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Insanity, Hollywood style

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Let me preface this by saying that everything I’ve learned about life has come through Hollywood. As I grew up, the lessons I’ve learned from movies have proven vastly more enduring than those of my parents. Perhaps it’s because it was Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Campbell delivering the gospel, but who am I to judge?

For example, it is because of movies that the best answer to any problem is excessive force. If that fails, going in alone with Chuck Norris-like reflexes will get the job done. And if both of those efforts result in failure, it’s because there was no dramatic montage.

However, some of the most important things I’ve learned concern the realm of gender relations. It’s that time of year again, and like many others, even the most jaded of individuals can find themselves pondering the mysteries of the opposite sex. But the messages of Hollywood, when viewed in a greater scope, are tricky to decipher.

During the ’80s and ’90s, it seemed that girls fell into two categories – those that needed rescuing and those that did the rescuing. Science fiction and horror films always seemed to fall into the latter category, be it the heroine from the “Aliens” series of movies, or from “Scream.” The former category can be seen in almost any action movie, as they are swept away by the hero’s ovewhelming masculinity. In either case, all a guy had to do to win the girl was be heroic, rugged and be in the possession of snappy one-liners.

Sadly, most people of either sex never find themselves in the position to display their undeniable prowess. Although Notre Dame has a Radiation Laboratory, the only thing that has ever come from it was a short-lived giant leprechaun that did little more than amuse readers of The Observer.

An extensive knowledge base of action and horror movies thus prove to be insufficient. So to learn more about the fabled inter-sexual relations, the dreaded land of romance movies needs to be pillaged. A quick glance into the realm of popular films in this genre reveals an interesting selection with fascinating analyses.

The first is that the aforementioned stereotypes still hold true, most of the time. Movies like “Pretty Woman” show that women still want to be rescued by a man. The only difference between this and the action genre, however, is that the male trades in his automatic rifle for a hefty bank account. It is a continuation of the “Cinderella” mindset that a Prince Charming will come along to rescue the worthy damsel. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for everyone, as most people are not born with chiseled features or into a monarchy.

More recent romantic films have shown a leveling of the playing field in this regard, however, with both characters being equally successful. Sometimes it is the woman rescuing the man, but that doesn’t make it any easier for romance to occur.

The second is that apparently, everyone alive is completely neurotic. There is an adversarial mentality that comes from most modern romance movies. It’s a girls-versus-guys thing, with the desired result being the subjugation of the opposite sex. In “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” each of the respective protagonists had their cadre of support that helped them scheme and support them in their choices, no matter how outlandish they were. The fact that they were each toying with a living person’s emotions never seemed to cross their minds for the majority of the movie.

“Hitch” was the same way, only taken more literally with a character that specialized in trying to cross the gender barrier. Guys counseled guys, and girls counseled girls. But once again, the two didn’t really mix until the end, which was performed in a completely over-the-top, ridiculous manner. Some people may call it cute, but typically, jumping onto a moving car is considered insane. So in the realm of Hollywood cinema, does love then equal a type of insanity?

Continuing the notion of insane romance are movies like “Along Came Polly” and “Monster-in-Law.” Both movies featured characters, which, while likable to the audience, would be considered completely loony in any conventional sense. Deception and abusing one’s mother seems counter-intuitive for romance, but here they work perfectly.

After my exhausting delving into the realm of Hollywood romance, the conclusion is suddenly clear. To woo a member of the opposite sex, all one has to do is act as illogical, over-the-top and insane as possible. While it helps to have the perfect body and job, that’s no guarantee. The popular, rich guy often receives the shaft because he is too ordinary or conveniently revealed to be a jerk by the relationship’s conclusion.

Girls want a strong guy, who is also sensitive and powerful, yet subservient. Guys want a girl wild, yet tame, intelligent, yet a little bubbly.

I just realized that I haven’t learned anything about real life from Hollywood. But at least a heart-felt confession will woo any girl, no matter how I act.

Contact Mark Bemenderfer at mbemende@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.