Friday, April 9, 2010

Sandboxes and Romance Arcs

I've made it to Flinders Island, and am happily playing in the sandbox and re-discovering my inner child (as you can see from the attached photo).

Now what has been puzzling me has nothing to do with fishing for wrasse at Trousers Point (caught my first fish but had to throw it back - dang!) or struggling in and out of Dave's spare wetsuit - but romance arcs. I can't say I am all that into romance books per se, but I am a fan of romantic comedy movies. Something about them has niggled away at me and I thought it was time to throw this one out to all the romance experts out there.

OK. Here it goes. The movie starts out with the two romantic leads unknowing, or perhaps at odds with each other. Perhaps they are also separated by some sort of hurdle to the culmination of their ultimate romance - status, other commitments (i.e. already getting married) etc. Gradually as the movie progresses, they come closer together then 'find' each other. Things are great, then along comes something to separate them again - it might be the same thing mentioned above, or perhaps something different - this is the 'losing' phase. Gradually they work their way back together again and 'find' each other again, despite the odds and by bridging the gap of what has separated them up to that point.

Right. Straightforward so far. All the romance writers are asleep. What gets me is that in the typical romantic comedy, the ultimate point at which the two realise they are destined to be together, one of them (usually the woman) has to bare their soul in front of a huge audience. There is this in built end part of the whole arc where the final declaration and expression of feeling has to be public - i.e. the woman is at the isle about to be married, then along comes the romantic interest 'I object!' and in front of the shocked (but strangely accepting) former fiance and the whole church (who presumably got all dressed up for nothing), the erstwhile bride declares her feelings.

Now this last public expression and declaration. Is this a traditional part of the romantic story arc? Or was this added by Hollywood? Perhaps more importantly - does this serve a function in the romantic story arc, or is it just a cliche'?

OK you romance experts out there (I can see you there Rowena - and Sarah:)) What is going on?

16 comments:

Dave Freer said...

One might suspect the sudden interest this arena might have something to do with too tight a wetsuit and too cold a water

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

What a serious baby, Chris.

The thing with a romance is that there has to be a dark moment, when it looks like they will not end up with each other. Oterwise the pay off isn't rewarding.

This corresponds to the resurrection in the Hero's Journey when the protagonist is tested and reborn.

RJ_CruzeJr said...

One subversion of this meme comes from an episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer is carrying Marge out of the nuclear power plant where he works, proclaiming to everyone in earshot, "I'm going to the back-seat of my car with the woman I love. And I won't be back for ten minutes!" Then everyone cheers.

Ori Pomerantz said...

I think that a romance arc has to end with a commitment to the relationship. In a movie, that commitment has to be visibly dramatic because it is a visual medium. Declaring it in front of everybody is a way to do that.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I think that's usually a movie thing. In books that moment is private.

HOWEVER I laughed when I read your description because this happens in Darkship Thieves. Not the wedding, but the public declaration. NOT intentionally. And to the eternal embarrassment of both principals.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Dave. I'm not sure what was worse getting into the wetsuit - or out of it!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. I think I have always understood that. But what about this public 'announcement' or outing of the feelings in front of the huge crowd that always appears in the resolution of romantic comedy films? What part does this play?

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, RJ. A nice declaration of love in a public arena. The Simpsons are so innovative! I don't think I have seen a carpark declaration in anything else. And what a hero Homer is - a whole ten minutes!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Ori. Nice point. It is dramatic. For me I am usually squirming in my seat - I find these public announcements in front of a whole church of wedding-goers extremely embarrassing!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Sarah. Nice to see your characters were embarrassed - I always find those moments at the end of the romantic comedy very embarrassing myself! Not that I am a male or anything uncomfortable with displays of emotion or anything like that - ahem.

Chris McMahon said...

Rowena - forgot to mention that baby actually was me. I am certainly intent on something.

Stephen Simmons said...

Chris, just say no to wetsuits. When you get into the water, you jump from the top of the food chain to somewhere down in the middle. I never get in the ocean without a nice submarine wrapped around me ...

I think Ori's right, the declaration is a product of the movie environment, because the movie audience has to see it. But it isn't always massively public and embarrassing. Think of the end of "When Harry Met Sally", for example. ("I love that it takes you five minutes to order lunch.") Or, going way back, the end of "Hello, Dolly!" handled it brilliantly without the huge public display. ("I don't want you to find me any perfect women. If I wanted a perfect woman I'd find her myself. And I have found her, and she's you, dammit.")

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Stephen. I went in to unhook a line yesterday. It wasn't until I got out of the water that Dave told me a manta ray was watching me from about a yard away the whole time. 'What - like the one that killed Steve Irwin?'
'Ahh. Yeah.'
Even reading those lines makes be embarrassed:) Out of context they are so cheezy.

Kate said...

I shall respectfully avoid this topic because anything I attempt to do involving romance twists. While I have occasionally managed to get characters together for something resembling a happily ever after, the other stuff is... um... not exactly the stuff of romance.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Kate. You must really cringe at those 'declaration'/public moments in the romcoms:)

Kate said...

Chris,

I usually don't LAST that long. If it's on TV, I'll walk away before the thing gets close to the big declaration thingy.