Alcoholism just isn't as funny as it used to be. Remember the 1981 version of Arthur, where Dudley Moore played a lovable carefree alcoholic whose drunken antics were amusing and whose obsessive quest for love was endearing? Update that to 2011, where Russell Brand's Arthur is an unhappy, self-destructive alcoholic who has to sober up before any Hollywood happy ending. DUI's just aren't as sexy as they used to be.
The 2011 Arthur's obsessive quest for love, however, is still endearing.
Why is love addiction the only compulsive, self-destructive and potentially fatal behavior to which society still gives its stamp of approval? (Okay, maybe exercise addicts and a few workaholics get a pass...) Activities that promote liver disease, lung cancer, diabetes and home foreclosure are no longer romanticized onstage, onscreen and in song. Why, then, is Hollywood still stringing garlands on an addiction that gives 72% of its sufferers thoughts of suicide?
Once upon a time, movies glamorized its stars by having them stare at the audience through a haze of cigarette smoke. Today, consumer advocates and health associations lobby Hollywood to get smoking off the screen altogether. But no one seems bothered that John Cusack really is kind of a creepy stalker in Say Anything.
Popular culture doesn't simply condone love addiction; it teaches us how to do it. As long as I can remember, I have been told to expect that "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" it will feel as if "I Can't Get You Out of My Head." I will know immediately that "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" and "If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right." From that moment on, "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You." Nor do you really need to have a say in the matter, as long as "I Want You To Want Me," because "One Way or Another" you know "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me." Don't you get it? "You Must Love Me," because "I Can't Get Used to Losing You." And "I Will Follow" if you try to leave, because I am "Crazy In Love," "Crazy for You" and generally all-around batshit "Crazy."
Oh, yeah. It's you and me against the world, kid, and I won't last a day without you. I can't get used to losing you no matter what I try to do, because woman needs man and man must have his mate, that no one can deny. I need you, oh my darling, like roses need rain. I'll sacrifice for you, I'll even do wrong for you (oh, baby, oh baby.) I would fight for you, I'd lie for you, walk the wire for you, oh, I'd die for you.
Don't you remember you told me you loved me, baby? I sit alone at home and cry over you -- what can I do? I can't live, if living is without you. Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight, and I'm so lonesome I could cry.
Don't even get me started on the Country charts! Have you ever actually listened to a George Jones song?
Face it. We've been programmed by everything from Shakespeare's Romeo to hip-hop's L'il Romeo... and sometimes that information is not only wrong, it's downright dangerous.
Whoever produced the Crystals' "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)" should be in jail.
Oh, wait. That was Phil Spector. He is in jail.
For seven seasons, we watched Carrie Bradshaw pursue her love object on Sex And The City. This was a man with no name, a man who made it perfectly clear from the get-go that he was not interested in a relationship with her. She, however, is convinced that he's The One. She sleeps with him when he is married to another woman. She sleeps with him when she is living with another man. She hounds him, stalks him, wheedles and cajoles him, guilts him, lies to him, lies to herself... and this is the heroine.
I have seen love addicts go into withdrawal between Twilight novels. Forget 50 Shades of Gray; women hid New Moon paperbacks from their husbands as if they were liquor bottles. Stephanie Meyer's teenage fantasies made toxic coupling look like spring break. Alienated outsider/loner Bella feels awkward and unlovely, until she meets brooding loner Edward. But wait! Edward has loved her from the moment he smelled her (not joking), and proves it by saving her life... again and again. He sort of wants to kill her and eat her, which keeps it exciting. He also wants to kill himself, which lets her play the rescuer. She will literally forfeit her immortal soul to stay in the relationship.
I gave my car keys to sad and dangerous men more often than was wise. I'm not going to give them my soul.
I'm not saying every entertainment has to be emotionally healthy. "I Want To Explore Appropriate Boundaries with You" makes a crappy pop song. Once -- a movie where (Spoiler Alert) the guy doesn't get the girl -- bored me to tears. But currently, we don't even have any Weight Watchers commercials to counterbalance the onslaught of KFC ads. Love is magic, love is salvation, love is all there is. If all you want is everything -- Spoiler Alert 2 -- you're not going to get it. You know what they say about expectations: they're resentments under construction.
Eventually, I would like Hollywood to tack on a "Professional Drivers Only: Don't Try This At Home" or at the very least a, "Your Results May Vary" disclaimer on some of these plots. If not that, then at least throw in the occasional love story that doesn't end with a wedding as if it was the romantic equivalent of spiking the ball in the end zone. Otherwise, Four Weddings and a Funeral is less a movie title than your biography in a nutshell.