I think it’s very easy for a blog to become all about the writer and make the person come off as more than a little bit selfish. And I can see why; for somebody who’s not used to writing for themselves, not being set a particular topic to write about is almost too much freedom, and the first reaction they’ll have is similar to the reaction most first years at university have to their new-found independence – waste time, space, and resources on selfish endeavours.
So, I’ll try not to write about myself explicitly (unless it’s relevant in the wider scheme of things), just to reduce the hefty number of times the words ‘I’ and ‘me’ appear on the page. That’s not to say my opinion won’t feature in my writing, because that’s what blogs are – inflated, wordy, versions of what goes on in people’s heads – but I don’t want to go back to the good old days where my blog mainly consisted of lots of bitching. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my manifesto.
But on to the topic at hand: I came across a very, very interesting man today. Actually, I’d come across him before, but this particularly interesting aspect to him hadn’t made itself known to me until I decided to Google him.
The person I am speaking of is André Gorz, social theorist and journalist. His real name was Gerhart Horst, and he was born in Austria, though throughout his life he migrated all over Europe. All of his famous academic works were published under the name André Gorz. His Wikipedia page is filed in under this pen name, which means he will probably only be remembered by this name in the future (Wikipedia is mighty powerful, come to think of it). I’d come across him in some of my sociology lectures before, and he seemed like a pretty cool guy – well-respected, was influenced by Marxism, etc etc. I Googled him to today to look up anything else he’d written that might help me with my revision.
That’s when Google’s ‘Images for André Gorz’ panel showed up, and three absolutely beautiful pictures grabbed my attention like nothing else. Here they are:
The photos said so much more about this man than The Critique of Economic Reason, one of his most famous works, did, such that I was immediately compelled to look up his Wikipedia page for more on what looked like a very intriguing story. The fact that this woman appeared in so many of the image results that came up under his name suggested that his public personality was seen to be based around this mysterious woman.
The internet revealed to me that this woman was Dorine/Doreen, the love of Gorz/Horst’s life – so much so that the two couldn’t bear to outlast the other in life, and when Dorine was on her deathbed with a terminal illness (caused by the agent lipiodol), Gorz took his own life too. Gorz wrote a beautiful book for her in Doreen’s last days, called Lettre à D. Histoire d’un amour (Letter to D: A History of Love in English), which became a bestseller following their suicide.
It’s so jarringly dissonant to try to imagine this extremely intelligent man being so completely and tenderheartedly romantic, so dedicated to another person in his life that he believed there was no life without her. My head just can’t wrap itself around the fact that the one and same man is capable of writing in such vastly differing vernacular: the objective, cold and incisive writings of an academic, and the passionate, heart-wrenching last song of a man in love with a dying woman. I’d love to get my hands on the English translation of that book (and it’s less than £4 on Amazon, I might yet), because I’m wildly curious to see the inner workings of his mind – by all accounts, the book is an amazing read.
The thing that makes this whole incident so interesting is that this representation of love is just so much purer than anything I’ve ever seen, and it’s real. It existed, and will continue to exist in Letter to D. Hollywood – okay, maybe just attributing it to Hollywood is a bit harsh, so I should really include the mass media as a whole – has so successfully sold the Romantic Dream to us, especially women, that sometimes girls have a wholly unrealistic expectation of what real relationships are like. It’s a commonly accepted notion that teenage girls (usually from the Twilight fandom) who hurl themselves into a romantic relationship are inevitably led to a quick disillusionment. You hear adults middle-aged adults talk about it all the time: those teens, they get gobsmacked by the cold hand of reality.
On the flipside, it also leaves lots of girls painfully aware of how impossible the Romantic Dream is, and some settle for somebody who might not be right for them, because it’s better than being alone. It perpetuates very little hope for happiness by always showing you a happiness you can never have (which is how advertising works, I guess). Real stories like that penned in Letter to D show us that these miracles can happen, that it is possible, albeit not easy to attain and very much dependent on chance.
Perhaps the problem isn’t as simple as all that, though. Yes, the Romantic Dream is ridiculous, but that’s because it has to be constructed with a beginning, a middle, and an end – all stories have to be structured this way for it to be possible to communicate to others, after all. The Romantic Dream is based on a formula that producers and audiences have tangled themselves up into via a poorly communicated system of trial and error. Producers take their cue from successful films, and the naive, inexperienced part of the audience take from these films what they think to be love, which affects the kinds of movies that do well, and so on, and so forth. It’s a botched cycle.
That’s my theory anyway – but more than that, I don’t think the validity of the Romantic Dream is so set in black and white. I think there are aspects of the wonderful narratives we see on-screen that do exist in real-life relationships, but they don’t happen as often as a film might portray them to be, because a film selectively chooses which moments to show.
I think what’s most important to realise is that real-life relationships are even better than what the movies tell us.
I know I said I would try hard not to talk about myself, and breaking that rule in the first entry of this blog seems to set a terrible precedent, but I think this is something worth sharing. Until about half a year ago, I’d never been in love, whereas now, I am. It’s been a funny year, and I feel like my boyfriend and I have been through a lot together already; I can’t imagine myself ever being with anybody else.
But that’s beside the point. My point is, one day I revisited the soundtrack of Edges: A Song Cycle by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (I’m a huge musical theatre fan) and the meaning and the force of those lyrics hit me, bang-on, with the force of three elephants and a container truck. For the first time in my life, I could really feel the gravity of what they were saying, I’d been through a few ups and downs by then, I’d felt some of the pain, I understood it all.
What I’m trying to say that the above anecdote is this: we probably shouldn’t dismiss all media products as ridiculous, nor their makers as evil conspirators, trying to sell us on a very convoluted vision of romantic love as powerful as the American Dream. Maybe films, plays, literature, and other fictional works do reflect a lot of our emotional reality.