Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Movie Review and Bad Romance

First off, the campus bookstore here is rearranging everything and NOW I DON'T KNOW WHERE THE BOOKS ARE! It's like coming home and finding out someone redecorated your room while you were gone and you now have to go on an epic quest to find your pajamas.

Second, I saw Guardians of the Galaxy and it was fantastic.

 This guy was particularly awesome.

I don't want to go into too much detail, because I sooo don't want to spoil this one for you. But I will give my opinion. The movie is sufficiently action-packed without filling every little second with explosions. This writer knows when to ease the tension and how to balance serious with comic. It reminded me a little of Firefly. Also, the movie does a great job characterizing without backflashes and long storytelling sessions. They do a lot of work with a few key shots and a few lines of dialogue.

But more impressive, to me, it was a unique film. Not so much that I came out thinking, "Well, that was different," I'll admit, but enough that I was kept guessing. Also the ideas used were so interesting (a space station made of a giant severed head?) that I wondered how much was canon and how much was the writer. Last, the characterization was great. Well-defined characters all around who continue to act like themselves, which is impressive for a film about a bunch of criminals saving the world and essentially acting out of character.

Okay, that's my movie review. This one deserves the hype. Now for the book commentary. This week I reread The Ballad of Sir Dinadan by Gerald Morris. If you haven't read Morris's The Squire's Tale series, please read it. It's clever, well-written, and fun. This book was one of them. These books tend to lampoon the sillier parts of Arthurian legend. In this one, the story skewered is that of Tristram and Iseult (also known as Tristan and Isolde).

It's a brilliant read and reinforces the ideas Morris uses over and over again about what true love is versus what love is thought to be. I agree with Morris a lot about this. So, I finished the book and wondered why stories like Tristan and Isolde and Lancelot and Guinevere are considered such romantic stories.

Think about it. In both cases, the woman is married TO ANOTHER MAN. In one, that man is King Arthur, who I think we can say is a good man. Neither affair ends well. Yet we make and view blockbuster movies about Tristan and Isolde and teenage girls everywhere swoon. Why? What is so appealing about forbidden romances that end in tragedy?

Isn't infidelity romantic?

I'm not against a good romance. I'm not necessarily against a good tragic romance. I like Romeo and Juliet, but I read it not as a romance but as the tale of stupid people doing stupid things and it all blowing up in their faces. But I know a lot of folks don't read it like that.

I don't get it. I really don't. I suppose people are attracted to the passion in stories like this, and I suppose the idea of a soul mate is appealing. But I think this kind of thought, especially glorified in film and story, is dangerous. It substitutes physical passion for the kind of love that is always, quietly there, growing as slowly as a plant but as vital as the sun's light. Passion can fade, but true love does not. In stories like this, the lovers die before this happens, but in real life, life goes on. We grow old and face challenges. Could be disappointing for readers who expect this kind of love.

I belief art can shape thought more than any public service announcement. No matter how many times we launch campaigns warning that violence against women is bad, if it continues to be glorified in our movies, video games, music and television, then the idea that it is acceptable will stick in our culture. By looking at the art of a culture, you see the values. This kind of romance, a selfish romance that consumes itself in a passion that doesn't seem to care about promises, morals, or what kind of collateral damage they leave in their wake, is appearing in our art and could shape our perspectives about what true love is. If it isn't already.

Sorry for the longer blog post. I suppose this is what happens when I don't blog for a while. I meant to review Guardians of the Galaxy and wonder why some romances have these selfish idiot lovers and why people like them so much (insert Fifty Shades of Grey insult here). I didn't mean to comment on our culture. But I think it needs to be said. I wonder how much stories like this have led to unhappiness that wouldn't have been there otherwise. I wonder if romances like this, these passionate, tragic tales, taint our perspectives of what love should be to the point that it damages our healthy relationships.

And, more broadly, I wonder what kind of morals we as storytellers need as we ply our trade. I don't like trying to force morals into a story; it causes bad writing. But if art shapes thought, if it defines our culture, shouldn't we be a little careful with it?


  1. First off, I went to the bookstore today and felt the same way. Secondly, I love Gerald Morris books and completely agree with you about bad romances. I especially like the moment in "The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf" where she considers taking the love potion only to realize that she can't imagine herself being with her current crush forever: "What would they talk about?" So then she ends up with someone better- someone she actually knows well and connects with. Yay!

    1. I know! I love "The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf." I think Gerald Morris really gets it in terms of writing true love versus the signs of love, and what each means. Sometimes I think writing a passionately physical love story is lazy writing; it's easier to write sex than real love. And I don't buy that there's real love there (and I don't buy it. I leave it on the shelf). With Morris's books, I see a love deeper than the physical and I get what the protagonist sees. Especially in "The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf."

  2. I completely agree with you on the issue of love in a lot of literature. I have to laugh at Romeo and Juliet otherwise I start gagging. And on the subject of your comparison of Guardians to Firefly: http://iwastesomuchtime.com/on/?i=93828

  3. Amen, sister!
    Thank you for saying what needs to be said about bad romances. I agree with several points you made, including that it seems like our culture is obsessed with adultery and that art to some extent reflects and in turn reinforces the beliefs of a society.
    So maybe more anti-violence campaigns should consider storytelling? Just a thought...