I watched MGM’s 1948 musical “Easter Parade” last night with Clara. She’s into musical theater and I was curious about the theme of unrequited love. Indeed, the movie’s characters are linked by a chain of unrequited yearning: Don is heartbroken over his ex Nadine, who has the hots for Johnny, who falls for Hannah, who loves Don. Hannah, the female lead played by Judy Garland, eventually secures Don’s love. In the movies, of course, unrequited love nearly always transforms into mutual love.
What’s interesting is the gender role reversal that takes place for Hannah to cement Don’s affection. Hannah and Don have a falling out because Don consented to dance with Nadine. Don insists he’ll wait outside her door until she forgives him, but then he gets kicked out by her apartment’s security guy (though really Don doesn’t give much of a fight to stay). The next morning, Hannah is distraught and hasn’t slept a wink. Don, as Johnny reports, is still snoozing peacefully. Johnny urges her to confess her love. “It’s different for a man!” she protests. “Why?” Johnny asks. He’s all but telling her to man up and win Don (played by Fred Astaire, who can dance like anyone’s business but has no sexual charisma whatsoever), who’s something of a wimp (femme?). Hannah goes all out. She sends him a bunny, a Happy Easter cake, and a top hat with a darling pink bow. Then she sweeps into his apartment, telling Don he’s “gonna be late” for the Easter Parade. “Aren’t you ready yet? Just like a man!” she sniffs. He puts on his ribboned hat. She appraises him in a low voice. “Very nice.” Then she launches into the Easter Parade song: “Never saw you look/quite so pretty before.” They strolled Fifth Avenue and pose for photographers. He pulls out a ring. She’s finally won him for good.
Self-help books make it seem as if women have to play it coy and let themselves be chased in order to win love. But in this classic musical, a subversive twist? See also: Some Kind of Wonderful, Twelfth Night.
Posted by admin on June 23, 2012
A new study suggests that doctors are frequently the victims of stalking.
Posted by admin on May 23, 2012
Haunting words from Alec Baldwin’s stalker.
Posted by admin on May 23, 2012
Alec Baldwin’s stalker was arrested this week. Okay, Baldwin’s no saint, but I always find it intriguing how ready people (see user comments section) are to find reasons to blame the male victim of a female stalker. Imagine an ill-mannered female star being stalked by a spurned male lover. We certainly wouldn’t be playing the “what did she do to deserve it” game.
Posted by admin on April 14, 2012
I was a mere tween when MTV started up and even back then I didn’t like the idea of music videos. They basically steamrolled over whatever idea you had in your head about a song and what the lyrics meant. The hot video right now in my seven-year-old’s crowd is the one for “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift. The song is all about unresolved longing — a tomboy who’s in love with a guy who prefers a cheerleader. But the video gives the girl her happy ending: She’s all femmed up at the prom (in a virginal white gown!) and wins her beloved away from the cheerleader.
I’ve been reading all this research about how people in obsessive unrequited love tend to follow a cultural “script” that positions unrequited love as a mere precursor to mutual love. If you persevere, you’ll get your beloved. Of course this is a myth and leads us to all kinds of unpleasantry, from bitter disappointment to stalking behavior. The video plays right into this script. We need to let our daughters know that the song, with its intense longing and lack of resolution, is much more real. Lots of times, you’re not going to get the guy, and you’re going to have to sing out your pain.
Posted by admin on March 23, 2012
Actress Anna Faris of “Scary Movie,” “Bad Teacher,” and (let’s redeem her a bit) “Brokeback Mountain” admitted on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that she stalked an ex-boyfriend. Faris, who’s publicizing her new romantic comedy “What’s Your Number,” uses her stalking story to charm, nay, even to boost her sex appeal. Her story gets laughs from her host and their studio audience and is getting play online (video up on HuffPost and elsewhere).
I don’t mean to judge Faris — I think it can be positive for shiny Hollywood stars to talk about these very human moments. But the delighted, knowing guffaws in response speak volumes. It’s safe and fun to see what Faris did as amusing, titillating, identifiable (we’ve been there too!), and harmless. What gets lost is that she was confessing to a moment of great darkness in her life, when she listened to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” over and over again (you’ve got to be pretty down if you’ve got PF on repeat) and couldn’t stop herself from tracking down the guy who’d once given her a promise ring. He probably was in a pretty low place himself. Contrary to our fantasies, research shows few men take any pleasure in being stalked, no matter how “hot” their pursuer.
Posted by admin on October 4, 2011
I’m reading Great Expectations to get insight into the Miss Havisham effect. Recent research suggest pining for a lost love can be a physically addictive pleasure, so perhaps that’s what kept her wearing that wedding dress all those years.
Posted by admin on October 3, 2011
I first heard about Dear Lemon Lima at the Woodstock Film Festival last year, but missed the screening. I finally Netflixed it this week. A powerful and delightful story of a teenage girl in Alaska who turns her longing for her self-absorbed ex-boyfriend into a triumphant victory in their private school’s Snowstorm Survivor competition. The film explores the strange (but common) mix of romanticizating and stereotyping of Native American culture and, of course, unrequited love. I can’t wait to watch it with my daughter when she approaches tweenhood.
Posted by admin on September 17, 2011
I had a rare night out by myself at the movies and watched Tabloid, the new doc. by Errol Morris. It’s about Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen who chased the man of her dreams, Kirk Anderson, to England in 1977 after he left her to become a Mormon missionary worker. She herself became the obsessive target of the London tabloids after she was accused of kidnapping him and jailed. The press reported that she tied him to a bed in a cottage in Devon and raped him. According to McKinney, Anderson was her fiance, and she tied him up to help him overcome the impotence-causing inhibitions and shame he had from growing up in the repressive Mormon church. What ensued, she said, was “three days of fun, food, and sex.”
The documentary illuminates one of the major themes of unrequited love and romantic pursuit: What is the truth? McKinney, a vivacious and gregarious Southerner, is startlingly faithful to her story: that Anderson loved her back but was the victim of brainwashing by the Mormon Church. She never married and has spent her life writing her tale, which she’s titled “A Very Special Love Story.” Anderson refused to be interviewed, but his absence from her life speaks volumes: He either couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be the prince in her fairy tale — and at worst he was her victim.
Errol Morris is a filmmaker intrigued by obsessive personalities who hold fast to the flawed narratives of their own heroism. I’m thinking of McNamara in The Fog of War. McKinney is much more charming, though. As a journalism professor, I was also struck by how Morris juxtaposed McKinney’s stalking of Anderson with the British tabloid’s stalking of her. At first she basked in press attention (as she does in the documentary itself). But when The Daily Mirror digs up salacious bondage photos of her, she feels violated and betrayed, charging that the paper merely stuck photographs of her head on another woman’s nude body. The body, she protests, has breasts “like fried eggs,” nothing like her own.
As it turns out, McKinney isn’t happy with the documentary either. She’s appeared at a number of prerelease screenings, heckling and protesting the film.
Posted by admin on August 10, 2011
The Museum of Broken Relationships, based in Zagreb, Croatia, is on tour, showing the world various real life break up artifacts the lovelorn donated to the museum. For many of the heartbroken, giving away certain objects associated with their ex lovers liberates them “from the haunting memory of the past, giving them a fresh chance to start all over again,” said Drazen Grubisic, one of the founders of the museum. Here’s an article in the NYT about the tour and the museum’s web site.
Posted by admin on February 16, 2010