Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades of Subtle Romance Moments

It's Valentine's Day 2015 and the big steamy adaptation of E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey is out in theaters, gathering up reviews that claim for the most part that this movie is 50 shades of boring.

I guess that's not so surprising, given that the director and screenwriter opted to go more for character development than the much anticipated erotica of the books but then again, it does help to have characters worth developing in the first place.

Mind you, I didn't read any of the 50 Shades series and while I'm no prude, I do think that romance in media can be best served with a little restraint and I don't mean with ropes and chains. A little subtlety goes a long way towards stirring up some serious passion play, folks. Here are five of my favorite moments from film and TV that showcase the notion of less is more when it comes to love:

BUTTON ME UP, BUTTON ME DOWN: If you're looking for tortured romance, look no further than Edith Wharton. Her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence places it's leading man Newland Archer between his sweet yet seemingly simple intended May Welland and the sorrowful sophisticated Countess Ellen Olenska, a woman who challenges him both intellectually and emotionally.

In this scene from the 1993 Martin Scorsese film version, Newland and Ellen are alone in a carriage, having met by chance that day. Newland's desire for her is so great that he slowly unbuttons one of Ellen's long gloves and brings her wrist to his lips.

That gesture has a vampirish overture to it, yet it's  also romantic as well as incredibly tantalizing to watch. The slow motion charm of their affections is only one part of this story but it is a vital element that Scorsese(who co-wrote the screenplay) uses effectively:

THAT FIRST KISS: In one episode of The Golden Girls, red hot lover Blanche was confused by the lack of interest from her current suitor in the bedroom department.

Her attempts to get him in the mood lead to the typical comedic antics but as it turns out, all the guy wanted was to have "an old fashioned romance."

 He came from the old school style of wooing a lady, which meant building up the anticipation of even something as basic as the first kiss. Blanche found herself caught by this approach and was willing to give it a try, finding not only the delayed excitement alluring but the respect given to her by this attractive as well:

DINNER PARTY SAVE: One of the sweeter moments in Bridget Jones' Diary is when Mark Darcy shows up to congratulate her on a job well done and winds up staying to help her with the disaster of a birthday dinner that Bridget is preparing for her friends.

From their banter during the cooking to Mark joining in for a meal of blue soup, gruesome gravy and a sweet to the teeth dessert, the romantic sparks fly fast and furious between them. Plus, anybody willing to endure such culinary punishment and share in the good humor amongst your friends about that is truly a keeper:

DAISY,GIVE ME YOUR ANSWER,DO: During the first couple of seasons of Gilmore Girls, Lorelai was dating Max Medina, her daughter Rory's English teacher at Chilton, which caused a number of problems there.

However, their connection was also truly affectionate as well as chaotic and at one point, Max blurted out a proposal of marriage. Lorelai felt that his proposal was made simply to solve some of their troubles and not out of pure love, for in her words "There should be music playing and romantic lighting and a subtle buildup to the popping of the big question. There should be a thousand yellow daisies and candles and a horse and I don't know what the horse is doing there unless you're riding it, which seems a little over the top, but it should be more than this."

Well, the next day, the lady got her wish as a thousand yellow daisies were delivered to her job, followed by a phone call that was over the moon romantic. Don't get me wrong, I'm a Luke & Lorelai gal all the way but you have to give Max Medina his due in the romance department here:


No conversation on this subject would be complete without a reference to Jane Austen and for my money, Wentworth's letter to Anne in Persuasion is the highest of standards indeed.

For those not familiar with the story, Anne Eliot and Captain  Frederic Wentworth were young lovers made to part from each other, mainly due to Anne being persuaded(hence the title) by a family friend that she should hold out for a better martial opportunity.

Several years later, Anne and Wentworth meet up again and both are still unattached. The depth of their feelings for one another is uncertain, given that both of them engage in a bit of flirtation with other people for awhile, not to mention that neither one is sure of the other's intentions. All that changes when Wentworth writes to Anne that his heart is still hers and if the words "You pierce my soul...I am half agony, half hope." don't move you, then I don't know what to tell you regarding love.

While I prefer the 1995 adaptation with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, there are plenty of fans of the 2007 version with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones as well, so this clip that includes both films should satisfy all. Happy Valentine's Day, folks and enjoy the beauty of subtle romance where ever you find it:

1 comment:

Thaddeus said...

Nice list! (And kudos for including the Golden Girls, nice one)

I have no problem with erotica, either, and as you know I've even written some myself. The amazing thing is that people in film often forget that sexy can just be the way someone says your name, or the way someone holds their body and looks at you.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only person who noticed that in Dangerous Liaisons, John Malkovich - who is no hunk, to be sure - becomes more and more attractive as the film wears on. And he doesn't need to be shirtless or hold a belt suggestively to get that across...

While literature is the great stimulator of the imagination, it's a wonder that you can see so many well-made mainstream movies, and that they often seem to just use some kind of Cliff's Notes of supposedly-sexy tropes.

I guess our perceptions are skewed when we have Victoria's Secret fashion shows and everyone's photos get airbrushed. We're living in the age of lifestyle porn, and I for one can't wait til it's over.