Friday, June 13, 2008

Overblown love

I've been watching old episodes of "Lost" in the last few days. If you strip away the pseudo-scientific mysteries, the conspiracy theories and the paranormal events, it's just a soap opera of epic proportions.

The story is, at heart, a story about love, from the point of view of many a flawed individual and couple. But how they love! Every one would kill for their real or imagined loves. They'd walk a thousand miles, go through torture, risk death, fight any one or any thing for love. The music swells as we see lovers swear their undying love for each other. These folks are always crying, whether it's for joy or for sorrow. Lovers separated for a day run into each others arms as if they've been starving of love malnutrition in some Turkish prison for decades.

This type of behavior and portrayal of love, whether familial, platonic or sexual, is all over television and film. It shows up on television in an insidious way. On "Survivor", family members may make a surprise visit after thirty days or so. Mothers weep at the sight of their daughters. A letter from home sends a husband into a funk so deep he questions whether a million dollars is worth the sorrow of missing his wife.

Is any of this for real or have I been missing something my entire life? I suspect the answer is a little bit of both. Unfortunately for all of us, I think most of it is a fiction. How epic are our love lives, really? And would our parents really die for us? C'mon! It's a fiction.

This fiction has made us all miserable to some extent, I'd guess. Having a cool attitude killed Michael Dukakis' bid for the presidency. When asked, during a debate, how he would respond, if his wife was raped and murdered (a question that should not have been asked) he answered that of course he'd be devastated but he was against the death penalty. When it comes to your wife and children, it seems, one has to put aside ones' morality in the face of their mortality or you are seen as some kind of monster.

I'm at risk from straying of my original topic, as usual, by thoughts about the death penalty and revenge, but I will rein myself in.

This is a hard subject to write about, the subject of love. I've tried before (oh, don't make me try to find that post - if you want to read it, find it yourself). I get angry or bored when I watch "chick flicks" or realize the subplot in a good mystery or science fiction story is just another romance. I'm kind of like a typical guy in this respect.

But then again, I adored "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". It was perhaps the most epic love story I have ever seen. I loved this film so much, I went to the theater four nights in a row, until I no longer needed subtitles. Then after one day of rest, I watched it a fifth time, and I've seen it since. What a tale! Strong women, strong men, fantastic fight scenes and such intense romance; romance so captivating that every cell in my body was yearning. Oh, how I wished someone would ever love me like that! Would a man fight armies to win my love? Of course not! But a girl can hope, can't she?

I used to get really pissed off, when I was young, when some guy would be bothering me in a bar and my male companion would not stick up for me. "Why didn't you say something?" I would hiss. The answer would inevitably be "oh, you can take care of yourself fine" and that was true. I could. I am a feminist and I want to take care of myself just fine, thank you. But a part of me wants a man to be willing, at least, to do the job.

I had always thought these feelings, like the one above, were just plain wrong, and signs that I had unreal expectations and was somehow not enough of a feminist. Now, I think otherwise, some of the time. The rest of the time I tell my inner thoughts to shut up and leave me alone.

But after reading David Deida, I do wonder. He posits that there is nothing wrong with some of traditional attitudes, as long as a couple treats each other as equals in practical matters, and in fact, he goes further to say that couples lose that initial spark because of the equalization of the inherent tension between traditionally male and female traits. Upon reading his book, "The Way of the Superior Man" (a book that even the author admits to having named terribly), I first had a desire to throw it across a room. Such sexism! But wait - I kept going back to it, again and again, and feeling "Oh no - this is so true!" Its truth hurt, for it brought up that yearning, the same one I felt when watching the lovers in the cave in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In that scene, there is what seems like an anti-feminist moment of truth. The strong warrior woman is taken by the man, seemingly against her will, and she is in heaven. Her initial behavior is a ruse - she wanted him from the get go, but the struggle created the eroticism.

This, Deida talks about again and again. It confuses men, yes. Women say no when they mean yes, so why can't they say yes in the first place? Not all of us, I won't speak for all woman, of course not, well, we want to be wanted, wooed, coaxed, desired. When the lover stops yearning, it's all over. Who wants wan desire? Not many of us, if we were being honest.

Huh. This started as a tirade against the ridiculousness of the love lost, love found, love reunited and love, love and more love of a television show that's not even supposed to be about the topic (Lost) and ended up as a small eulogy for lost romanticism.

I am obviously a confused woman. More to come.

Photo note: From the above mentioned movie, of course. Not only did I fall in love with the both of them, but the location as well. How could one not?

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