CRITIC’S CORNER COLUMNIST
Bear with me this week while I dive into the genre commonly called the “chick flick.” These movies are usually romantic comedies in which it’s obvious within the first five minutes who is going to fall in love with whom, and you know they’ll end up together at the end.
However, while watching one of these “chick flicks” recently, I came upon a profound realization. Perhaps it’s one you’ve already made, but for me it was the first time that several different elements fit together in such a succinct way to form a thought.
The movie, entitled “Letters from Juliet,” is a simply story of a young woman who travels to Verona with her fiancé, who is far more obsessed with cooking than he is with her, and her journey reuniting an old couple who were separated before they had a chance at true love. In the process, she falls in love with the grandson of the woman she is helping, who takes the entire movie to warm up to the idea that this whole search is even a good plan.
The thing that touched me about the movie was that it left me satisfied, but not completely. And this led me to contemplate that I’m never truly satisfied at the end of a romantic movie because I want to see more of the “happily ever after.”
These movies always end with barely enough time for you to be content that the two people are truly in love, and then you’re left with credits rolling down the screen. I have an uncanny ability to predict when credits are coming, even when they’re earlier than I hoped, and it’s frustrating when you wanted to see a few more scenes of the couple happy together.
Yet as I reflected on the fact that we are never totally satisfied with what we see on the screen, I finally understood, for the first time, why anyone would even desire pornography.
You see, one of the things I loved about the movie was that there were no sex scenes. I always get angry with directors who throw them into a perfectly decent romance.
Yet if even I, a Catholic who sees the dignity of the human person, am not contented that I have seen enough of the happy couple, other people probably are not content either. However, our culture interprets this as a desire to see “more” physically of the couple.
Without a deeper understanding of the person as body and soul, it is easy to mistake this desire to see more as a need for us to physically witness the couple uniting themselves. Why do we all sigh when the couple kisses for the first time?
The kiss is a prequel to all that is to come between a couple when they realize their love and commit to each other in marriage. We recognize that in such movies, and we silently (or not so silently) cheer on this commitment.
This is why it’s so disturbing to me when directors make the choice to show much more than the kiss, especially when the couple hasn’t made such a commitment yet. We desire to see more, and yet we don’t need to and shouldn’t have the desire to see more in a physical way.
Because ultimately what we desire is the eternal happiness of these characters on the screen whom we have grown to love. We want them to take care of each other, to respect and value each other in the way that we each long to be respected and valued by that one special person. This kind of love reflects eternity.
The culture works through these films to convey the idea that we are witnessing the couple’s happiness when we see them together physically, but it actually provides the opposite effect. Their happiness would be far more complete if they respected and valued each other’s dignity enough to wait until marriage.
Thus the “chick flick” that shows more than we need to see reveals to us the desire within each person to love and be loved, but those which convey this by means of physical affection only, without commitment, are actually harming our idea of what love is.
This isn’t to say that we should never enjoy chick flicks. I definitely couldn’t live up to that because I do find pleasure in some of them. But we should never lower our standards to the extent that our desire for more leads us to watch too much (i.e. pornography), or to the extent that we allow ourselves to believe that sex is okay before marriage.
We’re called to a higher standard. So thank God for innocent chick flicks that keep us from seeing all there is, and in doing so remind us that we can never experience the truest love while on earth.