I was over on James Duckett’s blog this morning reading about a discussion he had with a fellow writer and decided to comment. A blog post later I realized I’d written a blog post. I’m reposting this here, because…well, I put in a lot of work, doggone it!
Anyway, James begins thusly:
While at LTUE today, Wendy Knight had asked this interesting question:
I’m in this panel right now, and they’re saying that men want romance just as much as women, but they show that in different ways. I don’t think I agree…or else wouldn’t boys read romance novels? Thoughts? Opinions?
I replied something akin to, “It’s true, we like it. We don’t read romance novels because they aren’t written for guys, they are written for girls. Since we are wired differently, we need it presented differently.”
She seemed… somewhat convinced, but it got me thinking about it. Yes, I do like romances. Some of my most favorite movies are “Dan In Real Life” and “The Wedding Singer.” All of these have the basic romantic formula (boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy loses girl, and they get together). So why does this work and not a Harlequin Romance or something like “Steel Magnolias”?
He goes on to examine several movies he feels are good examples of “romance for guys.” At that point I noted some excellent examples on his list, and some omissions. So I added my two-thousand cents:
Yes, guys want romance. At least some guys. Not all women want romance either, at least not the Harlequin Romance variety. Guys just need to connect with it our way. We want it in ways where the men can still be manly. Roman Holiday, Philadelphia Story, African Queen, Casablanca, Adam’s Rib….these are all romances, and they totally rock! Or, to get more modern, your list here does nicely.
I’ve not seen all of them, but Dan in Real Life is SO spot on! I felt Dan’s anguish every step of the way. What guy can’t relate to finding the perfect woman only to find out she “belongs” to someone else who doesn’t appreciate or deserve her? Rick Springfield wrote “Jessie’s Girl” for us, girls, not you! But Dan is damaged goods, and he needs to fix himself–not for her, but for himself–before he can be happy.
You’ve Got Mail is one I would add to the list. Besides being the story of my wife’s and my romance, it fits. Tom Hanks’ character, despite being different from his dad and grandfather, is still more like them than he realizes, and therefore has trouble finding the “right” relationship. He has relationships not for deep connections, but for convenience and, I believe, appearances. He has a girlfriend, but he’s about the only one who can’t see she’s wrong for him (Parker Posey plays her mercilessly unsympathetic). He hangs around with a jaded, snarky crowd, and has learned to act that way, but inside he’s much better than that.
And he’s in an email-only relationship with a woman he’s never met. She connects with that guy inside who he would rather be, but can’t. If he could ever meet her you just know she would set him free. We just know it! So it’s not coincidence that he’s the first to find out who “she” is–and she’s the enemy, the book shop owner who his latest mega-store is driving out of business, and she’s publicly raking him over the coals! And she’s in a relationship, too (also a real head-scratcher, but at least Greg Kinnear’s character is charming, if clueless.).
Hanks’ Joe Fox has to change, too, but again it’s not for her. He already suspects, because of their email connection, if he could learn to let the real him be seen she would love him. But he has to first learn that it’s okay to let someone into his life–his real life–and to be in love for love, not convenience. And he also has to convince Meg Ryan that he really can be that guy she’s in love with via email, not the horrible public personae she believes him to be.
It’s also a fascinating study in denouement. Once they finally come together in real life the movie ends RIGHT THERE. In a way I’d love to see them together more,but for a movie it’s actually perfect. We already know they’re perfect together–we’ve seen it in every email exchange, and during Joe’s “tweaking” experiment. In this regard Nora Ephron gets it right in a way she didn’t in Sleepless in Seattle. We SUSPECT they are right for each other in that one, but we’re not really given a chance to see it. We know they’re not right for anyone else in the movie, but other than the whole “destiny” thing, how can we really be sure?
As an aside, While You Were Sleeping is another good one. Yes, it’s about Sandra Bullock’s character, but Bill Pullman’s character is such a great, relatable, good-guy I found myself cheering for him to get her as much the women viewers were cheering for her to wake up and fall in love with him.
So yes, there are guys who like romance. We just want it differently. The Harlequin Romance formula doesn’t work for us, and we don’t care much for the whole “bad-boy-changes-for-good-girl” thing, but we can still “get” romance.