Q: Do you ever read self-help? Anything you recommend?
A: I’m a self-help queen, dedicated to continuous improvement. I read books about problems I...
sounds: 40 Day Dream- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
I just finished watching the indie darling 500 Days of Summer, one of the films on my recent must-see summer list.
I considered for a bit whether or not to write out how I felt about this movie. Then I realized that what annoyed be about the ending of this film was not necessarily that it was schmaltzy and poorly done (which it was), but that it speaks to something higher, an overarching theme that continually frustrates me about our generation.
So I will start by saying this— the first 75% was a beautiful love letter to that place in this moment. 500 Days of Summer is a quintessential look at what it is like to live in Los Angeles at this time and at this age. It was funny, poignant, and vivid. The narrative structure is well-executed and original (most of the time— the lack of traditional story-telling made it harder to build Tom to his break down, which made it harder for me to connect to).
Yes, Zooey Deschanel (sp?) is a little too precious, and the film is almost a smidge too Indie, but the movie is already structured and set up to make those allowances. The dance scene was delightful (minus a cameo by the UCLA marching band. That’s enough, Bruins), and the juxtaposing frames of Tom’s expectations versus Tom’s reality was an ingenious bit of visual storytelling.
That being said, I think the movie perpetuates some seriously skewed beliefs on relationships— mostly the idea that we are defined by our relationships, which I think is a common and unfortunate skewing of my generation’s priorities.
What annoys frustrates me about the end of the film is that Tom’s life, Tom’s ~days~ are defined by these women. Firstly, we should have seen Summer get punished by Tom (either internally in his own mind or to her face) for her behavior (he says it best, “Summer always does what she wants…” THAT should have been a sticking point). Though I agree that most of the relationship issues were Tom’s fault (she does make it very clear that she doesn’t want to be serious), the way she treats him post-relationship (the wedding, lying to him about the engagement), are certainly reprehensible, as well as a sign of immaturity, and Tom never realizes that Summer a) wasn’t the girl for him, or b) that she wasn’t worth it. Instead, he let’s her walk into the distance (after that totally manipulative little hand squeeze), still completely into her. Only when he meets the NEXT girl does the reign of Summer truly end.
Many of us, especially at an early age, and especially after the very media influences Tom talks of in his climactic break down (which, while oddly placed, was wonderfully acted), seem to believe that a relationship is a cure-all for our sadness and loneliness. I, myself, was a habitual dater, and really thought that I was nothing if not defined by my relationships.
The thing a lot of people that feel this way (younger me included) don’t realize is that a relationship is not a cure-all for sadness, loneliness, or depression. Getting into a relationship will not make it all better—in truth, it could potentially make things much much worse. We often seem to forget that relationships take a TON of work. The good ones are more than worth it, but as my priest reminded me this week, “Most genuine relationships involve emotions: tenderness, anger, annoyance, confusion, love, ecstasy, doubt…” Relationships are may be wonderful when they’re good, but they aren’t some magical tool to make you always happy.
I firmly believe that you must trust yourself before you can trust another, that you MUST be able to accept yourself on some level before you can allow another to accept you.
I don’t think that you need to love yourself ALL the time, but I think that, without a basic sense that you are worthwhile and deserving of good things, it’s REALLY HARD (not impossible, but REALLY hard) to be in a functional stable relationship.
Which is why I found the ending so disappointing. Tom has been such a pushover throughout the film— he doesn’t fight summer to be in the type of relationship he wants, he doesn’t get mad at her the way he should at the end of the film— that I’m not convinced that he’s strong enough to fight for this in this new relationship that I’m given at the end of the film.
Summer’s reign end ONLY when Tom finds another woman. Only when Tom finds another suitor with which to define himself does he finally let go of Summer. Nothing about the film let’s me know that Tom’s beliefs have changed on relationships, that he’s ready to not be pushed around— in fact, the narration even SAYS that he has not yet given up on those ideas. And while I don’t necessarily disagree with fate, or with destiny, I also think that those beliefs combined with an unnwillingness to enforce your own expectations in a relationship (which Tom clearly displays whenever he lets Summer off the couple-hook) can lead to a very unbalanced one.
I was so hoping that that beautiful ending, where he walks into this building that, architectually, speaks to everything the character has said he loved, we would see Tom get the job and really come into his own ON HIS OWN. That it would be Day 1 of TOM. It would be Day 1 of TOM following his dreams, of TOM finally being his own person, of TOM reaping the benefits of his own hard work and dedication. Instead, the director turned it into this cheesy thing with some terrible name tie-in (c’mon, seriously??), once again, Tom is reigned in by a hot girl.
I find this skewing to be incredibly dangerous. It’s as though Tom’s whole mission, then, is to find The One. I don’t necessarily disagree with this idea of The One, it’s the fact that finding that person is more important than finding oneself. The two, I think are much more intertwined and dependent than we realize.
*phew* In other news, I have students a week from Monday. Totally. Terrifying.