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love, american (movie) style
why fake love isn't enough for the fans
by michelle von euw
pop culture

There are mysteries we all face in life that cannot be explained. Why is “Dollhouse” so bad? Why can’t the guy in 13A actually cover his mouth when he coughs, instead of infecting the entire plane with his nasty cold? Why does anyone care what Rush Limbaugh has to say about anyone? (You know if he’s talking about anyone left of Mussolini, it’s not going to be very nice. He’s been doing the same shtick for 15 years, so why get all riled up about him now?)

But the one that plagues me today is this: why are we so fascinated with other people’s love lives?

There are a few things that trigger this question. One, while sitting in my doctor’s office, I flipped through a back issue of People magazine that featured on its cover a story called The Elopers. The story inside stated that three German children, ages 7, 6, and 5, decided to leave the cold winter and vacation in Africa. They made it all the way to the train station before lack of money, passports, and oh, the fact that they were three small children travelling without adults, stopped their journey.

But the reason why this stupid little story made it all the way to People magazine was because the 5-year-old claimed that she and the 6-year-old were planning to marry once they reached Africa. The story was accompanied by posed photographs of the two young ones sharing a kiss, and many declarations of love.

As a not-very-frequent reader of People magazine, I have no idea if this is the type of bizarrely irrelevant story they usually feature. While I hope this type of trumped up non-story is an anomaly, it reminded me that we seem to take a particularly obsessive interest in following any sort of “unusual” love story, as long as we define “unusual” as “strange,” “bizarre,” or “in any way shape or form relating to celebrity.”

If you caught any of Ryan Seacrest’s red carpet chatter before the Academy Awards (and for your sake, I hope you didn’t), you may have caught him badgering the stars of Slumdog Millionaire, attempting to goad Dev Patel and Freida Pinto into admitting that they were more than just co-stars. According to Seacrest, the possibility of a relationship has been “the buzz of the States.” Not to say that Seacrest is a man known for his verbal restraint, but despite his exaggerations, the man may have a point.

Slumdog is a fantastic movie, a modern-day fairy tale, but common opinion seems to dictate that the only thing that would make the film even better would be to know that the romance carried over off-screen as well as on.

Last year, the Academy Awards gave us Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, a pair of non-American unknown actors (not even; musicians, really) for whom real life imitated art when they began dating after playing opposite each other as romantic leads. Why can’t Once repeat itself this year?

It’s one thing to be obsessed with the romantic intrigues of Hollywood royalty. Oscar night certainly brought plenty of drama in terms of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, acting nominees who have garnered almost no attention for the actual roles they played, but snagged plenty of camera time during Jennifer Aniston’s time on stage.

But it’s another thing when attention shifts to lesser-known actors, who suddenly become fodder for the gossip mills because they are able to generate on-screen chemistry. As charming and talented and, frankly, gorgeous as Patel and Pinto are, it’s doubtful that any of us would remember them so clearly, would know their names and their faces are well as we do, if they hadn’t looked so good together not just in character on the screen, but as themselves, walking the red carpets during the various awards ceremonies as a pair.

Hollywood history is littered with actors who’ve translated their romantic couplings on screen to an off-screen partnership. There are perhaps hundreds of household names we may have never gotten attached to if it hadn’t been for the blurring of fact and fiction. Brad Pitt, for instance, may have never risen to his current status as premier leading man if he hadn’t generated intrigue and press coverage for his engagement to his Seven co-star, Gwyneth Paltrow. Growing up, I was a huge fan of Lauren Bacall even before I’d ever seen a single one of her films, because of the old world Hollywood mystique surrounding her marriage to occasional on-screen love interest Humphrey Bogart.

For years, the entertainment industry has tried its best to make money off of this phenomena, with mixed success. Some movies have even suffered from real-life pairings –- movies like Proof of Life have been said to have done poorly at the box office because audiences were turned off by rumors of Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan’s affair. And Eyes Wide Shut proved that off-screen romance doesn’t always translate into on-screen chemistry.

The small screen -- a section of Hollywood rife with co-stars who carry their relationships over into real life -- has been slow at capitalizing on their romantic entanglements (we hear very little about “Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively and Penn Badgley, or “Fringe’s” Anna Torv and Mark Valley, who met while playing star-crossed lovers on the show, and were married at the end of 2008). But television has tried to exploit America’s apparent desire to see real romance played out in dramatic fashion, captured on film, most notably in the dragging series “The Bachelor,” (a show I first lamented all the way back in 2003), which has seen a resurgence in its popularity.

While if you’ve ever watched this TV show, you’d be hard-pressed to see anything resembling actual love in what plays out on-screen -- and the show’s miserable track record, which has resulted in just one marriage after what has seemed like 137 attempts, certainly supports this -- the contestants certainly seem convinced that they are falling in love.

And apparently, that's all we need: to believe in the possibility of someone we don't know falling in love with someone else we don't know. As long as they do it in front of us.


Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw

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topic: pop culture
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russ carr
3.9.09 @ 9:47a

It's porn, just without the sex.

alex b
3.10.09 @ 3:01a

Real-life love lives, exaggerated affairs, or imaginary liaisons, have long been used to promote a picture, especially pricey ones that need to recoup an investment and may not be that great to begin with (Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn in The Break-Up? Brangelina in Mr. & Mrs. Smith). It's an attention-catcher used for an "outrageous" end... and a pretty good warning that the movie is crap and that the only thing that may be real is the gossip.

sandra thompson
3.13.09 @ 11:13a

It's not nice to say mean things about Brad and Agnelina!!!

tracey kelley
3.13.09 @ 7:41p

I continue to be amazed the PR machine thinks we believe the hype after all this time.

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