Thursday, September 12, 2013

Frankly, Scarlett . . . Rhett deserves a better woman!

Revisting a Classic . . . 

You know how it is, you grew up with a classic. You look back and sigh, and wonder why they just don't make movies like that one any longer.  Well, sometimes, that's a good thing. Believe me. Sometimes, you can't go back to the good old days, not without coming away disappointed.

If any of you grew up in the seventies and early eighties, you remember an annual event that happened every February.
The movie "Gone With the Wind" would be featured on network TV.  It was a sweeping saga of war, love, scheming and survival.
The movie had it all: A lovely, southern belle heroine with backbone made of steel, a dreadfully handsome hero with a past. A loyal best friend, an old plantation house, sweeping ballrooms, exquisite gowns, and the grittiness of war in the 19th century.

As a teen, and a young adult, I looked forward to the annual week long miniseries portrayal of Gone With the Wind.

Scarlett O'Hara won the hearts of millions. She was sassy, bold, and without scruples at times. She had guts. She'd do things that made the old ladies scorn her, like dance with Rhett Butler at an annual ball, even though she was officially in mourning and wearing widow's weeds.

A Worthy Heroine?

I liked Scarlett. I loved Scarlett. I thought she was the femme fatale extraordinaire. I think it was the way she flew in the face of convention, did as she pleased, and the world be damned. That was admirable, to a point. Few heroines in movies of the period had the steel balls she had. Most women in the 1930's, as that was when the movie version was made, were still trapped in traditional roles, dependent on men, required to be subservient in their relationships with men, and expected to fit into society in the traditional good girl, good wife and mother sense. Scarlett was the anthithesis of this. She was her own woman. As a feminist in the 70's and 80's myself, when our only cultural icons for TV were Mary Tyler Moore and the like, Scarlett stood out as a woman who took charge of her world and didn't whine to men. Mary Tyler Moore did a lot of whining to Lou Grant in her TV show, as I recall.

Scarlett wasn't a whining female dependent on the men in her life. I think that is why she resonated so much with women of the mid to late 20th century. She was scheming, sure, but it was all for the good of the family, and her beloved plantation, Tara. She married her sister's beau, to save the plantation. Her sister hated her for it.

She pined after Ashley Wilkes, even though the man was in love with her best friend. She secretly loved him, and even when Melanine found out, as Ashley's wife, she forgave Scarlett. I never liked Mellie. I thought she was a bit of a wimp. That was then, as a teen and a young woman. As an older woman, I can understand Mellie giving Scarlett her blessing and not harboring a grudge as she lay dying. Perhaps Mellie wanted her man to be well taken care of after she died, so she figured since Scarlett loved him so much, she'd take good care of him.

So, having gone full circle, from loving Scarlett as a teen and despising Melanie, I am now wondering what I ever saw in Scarlett to begin with as a heroine. What did we all see in her? A sparkle of popularity? The flashiness of the top cheerleader, the barbie doll who gets everything she wants?

Three Cheers for Melanie!

I think about this today, and I really don't like Scarlett at all. She was a n absolute Bitch! No one's friend, as she proved time and time again. With Scarlett as your friend, or sister, you didn't need an enemy.  She didn't care that she hurt others, as long as she managed to get want she wanted, be it Ashley, Rhett, or to save Tara from the carpet baggers. Really, would you rather be friends with Scarlett, or Melanie?  Today, I'd prefer Melanie as a romance heroine. She was a true friend to Scarlett. She defended Scarlett when others critcized her. Scarlett didn't deserve her kindness. Melanie had guts, too. She was elegant, beautiful, and she had a conscience. Melanie went through the same war as Scarlett, but she came out of the horror with grace and aplomb. She is an example of Grace under Fire, of rising above the pettiness of Some People.

Not so with Scarlett. As Rhett once said of Scarlett during one of her escapades after she apologized: "You're not sorry. You're like the thief who isn't sorry he stole something, he's just sorry he got caught!"  Right on, Rhett.

And then, there's Rhett . . . . 

 Rhett Butler is a different story. He was the gambler, the ladies man, the river pirate, the blockade runner, and yet, he was gallant to a fault. He didn't double cross Scarlett. She was his lady, once they married, and he stayed true to her. He even tried to gain some social capital and respect after they had a child, for his daughter's sake, to fit into the strict confines of Victorian society. I still love Rhett today. The thought of of Clark Gable as Rhett, flashing that impish grin with those adorable dimples, with a dark lock of hair hanging defiantly over his brow still makes me weak at the knees.  Rhett was the typical hero we like to read about in modern romances, A flawed hero, with vices and perhaps a dark past, but gallant, honorable, and ultimately redeemable. He had a heart of gold. He didn't judge the people around him. He looked past their moral flaws and saw the real person. We see this with the prostitute, Belle, whom Scarlett despised because of her social standing but Rhett defended in the face of Scarlett's criticism by saying Belle had the biggest, kindest heart of any woman he knew.

Rhett had his issues. He was the consumate alpha male romance hero, a womanizing rake, a take charge sort of man. He was a hero worthy of the iconic status he holds today in our American Culture. He had a bad boy persona, but he was also very charming, and he would walk on hot coals for the woman he loved. He rescued Scarlett several times during the war, even though it was inconvenient and she was a selfish pain in the backside.  He didn't leave her at the road, alone with union soldiers swarming the area. I remember that iconic scene of the pair of them hiding under the bridge, trying to keep their horse quiet. The city was burning in the background and the soldiers were traisping across the bridge above them searching for renegages like Rhett.  It's a stunning visual, potent with emotion for the viewer. Rhett and Scarlett, hiding under the bridge, shivering togther in the wet and cold as the city burns around them, as the soldiers march across above them. Rhett and Scarlett,  lovers who seem to be perfect for each other, who seem to complete each other, and yet they are torn apart by so many issues.

Don't let it end this way, please . . . .

It's a very potent love story, and yet, one that ends in tragedy, so Gone with the Wind is not a true  romance by today's standards. In traditional romance tropes, it is essential that the hero and heroine have a happily ever after ending, or a HEA as we call it in romance writer circles. Scarlett botched things so badly with Rhett, that at the end of the movie he's packing his bags and leaving her. Well, she deserved it. As a teen and young woman, I always hated that scene. I wanted him to turn around, come back, give Scarlett another chance. All of us did, right?

Today, I'm glad he left. As a grown man, he had enough sense to get out of a bad relationship.  Oh, yes, we all remember the 1990's miniseries "Scarlett" where a certain well known romance author tried to give Scarlett a conscience and make Rhett and Scarlett end up together after exhausting difficulties. It might have been a way to redeem Scarlett for a new generation, but the original Scarlett O'Hara created by Margaret Mitchell, was in my opinon, unredeemable in the original novel.

And that's my revised opinion on these classic lovers who have captivated the world, at least in movie form, for over 90 years. Scarlett may have won hearts for standing up for herself at a time when women were not allowed to do so, but by today's standards, she's a pretty unlikeable heroine for a romance story. The herione must be someone we either wish to be or would want as a friend.She can't be heartless, cold, calculating, as Scarlett was, not toward the people who matter in her life. Rhett stands the test of time, enduring as a romance hero, but Scarlett, not so much as a lovable heroine.

  Frankly, Scarlett, Rhett Butler deserves a better woman than you . . . 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Gothic to the core: Hades & Persephone

As summer draws to an end, I'm thinking of the Greek tragedies still. Hades and Persephone come to mind.

If you aren't familiar with these two, let me refresh your memory. Hades, in Greek Mythology, is the God of the Underworld.
Pretty much as Gothic as you can get for a male lead character in a potential romance.

Hades was one of three brothers who ruled the earth. His two brothers, Zeus and Posedion, tricked him, as brothers will do. They divvied up the earth and the water among themselves, leaving Hades with only the underworld left to rule. This means he lives down under the earth, near the core. His subjects are the dead.

Steve Coogan as Hades
Not so great. You can imagine he wasn't happy about this.  Would you be?

So, Poor old Hades is stuck in the underworld, as it's ruler. He's not the god of the dead, however. The god of the dead is Thantos.

According to the Greek Legends, Hades is a brooding sort, a dark lord of the realm. A perfect gothic romance hero, perhaps.  You see him on the left as he was portrayed in Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, as sort of an aging Rock Star persona. It's kind of cute, in my humble opinion. The story in the movie is that he assumes this more appealing shape for the benefit of his lady love, Persephone, who doesn't care for his, . . . .um,  natural form.Well, at least he was concerned with how she perceived him, which is more than you get from most guys in a relationship these days.

And to be honest, he's not so attractive as a demonic looking creature.

So Kudos to Hades in this movie rendition of the dark god, for at least trying to please his beloved by caring about his looks.
Legend tells us Hades spends most of his time in his castle, in the underworld. He doesn't go out much. Typical gothic hero, reclusive, brooding, full of dark moods and old wounds. He's mad at his brothers for leaving him only the dead to rule. He's also very greedy, and favors anyone who adds to his subjects, the dead, so those who are engaged in enterprises that bring him more ...... bodies ..... or souls ..... whichever you believe is the human essence, you're on his good side.

Another thing about this broody dude, he's the god of wealth. Hmmmm.   Now we have a rich ruling lord, sort of dark and moody, a Gothic tale of a tortured, angsty heart that is lonely.

Enter Persephone ...... rather unwillingly, you understand

Rosario Dawson as Persephone
Persephone was a forest nymph. She was known as Kore, the goddess of spring growth.
She was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest, and Zeus, god of the earth.
While she was playing in the fields one day as a young woman, the lonely god Hades abducted her and took her to the underworld.

Her mother, Demeter, searched the earth for her, and wept bitterly over the loss of her daughter. Finally, she found her beloved daughter in Hade's lair. She went to Zeus and demanded that Persephone be freed. Zeus relented, and decreed that Persepone must be allowed to return to the world of the living.

However, there was just one small catch. Apparetly Hades offered the girl food, which she ate. A pommegranite.  This cast a pall over escape, as it meant she would have to spend half of the year in Hades's realm as his wife, and half of it above ground, among the living.  So, when Persephone is with Hades in the underworld kingdom, it is the time when vegetation is dormant, in other words--fall and winter. Spring comes when she returns to her mother's world, and the lush vegetation returns to the earth.

The most recent portrayal of this pair was in the movie, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, 2010.  In this rendition, Persephone is looking for a way to be free of her rather dark, brooding husband. She's not digging the queen of the underworld gig so much and wants to escape the dark castle once and for all.

So there you have it, in a nut shell, a tragic 'love' story of the ages. Lonely gothic prince of unbelievable wealth kidnaps himself a bride. The bride is allowed to roam the earth for six months out of every year in their odd marriage arrangement. She must return to the world of darkness for six months and be Hades'  Gothic Queen.   Does she love him? Does she learn to love him as the ages pass and they are trapped together?  Would you????? Every relationship has it's issues and compromises. What would you do if this hot, brooding princeling who was wealth itself wanted you to be his Underworld Bride?

This is a twisted love story from the Ancient Greek Myths, a tortured brooding, lonely man kidnaps a sweet little floral nynph and takes her home to his dark castle. He keeps her six months out of the year and gives her back her freedom for six months, where she can go off with her friends and have a good time. As I'm appreciative of the traditional Gothic romances of old, I couldn't help sharing this little tidbit of a love story, cleverly hidden in the old Greek myths.   

Lily Silver, Author of Dark Hero, A Gothic Romance