What Happens When You Watch Airplane Movies/Notes on Wedding Fantasies

On the flight to London I read a book. (Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Brilliant graphic memoir. Thanks, D.) And on the flight home, I watched three romantic comedies.

Yes, three: Leap Year (really dumb plot but Amy Adams is appealing and Matthew Goode may be today’s vote for sexiest English-speaking male), Valentine’s Day (unwatchably and incomprehensibly dumb, but Ashton Kutcher is cute at playing himself) and…wait for it…Bride Wars.

S watched the first two with me and reluctantly began watching the third–I tried challenging her to finish it, but the only prize I could muster was my miniature packet of off-brand cheese crackers from the American Airlines snack box and it turned out she hadn’t eaten hers either. She made it through about fifteen minutes before switching to the last half of an Entourage episode.

“I think I might need to write about this,” I leaned over and whispered to her as she changed channels while I kept watching.

“Sure,” she said, too tired–and too old a friend–to mask her skepticism.

I mean, it did occur to me that I might have to comment on the film–especially after the early scene when Candice Bergen’s character (the wedding planner) informs those played by Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson (best friends getting married on the same day, vying for the same location etc.) that their lives will not actually begin until their wedding day. “You are dead, right now,” she says. Yikes.

But, also, I kinda wanted to watch.

The movie is nominally a paean to the preeminence of female friendship: not only are the fiancees minor characters in the movie, neither is really that attractive. (Which, as I said to S, is not an altogether unrealistic representation of reality: beautiful women, as we know, often marry un-beautiful men.)

It’s a (ridiculously, horribly done) slapstick comedy that would seem to parody how seriously many women take their weddings. But seriously: it stars Kate Hudson. It isn’t exactly satire.

So in the end it does more to reinforce gendered and negative stereotypes about pre-wedding hysteria than spoof them. The premise, after all, is two women who have spent their entire lives fantasizing about every detail of the day they’ll wed: where it will happen, in what dress, to what music, etc. (To whom never seems of all that much importance.)

It may come as a bit of a shock that this is not something I can relate to.

While S and I were in London, we walked down an upscale street that seemed to feature one bridal boutique after another. As we compared the sequined gowns, I asked her if she’d given any thought to what sort of dress she might want to wear to her own wedding.

Not surprisingly, her answer–like mine–was “not much.”

The only notion I’ve cooked up about my wedding is that I don’t want to have it in a city, and that outdoors would be nice.

It’s not that I don’t daydream about being married, or occasionally envision standing with clutched hands and tear-verged expressions beside an altar and some object of present interest. But it’s the whole marriage thing I’m most looking forward to, not the ceremony.

For the most part. I may not have a detailed plan or even many vague ideas about a wedding, but I do know that I want one. There aren’t many times in life when you get to demand that everyone you love be together in the same room, which pretty much sounds like the best thing ever.

But I don’t just want a party. I want to walk down an aisle with Mendelssohn playing and I want my Dad next to me and I want to wear white. I don’t know why I’m attached to these conventions. I probably could be talked out of them. But they’re there.

They aren’t nearly so elaborate as those in the movie. But they do seem to reflect some cultural indoctrination that I feel like I ought to resist, for the sake of, well, something…feminism, or subversion, or originality.

But then again, weddings are also one of few occasions when you’re allowed to do things just for yourself. And–oh yeah–the person you’re marrying.

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8 Comments

Filed under Love Life

8 responses to “What Happens When You Watch Airplane Movies/Notes on Wedding Fantasies

  1. Clarence

    ….and the cake?

    • I am hoping/assuming that my father will fulfill his promise to make it, as he has for my two married brothers. I have not thought, though, about what kind!

    • I had not seen these, Anne. Thanks for forwarding–Interesting stuff. Caitlin Flanagan is always good for some provocation! I’m taking a little break for my college reunion this weekend but will share a response soon 🙂

  2. A

    I couldn’t even watch that movie because I was afraid it would make me commit homicide. The way that weddings are depicted (and marriages are totally ignored) makes me want to die. But I will tell you that I did wear white (okay, ivory) and have my dad there. Both things that I felt like I shouldn’t want but wanted all the same. And I still consider myself a feminist, even if I worried that some of the friends would look down on me for the choices.
    In other news: when I came back from Senegal the first time “Love Actually” was playing on the airplane and I sobbed so much that it was actually embarrassing. The old couple next to me thought I was half adorable and half crazy.

  3. I couldn’t bring myself to see this movie either. If I wanted to see crazy brides, I’d just turn on WE or talk to one of my engaged friends. I do find it interesting that women can plan this whole thing without the groom in mind. Our culture around weddings is definitely crazy. I’m still trying to figure out how you can spend thousands of dollars on a dress you will only where once!

  4. E

    It’s all part of hyper-capitalism. Wedding shows, and craziness I mean. People don”t just do this with weddings- every ‘major life altering event’ is supposed to be a big haloo. Oftentimes, people experience major disappointment with those events bc their has been so much buildup- proms, weddings, babies, etc. (At least according to the psych class I took in college:) Another reason people get so obsessed over their weddings sometimes- fear of being forgotten. I know a lot of friends who want to make their wedding the best party anyone has seen, so that when they ‘retreat’ into married life (which is becoming less common, thank god), they still feel like they made a lasting impression on the world at their wedding.

    Guilty secret: I am a total commitment-phobe, but I love to watch wedding shows and look at bridal magazines. It’s not even that I have have dillusions of how romantic they are, or am trying to plan my future wedding. I am just fascinated by the attitudes of the people who buy so many over-priced items, and I like shiny and sparkly stuff- it’s pretty, OK?! If I get married, I will have a (hopefully) cheap and simple wedding, and spend way more on the vacation afterwards:) but I can watch those shows and live vicariously through the people who like the shiny stuff enough to actually buy it.

    And, by the way, I think it is great that you have focused on the ‘being married’ part more than the wedding. It lasts longer and is definitely more important:)

  5. so funny — my next post will be on the prom phenomenon. It’s like you’re in my brain!

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