Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Question on the Appeal of Passion

Last night, I watched The Notebook. The Notebook, as you may well know, is an extremely popular and highly-favored film among romantic young women. The basic plot is that a seventeen-year-old girl named Allie falls for a guy, Noah, who is below her social sphere; they break up because of associated tensions (parents, plans for the future); a few years later she falls for a guy named Lon who is essentially perfect in both personality and social standing; they become engaged; Allie finds Noah again shortly before her wedding and they have a brief and passionate affair; Allie ends up dumping poor, perfect Lon in favor of the sweetheart of her youth, whom she probably should not have gone to see in the first place, knowing that it could not accomplish anything good, and that if she hoped for it to accomplish something major, she should not be marrying Lon.

I also recently bought Taylor Swift's Fearless album (the deluxe version, which includes six extra songs and a DVD), and she has a song on there called "The Way I Loved You," which is about a similar romance. She is dating a guy who is perfect in every way, which women constantly profess to want, but she misses her old boyfriend, and "screaming and fighting and kissing in the rain," this insane whirlwind of passion and arguments. She says, "I never knew I could feel that much, and that's the way I loved you."

What I want to know is why so many people seem to adore the idea of a passionate romance, a flurry of emotions, with a lot of fights and a lot of physical affection and a lot of feelings, and in fact seem to think it higher than a calm, quiet, decisive love. I want to know why people define "love" as this sort of flurry of emotions. Why do people think that, for example, Romeo and Juliet were in love? Romeo thought he loved Rosaline at the beginning of the play, and in fact only met Juliet as he was chasing a glimpse of Rosaline. Yet, he saw Juliet's face, and forgot his "love" for Rosaline, falling instead for Juliet. They then lived a short time of absolute passion, and ended up dying unnecessarily. People believe this is love. Passion may exist within love, but passion does not define love. So why do people think it does? Why do people believe that following your "heart," consequences be damned, is somehow higher than a pure love that is based on caring for another person? The Notebook also shows Allie and Noah in their old age, and it is visible that Noah actually, truly loves Allie. But when they are young, if they are supposed to be in real love, it is not well-portrayed. Instead, it is nothing more than a deluge of emotion, and there is no reason to expect it to grow into a mature and worthwhile love. It works out for Allie and Noah, in their fictional world, but should that be any basis for what people want and expect in this world?

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