Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When Chuck Met Nora

Congrats to Seraphic and Benedict Ambrose.

But, I'm not certain When Harry Met Sally is the best model for romance. I don't agree with all of it, but Chuck Klosterman's take is good:
When Harry Met Sally hit theaters in 1989. I didn't see it until 1997, but it turns out I could have skipped it entirely. The movie itself isn't bad (which is pretty amazing, since it stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal), and there are funny parts and sweet parts and smart dialogue, and--all things considered--it's a well-executed example of a certian kind of entertainment. Yet watching this film in 1997 was like watching the 1978 one-game playoff between the Yankees and the Red Sox on ESPN Classic: Though I've never sat through the pitch sequence that leads to Bucky Dent's three-run homer, I know exactly what happened. I feel like I remember it, even though I don't. And--more important--I Know what it all means. Knowing about sports means knowing that Bucky Dent is the living, breathing, metaphorical incarnation of the Bo Sox's undying futility; I didn't have to see that game to understand the fabric of its existence. I didn't need to see When Harry Met Sally, either. Within three years of its initial release, classifying any intense friendship as "totally a Harry-Met-Sally situation" had a recognizable meaning to everyone, regardless of whether or not they'd actually seen the movie. And that meaning remains clear and remarkably consistent: It implies that two platonic acquaintances are refusing to admit that they're deeply in love with each other. When Harry Met Sally cemented the plausibility of that notion, and it gave a lot of desperate people hope. It made it realistic to suspect your best friend may be your soul mate, and it made wanting such a scenario comfortably conventional. The problem is that the Harry-Met-Sally situation is almost always tragically unbalanced. Most of the time, the two involved parties are not really "best friends." Inevitably, one of the people has been in love with the other from the first day they met, while the other person is either (a) wracked with guilt and pressure, or (b) completely oblivious to the espoused attraction. Every relationship is fundamentally a power struggle, and the individual in power is whoever likes the other person less. But When Harry Met Sally gives the powerless, unrequited lover a reason to live. When this person gets drunk and tells his friends that he's in love with a woman who only sees him as a buddy, they will say, "You're wrong. You're perfect for each other. This is just like When Harry Met Sally! I'm sure she loves you--she just doesn't realize it yet." Nora Ephron accidentally ruined a lot of lives.--Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind congrats and links, SS.


Seraphic Single said...

Thanks from me, too!

You are absolutely right about "When Harry Met Sally". The part I think that is completely authentic is Harry's speech at the end. When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start right now, and what do you mean, "waiting period", Father O'Such-and-Such?

When I married my first husband (I was a child bride, etc.), his more sentimental friends sighed that it was like "When Harry Met Sally." We had been Friends, and I was happy being Just Friends, and I argued for being Just Friends until he had managed to, basically, browbeat me into being More Than Friends. (Alas, I had no spine.)

Fortunately, that was long enough ago that I can enjoy WHMS again and sigh, not over the "best friends becoming lovers" stuff, but over Billy Crystal's ending speech.

For the record, not only were B.A. and I not best friends, we knew we were meant to get married within ten days of laying eyes on each other. And on three of those days we went to Mass. So you know, I am thinking that knowing each other for ten years as great adult friends without getting married is not such a great indication that you will be getting married to each other in future.