Today I read “How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person“. In it the author expresses how he had married the “wrong” person, debunks relationships “myths”, and explains what marriage is “really about”. I do not disagree with all of his points, but what has always bothered me about these Christian marriage advice columns is how lacking they can be. They often feel vapid, saying things that most people know. They are also constantly regurgitating Christian key words without really unpacking the message.
The author did offer some helpful advice, but he does so shallowly, contributing to a dialogue that has evolved. For example, the ideas of fairy tales are already being challenged, look at the reactions to Disney’s revamping of Merida. Disney used to be the capital of, and would capital on, fairy tales. It even has a castle, and it’s female characters are either all “princesses”, or witches and step-mothers (save Brave). What the author is missing is that our “fairy tales” has changed. Books like “Twilight”, “Safe Haven” (and other Nicholas Spark’s books-turned-into-movies), and “Hunger Games” are capturing our imagination with imperfect individuals. Even animations like Brave (although not very radically), which featured a princess, is trying to resist fairy tale motifs. They are trying to be more feminist, more aware of the changing attitudes, and be more accessible to a variety of audience members
This is an important detail because that means the dialogue is shifting. But what is it now trying to say?
The author writes:
“there has been a myth floating around our idealistic individualistic society. A myth that claims that marriage will only work when you find your ‘smoking-hot, high-class, filthy rich, love-at-first-sight, sexually compatible, accept-me-as-I-am, Titanic-Notebook-Sweet-Home-Alabama-Twilight-esque, soul mate’.”
Our society is far from idealistic, it’s hard to be. Technology has a funny way of reminding us of the horrors that is constantly happening all around us. I actually found out about the Boston Bombing through Twitter. Amanda Palmer’s fans were tweeting if she was alright, which prompted me to try to find out what was going on. Ironically, later on people will be tweeting for her to be bombed.
Which is why I find our fascination with horror-romances like Twilight and Warm Bodies disturbing. We seem to ignore the flippant treatment of violence in romantic relationships, and forget that the leading men were trying to kill our heroines to begin with. The difference with traditional gothic tales like Dracula, Carmilla, and Frankenstein is that people ran away from the monsters. No one was trying to date or marry them because they were monsters. Clearly, the symbols for the monsters are changing. Amongst many things, they are no longer men/women you should avoid, but misunderstood men/women that are clearly good. They follow the “Beauty and the Beast” motif. But instead of recognizing that Prince Charming is now Beast, the author is still fixated on the past images of all men being Princes.
Admittedly, I was very willing to forget that R had earlier on been eating the heroine’s ex-boyfriend’s brains. But that’s what makes them truly scary: these monsters are able to seduce us with their sparkly (pun intended) personality and appearances. It’s like Lucifer who can be the angel of light, the most beautiful of all the angels, but also the demon who stalks us like a hungry lion. What worries me isn’t that people will want a super pale, 6-packed boyfriend who likes reading and can play the piano very well, but that people will mistake Edward’s behavior with what’s acceptable in a relationship. By arguing that no men are perfect, the author is giving the Beast leeway because the author is missing that the Princes are now Beasts. What we should really be problematizing is that “Beauty and the Beast” is constantly being slipped into contemporary themes like a roofie, and we’re now all waking up from bad relationships and asking, “What happened?!”