I remember being young once and I spent a lot of my time growing up watching movies. I fell in love with cinema at a very young age. It was my first true love in many ways. I was always inspired by the way that some characters made decisions. All the protagonists really grew and tried to do the right thing. What a fantasy world.
When you watch a movie you’re watching something take place in a particular point in time. Maybe the main character has just got a new job or is recently divorced. Something happened in their life that made it relevant at the particular moment in which the writer decided that their story was worth telling. You rarely hear the full story with movies. You don’t see the terrible decisions that Indiana Jones made in the past. You don’t see Forrest Gump stealing boxes of chocolates from the grocer just like you don’t see James Bond nailing some trailer park girl he picked up at the bar even though it would be completely consistent with his character for him to do so.
Movies are a magical little place where good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It’s a simple black and white formula with shades of grey thrown in when critics get angry. Maybe Jerry Maguire doesn’t get fired this time around maybe this time his job is outsourced to some Indian sports agents that can love more than he can. Maybe Rob Tidwell goes off on the Darjeeling Limited instead of taking the Cardinals to the playoffs. These things happen in movies – they’re called course corrections – and they happen when things get too formulaic. When these things happen audiences will complain that the story didn’t “totally make sense” as if the stories that are normally told in Hollywood are 100%, completely believable. Of course Liam Nesson finds the guy who kidnapped his daughter in Taken, why wouldn’t he? He only had to chase down hundreds of people across half a continent to do it in under forty-eight hours, what’s not to believe?
What movies are supposed to teach us about – ultimately – is love. Protagonist A jumps through innumerable hoops so that he can be with person B who in a normal world wouldn’t acknowledge the protagonist’s existence. Needless to say love is not quite so black and white nor is it as easy as overcoming a few obstacles. The problem with caring for someone is that rarely will anyone ever care for you as much as you care for them. That’s the great disappointment with relationships. It doesn’t matter how hard you try you just can’t win. Now that may seem like a harsh critique to some but to those well versed in the ways of the world it almost seems to obvious. How do you stop thinking about someone when they’re the only person on your mind? I can’t answer that one. It’s too tough. You can’t just cut someone out of your life whos been a major component for any length of time. You’ve got to deal with the fact that you spent all your time thinking about them when they probably never thought about you.
Love is dangerous because it hurts. Anything that hurts will be too much to bear for some people. A friend of mine got sick recently. He didn’t understand how people could live through the nineteenth century with the prevalence of dysentery and all those horrible other Oregon Trail illnesses that Betsey or whoever had the great misfortune of being in your wagon had. He was sidelined by a cold and I honestly don’t think he moved except to go to the bathroom in ten days. Thank god he had neighbors otherwise he probably would have starved. When I walked into his apartment it looked like some sort of warped Andy Warhol painting. There were piles of Campbell’s soup cans standing neatly in the sink in rows because he has OCD. That’s the thing about having neurotic friends as messy as they get there will still be some order to the mess. He was legitimately in pain though and I could see that. What was for most people a cold to him might as well have been muscular dystrophy or shingles.
The point is that we all want to be that John Cusack character in the movies but the opportunity is never really there for us. We can cling to the best moments of our relationships and try to work off of those to create good moments in the future but unless the other person values you as much as you value them the whole thing is doomed from the start. You see in relationships we find ourselves making all the wrong choices all the time straight from the get go. We’re blinded by our feelings but also by the constructs that society has put in place for us to measure our relationships by. Women believe that the perfect man for them is going to be their “best friend” and will understand perfectly everything that they’re going through. Men believe that the perfect woman will have the morality of a man but choose to use all of her pent up sexual energy on him – a gross generalization of gender constructs that is far too complicated to accurately dissect here. The truth is that both sides are wrong. If your best friend winds up being your partner in life that’s great but I can count the number of people I know who are living in that scenario on one hand.
Oftentimes we misconstrue what we want in a friendship and what we want in a relationship. We think that different rules apply to friendships that involve the opposite sex and that relationships are thus not defined on a foundation of friendship but on some other criterion that would make little sense if you applied it to one of your current friends. The easiest way to understand this is to take sex completely out of the equation. Think to yourself: without the possibility of sex would I still want to be with this person? That’s a tough question to answer sometimes because sex is such a primal instinct but it needs to be answered. Sometimes we feel good around someone else but it’s because that other person reminds us of something or someone and we thus hold on to that person because they are the only thing that connects us back to something or someone that meant the world to us. A relationship like that isn’t fair to either party. The foundation of a worthwhile relationship needs to be set on understanding the similarities and accepting the differences between the two of you. Without that basic understanding you cannot succeed but the crazy thing about love is that even if you go into a relationship understanding those two ideas the relationship can still fail. There is no way for us to make someone else feel the way that we feel and because of that relationships are always going to be a struggle. The best any of us can do is hope that we understand ourselves well enough to explain who we are and what we want to someone who hasn’t the faintest idea what the answer to either of those questions could possibly be.