Sunday, May 23, 2010

At the Movies: The Kiss and Other Romances

Like in your world, people in my world enjoy watching movies as well, whether they be big-budget action films, tense crime and spy thrillers, science fiction extravaganzas, or sweeping historical epics. The most noticeable difference between these genres of movies in my world and in yours, of course, is that the main protagonists here are always women; any male characters in movies of this sort are usually cast as sexual objects, to be used casually and then easily discarded with little afterthought, or sometimes as men-in-distress to be rescued and then subsequently ravished by the dashing heroine. Of course, this merely reflects reality here: male action heroes simply do not make sense in my world—where even the strongest male is so much weaker than any female—while the only significant roles played by men in history deemed worthy of record was that of desired chattel as pretext for war, or of defiled chattel as impetus for vengeance.

Within the last few decades in the West however, with parts of the male population gaining some modicum of spending power and access to literacy, a rapidly-growing industry has burgeoned, cheaply mass-producing works of fiction geared to a male readership. One sizable sub-genre of these books of dubious quality, of course, focuses on hopelessly romanticized ideas of love, something heretofore unexplored in classical literature and mainstream film, targeted as they are to a female-dominated audience.

As the pulp book market grew, the B-grade film industry quickly joined in. Dozens of film romances and romantic comedies are made each year, most also of dubious quality, many for daytime television. Many major movie stars cut their teeth in such productions, building a loyal male audience before breaking out into the mainstream. There are also actresses that specialize in such movies and roles, although they are often ridiculed by other women and film aficionadas. The male actors of course, as I have described before, have careers that seldom last longer than a few years, their names and identities lost to anonymity as quickly as the turnaround to the next movie season.

Such romantic movies feature the same plot skeleton with minor variations, drawn of course from the tried-and-true successful formula originally discovered by the genre fiction market. Boy meets girl, boy falls hopelessly for girl, girl has her way with boy. Boy is subsequently spurned, boy goes through inconsolable period of angst and tears declaring unconditional and undying love for girl. Boy eventually meets girl again, there is some contrivance, girl realizes what she's been missing, girl falls madly in love with boy and dispatches forthwith all his other rivals for her attentions, roll credits. Three easy acts in ninety minutes or less.

Most men admit that such movies and their paperback cousins are pure escapist fantasy, yet most men also cannot help but be drawn to such stories, as they pull irresistibly at our most primal urges, to be loved in return by that woman we adore. While some of us see the harm when films and books such as these create unrealistic expectations and role models, many of us also can recognize them for what they are. And besides, what are action thrillers, spy thrillers, and science-fiction adventures if not escapist fantasy of another sort and for another audience?

Like any genre, romantic fiction and film has also evolved beyond its original confines as it has grown and matured in its short history. Several authors, some of them men even, have explored deeper and darker themes in love and human relationships in my world, and so have several notable genre films. The poster above is of one such film, based upon a similarly deep novel, an honest and unflinching meditation on the tricks that fickle fate wreak upon our small lives, on faith and faithfulness between a woman and a man, on the meaning of mortality and loss when women live significantly longer and age much slower than men, and of course, on what love could mean in such a world.


  1. Wonderful. I'm personally more fond of these gentler scenes from your world, but I also love the way you show a variety of scenarios, going from a woman dominating a man to an image of the sexes face to face. That, and your commentary, really help to depict a complex, realistic realm.

  2. I've always loved your work. But i have been wondering where do you find your source material

  3. Hi guys, thank you.

    I get a lot of source material from celebrity/fashion forums. I've also built up a decent-sized collection of body parts such as hands, legs, feet etc. This one was based on the original movie poster for The Notebook, with extra parts for the boy's shirt bottom and legs and his forearm and hand. Another thing is that this is a pretty old collage for me, I posted it originally on GDC with slightly different positions (the boy is being held up more and he's leaning further) and a new hand. Undersquid posted the older version before on her blog.

    I always hated that hand, so that was one thing I wanted to fix before reposting it.