there's nothing trashy about romance

(Note: this starts negative but gets better.)

Is it any surprise that so many of us are damaged?

John Zerzan (2002), Running on Emptiness:

Lovely new indicators of how it is panning out include increasing self-mutilation among the young and murder of children by their own parents[, unarmed suspects, especially black youths, murdered by the police, young men manipulated around a draft by patriotism to travel to the other side of the world to kill people that are different than us, self-medication, increased prescribed-medication... and I’ll let Zerzan continue]. Somehow a society that is steadily more impersonal, cynical, de-skilled, boring, artificial, depressing, suicide-prompting, used up, drug-ridden, ugly, anxiety-causing and futureless brings a questioning as to why it has come to this/what’s it all about. (p. 161)

Jack laments to Pinocchio, “You ever get the feeling sometimes, you’re being punished for your sins?” In my most cynical, pessimistic (and least practical) moments, I figure we’re all being punished for all the horrible things we’ve been putting each other through for as long as we’ve been putting each other through anything. Like human history is a series of actions and reactions, a karmic boomerang the visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the fourth and fifth generations... Or it’s all just what we make of it.

If the world is “futureless” as Zerzan suggests, then May (2012) and his take on love won’t fit too well.

And, love—cinematic love—is where I wanted to take this before I moved on to another movie. May argues:

Love is between two particular people in their particularity. We cannot love just anyone, even others with much the same qualities. If we did, then when we met someone like the beloved but who possessed a little more of a quality to which we were drawn, we would, in the phrase philosophers of love us, “trade up.” But we don’t trade up, or at least most of us don’t. This is because we love that particular person in his or her specificity. And what we create together, our common projects and shared emotions, are grounded in those specificities. Romantic love is not capable of everything. It is capable only of what the unfolding of a figure between two specific people can meaningfully allow.

Jack’s girlfriend at the beginning of the film is cold, easily forgettable when she disappears after just one scene. But, Anne (Mercedes Ruehl) is warmer (if occasionally a little pushy and demanding). She may not like what Jack does or says all the time, but she listens and she watches and she reacts. She doesn’t just turn and head upstairs with nary a word...

I’m reminded of another movie with Jeff Bridges—The Mirror Has Two Faces. Go back and read my seven entries on that film (409, 410, 411, 412, 413, 414, 415) or the ones on Moonstruck (402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408) , When Harry Met Sally... (395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 400, 401), but avoid the entries on Pretty Woman (416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422)... Between that month of romantic comedies and all the times I talked about love in regards to Groundhog Day, I have said a lot about love in this blog. But, my point here is to counter May a bit. He argues, in regards specifically to Groundhog Day, that real love depends on there being a future.

(I suppose real plans to make significant changes to our world for the better also depend on the future, or optimism for it. I wonder sometimes about religious folk who think the world is coming to an end anyway; how hard is it for them to even care about fixing systemic problems with the way things are run?)

That is, in Groundhog Day, Phil could never experience real love with Rita until the time loop had ended. Love requires a sense of endlessness. It’s a romantic idea. Except, when it comes to movies, I’ve got two responses:

1) since movies are finite, their stories captured between the opening logos and the end credits, there can never be a sense of endlessness, at least not for the audience. The Fisher King counters this with idealized romance, courtly romance, ballroom dancing (right now) in a place that just moments ago was bustling with the chaotic energy of a crowd of individuals who have very little to do with one another. It counters the limitation of cinematic love by putting its story—or at least Parry’s sense of its story—beyond the edges of its own frame or filmstock. The Arthurian stuff—the specificity of it pushes the story beyond Parry’s imagination into something more timeless.

2) if your’e doing it right—watching a movie, I mean—everything can be timeless. Romance is a thing of stories, a fiction. If we get the opportunity, of course, we project that fiction onto our reality. It’s not that we don’t form attachments, even attachments that fit the term “romantic.” It’s that we form those attachments into the shape we want them, we turn them into something that transcends time and space. We’re not just in love right now, we find the love of our life, we call it “forever” and we believe it.

And, however much it might not be true, there’s nothing wrong with believing it. It makes the experience transcendent, it makes it forever... at least until it ends.

The good can be as great as we want it... at least, it can feel great. It is what we want it to be. And, we become who we want to be when in love. I gotta return to the monologue from Somewhere in Time:

The man of my dreams has almost faded now. The one I have created in my mind. The sort of man each woman dreams of, in the deepest and most secret reaches of her heart. I can almost see him now before me. What would I say to him if he were really here? “Forgive me. I have never known this feeling. I have lived without it all my life. Is it any wonder, then, I failed to recognize you? You, who brought it to me for the first time. Is there any way that I can tell you how my life has changed? Any way at all to let you know what sweetness you have given me? There is so much to say. I cannot find the words. Except for these: I love you.” And that’s what I’d say to him if he were really here.

Switch out the pronouns if you like. Love whomever you would like to love (assuming some sort of consent and reciprocation, of course) and be changed by it.

Be changed by movies, too.


May, T. (2012, February 26). Love and death. The Stone. Retrieved from

Zerzan, J. (2002). Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization. Los Angeles, CA: Feral House.


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