If you’ve seen director Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy, perhaps you get why his name might strike fear into my heart, because I can never unsee that film nor unfeel the Grand Guignol trauma I carried for days after. (I can’t think of a single reason to seek out Spike Lee’s remake, and pray no one ever makes an all-ages cartoon prequel called Oldbaby.) I’ve been afraid to watch any of Park’s other films until now. His latest, the crime-drama romance Decision to Leave, likewise follows broken souls careening off each other amidst secrets and death, but is far more interested in examining the emotional contents of two hearts than in spatchcocking them.
Hey, remember romantic movies? With happy endings or otherwise? The list of romances I’ve truly liked would need more than one index card to write out, but I hadn’t thought about it lately until I saw the new adaptation of Cyrano and realized some rarely evoked emotions were surfacing. I blame blockbusters.
It’s a common story a lot of us have watched unfold before. Dudebro meets flighty gal. Dudebro mocks flighty gal. Dudebro scares away flighty gal. Dudebro tries to make it up to flighty gal. Dudebro ticks off flighty gal. Dudebro kisses up to flighty gal with weak, music-free Say Anything nod. Flighty gal gives him yet another chance because the producers mandated a happy ending. According to the new ABC sitcom Manhattan Love Story, that’s modern true love at its finest!
I’ve never understood normal men, let alone the broken ones. Let’s get that out of the way up front.
Maybe it’s because I read the right books and lucked into the right role models. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a sufficiently damaged home life. Maybe I’m lucky that my father wasn’t an active part of my life. Maybe it’s a good thing I never kept too many macho friends for long, or belonged to any particularly masculine cliques. Maybe it’s because I figured out a way for logic and empathy to share harmonic coexistence in my brain. I’m funny that way, maybe.
My first date wasn’t till age 19. My age at the time of you-know-what was years beyond that. In junior high and high school, I never bothered asking any girls out. I knew my odds were slim for a variety of reasons, some but not all of them related to appearance. I wasn’t happy with it. I had my bouts of depression and crushed self-esteem. Eighth grade in particular remains a mental and emotional nadir in my life. I couldn’t figure a way out of it on my own, other than to hope that “This, too, shall pass” would apply to my situation someday before I died.
And yet…for all my dissatisfaction with my lot in life back then, for all my innocuous interactions with the ladies in my young-stupid-male years, none of the following sentences ever popped into my head:
* “That girl was nice to me. I expect sex from her now.”
* “The world owes me a chick.”
* “I know I’m perfect, so it’s clearly not my fault.”
* “Top-40 songs about love and sex are most wise.”
* “Maybe if I insult all women a lot, one will step forward and claim me.”
* “The world owes me a hot chick.”
* “Without sex I’m nothing.”
* “Women love a guy who’s bitter and snarling.”
* “Killing will solve anything.”
…and I’m grateful to the Lord every day that I never adopted anything from this list as my personal catchphrase.