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downsizing love
a realistic low-carb look at how love should be
by robert a. melos
5.31.04
pop culture

Recently love has been taking quite a beating, around here, on most of the Internet, on television in the form of such asinine games shows as Elimidate, in politics with the proposal of an amendment to the Constitution limiting marriage to a man and a woman, and I think I’ve figured out why.

It hit me the other night while sitting in bed at 4:00 AM, alone, eating crackers and cheese, watching Down With Love, the Rene Zellweger and Ewan McGregor film that smartly parodies the kitschy Doris Day and Rock Hudson comedies of the 50s and 60s.

I used to love those Doris Day and Rock Hudson films when I was a kid. Of course that was because I wanted to be Doris Day, so I could wind up getting Rock Hudson. Back then, who knew?

Anyway, in those films, for the youth of today who are unfamiliar with either star, Doris Day always played the single self-sufficient career girl type, whose life was going along quite well until she ran smack into Rock Hudson. Now Rock’s character was always the single playboy type, who was quite happy being a womanizer, hopping from girl to girl, until he got bowled over by Doris’s character.

Now we aren’t talking sappy gooey love struck at first sight kind of love. No, not by a long shot. What usually happened was Doris and Rock, whose characters were usually named something like Jan and Brad, would meet by accident, and fall instantly into loathing with each other. After all, as we all know, nothing makes us love someone more than hating them.

The plot would usually advance with the help of Rock’s best friend, usually played by the recently late Tony Randall, and Doris’s maid or secretary, played by either Thelma Ritter or Joan Blondell, who would help Doris and Rock plot to win the other over ostensibly so they could end up breaking the other’s heart and leave them a heap of emotional garbage on the curb of life waiting to be picked up and taken to that great big emotional garbage dump where the brokenhearted always end up.

Naturally the plot backfired on Doris and Rock, who instead of breaking each other’s hearts end up breaking their own. Of course being a comedy everything got resolved in the last two or three minutes of the film, and everyone lived happily ever after.

If I’ve lost you with this film history it’s okay, because it has become apparent much of our society is lost with this kind of romantic game playing. You might not know it from watching The Bachelor, Bachelorette, Elimidate, Who Wants To marry A Millionaire, etc., but those are just reality based versions of the legacy of Doris Day and Rock Hudson films.

Alas, the problem with the lack of romance seems to be the lack of star quality. While the reality based game shows where players vie for the grand prize of megabucks and the man or woman of their dreams plays out well, we always learn in the follow up anniversary shows that the relationship didn’t last much beyond the fading of the bright lights, and the last yelling of, “it’s a wrap,” by the director. So we keep trying to find that supplement for the whimsy of the romantic days gone by.

The reason for the lack of this whimsy may simply be a lack of chemistry. Take Rene Zellweger for example. While watching Down With Love, a perfectly average film, with a nice feeling of tribute to the efforts of Doris, Rock and director Ross Hunter, I realized Zellweger actually managed to capture that Doris Day quality of innocence. Yes, Doris Day, in her heyday, portrayed the perpetual virgin.

Each of her comedic characters, when appropriately explained as having never been married, was instantly thought of as virginal. In fact, her characters struggled to maintain their virginity, fighting off the advances of Rock Hudson at every turn, until she had that ring on her finger. Of course her virginal character did eventually give in to Rock in a couple films prior to his asking her to become Mrs. Brad Allan, or whatever his character’s All-American sounding name was for that particular film.

The point is Rene Zellweger has that certain something that hasn’t existed on film in a long time. Unfortunately, Ewan McGregor, hottie that he is, is no Rock Hudson. Sorry Ewan, but the chemistry just isn’t there.

Now this isn’t a critique of Down With Love. The film was okay, but what I’m getting at is, perhaps we need a modern day Rock Hudson for actresses like Rene Zellweger, and most American women, to lust after. Sure, I’ll lust after that actor as well, but that isn’t the point.

Now the point: Women have downsized their expectations when it comes to love. There, I’ve said it. Now don’t go denying it without stopping and taking a long look at your current piece of the Rock. You’ve taken your ideal man, and tried to make at least one man in your life fit that mold, and when it didn’t work, instead of giving up and throwing yourself into your career, you simply downsized your expectations.

Men have done the same thing but, being that most men are pigs, love is not the number one, two or three spot on their list of important qualities in a relationship. Women usually still hold out for love in the top three. Okay great abs might beat out love for top spot, but it’s in the top three.

With everything else in the world being downsized, it only makes sense that our expectations of a mate should come under the knife as well. While we were super sizing everything else in life, love got the axe. Is it any wonder the survival rate of marriage is a fifty/fifty proposition?

We’ve almost got the formula right to recapture some of that mindless romantic fluff from the past. We’re halfway there with Rene Zellweger; we just need to find her a Rock Hudson to make the magic complete. You see, I do believe if we can recreate that illusionary chemistry that filled theaters in the 1950s and 60s with starry eyed saps hoping to find a girl like Doris Day, or a guy like Rock Hudson, we might be able to recapture some of the love lacking in our world. It may seem like quite a stretch from Hollywood imagery to reality, but if it worked for Doris and Rock, why can’t it work for real people?

Why can’t we change that downsized portion of love to a super sized portion? It can’t be any harder to do that than to create world peace, or a sense of safety and security for people everywhere, can it?

Of course in our new low-carb society, maybe love should be downsized. Maybe love is too fattening, and is bad for our cholesterol? Maybe we’ve already gotten it right, and that fluff that was Doris Day and Rock Hudson, before he came out of the closet, belongs in the past as a reminder of how silly we were to give such importance to things like love and happiness when we should be concentrating on issues of greater importance, like survival?

We can’t give up on love, because as the song says, “love lifts us up where we belong.” However, our ideal of love might need to be retooled into a low-carb love. Think of it as lean more efficient love, without all the game playing and emotional ups and downs. A love that energizes us, revitalizes us, and is healthy for us.

Doris and Rock may have helped us laugh our way through love, and Rene and whoever might recapture that magic, but reality and time have enlightened us to the fact we need healthy love, not head over heels love or comedic distractions. Love still has a place in society, it just needs to slim down, buff up, and show us it can be the love we need it to be.

On the other hand, I still like a well-written silly comedic love story. Too bad they don’t make films like that anymore.


ABOUT ROBERT A. MELOS

Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos

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