D’oh to be in love

Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra and Marc Antony and…Homer and Marge Simpson?

Seth Feldman, professor in York’s Department of Film in the Faculty of Fine Arts, says the Simpsons are, in his opinion, today’s most romantic screen couple. “They still endure after all their problems and misfortunes,” says Feldman. “It’s touching. They are today’s Lucy and Desi [Arnez].”

Seth Feldman

Left: Seth Feldman; right: Marge and Homer

Asked for other romantic hits for those looking for inspiration this Valentine’s Day, Feldman said Hollywood’s most successful date movie is 1997’s Titanic. “Women were sold the love story and the guys were told to come watch the ship sink,” he noted. “There was something in it for everyone.” For serious romance however, the honours go to the classic Casablanca (1942), Hollywood’s contribution to what Feldman calls, “the star-crossed lover thing,” or love and tragic sacrifice. “It was written by grown-ups for grown-ups and made at a time when love and sacrifice were part of millions of peoples’ lives,” Feldman said.

Films play an important role beyond providing romantic inspiration; Feldman argues that going to the movies is a dating ritual that goes back generations. “It’s affordable, easily accessible and designed to allow you to talk about your relationship without really talking about it,” he said. In other words, he suggests, what you think about the movie’s lovers – arguing about a character’s actions – is a method of talking about your own approach to life and love. Selecting the movie together provides all sorts of information about tastes and tolerance. And, if nothing else clicks between the two people on the date, they can always talk about the movie.

For a movie genre that is often derided as melodramatic and pandering to stereotypes about women’s tastes, romances have a lot to say about social change. “The love affair is placed against a social backdrop,” Feldman explained, “and the lovers often reflect, suffer from or rebel against that society’s values.”

A current example is this year’s Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Brokeback Mountain. Despite its social messages, it is in essence, a love story about two men. “It’s gratifying that this film is doing so well and that it is even considered by some to be a date movie,” says Feldman. “What that acceptance says is that the worst of homophobia may be behind us or that, at least, we may start thinking of it as a minority belief.”