Pop Culture

The Worst Types of Lovers Only Pop Culture Could Create

I’d written this piece for my classes (along with Somebody Needs to Fly the Plane!) in order to demonstrate the structure of a classification essay, and, in fact, I used it today, along with a couple of solid student examples. Of course, I get a bit carried away, especially when the topic pertains to film. I’d also published it on Pop Culture Junction, but that publication died tragically (death by neglect), as many zines tend to do when no one else contributes…

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Frankly, I am not a fan of romantic movies whatsoever, and I don’t care for what Hollywood deems as “romantic.” Anyone who obviously doesn’t know the real me tends to immediately lump me amongst the girlie saps—the middle-aged, sad-faced women with their glasses of pinot noir in hand while they sob in a gaggle together over some ludicrous Nicholas Sparks adaptation complete with sappy notions of nostalgia and script dialogue lifted straight from a Hallmark Valentine’s Day card. It isn’t true. It’s not me. I despise the very idea of spending an evening pining over a pop culture fantasy, an utterly bastardized notion of love. Even worse, I cannot fathom being remotely interested in any of the romanticized characters Hollywood has created for those lonely fantasists. To anyone with any sort of common sense, none of those characters should seem the slightest bit appealing at all, especially if one were to come across any of them in reality. Three “romantic” character types in particular would make for a dour relationship if they were actual human beings rather than pop culture creations: the Klutz, the Disappearing Act, and the Sadist.

The perpetually awkward Klutz seems endearing at first…

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After all, he or she is just so scruffily adorable in that wide-eyed, toilet-paper-stuck-on-the-heel kind of way. That shabby cuteness, however, is representative of what is clearly evident to anyone with half a brain. The Klutz’s romantic overtures often involve grand declarations of love but not without melodramatic pratfalls and general messy mayhem ensuing. In the presence of a Klutz, meticulously crafted, multiple-tiered wedding cakes are promptly caved in or stumbled into; family china or department store crystal is all but guaranteed to be smashed to smithereens; silky dress hems will be stepped on; and some sort of liquid, richly colored and sticky, will splatter everywhere, staining every white wall and expensive bit of art and clothing in sight.

Every so often, a Klutz will be primarily responsible for the decimation of Things Immensely Sacred to the family he or she is trying to impress. For instance, grand Klutz Greg Focker from Meet the Parents even goes so far as to pop the cork of a bottle of champagne, aiming it accidentally right at the urn containing his future father-in-law’s mother’s ashes. Of course, the urn wobbles and then crashes to the floor, creating a pile of ashes all over the carpet. The horror of the moment is then exacerbated when, by chance, the family’s beloved Himalaya cat, Jinxsy, mistakes the pile of ashes for a freshly scooped batch of kitty litter.

While the Klutz leaves an unintentional path of destruction in his or her wake, the Disappearing Act is nowhere to be found. The Disappearing Act may be the romantic interest of a character in an action film, or so we think. He or she often chooses The Job over the prospect of love, and as a result, he or she will inevitably leave the romantic interest behind. Audiences are often left unsure as to whether or not the Disappearing Act and his or her flame are actually romantically involved until the two of them reunite after years, maybe even decades, apart, and fall back into bed with each other.

Indiana Jones is a classic Disappearing Act. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, we learn he had left his lover, Marion Ravenhood, behind. They’re reunited a decade later in the 1930’s, at the bar she oversees in a village in Nepal—basically, a shithole in the middle of a mountainous, frozen nowhere. While Raiders had them reconvene after a suckerpunch of a rocky start, Indiana apparently pulls the disappearing act once again and doesn’t come back into her life until the 1950’s as shown in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. To add insult to injury, we find out he’d even left her once long before at the altar. They finally marry at the end of the film, their romance a little tumultuous but existing, but I can’t help but wonder if he’ll vanish from her life again during their golden years together.

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         Another variation of the Disappearing Act is the character that comes back at least a decade later during a significant gathering, like a high school reunion or a party held by a mutual friend. The primary goal of the Disappearing Act in question is to see the one he or she left behind but lacking—always lacking—in an adequate excuse for tearing his or her old love in two. The hitman protagonist Martin Q. Blank in Grosse Point Blank is a prime example of such a Disappearing Act. In the film, Martin returns to his old hometown to attend his ten-year high school reunion, but he has other pressing matters to be concerned about as well: he has a job to do there, and his target happens to be his old high school girlfriend’s father. It doesn’t help that Martin had been the Disappearing Act in his ex-girlfriend’s life, something he is made well aware of throughout the film, which naturally, makes things hellish for him considering he’d been sent there to kill her dad.

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         The final archetype, the Sadist, is the worst of the three, yet the masses can’t seem to get enough of him or her (there’s something to be said for morbid fascination and dark desires). The Sadist comes in a pressed Armani package, stylish and refined. There’s little doubt in any rational person’s mind that there’s something a bit off, something not quite right, with the Sadist upon first introductions; it could be the flinty gleam in his or her eye or the biting retort the Sadist offers that’s dressed in a razor-honed blend of innuendo and venom. The Sadist’s love interest—the prey, in other words—will often be seduced by the indecent proposals of the Sadist. Basic Instinct’s Sadist, thriller writer Catherine Tramell, for example, seems to take great pleasure in making her lover, Detective Nick Curran, squirm as she sexually torments him throughout the entire second half of the film, all the while he’s trying to gauge her truthfulness during a murder investigation.

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        I would be remiss if I failed to mention pop culture’s Sadist du jour, Christian Grey of the notorious Fifty Shades of Grey series (and subsequent film), a character that has strangely, unfathomably caused many a housewife to go wavery at the very idea of him.  I cannot adequately remark on Mr. Grey’s overall character as I’ve only read brief passages of the original book, and because I found the bits that I read so badly written, the characters so horrendously drawn, I certainly had no desire to wait in line in order to suffer through a very bad movie rendition of a very bad book. What little I did read, however, convinced me well enough that Mr. Grey, with all of his shiny wealth and his Red Room of Pain, is hardly a sexually realized character, a character one could actually fall in love with, all BDSM and high kink aside. He’s simply a misogynistic prick, a total Sadist, but what else is new?

If Hollywood is going to continue to create such “romantic” (more like disastrous) archetypes as the Klutz, the Disappearing Act, and the Sadist – among others — littering our psyches with the very notion of them, I’d sooner turn my attention, my own glass of pinot whatever in hand, to antiquated ideas of romance found in novels where the feisty heroines in the end aren’t swayed one way or another by forced charm or broody platitudes.

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9 thoughts on “The Worst Types of Lovers Only Pop Culture Could Create

  1. Hollywood’s notions of romance are bad…junkfood for some really (key word: junk). I think the bad thing is that so many of those films shape some people’s real world notion of romance— from the progression of a relationship, to the type (stereotypes) they are attracted to. Heh. It’s not surprising that you’re not in the Nicholas Sparks crowd (good thing).

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    • I just find it all fascinating, the false ideals. Then the realistic movies like Blue Valentine get made and they’re considered “subversive” because they’re not adhering to those atypical standards, those damned stereotypes. I just roll my eyes and make fun…Good writing fodder, right?

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      • Extremely good writing fodder, especially for you, ma’am. Most of the people I know seem quite happy with the false ideas and stereotypes, sadly. As long as the standard stuff turns a quick buck there isn’t much incentive to make a romantic film that really goes deep (Blue Valentine might be the last one that I saw that went deep and deeply against the grain. Then again, I don’t seek out that sort of movie typically). Romance is a wonderful thing — it can also be a thing that’s exhausting and damaging. I think it’s a shame when some of the illusions they help seed get shattered… Boo Hollywood. Boo!

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  2. What a great classification essay/assignment. I used to have writing students trance the hand-turkey on the left side of a page. On the right page (in their journals), they told how many ways their hand–and their-selves–could be classified. Finally, they went on to develop and essay about three aspects worth developing. (Ah, the favorite 3-8 paragraph essay.) I like your movie-lover approach. In the past week I watched Michelle Monaghan in Fort Bliss [Disappearing Act] and The Best of Me [Disappearing Act]. (She’s beautiful and I love her…) Anyhow, your classification example is leading me toward an archetype of Disappearance Act. So many times the hero/heroine (itself an archetype) has been gone, and returns (viz. Othello, my choice for Shakespeare’s greatest tragic hero). Thank you for sharing this model. And do watch Michelle.:o)

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  3. Pingback: The Ford Factor | This, On Purpose

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