Tuesday, February 13, 2007

St. Valentine's Day

I'm not sure whether I like this holiday for its sentiments of love and caring, or if I despise this holiday for its consumerist emphasis on purchasing large and not necessarily heartfelt tokens of sentimentality. Really not sure. Is this a holiday that cheapens true sentiment through trite consumables? Or, is this a holiday that truly reminds us of deeper feelings? I guess the thing that bothers me is the implication that we need to give all of this stuff on the one day, and that it doesn't matter for the rest of the year. Plus, it tends to leave the singletons rather out in the cold. If we let it. Which we occasionally do. All of the TV shows portray wives greedily awaiting large presents, and husbands who take these wives for granted the rest of the year giving in to pressure and getting them a bouquet or a necklace. And it all seems so forced. But, since I do not have a personal Valentine to worry about, I don't have to worry about the greedy gross bits of the day, and I can focus on the romance. So, in honour of the day, some favourites:


Favourite Movie Romances:

  • When Harry Met Sally - perhaps the ultimate romantic comedy. It never gets old. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan have such great friendly chemistry you can go on watching and watching and wanting them to get together every single time.
  • The Apartment - how can you not love Jack Lemon. And this is just such a perfect combination of sweet and sardonic and lovely and dark. Fantastic.
UPDATE: Tonight several of us singletons watched Casablanca which speaks for itself, and Love Actually which is also fantastic and highly recommended by at least 3 of the 4 who watched.

UPDATE 2:
Love Actually is also fantastic and highly recommended by all 4 who watched. Happy?


Favourite TV Romance du jour:


I go through phases in TV watching, and right now I'm obsessed with The Office so my favourite TV romance is the Jim/Pam will they or won't they agonizing secret lovefest. Plus, I think Jim is just about the ideal modern male.


Favourite Book Romances:
  • Pride and Prejudice - no surprise here. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth represent the height of literary love.
  • Anne of Green Gables (complete Series) - if I can't marry Mr. Darcy, I want to marry Gilbert Blythe. He and Anne. Glory.

And, what about the rest of you??? Any favourites???
Thoughts on consumerism vs. sentiment?

12 comments:

Matthew said...

It's always been a pet theory of mine that the rise of the Victorian Romance is correlated to rise of female expectation of paying for the first date.

As a cultural reference I cite one of the more interesting romantic films of the 90s 'Sleepless in Seattle'. Rob Reiner tries to explain the changes in dating from the 80's to Tom Hanks with:

"Well. Things are different. First, you have to be friends. You have to like each other.

Then you neck. This can go on for years. Then you have tests. Then you get to do it with a condom. (beat) The good news is, split the check."

(Stolen From http://sfy.ru/sfy.html?script=sleepless_in_seattle)

Then in 1993 the Colin Firth 'Pride and Prejudice' was released quick followed by Emma Thompson's 'Sense and Sensibility' in 1995.

And suddenly Romance, once again, involved the courting of women by men. And the cultural stereotype that men are less likely to respond if they are asked out instead on enticed to do the asking out was reinforced.

I will admit that all of this may be biased in that it was all occurring during the period of my life that I decided that maybe girls weren't so icky after all.

P.S. I found this while looking at Lipstick Feminism on Wikipedia and I thought it was interesting as I didn't know that it existed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masculism

False Prophet said...

You can probably say it was unanimous for Love Actually. I'm not big on most romantic comedies that aren't When Harry Met Sally or Desk Set, but I did like that one. Probably because it was a series of short vignettes linked together, instead of an overly long look at a single relationship. And it was bloody hilarious.

False Prophet said...

It's always been a pet theory of mine that the rise of the Victorian Romance is correlated to rise of female expectation of paying for the first date.

The expectation that the woman will pay for the first date, or the expectation from the woman that the man will pay for the first date? I'm kind of confused.

MadJenny said...

I think Matthew is referring to the trend of women paying on dates - or going dutch. I believe that is what's discussed in that particular scene in Sleepless in Seattle. (Which is also a fantastic romcom, even if it is slightly scarily stalkerish.)

But I am still a little in the dark as to the argument that is being made. Are you saying that you think that as society becomes more egalitarian, women are turning to a desire for high romantic gesture from men within the field of "courting"? Does that sound right?

If that's the argument you're making, I'm not sure I agree. I think that my personal lack of ability to ask men out has more to do with my being very shy than with my expecting chivalry. Though I will admit that Mr. Darcy's gentlemanliness has, perhaps, influenced my thoughts and tastes about the opposite gender, especially as portrayed by Colin Firth, so maybe you are right.

The masculism link is interesting. I'm not sure how it fits in with your discussion points though. Could you expand?

Matthew said...

I was trying to talk about the changes that Rob is trying to explain to Tom.

1. That Women now ask out Men
2. That people split checks on dates
3. That friendship is expected before dating

I think that these trends peaked around the time of Sleepless and then the pendulum began to swing back with the reintroduction of Victorian style romance.

Matthew said...

Oh I forgot about the link to Masculism. I was reading about feminism on wikipedia because I was trying to see if there were any changes in feminist theory that would support my argument.

I also thought that the early 90's might be the time that Liberal and Feminist might have become dirty words.

The 'Conservative' media became a bigger force during this time in American politics. Ross Perot's had just proven the power of the 30 minutes campaign/news/propaganda infomercial by becoming the most successful 3rd party candidate in American politics. CNN was 10 years old and had proven that an all news cable network could be profitable. AM radio was shifting towards a more talk and syndicated format. The Rush Limbaugh Show was hitting its stride. And the Cigar was once again becoming popular.

I don't think this was a great time for egalitarianism. And who walks into the picture but Jane Austin.

Here is some text stolen off wikipedia that I agree with:

"Passionate emotion usually carries danger in an Austen novel: the young woman who exercises twice a day is more likely to find real happiness than one who irrationally elopes with a capricious lover. Austen's artistic values had more in common with David Hume and John Locke than with her contemporaries William Wordsworth or Lord Byron [...] Some contemporary readers may find the world she describes, in which people's chief concern is obtaining advantageous marriages, unliberated and disquieting. "

MadJenny said...

Ok, I agree:

1. That Women sometimes ask out Men
2. That people often split checks on dates - although men often refuse this, because they seem to want to maintain the chivalry
3. That friendship is often expected before dating - although I think this has more to do with how we now meet people.

I guess my main problem with your argument here is that Jane Austen is not a Victorian romance writer. She is a Regency - pre-Victoria - satiric writer, whose plots happen to centre around the daily life of upper and middle (although that didn't really exist yet, so more lower-upper class) women. For women in this class, marriage was really the only life option, so romance is the natural preoccupation. Austen was actually very forward thinking in that she had her heroines turning down purely advantageous marriages for the sake of finding a loving marriage.

But I do concur that, in many ways, she has much more in common with the thoughts of Enlightenment thinkers than with the more aesthetic poets of her time. She was raised by a Cleric, who was also a great Enlightenment scholar, so this is hardly surprising. This is not, however, to say that she did not enjoy Wordsworth and Byron and draw from their imagery within her texts. One of her greatest heroines, Anne, from Persuasion is actually lauded for her appreciation of poetry and of these poets in particular.

I find your comments on the 90s interesting, I had previously thought of the trend of young women turning away from "feminism" to correspond more closely with the late 90s rise of the "girl power" pop groups like The Spice Girls and later Britney and co, and later still the "bootylicious" types. That seems to be the point at which very young girls (like age 8-9) began to dress in an over-sexualized manner. And the point at which we started hearing horror stories about how teenaged girls were degrading themselves sexually - like with all of those bracelet challenges and rainbow parties, etc.

I think, looking back, the 90s will be an interesting time, throughout the Western world we had largely (nominally) liberal parties in power - Bill Clinton, the Liberals dominating in Canada, Tony Blair and "new Labour" coming in in the UK in '97. But, things were swinging back culturally - huge uproar over Clinton's indiscretions, which I can't see having been as big a deal 10 years earlier.

Really, I guess I think the 00s will be seen, retrospectively, as having been a worse time for Egalitarianism than the 90s ever were.

False Prophet said...

I've often felt that Jane Austen was her generation's Kevin Smith. Much like Smith's biggest fans were the 90s slacker culture--the same people he was mocking in his films--Austen was snapped up by the English upper middle class because her tales seemed to reflect their lives, seeming to not understand that she was satirizing them.

The 90s of course were the height of "political correctness" and the sensitive 90s guy. Not surprisingly, this led to a backlash: you had the swing against political correctness starting with South Park in the late 90s, and you had the rise of hypermasculinity around the same time--for example, in music the introspective grunge bands and the power folk chicks were swept aside by the misogyny of gansta rap and angry white boy metal music. And at the same time, you got "Girl Power" and the prostitots and the lad mags like Maxim.

Ironically, I find that this current wave of "masculism" seems fairly effete compared to previous incarnations. For one thing, violence has really been dialled down in action films (I rarely see squirts of blood or dismemberment outside of a Mel Gibson films), and the stars of these films? Not muscle men like Schwarzenegger and Stallone, but skinny cute guys like Matt Damon and Orlando Bloom. Also, the lad mags like Maxim? The male version of Cosmo. One third of the magazine is tasteful, airbrushed photos of East European models and TV stars, the rest is fashion tips, leisure pursuits like comics and video games, and tips for picking up women.

And that's another point. 30 years ago, men didn't care about women's pleasure. As long as a man reached orgasm, the sexual act could be seen as complete. Today, a man can be seen as less masculine if he does not bring his partner to climax. (Biology being what it is, I don't think there's been a substantial increase in female orgasms, but I'm fairly sure the number of attempts has skyrocketed.)

I always find attempts to define masculinity interesting, because the definition has changed so much over the decades. 250 years ago, "real men" wore powdered white wigs and stockings, for example. The only constant seems to be social or economic security. Wealth and power seem to be perennial badges of manhood.

Matthew said...

"Bill Clinton, the Liberals dominating in Canada, Tony Blair and "new Labour" coming in the UK in '97” is true but Clinton had a Republican Congress, the Liberals had to deal with 52 Reform Party MP's and 55 PQ MP's.

And while the Liberal party of Canada managed to crush the Conservative party over the failed Charlottetown accord and the highly unpopular GST, the Labour Party came to power over John Major inability to reconcile his party that had fractured under the heavy hand of Thatcher.

The era of the balanced budgets had begun. Moody's began downgrading the credit rating of governments who were acting in manners that the market determined to be fiscally irresponsible. Debt was frowned upon and interest rates were no longer high enough for governments to wait for their debts to shrink to insignificantly amounts.

While Clinton and Blair were trying to get their message of 'Third Way' or centrist politics into the public eye, Senate Majority Leader and Presidential Candidate (After closely defeating the Radically Right Pat Buchanan who used his influence to insure that that the Vice Presidential Candidate was pro-life) Bob Dole was being sniped from the left of his party and from the evangelicals trying to swing the party father to the right.

This era of 'liberal' leadership was a time of rebirth for the far right.

MadJenny said...

Wow you boys are hard to keep up with, but I do like all this discussion going on, it is very exciting!

I've often felt that Jane Austen was her generation's Kevin Smith.
I love this analogy! Awesome. Bravo. Well done.

(now I have an image of Silent Bob and Darcy sitting in a room saying absolutely nothing to each other. it is making me giggle.)

And, oh man, I'd almost put that horrible expression "political correctness" out of my head. But, of course, you are right.

for example, in music the introspective grunge bands and the power folk chicks were swept aside by the misogyny of gansta rap and angry white boy metal music.
True. But how do you account for the rise of the girly Boy Bands in the midst of all this? Perhaps a blip? Or are they part of the new wave Masculism that also includes action heroes Matt Damon and Orlando Bloom? Interestingly, it seems to me that movies are swinging back a little, in that sense, to an earlier time - when the action heroes were people like Clark Gable and Errol Flynn - neither of whom could be accused of being bodybuilder types. Both of whom were renowned sex-gods in their times.

And that's another point. 30 years ago, men didn't care about women's pleasure. As long as a man reached orgasm, the sexual act could be seen as complete. Today, a man can be seen as less masculine if he does not bring his partner to climax. (Biology being what it is, I don't think there's been a substantial increase in female orgasms, but I'm fairly sure the number of attempts has skyrocketed.)
Do you think that's true? Or do you think that it just wasn't talked about? I'd hate to think that it was completely true. Although I know that is the stereotype. And, of course, I concur that a partner who had no interest in giving as much pleasure as he was getting would definitely be less masculine than someone who did care.

You should totally wear a powdered wig and stockings to the Oscars event. With the fedora on top of the wig of course. I'm still not sure I agree with you about the money thing. I think it is more a sense of sturdiness and capability (which often, but not always, goes hand in hand with money).

Interestingly, I think definitions of femininity have probably changed just as much. Real women also wore large powdered wigs (can you imaging women dying their hair gray now?), and large bustles to make their bums look big, and dresses long enough that no one could see their ankles (shocking!), etc. Not sure what the constant is though - maybe, still, to a certain extent, domestic and motherly abilities and aptitudes. Women who have no interest in children do still seem to be looked down upon.

"Bill Clinton, the Liberals dominating in Canada, Tony Blair and "new Labour" coming in the UK in '97” is true but Clinton had a Republican Congress, the Liberals had to deal with 52 Reform Party MP's and 55 PQ MP's.
That is why I said "nominally" liberal.

Matthew, you raise some interesting historic political points, with which I cannot argue, as I have not paid enough attention to the economic side of things. But, your comment was nicely enlightening. Let's just hope this error of far-right leadership is a time of rebirth for the left, or even for the centre.

False Prophet said...

I have to agree. You might cast Clinton and Blair as classical liberals, since both are basically centre-right, especially on economic issues. I wouldn't call either of them progressives. After all, free trade and globalization expanded under them. I think both were given more credit than they were due because they both succeeded long reigns of heartless conservatism and represented hope to the left. A misplaced hope, sadly.

It's much the same with the Chretien Liberals succeeding the Mulroney era. Mulroney was Reagan and Thatcher's junior partner, so Chretien represented a break from that era. The fact that most of the Canadian media had a love affair with Chretien for over 10 years (the Aspers were his biggest campaign contributers; his son-in-law ran the 3rd or 4th largest media conglomerate in the nation) blinded most people to the fact that the Chretien government didn't do anything. Apparently the key to popularity in Canadian politics is "don't rock the boat"--take no stands and you don't piss anyone off. Also, Martin's much-praised "budget-balancing" mostly amounted to offloading expenses and services on the provinces and municipalities. Thus, the federal Liberals look like the good guys while lower levels of government are forced to play the role of pickpocket (Which is not to say I respect any of the provincial governments of the last 15 years). Bah.

MadJenny said...

Maybe we should all run for Office?