Romantic Gestures and Ryan Gosling
In The Notebook, Ryan Gosling dangles precariously off the side of a fairground ride demanding Rachel Mcadams go on a date with him. In another appearance from this familiar heartthrob we find him once again putting that beautiful body at risk, as he threatens to climb over the side of a bridge when his wife hesitates over telling him what’s wrong in Blue Valentine. What a hero, right?
I’m going to try to resist full rant here but will maintain a semi while we get started. Honestly, these kinds of romantic gestures in film make me want to jump off a bridge. It’s not only the chivalrous idea of a man sweeping in to save the woman with so-called love but in that situation, the woman has no chance to be heard, to consent to what’s going on.
She’s basically threatened, forced to give in and then deal with a pair of lips forcibly mashing up against her. Is that romance?
Image source: New Line Cinema
I don’t want to get personal with Ryan Gosling, I’m sure there are limited roles out there for male actors. But in his films in particular he often gets to play a carefree, outcast, distinctly boyish character, whilst the woman usually inhabits a role of responsibility, domestically and socially.
In Blue Valentine, Dean is a dropout, from a broken home, who cracks open a beer before starting work. Cindy on the other hand, also from a dysfunctional family, works as a nurse and takes primary responsibility for their daughter. The role she plays is sensible, and considerate whilst he gets to be charismatically nonchalant, or at least ignore his problems.
In this context the man is usually there to remind the woman to ‘just have fun’ which I’m sure she would be, if she didn’t have to compensate for him. In other words, women are bad because they try to act responsibly and think of others. Romantic heroes are heralded because they think only of the person they are in love with.
You may be thinking it’s just a movie, and in real life if somebody showed up at your house uninvited with a boombox you would be like, stop. But the thing is, it isn’t just movies. Firstly, masculinity teaches men to feel entitled to women, namely their bodies. So when we reproduce that and call it romance, that’s a problem.
Secondly, beyond gender, this is downright toxic behaviour. If somebody exhibits such low self-regard that they have to force you to be with them, they’re hardly prepared for a relationship.
So yes, it is just a movie but then in real life some people feel compelled to say “if you leave me I’ll kill myself”. All relationships involve some level of sacrifice. But fictional romance teaches us this sacrifice has to be our lives.
So do romantic gestures have a place in our relationships at all? Boombox aside, romantic gestures are important. Don’t underestimate going a little, or a lot, out of your way for somebody (but keep within your boundaries folks).
We all need validation, probably a lot more than we let on. But you know, don’t like, force somebody to accept your gesture because you tried so hard and you’re a millennial so that’s a big deal for you.
Whilst we should probably disregard many aspects of what films teach us about romance, there’s still something we can learn from them - how to be cheesy. Being a bit cheesy in your execution allows for comedy and softens the blow of how utterly terrifying it is to proclaim your love to somebody.
It does take a lot of vulnerability to put yourself out there, regardless of whether you’re trying to buy them the perfect spanking brush or you’re writing a horrendous love song, you might not always get it right. So be ok with the stomach-flipping risk of rejection. You tried man, what you felt was real.
Image source: Gabbios
Some people, even more bitter than me, don’t see the need for real life romance at all. I don’t have to do anything, they know I love them, right? First of all, do they? Great you managed to find love, though unlike in cinema, it doesn’t end there. There’s still a place for gestures even after you’ve ‘got the girl’. Why? Because life gets monotonous. People have dreams and imaginations they sit in the office forgetting. Sometimes we need people to help bring us back to ourselves.
A gesture can shake up the quotidian context of our lives, what if the blowjob happened outside the bedroom? What if we went out for dinner instead of eating by the cool glow of Netflix? A gesture can help you to get to know each other again, ask each other questions, celebrate the occasion of the two of you. As Elie Wiesel said, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
Image source: daughtermelon
But romantic or otherwise, we all need people in our lives to pick up the phone every now and then and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing? Never mind. I have a bottle of champagne with your name on it and a bottle with mine, let’s go roll around in the ocean until it gets cold and we walk home shivering and talking about things we will never talk about again”. And you know, if they don’t want to do that you just say, ‘you do you’ and leave that Ryan Gosling stuff to fall off a ferris wheel.