“Oh, you mean love? The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons. – Don Draper, Mad Men
Two things most of our parents don’t really cover with us in detail: sex and love.
In that void, many of us learned about the two from the TV and media we’ve consumed. Today we’ll focus on love.
You might find it surprising, but love as a societal value around marriage is a relatively recent concept. Long ago, marriage was more about plans for merging or distributing money, power, and resources. Either among immediate family members and managing land and resources between families.
The idea of love being a component of marriage is a western concept. The belief of getting married because two people like each other a lot is still not a priority in some cultures. Like those cultures that still have arranged marriages. There, as Tina Turner sang, “What’s love got to do with it?”
While love is promoted as an important value in relationships and marriage in western cultures, where do we learn about it?
I don’t think I’m alone in having a sit down with my parents about the birds and the bees. While I ended up with an idea of how the birds and bees did it, I never had a talk with my parents about what it takes for the birds to love the bees and visa-versa.
Most of my mental notes about love and how you “do love” came from TV and music. I suspect many of you out there would say the same.
If so, is our media exposure to examples of love a good teacher? Or as I suspect, a series of interesting, inspirational but often scaterological anecdotes. Anecdotes that, even when patched together, never spell out what love is, or how to sustain it long term. Rather it is constant examples of love’s effect. In the media, it’s a never-ending advertisement for the feelings and dramatic tension around love.
Another way to think of it. Instead of getting actual driving lessons, we watched super-cool examples of driving, like the Indianapolis 500, all the The Fast and Furious movies and Driver to figure it all out.
Could be inspirational. But is it informational, much less actionable? And if you do learn, what exactly are you learning? Jumping from one building to another in a Charger like Fast and Furious isn’t going to be applicable or realistic to most driving situations.
Same goes for love. What fundamentals are you learning about love from Dustin Hoffman when he breaks up a wedding of a woman who should already be in love ‘cause she’s in the middle of getting married as depicted in the movie The Graduate?
Or is is Lloyd Dobler, from the movie Say Anything? He is remembered in the iconic pose of holding a boom box outside his ex-girlfriend’s house reminding her of the time they had sex.
Is it Tom Cruise and Jerry McGuire professing to a woman that “you complete me/”
Not sure. But I know music as a teacher of love is not much better.
A lot of songs clearly define love in the terms of what’s now the hook up culture.
“Let me love you down.” By Ready for the World.
Or as addiction and obsession like Foreigners’ Feels Like the First Time…
“I would climb any mountain. Sail across the stormy sea. If that’s what it takes me baby, to show how much you mean to me…”
Why can’t we learn about love from media?
When it comes to radio, rock musician Frank Zappa wrote in his book The Real Frank Zappa Book, on why love is very different in music and radio.
“I detest love lyrics. I think one of the causes of bad mental health in the United States is that people have been raised on ‘love lyrics’.
You’re a young kid and you hear all those ‘love lyrics.’ right? Your parents aren’t telling you the truth about love, and you can’t really learn about it in school. You’re getting the bulk of your ‘behaviorial norms’ mapped out for you in the lyrics to some dumb fucking love song. It’s a subconscious training that creates desire for an imaginary situation which will never exist for you. People who buy into that mythology go through life feeling that they got cheated out of something.
What I think is very cynical about some rock and roll songs — especially today — is the way they say: “Let’s make love.” What the fu&k kind of wussy says shit like that in the real world? You ought to be able to say “Let’s go fu&k”, or at least “Let’s go fill-in-the-blank” — but you gotta say “Let’s make love” in order to get on the radio. This creates a semantic corruption, by changing the context in which the word ‘love’ is used in the song.
When they get into drooling about love as a ‘romantic concept’ — especially in the lyrics of sensitive singer/songwriter types — that’s another shove in the direction of bad mental health.”
We love the media’s idea of love. But maybe we’re not IN LOVE with it.
Anyone who’s every had a child or have a positive feeling about their parents know that love is real. Maybe it just the story that is told in TV and music. So while while the love we see in media can be an amazing story, is just not our story.