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.