11 December 2008

you had me at hello

we must be getting old. because we find ourselves remarking about how the gaping hole of talent evident in contemporary popular culture--in particular in television dramas, films, and the like--is much much worse than when we were, er, young.

take romantic comedies, if you will. last week we went out and saw Four Christmases, ostensibly a funny, cute rom-com that was okay. funny, but (without putting out too big of a spoiler for anyone conscious in the first 15 minutes) while offering at first a glimpse, just a glimpse, of possible slightly non-traditional relationship between a man and a woman (how non-trad can you get with this, but still--there was potential), the film ends up protesting too much. the answer is indeed marriage, marriage, oh, and babies. And while funny along the way, I find a lot of movies these days moving in that direction--a simple retelling of the love--obstacle--marriage--babies narrative that either does not at all challenge the norm (oo! she is going the surrogate route! no, in fact she gets pregnant the traditional way in the end. ahh. oo! she might not want children and marriage! no, in fact she totally wants these things and has therefore been fooling herself her entire life. ahh.) Somehow only secondary or tertiary characters can be queer: Samantha in the Sex and the City movie, for example.

So it isn't surprising when we re-watch a film from the not-so-distant past and enjoy greatly the fact that while it has all of the elements of the rom-com, it is, well backwards: kid--marriage--love, and therefore actually gets things sort of right. That's right. Jerry-f'in-Mcguire. Cameron Crowe gets it. He gets love, he gets kids, he gets relationships, he gets friendships. He gets disapproving sisters, even. And he gets that the wedding or the pregnancy (contra Notting Hill) does not, in fact, always signal happiness, or the blissful end, or even, frankly, romance. The rom in rom-com involves getting the love. And while Four Christmases got us a bit of that--it's clear that the two main characters click and the chemistry is great--it fails to offer anything but the tired old answer: family and kids are why we are here. And if you're not in that box, you're not here.

I'm not asking for much--heavy duty art films would give me that, but they wouldn't be showing me something that others in the popular culture universe would be seeing. I'm just asking for a bit of critical edge. A bit of thinking outside the man+woman=marriage=inevitability box. And hey--how about a movie NOT about marriage or a wedding!! How about one without marriage or a wedding in it at all!

What am I thinking. not since T2. You had me at the pull-ups.

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