to learn about the “smart bitches” who love romance and my prediction for the next controversy stirred by this ad campaign.

Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels, a blog dedicated to the review and comment on romance novels, posted and commented on the following email from a Romance fan that appears to sum up the issue:

"Romance readers are uneducated and less desirable employees, apparently.  And having a degree or an advanced degree obviously makes people smarter, too, in their minds. Forget the fact that I’ve known some people with advanced degrees who are dumber than a bag of rocks and utterly unproductive human beings.”

Personally, I’m waiting for local politicians to start their reaction to this advertisement.


Clearly the campaign portrays those who doodle during meetings as less worthy than their mathematical counterparts. What does that say about Presidents who spent their time "dithering, daydreaming, or making idle scribbles" during countless meetings? Maybe economist Steven Levitt is the unforeseen candidate for President in 2008…

Many thanks to Winesmith for alerting us to the article in the New York Times and linking to Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels.

7 Comments so far

  1. DofAM (unregistered) on October 10th, 2006 @ 4:55 pm

    Thank God I’m not the only one who thinks these romantic issues are laughable. It’s like watching Rodney Dangerfield complain that he doesn’t get any respect. Amazing, really. Good posting.

  2. smouie kablooie (unregistered) on October 10th, 2006 @ 5:28 pm

    I think there is A TON of parody potential with this whole situation. You can almost imagine a spoof ad warning visitors to the area about proper etiquette in Metro. On one side you have a Average Subway – and people are talking with their neighbors and there’s tons of space to move around. On the other you have Greater Washington Subway – and people are stuffed into the car like sardines – and everyone is reading Post Express, listening to IPODs, and glaring at “out of towners” who dare to break the morning code of silence.

  3. Jaye (unregistered) on October 10th, 2006 @ 6:41 pm

    I am so offended by your illustrations. What makes you think that doodling cartoon monsters on notebook paper is not as complex as the realm of mathematics?! How dare you! ;) Sorry, done being goofy now. But seriously, I agree with you! Love the spoof by the way.

  4. smouie kablooie (unregistered) on October 10th, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

    To clarify the doodle ad is actually one of the real ads being produced for the Greater Washington Initiative’s campaign.

    But I too was offended. If the Presidents can doodle on white house briefings – isn’t that proof enough of the creative genious these little creations require?

    Thanks Jaye for adding to the fun!

  5. Edgar Greenberg (unregistered) on October 15th, 2006 @ 11:19 pm

    Yet another slight upon Greater Washington. Your ad shows basic algebra as the typical Greater Washington doodle. How dare you imply Greater Washingtonians don’t know calculus. Or maybe, you just think we don’t know how to draw aliens. Hmpph.

  6. HL Lester (unregistered) on October 18th, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

    The point made by the romance community that continues to be lost in this debate is this:

    Though the GWI claims to be mocking themselves through the ad, it implies that anyone who reads romance isn’t as intelligent as a pompous suit who reads dead philosophers, when in fact 42% of romance readers have a bachelor of arts or higher. Allowing for a 3% statistical error, this means romance readers are JUST as intelligent as the “Greater Washington subway reader.” Most romance readers and writers being women makes the ad not only condescending, but sexist as well.

    The fact that they would condemn anyone for reading at all in a time when high school reading skills are below average, and in a country that has one of the highest illiteracy rates among First World Nations is unacceptable. People should not be made to feel inferior for their choice in reading material, be it romance, horror, manga, or even Plato. We need to encourage and promote reading in all its forms, not solely what is considered “classical” or “literary.”

    Just as a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, neither should someone be judged by what he or she chooses to read…or write.

  7. smouie kablooie (unregistered) on October 18th, 2006 @ 12:52 pm

    So HL LESTER – I don’t disagree with your arguments that people who read romance novels are inherently any less intelligent than those who read classic philosophy texts. Granted, your statistics point out that, even when accounting for a margin of error, less than 50% of the romance readers have a bachelor of arts or higher (p.s. what’s the source for your statistic?)

    So isn’t it reasonable then for someone to state that, generally, half of the people who read romance novels don’t have a higher level of education?

    And what is the source of that statistic? Is it national or local? If it’s local – then when you compare the average romance reader to the average DC resident – generally the DC resident is more likely to have a higher degree of education. (note the link early in the entry to my blog on the rates of higher education in DC support this)

    Further, you argue that “Just as a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, neither should someone be judged by what he or she chooses to read…or write.”

    So if I see someone on the metro reading neo nazi literature, I should reject the notion that that person just might be a racist bigot?

    Further, you contradict your position of non-judgment by stating only “pompous suits read dead philosophers.”

    So instead of complaining about the advertisement – why not just lighten up a bit and take it for the joke it’s intended to be.

    Otherwise, offer an alternative two books that the advertising campaign could have utilized with the same level of impact. That’s the real issue…

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