I am about to say something that could very well get me killed. It could cause intense displays of anger, complete and utter withdrawal of support towards me, and, quite frankly, ruin my reputation. I have learned, however, that if you want to share your opinion you have to be ready for the backlash and this one is important enough to reap what I sow and then some:
I hate The Notebook.
I hate it. I hate the idea of it, I hate the execution of it, I hate it. I’ve been taught in my life that hate is a very strong word, reserved only for those people or things that truly deserve it, and oh, does The Notebook ever deserve it.
Before you go shutting your laptop in fury or yelling obscenities, I ask that you hear me out on this one. I also ask that you understand that The Notebook is a really great example of something that exists in many other works, as well, so unfortunately in this case it has become a bit of a martyr for the cause.
The thing about it, and any other Nicholas Sparks novel-to-movie adaptation, is how confidently and unabashedly it manipulates those viewing it. If Sparks could have feasibly added a few more disease-riddled characters and a dying animal or two, I’m sure he would have. It is like it is trying to take those tender heartstrings and not just play with them but shred them to pieces.
I have a problem with that. I have a problem with it in that my emotions are not someone else’s to manipulate. I am okay with being made to feel all the feelings – rarely do I read a book and not feel something – but I don’t want it to be obvious. I certainly don’t want it to be a ploy. And I definitely do not want it to be done through a completely unhealthy, unrealistic, and abusive relationship that everyone now holds up as the pinnacle of true love.
Has anyone ever stopped and taken a good hard look at the never-ending love of Noah and Allie? Do you understand how fucked up their example of true romance really is?
They fight all the time. Oh, but they always make up so it’s okay if it’s yelling, screaming, tearing their faces off sort of fighting – in the end, love wins everything! They break up, go on to live separate lives for awhile. But, no, wait! There he is, Noah the hero, buying the house and fixing it up and ensuring that Allie sees it. Then they fight in the rain, they make love, and basically everything is set in stone. Throw in some snooty parents who will just never understand and a few more tense moments of near-abusive arguments and you’ve got yourself a love story. Oh, and don’t forget the Alzheimer’s and the patient daily storytelling of Noah to the woman he’s always loved.
I want to vomit in my mouth.
There is nothing healthy or normal about this relationship. There is nothing to be coveted except, possibly, the determination and resilience they display despite their unhealthy displays of affection. If Allie or Norah were a friend of mine I’d definitely be all, “Look, I know it’s love, but you gotta get out of this one, man – it’s no good at the core.”
As I said, The Notebook is just an overarching symbol of something that has become prevalent throughout novels and movies in the last fifteen years or so. We heard it first when Renee felt completed by Tom and it’s spiraled down from there. Mr. Sparks has made a name for himself in the novel/movie realm of this emotionally manipulative, strangely unhealthy love story (A Walk to Remember, The Last Song, The Lucky One) but he’s not alone in it. Now we’re adding BDSM-based love stories to the mix and getting ourselves all worked up thinking that non-consensual, unhealthy sexual relationships CAN end in true love!
I’m not knocking arguing with your partner. I’m not knocking the couple that breaks up and gets back together. And I’m not knocking the two people who decide to saunter in to their local sex shop to see about a ball gag. There is nothing inherently wrong with these things and every couple has their own way of making it through the ups and downs of love. What I’m knocking, what I have a serious problem with, are the examples being set by these books and films for women (and men) that show completely off-the-rails displays of misguided affection and we are made to believe that’s what love looks like. And suddenly you are hearing your friend tell you there was just no “passion”, in or out of the bedroom, because he never yelled at her. Or there wasn’t a “spark” because she never raised a hand to him. Or there just wasn’t “chemistry” because she refused to progress beyond what you think is vanilla even though you agreed to use a safe word.
There is a time and a place for overwrought, emotional love stories. To some, they are an escape into a world they have never been a part of. But they are becoming beacons of light, hopeful symbols of what awaits us when we finally fall in love. This has to stop. It will be a hard, lonely lesson to learn when you see that Noah and Allie aren’t real and if you love like they love it will hurt more than you ever wanted. It won’t feel great when you realize that falling in love is hard work, even when finding the person is easy, and every day you learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible. And it will be gravely disappointing when it dawns on you that acting like you are the subject of the next, not-so-great Sparks novel will result in many a destructive break up.