Titles Are Different, but the Fantasies Remain the Same
George Morgan pointed out similarities in “Dave” and “King Ralph” (“Two More Films, a Lot More Coincidences,” Calendar, Jan. 3) in response to Marshall Fine’s article “Two Movie Families, 10 Coincidences,” comparing “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Addams Family Values.”
Common ideas repeatedly play out in films. Consider the similar themes of the successful films “Shirley Valentine,” “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Pretty Woman” and “The Piano”:
* The plot focuses on the romance of a dissatisfied woman whose life has been narrowly confined.
* The heroine escapes her predictable life through unlikely adventures.
* The heroine finds meaning in life by sexual involvement with a handsome stranger. That relationship would collapse without sex.
* Romance with a handsome man other than a spouse enables the heroine to cope with life’s problems and find happiness.
* The heroine makes herself sexually available to her boyfriend and does not demand marriage in return.
* The heroine does not get pregnant. The heroine does not worry about getting pregnant.
* The middle class is narrow and unlikable because it falls outside the subculture the heroine finds herself in. (“Pretty Woman” adds the wealthy class to this category.) “Shirley Valentine” has the heroine escaping middle-class suburbia for a Greek coastal village. “Desperately Seeking Susan’s” heroine escapes middle-class life for the environs of new wave/punk. “Pretty Woman’s” heroine lives in the underclass of prostitutes. “The Piano’s” heroine dwells among New Zealand aborigines.
* The members of the subculture are morally superior to those outside who conform to societal conventions. Those outside the subculture are portrayed as boorish, judgmental and repressed.
* The heroine’s family does not help the heroine’s emotional or psychological growth.
* Personal desires take precedence over moral questions. Moral issues do not transcend what individuals want for themselves. One achieves meaning in life only with an exciting sexual relationship.
* Despite their great magnitude, relationship problems are resolved happily, fulfilling the heroine’s fantasy.