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Friday, April 13, 2012

Lady In Waiting

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It is my sole ambition in life to act in an English period drama. I would settle for French or Russian, but a recurring role on an English period drama is my life’s goal.

With Dame Judi Dench, of course. Stop being stupid.

As a result I watch a lot of movies that are adapted screenplays of something written by the Bronte sisters or George Elliott (who was actually a woman, exactly like how Evelyn Waugh was a man, only in a completely different context). I watch these movies and I waltz to classical music radio (with the vacuum as my Mr. Darcy) and I live my tiny little life in seclusion. With my cat. Except he’s not really my cat. He just showed up one day and I fed him and he keeps coming back for more. He’s like a man, actually.

I digress…
Between adaptations of Jane Eyre, I watch romantic comedies. The classical plucky heroine with the shining eyes still exists in modern romantic comedies. But I watched a romantic comedy over the weekend that offended me so completely, it drove me to crack a box of wine and start screaming at the TV like a bad football game.

Have you ever wanted to punch a movie in the neck?

It was called “Something Borrowed”. It was a classic love triangle; a single successful woman who is hopelessly and secretly in love with her law school crush who is engaged to her best girl friend. Of course the best friend was a villain; a beautiful, stupid, brassy, self-absorbed villain that everyone loves to hate. Of course, her fiancĂ© was shockingly handsome, successful and serious in just the right way. Of course the heroine with the shining eyes was kind, funny and genuine, fat and brunette.

Our heroine begins an ill-advised affair with the engaged lawyer, ignoring the yelping bitterness of her best guy friend, the one who really loves her. She ends the movie picking up the dry cleaning for her new “man”, with no engagement ring, no big pronouncement of I love you, not even a kiss. Her best friend, the one who lost her fiancĂ© and best friend in one fell swoop ends up pregnant and alone … and we are supposed to believe she deserved it. Personally, I think she ended up with the biggest win.

The movie was completely uneven. The most interesting plot point was actually in the “deleted scenes” section where they expanded on the villain-as-nefarious-liar theme. Here’s why:
The villain was the only one living authentically and being honest about what she wanted. For example,
She wanted all the attention. Check.
She wanted the cutest guy and went out and got him. Check.
(Reader’s Note: He did not have enough balls to ask her out, either, so it wasn’t a Rules Romance) He was fascinated enough by her endless drama to propose to her. Check.
(There are really men like that, read “Why Men Marry Bitches”. Men also divorce bitches, but that book did not make the best-seller list)
And the punch line: Handsome Lawyer Groom did not have the balls to stand up to Nefarious Villain and so he railroaded her best friend into an affair so he had a reason to call of the wedding. Check.

The heroine was weak-willed and sexually oppressed. (I.e. she did not know how to get her self off) The heroine was unclear about her definition of love and marriage… and never got clear. The heroine allowed the confused love interest to waffle between herself and villain. It was never a case of sincere misunderstandings; it was a case of a seriously sexually-ambiguous male lead trying to please everyone at once. It wasn’t a love story; it was a tale of three women, one of whom was in drag.

The heroine of an English period drama would never have done that. She would have been too smart to waste her time with an affair that had no hope of becoming real. The man who cheats with you (no matter how deserving), will cheat on you; a true heroine would know that. A true heroine would not have been satisfied with picking up his dry cleaning at the end of film. Nor would a true prince have let her. Is this what our romantic comedies have come to? Where is the actual romance?

I suppose the draggy bit in the middle of the movie where our heroine lies to everyone on earth to waste a perfectly good summer holiday to stay in the stinking City of New York to walk the empty streets with the man she is having an affair with was supposed to be romantic. Let me sum that up in a word: No. But the reason I am blogging about it, is because the one redeeming line screamed by the best male friend was: “When did you become a woman who waits...And just keeps …waiting?”

And so here in a few short words we have the absolute definition of what it means to be a single woman in the modern age. Before WWII, we used to be called spinsters and maiden aunts. My grandmother was married in 1940 at the age of 28 and her profession was listed on the Marriage Certificate as “Spinster”. The first thing you should say to yourself when you read this is, spinster at 28?!? This term is harsh because it suggests a certain permanence. Once a spinster, always a spinster and so on… But I read a book cover that described itself, in part, as a tale of a young woman “on the wrong side of 25 without a ring” – so not much has changed.

I believe in marriage. I am tired of watching scared adults “live together” endlessly because they are frightened of making a mistake. Because they are not really sure of what they are doing. Because they are not really sure of themselves. And so we wait… For our Prince, for our Dream, for some Prince to tell us what our Dream should be.

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