Typical Relationship Movie 

Anyone who cares to read this should already know that I don't assiduously document the minutiae of my life in this blog. Even with the events that I do happen to document, there are details here and there that are inevitably left out, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes not. It's the nature of the beast. Aside from not wanting to upset anyone with what I may or may not say, my act of putting text on a given page requires an editorial discretion will alter and distort events no matter how accurate I try to be.

In college, I encountered novelist Tim O'brien's idea of "story truth" versus "happening truth," an idea that says that sometimes something can be more accurate and emotionally true in story even if it depicts things that did not actually happen. The obvious example in his case is the Vietnam War. You can come closer to the truth of that war by fictionally portraying how things felt rather than coldly documenting facts as they happened. There is something about how we as human beings need stories to tell ourselves about our lives and our experience of psychic trauma that makes this idea resonate for me.

Consequently, while I do try to accurately describe the events I portray in this blog as they happened, for me, the more important element to my postings is how they seemed or how they felt. It's an important caveat I felt I should note.


Today, I went to my morning meeting and, I believe, I inadvertently insulted a woman by telling her that I did not feel that "the relationship" entertainment genre of movies were any good. You've seen this movie before. When Harry Met Sally is the most famous and has the added benefit of being pretty good, but the majority of these movies are terrible and, to my view, wind up reinforcing horrible gender stereotypes and do actual harm in society as some people take them as illustrating a great truth about men and women and how they interact.

Love Story gave us, "love is never having to say you're sorry," which most people today would say is utter B.S. It's shocking to modern ears to hear how wrong that sounds, right? Yet, no one lives beyond their own time, so when the same type of B.S. ideas are presented in these modern movies, they sound normal and therefore unremarkable. Yet, as culture inevitably evolves, the distance of history might reveal some of those ideas for the trash they actually are. It might be hard to watch this type of movie in fifty years without laughing at the nonsense they seem to present as ultimate truth.

The women in these movies are typically attractive, smart, goofy, and earnestly seeking a "good man," a "good man" defined as someone who will be a modern prince charming that can provide to the woman's every emotional need without making any demand of his own. Midway through the film, the women express their frustrations at not finding mister right (or mister right not changing fast enough) and will try to change something about themselves only to realize the "good man" will love them for who they are not who they try to be. They revert back to wanting to be "rescued" by that prince charming. The men are attractive, slightly dumb, mostly neanderthals who really only want to have sex and will do or say anything to get it. Through their crazy adventures with these women, they wind up learning important lessons about themselves and somehow transform into the "good man" for the woman protagonist. They end up together and more emotionally connected as movie promised they would.

Real relationships, real gender roles, are far more messy and interesting than that. Of course, these relationship type of movies may put a spin on that basic formula by changing a detail here and there, but for the most part, that is all they are. I dislike horror movies for pretty much the same reason: simplicity of plot and character. Horror movies sometimes have the edge though in that they can be about the monster (like zombies) more than about gender, but not always.

Anyway, going back to the meeting this morning, I indicated some of my reservations about such movies to someone who recommended one to me. I could sense she didn't share my opinion and suggested, subtly, that since I had not actually seen the film in question, my opinion was uninformed. I don't have to see a horror picture either to know what I am likely going to see.

In any event, I regretted bad mouthing the movie for the effect it might have in future meetings. I still can't help feeling the same way about those terrible movies; I just have to resolve to be more careful with my phrasing in the future. I don't yet know much about this woman. I don't have a clear sense of her biases and opinions and she doesn't reveal much. We might be too different to reach an understanding on many issues. I am reserving judgment at the moment.

01 September 2009
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