By Celeste Kurz
WEST HARTFORD, Conn., U.S.A. – I’ll admit it. On Valentine's Day, two friends and I went to see the newly released movie, Endless Love.
We told ourselves that we wanted to go in order to laugh at the movie. But let's be honest, who doesn't love a little romance? When it comes to romanticism, I am as hopeless as they come. A classic story of forbidden love? It's enough to make a girl swoon.
I didn't enter into the experience expecting to be amazed by a profound examination of true love, however, I did leave the theater amazed.The story centers around two protagonists: Beautiful Jade, played by Gabriella Wilde, with her tragic past, ever-so-promising future and complicated relationship with her father. And then there's handsome David, played by Alex Pettyfer, the underdog always there to surprise us.
David's rather unlucky in life, it seems, but we keep rooting for him because of his "good heart" and grandiose vision of love. The two are an unlikely pair, and Jade's father, who doesn't approve, does his part to make it into the forbidden love story I mentioned.
The conclusion we're supposed to reach is clear: Of course this pair should be together! They love one another! And nothing is more important than love! Step aside, evil man. Give David a chance.
We are supposed to applaud the couple for remaining together despite all odds.
1) Jade the homebody meets dangerous David and suddenly becomes a wild, fun-loving, free spirit. I understand the freeing properties of love, but are we supposed to endorse a complete personality change?
2) Jade, who will be enrolling to Brown University as a pre-med major, has a wonderful opportunity lined up for the summer before her freshman year. She is to have an internship with a successful doctor, yet she turns it down.
Want to know why? You guessed it: David.
In a particularly melodramatic scene, they part ways after their last day together, then look longingly at one another as the iron gate closes between them.
That evil internship opportunity, represented literally by the bars caging her in, keeping them from one another. But, no, such sadness can't last! So they run to one another, with Jade begging David to ask her to stay, saying that she'll turn down the internship if he does. He does, jumps the fence, and passionately kisses her. Oh, look, that amazing, once-in-a-lifetime chance no longer stands in the way of their love. Yay. Ridiculous.
3) While Jade is initially made out to be timid and shy, we watch as she develops into a truly independent woman who stands up for herself. You go, Jade!
But if you look at all closely, you see that's not really the case. The audience I was a part of was particularly vocal, emitting lots of "oohs" whenever Jade would talk back to her father, letting him know that she was in charge of her own life, that she wanted David and that that was the way it was going to be.
Wow, it's wonderful that she isn't depending on Daddy anymore.
Really, though, she's not seizing her independence. In fact, she substitutes her need for male contact with David, rarely straying out of his sight and sulking in his absence. When he returns, she bounds up to him within seconds and says things like, "Thank God you're here!"
So while her rebellion initially appears to be some form of growth, Jade's character is still hopelessly dependent on men to provide the substance and purpose of her life.
I have a serious problem with this movie for the message it sends to young women.
Some people will say it's just a silly love story, that we should enjoy it for its sheer simplicity. That's all it was ever intended to be.
But I don't care what the intentions were.
Intentional or not, Endless Love sends a message to young women that they can throw away wonderful, life-changing opportunities in the "name of love." It tells them that to be truly happy and lovable, they must live their lives with reckless abandon.
And worst, it tells them that they must be dependent on others to produce the substance of their lives, that "their man" should be their sole focus.
The filmmakers had a good start with Jade. The quiet, young woman was ready to make her dreams into reality, with beauty and intelligence galore.
But these qualities were stolen from her, making her into a silly girl who would throw away all she had strived for just to have a few more days with "the love of her life." They took away the love she once had for herself, directing it all to David instead.
Besides, if their love was truly endless, wouldn't it have lasted while she was away on her internship? Wouldn't it have lasted if they hadn't spent every waking minute together?
In my far-from-expert opinion, true love comes first from an ability to love and appreciate oneself. It’s the ability to value the unique qualities that you as an individual offer to the world.
If we continue to sit back and allow messages like the one sent in Endless Love to be spread without even a second thought, we're going to have far fewer real-life love stories.