Tag Archives: Love

Love Potions: The Worst Concept Ever Created By Humans

As I said in my Pepé Le Pew post, times are constantly changing, and so too are our perceptions of their subjects. Pointing to derision, mocking, and stalking as evidence that a guy likes a girl is more readily scorned than in previous decades, and, more relevant to today’s discussion, the concept of the love potion becomes less charming and more…creepy, shall we say? Possibly even…the dreaded “R” word?

 

Some might say that the whole idea of love potions was never that great to begin with. After all, romance as a whole is hard to write well, and portraying two people hopeless infatuated with one another often becomes sickening, simplistic, saccharine drivel. It puts one, both, or even multiple characters into a kind of trance, which looks closer to lust than our modern concept of what love is supposed to be, and they digress into illogical, stupid beings with no sense of boundaries.

I would agree there. If a love potion “plot” could be written well, I have yet to see it for myself. But worse still is the still newly-emerging revelation that a character who would willing overlook the thoughts and feelings of another person and simply force them into being with them (explicitly in a sexual way or not) is, quite frankly, a terrible scumbag of a human being.

Think about it: it’s rape in a meta-ethical sense, if not a literal one. A person thinks to himself (or herself), “Gee, I really like this person, but they don’t like me for whatever reason. Let me see if I can override that, whether they like it or not.”

It’s never phrased that way, of course, but that’s the basic subtext.

To keep things even, let’s look at a few notable female examples of this thing being romanticized:

 

Look at something like The Craft. Robin Tunney’s character, Sarah, casts a spell on a guy she likes named Chris, in order to get him to fall in love with her. At one point, Chris becomes so obsessed that he tries to rape her, only for Sarah to escape and her fellow witch and then friend Nancy (played by Fairuza Balk) to come to exact revenge. But despite the despicable nature of this act he tried to commit, no one ever pauses to think that he had limited agency in the overall situation. And I don’t say that to be apologetic; he was literally forced into ‘loving’ Sarah, and the magic just escalated it too far. Chris is punished and killed for something he probably had no control over, but we probably instinctively root for the former (if not the latter) because of our visceral loathing for the act of rape.

 

Let me just say here that I don’t think that having an attraction (physically, emotionally, etc.) to someone is inherently bad or wrong. It’s what you do about it and how you treat that person as a result of it that can cause problems, and the fact that enough people fantasize about forcing someone to fall in love with them that it’s a popular trope in the media makes me very glad that love potions don’t actually exist. Our society would fall into chaos and debauchery, probably just like the golden calf scene in The Ten Commandments.

 

Let’s take another magic movie: Practical Magic. Sandra Bullock’s Sally has a curse that all men who truly love the women of her family will die before their time, and so, as a young girl, she casts a spell that seals her feelings entirely on a man that “doesn’t exist.” She gives him what she thinks are impossible and ridiculous qualities, just so they will never meet and fall in love. But, lo and behold, such a man does meet her over the course of the movie.

 

The idea that Gary is under the influence of a spell and may or may not actually love Sally is never really satisfyingly resolved; at one point, she reveals the truth about her curse and spell to him, and, despite everything he has seen, replies that curses are only real if people believe in them. Sally is still supposed to be likeable, if flawed, but she just decides to take their love on faith, and embraces the man whose agency she took away. He embraces her as well, and they all live happily ever after. The curse did get broken, no doubt allowing Gary to live to a ripe old age, but the spell that binds him to Sally is never really mentioned again. And it’s constantly implied to be romantic because of how sweet and tragic it is!

 

I have some issues with Practical Magic’s overall execution, but that is a review for another time.

In Ancient Athens, stories about infatuation and Aphrodite were regarded as a kind of madness, and the love was basically an object to be acted upon by the “lover.” Gods and other mythical beings mostly got involved with “love” to be dicks and mess with people

 

or because they were arrogant enough to think that they knew better than the people themselves (see A Midsummer Night’s Dream). And yet today, we still see a lot of love potion stories in which we are meant to sympathize with the instigator, for kids no less! (see Breadwinners “Love Loaf” episode and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for just three random but recent examples)

The “safest” method of execution is to have one or more characters try to bring two other characters together, because he/she/they think they should be.

 

Personally, I prefer Garnet’s approach to love in Steven Universe:

 

The gist:

“Love at first sight doesn’t exist. Love takes time and love takes work. At the very least you have to know the other person…”           

I think that’s a much healthier attitude to teach kids, and I wish it would catch on more in the adult world as well. The idea that love always has to be dramatic or turbulent, but “don’t worry because it’s all worth it in the end” frustrates me, but still more is the idea that wanting to control someone else to such a ludicrous extent isn’t abusive, sociopathic, or just straight up objectification. You don’t have to know the person; you just have to want them badly enough, and thus they deserve to be yours, especially if you’re the protagonist. And if you have a way to make it happen, you’ll do so with no second thoughts.

At least having those would be better than just thoughtlessly making it happen in two seconds.

 

Even the most mindless entertainment can actually change the way we view the world, if its messages are constantly reinforced and we don’t get any variation. Somebody has to challenge the current notions if they are ever going to change, and I know it’s difficult. It’s hard to be different, and it’s hard to discern between what you may be overthinking and what’s actually a problem.

Believe me, I know, but ultimately, thinking about it and demanding more from your entertainment can make things better.

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The Worst Romantic Movie I Have Ever Seen

Happy Early Valentines Day! And say what you want about Hollywood schlock, at least there is usually chemistry involved.

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For a movie that claims to be about true, real love, Old Fashioned has not an ounce of love to be found. A woman named Amber moves into town to get away from an abusive past relationship, only to take up residence above an old antique shop called Old Fashioned. The owner and landlord, Clay, is a former frat boy-turned born again Christian, and he insists that he can’t be in the same room with any woman who is not his wife. So whenever he comes up to fix things, he makes Amber wait outside. Sounds charming, right?

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Amber is for some reason charmed by his convictions, and proceeds to purposefully break things around her apartment just to get him to visit. Sounds healthy, right?

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At one point, she drills holes into her refrigerator. Any other landlord would throw her out on the street for this, but okay.

When they finally go on a “date,” Clay’s church gives them this wonderfully intrusive book questionnaire, and Clay insists on asking questions such as, “How many children do you want?” On the first date. 

And just so you know, other questions range from, “What are your pet peeves?” to, “What percentage of your annual income is appropriate to spend on a pet?” And, “Do you believe in the death penalty?” No, I am not kidding. Dates are apparently a bunch of malarkey that Clay is just too real for, because who wants to come to any of these questions naturally over the course of dating for months? That’s obvious crazy talk.

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But hey, at least it’s not that sinful Fifty Shades of Grey, right?

Clay has a friend who is a shock radio deejay, and this gent constantly says mean and horrible things about women. But later, Clay interrupts his other friend’s bachelor party – which he was invited to, for some reason – and self-righteously reprimands his friends and the stripper they hired for degrading women…

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You know, Clay, some people would argue that what you’re doing is just as bad; trying to be a knight in shining armor and treating women less like complex human beings and more like sacred mannequins that you can’t even bring yourself to touch, lest you sully them. You cost the stripper a paycheck and tips that night, which she might have really needed, and you didn’t even stop to consider that she might be perfectly happy and fulfilled in this line of work. You saw something you judged to be “wrong” and tried to correct it without any real compassion or critical thought.

But ignoring all of that, you didn’t think to stand up to your deejay friend and straighten him out at any point before this. How is this a step too far, assuming that the other guy’s fiancé is aware and is comfortable with it?

My point here is that high-and-mighty is a suit that looks poor on most people, but especially if you can argue that they are just as flawed as the folks they are criticizing. Just food for thought.

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Clay constantly asserts that dating is stupid and superficial, but he seems to be conflating dating with one-night stands. There is quite a difference between those two things, but I guess Clay knows better than me because he “used to be” a part of that culture. It’s kind of unclear whether or not that means that he’d prefer arranged marriages instead, but even if I believed that he was ever really that wild and crazy, Clay’s pendulum has now swung so far in the opposite direction that I’m not convinced that his new way is all that healthy either.

Meanwhile, Amber seems nice enough. She’s described as “quirky,” but it’s in a really forced and awkward way that comes across more like hardcore Christians trying to make a relatable 20-something with no prior knowledge. But of course, anyone looks better standing next to Clay, the future axe murderer.

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I have no idea what Amber sees in Clay physically, mentally, emotionally, or what-have-you; it’s like watching Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker all over again, but without the occasional welcomed reprieve of epic space battles and CG aliens. Even before the hilariously offensive dating guidebook is introduced, Clay already comes across as controlling and arrogant, but afterwards, not only does he have to control almost every aspect of the relationship, but he can’t even be bothered to kiss or compliment her. I’m not saying she should force him to, but at the same time, nothing else about this relationship makes sense to me.

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In my mind, “love” is wanting to be with someone; to be happy with them, and make them happy. Even if he didn’t want to do things for Amber’s benefit, does Clay feel nothing when he’s around her? Does he never feel compelled to say, “You’re so beautiful,” or even just something like, “I love you laugh/smile/jokes/etc.”?

Sex doesn’t even need to enter into it. One or both of them could be asexual, or just really, really wholesome, and still you could convince me of why they enjoy each other’s company!

Instead, they are together because the writers say so, plain and simple. They want these two to be together, and so they are. Huzzah…

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What is even funnier is that Amber makes some new friends in town, and all throughout the movie, they are mocking Clay and telling her she could do so much better than him. I can’t disagree, especially when one of his good friends is such a misogynistic buttmunch, and he won’t stand up to this guy except when he wants to. It’s like the movie is lambasting itself; like it knows exactly what the problem is, but refuses to fix it.

I can’t defend this thing on any level. It’s unintentionally funny at times, but it’s also kind of psychotic and disturbing too. When Hollywood gives you film after film of crazy, unhealthy romcoms, at least there are different flavors to them. At least there is usually some passion, or half-way decent writing. People can choose to wonder how much of that relationship is implied to be a) normal, and b) what you should strive for.

With Christian film companies like Pure Flix, you know exactly what they are telling you at all times. It basically translates out to, “Shame shame shame! Gawd gawd gawd!” “You should be ashamed, disgusted, and afraid of where society is going, and where you’re going. Here’s a hint: it rhymes with ‘knell.’”

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It’s so much more condescending and obnoxious. As someone who still identifies as religious, I even dare to call it ‘preachy.’ 

 

*1/10 

The images in this article do not belong to me, but are being used to critique.