27 Dresses and The Great Story

   My wife and I watched “27 Dresses” the other night. As usual, several times during the movie I was moved to tears. Afterwards, my wife asked me what I liked so much about this movie in particular, and this genre of movies – romantic comedies – even more in particular.

   I had to think about it. I’ve seen a lot of RCs over the years, from “Pretty Woman” to “Working Girl” to “Must Love Dogs” to “Music and Lyrics.” In fact, if there’s one out there that I haven’t seen, sometimes many times, it’s probably because everyone on earth told me it was a dud. If only one person out of a thousand, said, “Yeah, I liked it,” I’m there.

   So how to answer my wife? She suggested, “Is it the pretty girls with big you know whats – is that it? Them wiggling around and hanging out all over?”

   I laughed. “Not really. I have you for all those things.”

   That made her smile. But then I said, “You know, I think it has something to do with seeing a girl triumph in the end, get the man, win, succeed, all that.  I think women have been so beaten down by the world that it’s good to see one of them win, at least on the screen.” 

   She scoffed. “But you know nothing about real women, how we think, how we feel inside. Why is it that you love watching these women so much in contrast to reality?”
   Was I that much of a dolt? Sheesh, I’m only a guy.

   Yet, it was a good question and I said, after much thought, “I think it’s kind of that on the screen you have a simple structure. Men can ‘get’ the woman in a way that doesn’t happen in real life. You know probably within the first few minutes of the film what she really wants, what she’s going after, what she’s all about. There’s no guessing. There’s no looking at her face and trying to figure out if she’s angry, or frustrated, or totally in love, or what. You know by the way the movie unfolds everything she’s thinking and feeling. And I think some men like that. Like me. For once, we feel like we understand and even know this person. In contrast to most of our encounters with women in real life.” 

   She had to think about that. But I had more. “I think there’s a bigger explanation, though.” 

   She gave me those deep, green, mysterious eyes for a second. “Hit me with it.” 

   “Well, I think human history is the Great Story of all great stories. God is writing this incredible story with twists, turns, knock-downs, horrible sins, and so on. But God has shown us in the Bible that there’s a happy ending. That the good guys – and girls – win in the end. That evil does not triumph. See, when directors try to do movies that are ambiguous, or where evil wins in the end, or where no one wins, they usually fail. We as people intrinsically want to see good triumph. We want to see the good people win. We like getting there, too. Seeing them down at the bottom with nowhere to look but up. We like to see them pounded down a little. But in the end, we want a win.” 

   She nodded and sank down on the bed. “I guess it makes some sense.” 

   “Of course it does. I always make ‘some’ sense. It’s the archetypical story. It’s why so many stories are like that. Person has a problem. The problem gets worse. He or she can’t solve it on their own. People reach out to them. They join forces. At some point, it looks so bleak, you think there’s no way. Then they pull the rabbit out of the hat, and everything is perfect. For the last few seconds of the story, anyway.” 

   She laughed. “So what you want is simple women you can understand, and a happily ever after ending, and you’re happy?” 

   “Yeah, and usually crying too.” 

   “Well, it’s a pretty standard Hollywood formula. Books, novels, too, as you said. The archetype. I guess God has built that desire, conviction, whatever you want to call it, into us. And we react to anything not like that with rejection and sometimes even anger. I get that. I think really almost everything relies on that principle at some point. Except people like Oliver Stone and the weirdo movie directors and writers who insist on telling us the world is a horrible place, there’s no good, and we all lose in the end.” 

   “Right.”  

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