So I’m sitting at the movies alone waiting for New Moon to start and the Dear John trailer plays. In case the first sentence didn’t make it abundantly clear how awesome I am, I audibly appreciated it, the thing is so hot. And in case the second sentence doesn’t make it clear that makes me hate myself a little for it, well, watch it and get back to me.
I’m usually a movie/book purist (consume one or the other, never both) but I saw Dear John in paperback and bought it. It is, after all, a long time until February 5. The book is quite… different from what the trailer teased me to believe.
I’m on page 116, and two thoughts are having a death match in my mind:
a) Everything Nicholas Sparks knows about women he learned from a dot-to-dot of the Virgin Mary in Sunday School; or
b) Nicholas Sparks knows women better than anyone with matching chromosomes.
Now I’m familiar with his canon, understand well that Christianity plays a theme in all of his works, but the depiction of gender — woman as saint, man as sinner in need of salvation — is making me want to take the Lord’s name and make a Carly Simon remix.
Savannah, the Holly Hobby Heroine here, likes horses because “all girls like horses.” Fine. Within days she’s tamed the wild-pony soldier whose evidence of rebellion seems to be that he didn’t get along with his dad, didn’t have ambition, and got some tattoos. He stops drinking completely after she hands him a diet Pepsi — even though, gasp, she’s not entirely straight-edge: “I have to start my day with coffee. It’s my one vice.”
So if coffee’s first base…
“That’s what I don’t like about college…There’s such a casual view about things like sex and drinking and even drugs.” On two people who’d sneaked behind the dunes to do some “casual viewing” she says, “I’m kind of disappointed in those two people…Shouldn’t you save things like that for someone you love? So that it really means something?” OH. And by “things like that” she means kissing, because they don’t until the dude says “I love you.” First. Continue disbelief suspension please, there’s more.
Now Savannah did love someone else once. Some nefarious upperclassman who roofied her and tried to date rape her “carving another notch with her name on it” at the fancy out of town Winter Formal. More evidence of horrible men doing women wrong. But even though he drugged and assaulted her, Soldier asks: “Are you sure you didn’t love him?” “No. I’m not.” My tummy hurts.
At this point, I also began to wonder if Mr. Sparks actually knew any women.
To be clear, I’m not criticizing the writing. Merely mystified by the construction of gender through narrative. He’s a wildly successful author, and that’s what’s so intriguing to me. His books are clearly written FOR women. I am a woman. But I don’t see myself depicted in this saint/sinner romantic paradigm at all. But skrillions of chicks must, or at least enjoy that fantasy enough to want to exist in that land of make-believe in order to make him so successful. Am I clearly on the wrong end of the Madonna/Whore continuum here for even wondering? Is true love never having to say salvation?
Is Nicholas Sparks a better woman than I am?