Wednesday, October 12, 2005


With This Film I Thee Wed

A good friend and I were talking about film yesterday and he asked: "Why is it, you suppose, so many people like to see weddings in movies?" And I thought for a minute and said, "For the same reasons they like to go to weddings. To escape." Think about it. Some women start planning their wedding day for more than a full year before the date. Hell, some start planning it when they're 12! That's a lot of planning (and a lot of stress) for ONE DAY! And the majority of the time, yes, the majority of the time...the marriage does not last. So, the wedding ceremony and reception are a bit of a sham. And what about that white dress? Hmmm. White, huh? OOookay. Still, friends and family come to weddings to celebrate a "lifetime" of happiness for the couple. And they come to escape their (perhaps troubled) realities. They see the white dress and think..this is pure. They hear the vows and think...this is forever. They listen to the sappy I-can't-live-without-you lyrics and they get sentimental. They dance, eat the free food, and drink a lot of the free alcohol and think...this is a great party!! That's why wedding movies are so popular. People go to the movies for the same reason -- to escape reality. So wedding movies are a double whammy! Witness the rash of successful recent (and not so recent) wedding films: The Wedding Crashers, American Wedding, The Wedding Date, The Wedding Singer, The Wedding Planner, My Best Friend's Wedding, Runaway Bride, The In-Laws, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Muriel's Wedding, Father of the Bride, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. These are all romantic comedies, by the way. None of these films show the reality beyond the wedding day itself, as for example, director Michael Cimino did so brilliantly in the first half of his Oscar-winning Best Picture The Deer Hunter. In that film, we see the harsh underpinnings of the wedding reception. The bride is pregnant. The husband is about to go off to Vietnam. The in-laws are worried sick. The guests at that wedding party are escaping a reality too. But the difference is, we see the reality as well. Not so in the recent crop of wedding films. Will the pendulum swing back? Not as long as these films keep making over $100 million.

Part of the beauty of movies is that they do not necessarily accurately portray reality. Who wants to pay $8.25 to spend two hours being reminded of how challenging life can be?

So you don't get the "real deal" when it comes to wedding pictures. How often do we really get the "real deal?" Movies generally portray all women as 5 foot 10 inches tall and a size five. Or that they wake up in the morning with perfectly coifed hair and just the right amount of blush and eye shadow. The average woman in America is between a size 14 and 16. How is that for discepency?

What about cop movies and car chases? Is it realistic to think that a cop or a duo of cops can destroy 12 or so cars in the persuit of solving one crime and they would not be fired? Not only that but they do all this work and not one piece of paperwork. We all know it is paperwork that makes the world go around. Hardly reality in that kind of film.

Or how about "Superhero" films? How many heros do you know that have special powers to fight evil?

That is what the movies are about. Giving us a slice of fantasy that gives us something to think about, hold on to or aspire to.
Good points in your blog. I wonder if the world wouldn't be a slightly better place if more people looked to popular art to help them come to a deeper understanding of some aspect of how things really are, rather than seeking to have their denial mechanisms enabled. Maybe watching a film that tries to show real characters--as flawed as the audience members--dealing with believable situations--as painful and frequently hopeless as those of the audience members--can be a more freeing, more cathartic, more transcendent and ultimately more positive experience than watching some fantasy that ultimately serves to heighten the viewer's own insecurities and disappointments relative to the portrait of perfection they see on screen.
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It may be true that flawed characters and painful story lines can be cathartic for folks and provide insight and understanding. I love watching flawed characters. One of my favorite movies of this past year was "Crash" because each character that was portrayed was neither all good or all bad. Each one had strengths and weaknesses. Each one was likeable and detestable all within the same 2 hours. That movie did in fact cause me to look more closely at the human condition and to my own assumptions and fears. However, I don't want a steady diet of reality on the big screen. It is too much introspection and analysis. Too much transcendence can bring a person down.
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