Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"You complete me.": a few thoughts on Lego Love (the treatment of individuals as building material rather than autonomous beings)

I wouldn't never choose to watch a sports movie. I just don't. Same as I normally would never choose to sit down and watch sports on tv. This isn't to say that I don't sometimes enjoy both. I remember loving The Natural and Rudy (though I couldn't now tell you anything about either except which sport each involved) and the Boise State/Oklahoma game at last year's Fiesta Bowl was one of the most exciting things I've ever seen. But still, most of the time I just don't get into them, so I stuck in my headphones and started playing spider solitaire when my bunkmate put in Jerry McGuire. If anything sounds more boring to me than a sports movie, it is a movie about a sports agent.

I remember when it came out and everyone was talking about it and how great it was and all these irritating lines from the movie were being quoted. It annoyed the hell out of me and while I never doubted that it was actually probably a good movie, I never really wanted to see it. Oddly enough, the one cheesy line which was quoted over and over again which didn't get on my nerves was, "You had me from 'hello'." Ok, I know that is one of the the sappiest lines in all movie history and easily the most obnoxious from a movie full of obnoxious sound bites. How do I like that one and still grump at all the rest? Well, I'm just like that. Kenny Chesney irritates the holy hell out of me, but I still like the song titled after and based on that line. (Honestly, I do like that song, and reflecting on that I kind of feel bad about some of the rougher opinions I've expressed about K-Che.)

Why am I writing about this now, since I've just declared that I chose headphones and spider solitaire to spare me from this movie? Because spider solitaire only lasts so long and I ended up watching bits of the movie, most importantly the last chunk. The movie is engaging enough and I probably would have just stored that in the back of my head and not really thought about it again except there is the moment which is supposed to be touching when Jerry McGuire comes running back to find his wife and win her back. He comes in to the house to find her in what appears to be a divorce support group and... I started to type 'declares his love for her' but that isn't what he does. He tells her how incomplete the victory was without her to share it with, how much he missed what he shared with her, and all this built up to his big line: "You complete me."

Which made me throw up just a little bit in my mouth. "You complete me," may be the most repellent line I have ever heard. Why? Because he didn't come back and declare his love for her at all, he came back and told her he wasn't letting her get rid of him and declared how much he had missed the role she performed in his life. He didn't say a damn thing about loving her or missing her; he listed out what was missing when someone, who seemingly just happened to be her, wasn't there to perform that role. He didn't miss her, he missed his Wife.

It really fucking got under my skin. I was actually kind of letting myself get into the emotion of the movie and was looking forward to their reconciliation and hearing her say, "You had me from hello." I still like that line, perhaps all the more for how it stands in such stark contrast to this "You complete me," bullshit. One speaks to a spark between two people, being instantly taken by this new person and completely swept away by them; the other speaks to ownership and the sublimation of one individual by another.

The scene was all the creepier given Tom Cruise's recent interactions with the media. He's seemed more and more calculated as time goes on, with his marriage coming across as calculated to look perfect. It may in fact be truly perfect and they may be happy as clams, but it sure as hell looked like he was getting married and having a child for the sake of achieving these appropriate milestones and filling out a fairytale life. Which is exactly what Jerry was doing in the movie and the reason that his wife initially intends on them separating: he is using her to fill a family shaped void in his life but doesn't truly love her. When he comes back, it isn't because he has had an epiphany and found that he did truly love her, he just doesn't want this formulaic facsimile to break up and leave his perfect world with unfulfilled roles. Maybe I'm just being cynical, but there wasn't really anything in his speech to her to suggest otherwise. He said it more emphatically, but emphasis does not change the meaning here and to my mind at least made it even more offensive.

(Bunkmate is now watching some whitewater rafting movie with Alan Alda, Peter Gallagher, and the dad from Alf.)

I'm certainly showing personal prejudice here (isn't that what a blog is for?); I don't like the idea of people looking to other people as solutions to problems or to fill the empty spaces. I'm not a fixer-upper and don't care to date one either. I want a partnership not a supporting role in someone else's life (or someone else taking a supporting role in mine). There is nothing more depressing that realizing that someone isn't actually in love with you so much as in love with the function you fulfill in their life. I've always had a sharp aversion to titles like 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend', not so much because being one or having someone who I consider as such bothers me, but much of the time I feel like the title is meant to stake a claim of ownership rather than to confer affection. I'll happily claim a boyfriend as an indication of how I feel about him, but in situations where it could be taken as my staking a claim of ownership, I cringe, not at the thought of claiming him, but at the idea of introducing this person not as their own person but as their role in my life. This is coming across poorly (granted, these days I feel that coming across poorly just might be my superhero power), and there is a fine line in it all and more than a few times I have certainly raised the ire of a significant other for not wanting to 'claim' them the way they expected me to claim them.

But this moment in Jerry McGuire perfectly illustrated the worst of this kind of instinct to eclipse the individual with the role: when he returns, he addresses the room of women with a demand for his Wife and as he lists off what he missed and who he missed, it was his Wife and the role she fulfilled for him which he cites, not the woman who is his wife.

I can understand missing the role a loved one plays in your life; that is only human and practically, we do play roles in each other's lives. But missing the fulfillment of that roll and missing how that particular individual makes you feel when they are there to fulfill that role are two very different things. He didn't want to share it with (name I can't remember), he wanted to share it with his Wife. A Wife was an integral part of a perfect life and he didn't want to lose that formulaic perfection he was so close to completing. She was just one more shiny plastic piece that he had to have to to complete his perfect Lego marriage as the crowning component for his perfect, shiny Lego life. He didn't love her, he loved how she fit in the appropriate space.

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