Entry from August 27, 2010

In the U.K. Independent, Guy Adams asks himself how it can be that Jennifer Aniston keeps making flopperoo movies like The Switch even while being one of the most highly paid actresses in Hollywood? And he answers himself with reference to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film of San Diego State University which “reveals that behind the scenes, Hollywood remains very firmly a man’s town.” According to the CSWTF, he says,

women accounted for a mere 27% of individuals working in powerful behind-the- scenes roles in film during the 2009-10 season. And that measly figure represented an increase of 2 percentage points over last season. Though Kathryn Bigelow’s historic Oscar triumph was meant to herald the arrival of a new era, women account for just 16 percent of film directors and 39 percent of producers. Just three percent of directors of photography have two X chromosomes.

This seems to me a non sequitur. However regrettable the fact that there aren’t more women behind the camera in Tinseltown, it can’t account for the fact that hardly anyone wants to see poor, plucky, forsaken Jen in a romantic role. It’s not as if there are no actresses who can “open” a romantic movie anymore.

Or is it? A few weeks ago, Maureen Dowd lamented the general dearth of romantic comedies these days, not particularly a propos of Miss Aniston, though her name and that of her last film, The Bounty Hunter — which wasn’t quite a flop but in Miss Dowd’s view should have been one, so awful was it — did come up in a less-than flattering way in the column. She reported that Sam Wasson, the author of Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., about the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, had written in an e-mail conversation with her that “culturally, emotionally, the whole idea of romance is gone, gone, gone.” And, though as baffled about it as he appeared to be, she was unable to say him nay. Somehow, however, he never got around to answering her question of why romance should be gone, gone, gone?

What’s the big mystery? Romance was killed by the sexual revolution and the consequent debasement of marriage to its present pitiable status as nothing more than a glorified civil partnership. That’s the great joke played by the Lord or Fate or Nature (or History) on the advocates of gay marriage. In reality, the straight world has already become culturally gay, flitting from partner to partner, even as the gays keep demanding to pretend to become as monogamous as the now merely fantastical straights pretend to be with their “till-death-do-us-parts” that last until next Thursday.

Love and marriage,
Love and marriage,
Go together like a horse and carriage
. . .

Or so wrote Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen for Frank Sinatra — a man who went on to a total of four wives himself — in 1955. But already this was a dying idea. What people didn’t recognize at the time and still do not recognize, to judge by Miss Dowd’s and Mr Wasson’s sassy correspondence, is that when it went it took with it an essential ingredient of romance, which was the sense it once had of the momentous. For romance to work, sexual love must be culturally assumed to be a life-altering experience, and everyone knows that it simply isn’t that anymore, or not in the scary, irrevocable way it once was. “Look! We have come through!” wrote D.H. Lawrence as the title of his book of love poems to Frieda, thus capturing the sense of the miraculous in the conjunction of two people fated to be together.

Now, that kind of fate is gone along with the permanence of marriage that it both defied (in Lawrence’s case) and celebrated. We prefer to believe that, if love doesn’t work out with one person, we can move on to the next person — something that, of course, remains as an option even when it does work out. True, sexual love is not for everybody the merely casual or recreational experience it is for the denizens of the Jersey Shore, but it never anymore appears in a romance purporting to represent reality where it is not understood to be, at best, the preferable option among many for two people at a particular moment in time. The now-treasured moral, legal and cultural opportunity for people to change and “grow” and so leave their lovers behind, whatever else there may be to say for it, simply takes away that old-fashioned element of the permanent and the eternal in the quotidian relations between the sexes. That’s what gives — or used to give — romance and romantic comedy their kick, and that’s what’s “gone, gone, gone” — never, I fear, to be recovered.

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts