07 July 2011

On the theory of Hollywood

I had some thoughts watching the Hangover. (yes, sadly, I had "thoughts" while watching a thoughtless film).
1) It's not particularly funny overall. There are funny bits to be fair, but it's mostly useless to me. I'm guessing this was a movie intended to be watched stoned or drunk to increase it's effect. When comedy is constructed in that vein, I'm not surprised it is popular, but I have a hard time grasping its "genius". Music or poetry written on heroin, opium, or weed is a lot more successful and imaginative than comedy seems to be as it can still be enjoyed without sharing in the author's altered mental state.
2) I have to wonder why so many movies involving weddings include the following troupes.
a) That marriage is, for the man, the end of his meaningful existence.
b) That a wedding is an event that requires such careful planning and yet must be populated with disasters.

Neither of these strike me as particularly realistic.

Here's the problems.

Firstly, most of the people I know who are married seem quite happy with it. To be sure I'm aware not all marriages are happy and that bitter separations are somehow rendered impossible. But for the most part, when people try to find partners that help satisfy them in complementary ways and who are generally compatible in things like worldviews and habits, we tend to have pretty happy marriages result. That is more difficult than it sounds certainly. But the idea that a marriage means a man's life is over seems a little overdrawn. Unless the man's life is populated with the idea that he should remain a kidult and also sleep with many anonymous women and frequent strip clubs or prostitutes. In which case, no he shouldn't get married. But I'd have a hard time thinking up a woman who would want to marry such a man in the first place (without some other signaling effect like fame or money involved). So the idea that a plot line centered on this even exists seems silly to me.

Secondly, as I noted again over the weekend, the cost of interactions for a man relating to women increases as he gets older and adopts more responsibilities. It's just not that easy for most people to expend energy and time and resources to looking for women over and over and over. Eventually this process gets tiresome or tedious and is replaced by looking for particular types of women, narrowed down further to finding a relationship of some sort which has the added benefit of not requiring looking for women (or rather, sex). There are costs associated with relationships too of course, but these have to be measured against the benefits and the costs of the alternatives. In a world where men are getting married at 20 or 22, it might be true that these costs are more balanced. In a world like we generally have in developed societies when men get married later, those costs are heavily in favor of relationships. Considering Hollywood rarely depicts the couple getting married while in graduate school or college or even while working at McDonald's, I don't get their theory.

Thirdly, I don't see why weddings would require such careful and elaborate planning. I gather that ceremonies and rituals are more important to most people than they are to me. But it would seem like if as much effort and planning went into making successful MARRIAGES as goes into the ceremonial duties involved with these relationships, and in particular as goes into the duties as depicted in movies and television, we'd be a little better off as a society. I already find symbolism to be extremely troubling politically (it leads to a ton of ineffective, even immoral, policies), so when I see it at the individual level I get nervous. Maybe I'm missing something in the symbolism, but I do at least recognize there is an underlying set of work and effort required that escapes some people. Obviously such things are not easy to depict on film, but giving preference to symbols and idols over reality is not something I should think most people deign to do. Perhaps I'm wrong. As a side point, anything involving the complex moving parts of many human beings with their own demands on the event is liable to be a very disaster prone enterprise if "careful and exquisite planning" is involved. It's more or less the same reason why centralised economies and regulatory schemes fail because the "price signals" are different and even skewed and the planners do not actually know what they are, no matter how elegant their mechanisms are. Paying real money for such planning strikes me as a scam as a result.

Fourthly, the actual change and shift in life for men occurs when children arrive in a relationship. This is also true for women. Marriage isn't fundamentally all that different from a common two person relationship other than the public recognition of the relationship and a ceremony. The work involved is the same at least. Raising a child however a) doesn't have many symbols that can be easily presented instead of itself, so fortunately we have fewer illusions but a whole lot more mystery, b) is a three (or more) person relationship which heavily alters the dynamics of the pre-existing two person relationship, sometimes drastically or harmfully, c) is as a result much more work than a two person relationship and takes time and effort away from other non-children centered relationships outside of the parties involved (ie, a social life with mere friends as opposed to families). It might be better if more parents took a more loose approach to parenting, and realized that their children are other people in a relationship rather than pure extensions of themselves that can and must be molded in a particular way. But this still would require quite a lot of work and dynamic shifts in underlying relationships.

It is this shift that matters. And not the ring fingers.
Post a Comment