Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gone With the Wind vs. Titanic

I was reading Dr. Helen's latest blog entry, Romantic Comedies Can Spoil Your Love Life, and found some very good comments...

The first was a very insightful breakdown of Gone With the Wind by some guy going by the moniker Gawain's Ghost:

Forget about these TV shows and romantic comedies, they're only an extension of the larger problem, which is romance novels. This is the largest publishing industry in the world, with millions of books sold every year and billions in profits. Funny thing is, they're all written by women, they're all read by women, and they all follow the same formula: girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl wins boy back. (This is the underlying mindset that is the root of the problem--it's all about her, not about them.)

What I find most amusing about romance novels is that the No. 1 best selling book of all time--it's a romance novel, and it has sold more copies and been read by more people than any other book ever published--does not follow the romance formula. I am referring of course to Gone With the Wind.

Scarlett O'Hara loved Ashley Wilkes. Why? Because he was a scion, a son of privilege. He's the son of a wealthy plantation owner. She's the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner. It's just so right they should be together! Southern gentry, you see.

Well, if it's so right, why does Ashley not love Scarlett? Because he knew her. He grew up with her, the mansion down the road; they went to school together. He knew she would never be anything other than a stupid, spoiled, conceited little girl. So he married her best friend, Melanie. (Snort.)

Why does Ashley love Melanie? Because she's a woman. Comfortable in her feminity, she understands the terms and conditions of the marriage contract, and does not question her role and responsibilities in the relationship. Unlike Scarlett, who thinks she's special.

If Scarlett is just a stupid, spoiled, conceited little girl, why does Rhett Butler love her? I mean, really, this guy could have had any woman he wanted. Tall, dark, handsome, brave, daring, courageous, rich. Why would a man like that risk everything for a stupid little girl like Scarlett?

Because she was what he couldn't have when he was growing up. Are you kidding? Her father would have shot him if he even looked at her. Southern gentry, you see. So Rhett mistakenly believed that all he had to do was make himself into a man--he made his fortune gun running and bootlegging, a perilous and testing quest--make millions, and then Scarlett would love him. (Notice the medieval cartoon playing out in his mind.) So he did, and she didn't.

Why does Scarlett not love Rhett? I mean, this guy did everything for her. He made millions for her; he went to war for her; he saved her family estate. Why then does Scarlett not love him?

Because he was not a scion. He was not southern gentry. He was only, in her mind, a commoner. In other words, she thought she was better than him. (Notice that this is the exact problem the modern American girl has in the relationship with the man in her life.)

Well, if she didn't love him, why did she marry him? Because she needed his money. Why else?

So Ashley married Melanie, and Scarlett married Rhett. Then, Melanie dies prematurely, leaving Ashley grieving and all alone. And Melanie even tells Scarlett on her death bed, "Captain Butler--be kind to him. He--loves you so." Scarlett asks, "Rhett?"

She never cared about him. She loved Ashely, she lost Ashley, and now this is her big chance. Girl wins boy back!

Not in this book. Ashley didn't love her. Ashley never loved her. Ashley wouldn't have anything to do with her. Her husband, Captain Rhett Butler, did love her, but now he's leaving! And as he's walking out the door, Scarlett suddenly comes to the realization of how incredibly stupid she's been, and that she really does love him. This is her last chance. Girl wins boy back!

"Rhett! Rhett! Don't go! Don't go! Where will I go? What will I do?"

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Forget formula, which is fantasy. This is about plot, which is real life. Girl meets man. Girl refuses to grow up. Man leaves.

This is why it is a mistake to consider Ashley Wilkes a wimp, as he is commonly portrayed. He knew a woman when he saw one, and he married her. Yes, it is unfortunate that Melanie dies. But when she was sick and dying, Ashley did not question his responsibilities. He was right there by her side, soothing her, assuring her, loving her, all the way to the bitter end. This is a man. Besides, after Melanie passes away, Ashley is still rich.

Contrast that with Rhett Butler. He didn't know a stupid, spoiled, conceited little girl when he saw one, and he married her. (Even the best of men make mistakes in love.) And when the entire relationship falls apart, because his wife couldn't get over her school girl crush (read romance formula), all he has left, out of all of his millions, is the clothes he's wearing when he walks out the door. But at least he has his manhood, for what it's worth, which after having wasted it is effectively nothing.

The point of all this is that people make a grave mistake when they look to romance comedies as the basis for their relationships. Margret Mitchell didn't understand romance as much as she understood life, the fundamental relationship between men and women. That's why her novel is more of a tragedy than it is a history.

It goes to a definition of terms. Romance (with a capital R) is an informing strategy, by which we make sense of the world; romance (with a small r) is a love story, by which we make ruin of our lives.

Love is for fools. Even the most casual observer knows that. It is only knowledge, honesty and trust (what Ashley and Melanie had) that makes for a relationship. What Rhett and Scarlett had, medieval love and the need for money, paves the way for self-destruction.

In conclusion, I apologize to Dr. Helen for using up so much of her bandwidth, but this is one of my pet peeves.

And as far as the modern American girl goes, Scarletts the lot of them, I'd rather have the money.

A few comments later, Trust adds the following:

Contrast "Gone with the Wind" with the highest grossing romantic movie of all time and what it teaches about romance.

What should a young, Hollywood hero do when he sees another man's fiance contemplating suicide on the back of a ship? Pursue her behind his back, of course.

What should a young Hollywood heroine do when she decides she does not want to marry her fiance? Go and break off the engagement like an adult? Of course not. She is to pose nude for an unemployed man she just met wearing a piece of jewelry given to her by her fiance, leave the nude portrait with a crude note for the fiance to find, then run off and have sex in the back seat of the fiances car. And when the fiance is *gasp* angry about this, he's a jerk (of course, if a man did this to a woman her anger would be righteous indignation, but that's another story).

We all know what movie I refer to, and how many millions of young people were influenced by it. Icing on the cake after years of cartoons promoting the frog prince (when you find a toad, kiss him), Lady and the Tramp (chicken thieves are great partners), Beauty and the Beast (who cares that he's mean, her love will fix him), Alladin (who cares that he's a theif, he has a good heart), and various soap operas (the best men ride motorcycles and get into bar fights, villians wear ties).

It's no surprise folks...the mass media has played a KEY role in fomenting the plague of broken homes and single mother households as well as subliminally influencing millions of people that never get married, never have children and create Patriarchal Family Units.


Anonymous said...

A man who is engaged to be married is properly called a finance, and the woman the financee.

Anonymous age 66

Elusive Wapiti said...

That comment by Gawain was awesome. And I too have noted the narrative that Trust opined about--only if a woman loves a bad-boy hard enough, he's a diamond in the rough.

No, chances are he's a criminal and as a consequence he'll make a terrible provider.

Since most of the irreligious get their morality from the zeitgeist they're immersed in, the influence of media on the formation of habits and morality cannot be understated. Literally, the media is the opinion maker for the masses and/or the impressionable.

So what message is given to women who lap up the Gone With The Winds and Titanics like milk?

Anonymous said...

Women are fed messages from the day they can hold their heads up in the crib that bad boys are "exciting" and desirable, whereas men who are responsible, kind and caring are "boring." So by the time their hormones and sex drive kicks in during adolescence, they're pre-programmed to fall for the thugs, drunks, and jerks. That is why normal men don't stand a chance, they're locked out from the start. By the time these addled, train wreck women realize how they've been flim flammed, they're used up whores who have two or more bastard kids nobody wants to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Gawain's Ghost's analysis of "Gone With The Wind" has quite a few inaccuracies. He gets some things right, and others wrong. And that has an impact on his overall conclusion.

First of all, Rhett Butler was not a commoner who would have been "shot for looking" at Scarlett. Rather, he was also a scion of an aristocratic family. But, unlike Ashley, he didn't play by the rules. He took a young girl, much like Scarlett, out riding, didn't return until after dark, and then "refused to marry her." The implication is that they had sex, and while the girl did not get pregnant, her reputation was "ruined just the same." That's why Melanie's brother says that "no decent family" would receive Rhett, because of his behavior, not because of his birth.

As for Ashley, yes, he is loyal to Melanie to the end. But, as Rhett says, he is loyal to her physically while emotionally pining for Scarlett. The meeting between Scarlett and Ashley in the library at 12 Oaks in the beginning of the book (and movie) makes this clear. And that scene is refrained when, after the war is over, Ashley is chopping wood and Scarlett proposes that they run off together to Mexico. Ashley clearly lusts after Scarlett, and for her all Melanie's goodness, he also admires Scarlett's willpower, vitality and determination. Gwain is right to say that Ashley is not a "wimp" (as many people see him, particularly based on diminutive Leslie Howard's somewhat prissy portrayal of him in the movie). But, in choosing Melanie over Scarlett, he is also shown to be a little bit afraid. Like the dying class he represents, he doesn't have the guts to make it in the new post-war, post slavery world.(As a side note, at the end of the book, Ashley is not "rich." He has become, at Scarlett's and Melanie's insistence, an employee of Scarlett. Middle class, maybe, aristocratic by birth, OK, but not rich.)

Melanie, Gwain pretty much has right. She is perfect. Beutiful in a deeper, more spirtual way than Scarlett, if less "pretty." A perfect friend to Scarlett, she pretends to believe that Scarlett is not throwing herself at Ashley. And a perfect friend to Rhett too. A perfect, self-sacrificing lady to everyone, really. But, as one of the other belles opines at 12 Oaks, Melanie is also "too good to be true." Her surfeit of virtue makes her, sorry to say, a little boring.

As for Scarlett, Gwain has her totally wrong. Yes, when the story starts she is conceited, empty-headed and vain. But, with the war, the burning of Atlanta, Sherman's march to the Sea, reconstruction and so on, she matures a great deal, and becomes a powerful woman. Rhett, the plot device goes, can "sense" this potential in her from the moment he meets her, and that is what attracts him to her, not just her youthful beauty, which, to a lady killer like him, is a dime a dozen.

It is Scarlett's fall and rise that makes the book and the movie more than, and better than, the typical romance. In Atlanta, with the city burning around her, she delivers Melanie's baby without any effective assistance and without any prior experience. The birth is particulary difficult because of Melanie's "delicacy," but Scarlett pulls it off. Then, she sets out with Melanie, the new born, her own kid (not shown in the movie) and Rhett for Tara. When Rhett abandons her on the way (to go off to war), she completes the journey anyway, hiding under a bridge holding the horse still as the Union Army ride over it in the pouring rain. She finds a disaster at home, her mother dead, her sisters sick, and her father senile. Plus, there is no food, no crops or animals, and no money. That's when she vows (in an admittedly melodramatic but nevertheless steely way) to "never be hungy again." When a Yankee free booting marauder shows up, looking for loot and/or sexual favors, she shoots the guy in the fucking face, and with Melanie's help, hushes it up. She takes over running the plantation, and puts everyone to work, including her whining sisters. When there is still not enough cash to pay the taxes, she makes a new dress out of the curtains and goes to Atlanta to sweet talk the money out of Rhett. When that fails, she marries Kennedy (her sister's beau!) who has become wealthy, to get the money to save Tara. In Atlanta, she runs the business, and drives all over town herself. This leads to trouble, and to Kennedy's death, but that doesn't faze her. She marries Rhett in an openly calculating way, telling him up front that she is not in love with him. And so on. Of course, by the end of the book, she does realize that she loves Rhett, and not Ashley (once he becomes available) and, after she is told by Rhett that he "doesn't give a damn," she vows to get him back.

Mitchell's point was NOT to disparage marriage, children and the family. Scarlett and Rhett both loved their daughter deeply, and both are tragically wounded when she dies. Mitchell celebrated Melanie as the traditional, long-suffering wife and mother, whose husband lusts after another woman, but who carries on with her myriad duties anyway. But, Mitchell also saw that modern society opened up a chance for women to play a more active role, to go after what they wanted themselves. Scarlett openly proposes marriage to Ashley at 12 Oaks, something that was simply unheard of in 1861 (and very rare in the 1930's when Mitchell wrote the book), and is still uncommon today. Scarlett worked hard as a businesswoman to fulfill her vow that neither she, nor any of her kin, would ever be hungry again. But Mitchell also realized that, however strong and tough Scarlett became, she would still need a real man as a husband. The famous
"rape" scene demonstrates this beyond all doubt. Rhett ignores her protests, carries her up the stairs, and has his way with her. The next day, Scarlett couldn't be happier. And, the ending of the book makes it clear that Scarlett needs Rhett, and will get him back.

No one gets divorced in the book. Husbands conveniently die on Scarlett, but there is no divorce, no extra marital sex, and no single mothers. People who are engaged get married, and they have children and stay married until one of them dies.

Contrast this with Trust's very perceptive analysis of "Titanic." As he states, the young woman in that movie is engaged to a man she doesn't love, or even like, strictlty for money (in mitigation, there is the notion that her mother has pushed her into it). When someone she "loves" does come along, she doesn't do the honorable thing, but, instead, sneaks around, and when caught, plays the role of the injured party. I believe she also gets pregnant by the rogue too. The whole thing is not only sleazy, but ridiculous. A man as rich as her fiance would have no problem replacing her with another pennyless girl just as young and pretty as she was, and, chances are, if the DiCaprio character hadn't died, he would have dumped her as soon as he tired of her. He himself openly disavowed any notion of working hard and saving for a family (at the dinner party). That being the case, unless she was truly prepared to be, as she, and her finace, put it, nothing but DiCaprio's "whore," there was simply no way that she would throw over a life of leisure for him.

In short, there is really no comparison between the two. The one work of fiction celebrates the family, the home, and hard work, and determination, while the other denigrates all of that, and celebrates "art" and "true love" and other such romantic nonsense.

Kamal S. said...

There is a comparison between te two, and it is one of degrees. Extreme degrees, true, but degrees all the same.

It is useful to step back objectively and really, really, look at the historical origins of Romance as a genre.

Jennifer and Charles Upton (who is descended from a Romantic Troubador bard, ironically) have a good book that deals with spiritual and ethical musings on the historical origins of Romantic love and the Romantic tradition. I recommend it highly.

"Shadow of the Rose" ISBN 978-1-59731-079-6

Julius Evola's "Metaphysics of Sex" does have a chapter dealing with the romantic tradition and the "Fedeli d'Amore"

Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, by Amy Kelly, is a good historical work on the flowering of courtly love and Romance in early France.

My point; this foundation must be understood first, then forward tracked to see how both works are simply on a continuum, and what you think is benign in Gone With the Wind was in earlier days seen as quite pernicious, and the reason you realize this not is that you have been raised and steeped in a world that has moved beyond it, and it reflects some aspects of a past order you find positive.

Look at the bigger picture.

Trust said...

Sorry I missed this back when you posted it.

I wanted to add something to my post about Titanic:

* The heroine took a seat on a life boat then bailed back on to the Titanic. Someone else's life could have been saved, but no one cares about this deadly selfishness.

* What would someone have said about a movie where a man was marrying a rich woman for financial reasons only, and behaved as the heroine did? It wouldn't have been called a love story, that is for sure.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add something to my post about Titanic:

* The heroine took a seat on a life boat then bailed back on to the Titanic. Someone else's life could have been saved, but no one cares about this deadly selfishness.

* What would someone have said about a movie where a man was marrying a rich woman for financial reasons only, and behaved as the heroine did? It wouldn't have been called a love story, that is for sure.Cara Memperbaiki Flashdisk yang Tidak Terbaca