By Bruce Hall
February 10, 2010
There are many reasons that certain films achieve what we call "cult" status, but one of them is that they tend to deliver their message in subversive or controversial ways that don't appeal to everyone. While it's true that most people do not like to work for their entertainment, is it possible that even the most unusual films can have something to offer everyone? When I was in college, a group of friends and I would meet regularly to ponder this very question. Beginning with Erik the Viking, we gathered once a week to watch and discuss a different cult classic, but we decided to keep the Viking theme. Now, I'll be working without a turkey leg or a goblet of mead, but with each installment of Viking Night I still seek to examine the same question: Can a film with such limited appeal still speak to us all?
Russ Morgan – and later Frank Sinatra - once sang that "you're nobody till somebody loves you." That's easy for Sinatra to say. But millions of people live by the sentiment every day, and not just because The Chairman said so. For many of us, no matter where we go, what we do or how much we achieve in life, it is of little meaning until we have someone to share it with. There is probably a degree of truth to the idea, but should we take it literally? Should we assume that until we've found someone to spend the rest of our life with that the rest of our life isn't meaningful? It's a tragic paradox because reality suggests that sitting around hating yourself for being alone is one of the best ways to stay alone. Learning to be content with yourself without the approval or consent of others is an ideal way to develop the emotional maturity you're going to need in order to maintain a healthy, long term relationship. But sometimes society tells us something different, and like any culture, what entertains us is often indicative of what we value. And romantic comedies have been entertaining us for generations now; doing their part to make us feel as though being single is a disease.
Sometimes entertaining and sometimes frustrating, romantic comedies are most often made to appeal to women. The typical "rom-com" revolves around a young lady who has made the "tragic" mistake of trying to lead a fulfilling, meaningful life without a man at the center of it. The poor gal is often portrayed as a bumbling klutz or a callous career woman, seemingly doomed to a series of bad dates and disastrous relationships. Personally, I've always felt that if everyone you date is an unpleasant person, this means that you are attracted to unpleasant people – but what do I know; I don't make movies, I just write about them. It usually becomes pretty clear by the end of the first act that there's only one thing that can cure our girl's physical coordination issues and make those long office hours – and indeed her life itself rewarding – and that's the love of a good man. And not just any man; he will be a man who's sensitive enough to understand what it means to be a woman. I am no activist, but I can't help but wonder how many women find such stereotypes a little distasteful. But this is a very lucrative genre of film and to be fair, like any style of art, you can probably find more bad examples than good ones. It's obvious that plenty of us enjoy romance, even the implausible kind we see in the movies. And if there's any kind of movie you really shouldn't consider plausible, it's this kind.