Love is one of the most powerful emotions in the human life. Almost every person gets to face it. Although love is considered an important and even necessary part of the life, it can be very painful. The range of intense experiences caused by love is the foundation for a huge number of plots used in different types of artworks. The love theme is widely covered in the cinema industry. It is examined from different angles in a huge number of films of all genres. Sex is a logical extension of love. Due to several reasons, intimate relationships between people are usually considered an unacceptable theme for public discussions. However, it is widely used in different forms of popular art. Sex can also be regarded from different angles: it can be depicted in a romantic context as well as it can be described only as an instinct. Romance often becomes the main leitmotiv for different works of popular culture. It is important to mention that all these three aspects have a great impact on the human life. Therefore, its depiction in the popular culture can have a significant influence on the human mind and worldview. This paper will provide the analysis of how love, sex, and romance are depicted in the popular culture, using the film The Notebook as an example. Furthermore, the paper will establish and assess positive and negative impacts of movies that display love, romance, passion, and sex on relationships, behavior, and beliefs of young people.
First of all, it must be mentioned that the way in which love, sex, and romance are depicted in the popular culture can be understood and studied only by considering changes that take place in society. Lancaster argues that commonly they include the following:
- The change of the procreational model of sexuality (in which the birth of children is the ultimate goal of sex) to recreational (in which sex is the tool for getting pleasure).
- Reduction of the general age for the onset of sexual activity for both boys and girls that is related to a number of socio-psychological and cultural factors as well as the acceleration phenomenon.
- The change of family roles with the weakening of the traditional patriarchal style.
- The shift from hard erotic cliches and individualization of sexual behavior.
- The growth of divorces due to the change of underlying values and orientations of the institution of marriage.
- The narrowing of the scope of the forbidden in the public and individual consciousness.
Most of the features regarding how the items under consideration are depicted in the popular culture can be disclosed using the film The Notebook as an example. It is the motion film by Nick Kassavetis made in the genre of romantic drama in 2004 (“The Notebook (2004 film)”). It is based on the story of the biographical novel with the same name by Nicholas Sparks, which was published in 1996 and became a bestseller in the first week of sales. It is very interesting to examine how love, sex, and romance are depicted in this film because there are several parts in which these themes are revealed on different levels. Every day in a nursing home, an old man reads to an old woman a story about the relationship between a young man and a girl from different social classes. The main character Noah is a cute, funny, and charming guy from a poor family; Alley is a beautiful daughter of rich aristocrats. They have met and fallen in love with each other. Lovers spend beautiful and unforgettable days together. After several weeks, a moment when Noah needs to get acquainted with Alley’s parents comes. Noah's father likes Allie, but her parents do not approve Noah, explaining that he is from a poor family and can not be a good pair for their daughter. Noah comes to a conclusion that if he does not leave Allie, he will bring a lot of problems to her. They quarrel and end their relationship; however, in their hearts, each of them suffers from this void very hard as they genuinely love each other.
This is the first part of the film, which depicts the romantic relationship in a very expressive way. Examining the example of this couple, one can consider love as pure and romantic feeling that is inherent in young and careless people only. Love is depicted as a most pleasant way to spend summer. The lovers in this part of the film are not expected to continue their relationship. Love is presented more as amorousness of young people. It is a romantic feeling that makes the main characters do different reckless things like those when Noah tries to invite Allie on a date. He risks his life in order to make an impression on her. It does not look like an adult and mature experience. Thus, love is depicted in this part of the film as a frivolous early amorousness that mostly young people can feel. Also, there is an age difference regarding the perception of love. Allie’s parents perceive love as a passing infatuation, and they do not expect it to continue for a long time. Thererefore, one can come to a conclusion that love in the first part of the film is not displayed as a serious human experience but rather as an emotion which young people can not resist because of their lightheadedness and inexperience. Also, it is not considered as a foundation for the future life because more significant aspects like social position and financial stability are taken into account when contemplating the prospects for establishment of a family.
Nobody can deny that love has a huge amount of forms and aspects in real life. In some cases, it can take a form of amorousness which does not require any commitments from people. Besides, such a depiction in the popular culture can make people behave respectively. The cinema has a great impact on the human mind. People perceive the behavior of main characters in the films as a role model, which is a subconscious process. Therefore, it is very important to choose films that convey the right message regarding love and/or sex.
However, paying attention only to the message presented in the first part of the film, one can create a wrong impression about the whole idea of the movie. It can be claimed with confidence that the film The Notebook manifests the approval of the eternal love. Soon after the parting of the main characters, World War II begins, and Noah and his friend go to war. Meanwhile, Allie starts dating another young man who soon makes her a proposal. She agrees, but even after many years, Allie still remembers Noah. The girl’s union with her new lover is happy and successful. In their relationship, the type of love which was described by E. Fromm can be very clearly seen: "... despite the deeply rooted desire for love, almost everything else is perhaps the most important than love: success, prestige, money, power. Almost all our energy is used in the learning achievement of these goals". One can note an interesting fact that characterizes the way of depicting love as an emotion which reveals the best human qualities. When Noah accidently sees Allie kissing her new fiancé, he decides not to interfere into their relationship. Thus, love is also presented as an ability to sacrifice.
However, the film is focused on the romantic relationship between the main characters, and romanticizing of reality is inherent in it. Noah and Allie meet after seven years since their parting. Allie decides to choose Noah and move in with him. Thus, love is depicted in this movie as a power which is able to overcome the obstacles. The love between the main characters has not only been preserved after seven years of the parting but also lasted for their whole life. One can conclude that love in this film is presented as a strong and powerful emotion which can last for many years. It is based on mutual respect, devotion, and attraction of two people.
Besides, the sex theme is disclosed in The Notebook in a special way. The main characters were able to have sex in the first part of the film when they were young, but for several reasons, it did not happen. They had sex only when they met again after many years and their love was proven by the years of parting and a number of the barriers that it overcame. It is the filmmakers’ significant message aimed at young people that urges them to be responsible and careful with early sexual relationships. One more aspect in the depiction of love in The Notebook is a statement that love must reveal an individual’s creative potential. Thus, Allie began to paint again when she reunited with Noah; he fulfilled his dream to buy and restore an ancient abandoned house for Allie. In this way, love is displayed as a power that gives people an opportunity for self-development and self-improvement.
The finale is the most moving part of the movie: Allie and Noah get married and live together for many years. They have three children and several grandchildren. They have loved each other for the whole life and died in the same day. The Notebook is a great movie about the great love. It states that love is more than just a romantic feeling: it is the most important part of the life. The film depicts love as a great power and happiness. It is considered to be the highest value in the human life.
However, there is no doubt that the popular culture is one of the processes standardizing the modern world. In the future, it will be developed and expanded. It brings modern man a certain satisfaction, a sense of belonging to artistic values. “It democratizes social relations and promotes certain behaviors. For many people, popular culture has replaced religion”. Therefore, role models depicted in the popular culture have a significant influence on the human behavior, relationships, and beliefs. Especially, it can be applied to young people. Without doubt, the depiction of love, sex, and romance in the popular culture, especially in the movies, has both positive and negative impacts on society. Crothers argues that “on the positive side, the popular culture is divided into several sectors of influence: it brings certain human and moral values to life, raises questions about many important things, and draws attention of the masses to the primary problems of mankind”. The movies like The Notebook,, which depict eternal love, human dedication, and timeless values, give an opportunity to young people to discover the behavior style based on the correct moral concepts. Besides, they give faith in the existence of sublime love and hope to find it in our own life. Such kind of movies establishes the necessity of loving and respectful relationships between people. On the other hand, Paglia concludes that “the popular culture deadens the human consciousness, fitting it under a carbon paper and driving in the narrow confines of the trivial stereotypes”. Sometimes, the romanticized reality in movies is perceived by young people as the only acceptable one. They can suffer from feeling the differences between the real life and the image depicted in the movie. This fact can hinder their adaptation in the society and suspend their personal development. According to Doyle, the negative impact of the popular movies can corrupt people, sometimes bringing them to the low emotional level. Besides, if individuals put their misperception of the ideas from the movie into practice, they will give a noxious example to others.
Summarizing everything mentioned above, it can be said that love, sex, and romance are a great part of the themes depicted in the popular culture. Also, they are a foundation for a huge amount of plots for the movies. These themes can be described from different angles. In the film The Notebook, love is presented as an evidence of eternal devotion of two people to each other, the main goal that everybody should pursue, and the way to self-development and self-improvement. Moreover, it should be mentioned that one must be careful analyzing their own perception of the work of the popular culture because each of them can have both negative and positive impacts on the human life.