You Give Love a Bad Name
Why ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ should be put to rest
Chick flicks are cursed. One cannot openly admit they enjoy these two-hour tidbits of romance for fear of endless ridicule by the opposite gender. As Mindy Kaling writes in her recent book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), “…the genre has been so degraded in the past twenty years that saying you like romantic comedies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity.” Yet bad-mouthing one of the supposed “classics” feels like betrayal of some unspoken female code.
However, Sleepless in Seattle, one of the genre’s stereotypical staples, provides the naysayers with enough fuel for their disdainful fire in a way that, well, makes women seem rather…naïve.
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks make the ideal romantic comedy couple. I love You’ve Got Mail, in all its “well ain’t that a coinkydink!” glory, to the point where I can sing along with the soundtrack and recite their lines before they do. But Sleepless in Seattle robs the genre of its romance, replaces love with obsessive stalking, and makes men into the sentimental fools we know they aren’t. Hundreds of women from all over the country write letters to the radio station in hopes that Sam (Hanks) will find them alluring enough to drag him out of his dead wife depression, and no one finds this even slightly demeaning to women? Not exactly the kind of movie you want to get behind, ladies, but I digress…
Annie (Meg Ryan) tosses her current life aside for some man she hears on the radio. THE RADIO! Sure, her fiancé, Walter (Bill Pullman), is no prize, but her drastic actions are illogical. Most women in her situation, who find themselves unhappy with their current relationship, would take some time to explore this fear of commitment, yet she escapes by pursuing the dream man she’s never even met—the one who lives on the opposite side of the country. A man who, by the way, is still in love with his dead wife.
For some reason, hundreds of (sad, pathetic, lonely) women find this grieving widower appealing simply by the love story he tells. The memories he shares cause woman after woman to fall at his feet, begging to play second fiddle to a woman they can never, ever be. Somehow, they believe they can fix his broken heart, as the majority of women are mysteriously attracted to the type of man that needs to be repaired or changed. He will never love anyone with his whole heart quite that way again, but they are so desperate that they are willing to settle for someone who once felt strongly for a woman he cannot replace.
I would almost consider him ruined for all future relationships if his love for his deceased wife were realistic in the first place. Real-life men are much more resilient. They do not seem capable of loving this strongly or deeply. I have yet to encounter a man that would fall to pieces if he were to lose his love. Women imagine that their significant other would mourn their loss, that their life would be turned upside down—a ridiculous expectation. Our boyfriends/lovers/husbands may miss us when we’re gone, but not to the point where they feel deprived of air, or like they cannot continue on with life. Movies such as Sleepless in Seattle make women believe this heart wrenching, earth-shattering kind of love truly exists.
Instead, I imagine their meeting at the top of the Empire State Building to be a beautiful, foreshadowing metaphor: Everything begins at the top. The whimsical view makes them feel as if anything is possible. Then they enter the elevator, and in moments, everything goes south. They realize the ground under their feet is not steady, that they are trying to build upon something that neither can pinpoint, and once they reach the bottom, there’s nothing left to do but walk away. Or, in our case, hope something better comes on next.