My teen daughter asked this perfectly legitimate question in the middle of house cleaning, interrupting one of my typical soliloquies on the problems of modern storytelling. (If you think the PulpRev-o-Sphere is bad, trying living with one of us. This isn’t an act, it is a part of our DNA.) In this case, her father was in the process of lamenting that after four hours of screen time, the best Starlord has been able to wrest from Gamorrah is a pinky-grip and a head on the shoulder. And that even after some stellar (heh) dread game with the Evil Space Angel Queen to start Volume 2.
As a gal in her mid-teens, she her mind has been programmed to think of the books with shaven chested men on the cover in the dry goods aisle of the local grocery store. Or perhaps some sort of anime sub-sub-genre I’m too old to have heard of let alone understand. We are going to have to watch a few John Wayne movies to help her understand how universal the concept of romance can be, when done right.
Until then, it was left to me to explain that no man can ask for a greater reward than the love of a good woman. Compared to that, all the riches in the universe are but a pale shadow. Thankfully, the old films linger in our home, so she has a few points of reference. In the penultimate shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy walks off screen arm-in-arm with the pretty young brunette. Think how much less satisfying that ending would be if Marion play-punched Indy in the shoulder. I pointed out there isn’t a man alive that thinks the ending of The Princess Bride would be improved without that last kiss – even ten year old Fred Savage understands the power of a kiss sealing a better future for the hero. My daughter loves the film “Secondhand Lions”, and the epic subplot of Uncle Hub’s one true love provides a glimpse of the possibilities.
So yes, I explained. Men do love romance, but the open expression of a committed love and the promise of a woman’s love as reward for heroic striving against all odds. Not the drama heavy romance of prime-time television or the relationship drama of daytime soap operas or the pointless hoop-jumping of A Knight’s Tale. (Prove you deserve me by becoming the biggest loser in the realm? Really?)
Then it was time to turn the tables on her. Did she want a man to struggle and rage against the world in an effort to reach her? Did she want to be seen as a prize worth fighting for? Or did she want men to think of her as “one of the guys”, just another pal to hang around with who can take care of her own problems without him?
It really gave her something to think about. She disappeared into her room, I assumed to spend some time in deep thought considering this new way of looking at movies.
Of course, it was only the next day that I realized the change in direction of the conversation was a clever ruse on her part to distract me long enough to allow her to escape from the house cleaning. She escaped my clutches by getting me to monologue. I’ll get you next time, daughter mine!