June 17, 2011 1 Comment
You know how you sometimes absorb a novel or movie and let it become an unspoken part of your decision making process? Like, I have had a baggy red sweater for 12 years mostly because I thought a similar one looked so charming and relaxed on Juliette Lewis in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
I’m pretty sure I spend most of my time trying to live in a novel or movie, and most probably, a novel or movie that my brain absorbed between the ages of 4 and 19. Maybe all generations experience this cultural nostalgia, where the timepieces that shaped y/our expectation of the future are so special because they are so specifically y/ours. People even 6 years ahead or behind you have an entire different set of references. There must be a very squishy age (9?) where we absorb all that magic, and the cultural timepieces lock in. My Tribes is another person’s Square Pegs is another person’s Degrassi High .
Obviously, we don’t live in movies, blahblahblah, but I do think something interesting happens when we get two conflicting cultural imprints. This would be the equivalent of absolutely wanting the Lewis red sweater, and then seeing something else that confirmed red sweaters were the stuff of bad, un-Depped, lives. But, on a much larger scale, of course. This whammy happens to me a lot. For example, tet’s take a favorite topic of mine, weddings!
This might be my all time favorite wedding scene ever:
Conclusion: it is good to follow your heart, and whatever you do (as pounds of movies have told us) is DO NOT MARRY THE SAFE GUY. Meg Ryan is also very good at proving this (Greg Kinnear, the safest man in cinema?). Also, the promise that TRUE LOVE OUTS, ALWAYS.
And then we have this famous doozie:
Both narratives are in agreement about one thing, ADULTS SUCK. And both make fun of the same system that, by getting married, the youth are signing up for in the first place. But we get that in The Graduate, the whole situation sucks some balls. Growing up sucks some balls. Plastics suck some balls. And, well, ending up with Benjamin as your Dwayne sucks some balls. He’s a stalker. He slept with your mom. Elaine…it’s not too late for you, but you should probably grow up to be a sexy single lady who owns a bookstore.
The conflict: Both are iconic, closely related scenes in my head, but one promises bliss and certainty, and the other promises that grand gestures can be as empty as what they hope to work against.
I also like to smack Howards End in the middle of this Netflix deathmatch, because well, it swings its weight both ways. Margaret marries the safe man, the rich Mr. Wilcox, and it’s terrible. But Helen follows her heart and fully abandons herself to passion, and it, too, is kind of terrible. And poor Leonard Bast. All he got was some sex and misery in his life.
So who wins–what will get to be the grand narrative that wins in my brain? Of course neither, because luckily I can handle conflicting narratives and their ambiguities, but what if they had to? What if we had to either join them all together in some mad life lesson, or at least make some peace with their differences?
Then I would say we snuggle up to EM Forster as much as possible, and let the other two float in the ether. Partnering for comfort or lust is probably a bad idea. I think Forster would approve of Elaine’s escape and Whitley’s change of heart. Interestingly, they all work on class lines too: if you’re a gal, DO NOT MARRY THE RICH GUY unless you really want to sleep with him and he likes your brain, and for guys, DO NOT MARRY THE POOR GIRL OR OLD LADY, you were probably just with her because you were horny. True love = breaking class expectations. If you’re a guy, SAVE YOURSELF FOR THE RICH GIRL. She’ll probably go ahead and break your heart anyway, but it will be morally correct. At least, it will this time in the annals of Carla Fran’s Culture Clash, or what I like to call The Media Closet of Our Lives.
Join us next time where we take on reproduction: Lost in Translation vs. Friday Night Lights!
PS. All movies agree, never marry a cop.