A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Everything I need to know about love, I learned from Patience. And J.K. Rowling.

After seeing Patience, I have been wandering around all day today singing Gilbert and Sullivan songs. Not "Twenty lovesick maidens" though. More of the "willow willow waly" and "in this case unprecedented" with a bit of a "singularly deep young man", and with a bit of Pirates and Gondoliers thrown in for good measure ("We will quickly be parsonified, conjugally matrimonified, by a doctor of divinity who is found in the vicinity!").

I often get the impression that W.S. Gilbert simply picks a few themes to mock and then builds a plot around a lot of lovesick maidens and manly men with some good three syllable rhymes ("Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard that music's din afore... And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense, Pinafore!"), while Sullivan occupies himself with beautiful arias and delightful gavottes.

In Patience it's the fashion for 'aestheticism' that receives most of Gilbert's ridicule, with the utterly wonderful and entirely pompous idiotic poet Bunthorne (apparently not an Oscar Wilde caricature... see the Gilbert and Sullivan archive...) who writes nonsensical melodramatic angst poetry and is adored by the twenty maidens, at least until Grosvenor, another poet, turns up (Oscar Wilde!).

Patience herself is in love with Grosvenor, and he with her, but she feels that it would be selfish to marry someone as universally admired as he. Bunthorne is in love with Patience, and so she decides to offer to marry him, as she decides this would be the most unselfish course of action, as there would be absolutely nothing in it for her. Bunthorne's happiness at her acceptance is disturbed when he realises that all his former admirers have turned their adulation to Grosvenor (who himself is wearied by the admiration), and his fiancée is also in love with the young poet.

Deciding that he needs to find some way of repelling the maidens from Grosvenor, Bunthorne persuades him to become more ordinary looking.

(Happily borrowed from The Patience Web Opera)

When I go out of door,
Of damozels a score
(All sighing and burning,
And clinging and yearning)
Will follow me as before.

I shall, with cultured taste,
Distinguish gems from paste,
And "High diddle diddle"
Will rank as an idyll,
If I pronounce it chaste!

A most intense young man,
A soulful-eyed young man,
An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical,
Out-of-the-way young man!

Conceive me, if you can,
An ev'ryday young man:
A commonplace type,
With a stick and a pipe,
And a half-bred black-and-tan;

Who thinks suburban "hops"
More fun than "Monday Pops,"
Who's fond of his dinner,
And doesn't get thinner
On bottled beer and chops.

A commonplace young man,
A matter-of-fact young man,
A steady and stolid-y, jolly Bank-holiday,
Every-day young man!

Isn't that what we want, after all? Not a A crotchety, cracked young man, An ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical, Out-of-the way young man! But a steady and stolid-y, every-day young man. In the end, every girl really wants a down-to-earth guy who makes her laugh. It's this fatal move that causes Bunthorne to lose his Patience*.

But why do we follow around melancholic idiots anyway? If I may make that most unlikely link, and draw a comparison with Harry Potter, take for example Professor Snape.

Alan Rickman really doesn't do justice to the ugliness. But this drawing should give you an idea.

He's described early on as a teacher with greasy black hair, a hooked nose, and sallow skin which, as you might imagine, has earned him the admiration of thousands of women.


If he isn't a A pallid and thin young man, A haggard and lank young man then you must have an issue with the word "young". Throughout the books he unfairly insults Harry (in particular he calls him arrogant, which we, the reader, know he is not), bullies the nervous Neville Longbottom, and even takes points from Hermione for being "An insufferable know-it-all". He has a Dark Past, he's probably a murderer, he's petty, he's cruel, he's sarcastic, and don't we all love him for it?

The reason why women continue to love the Potions Master of Mystery is probably due in part to his fictionality. In real life, when we lope around melancholic and cruel men with poor hygiene, we end up getting upset, hurt or disillusioned. With Snape it's easier because being fictional we can easily reimagine him as the tragically misunderstood and secretly noble Man With A Dark Past, who covers up a deeply passionate and ultimately good soul beneath that greasy and immature exterior.

What I love about J.K. Rowling is that after reading the 50 millionth Snape-turns-good fanfic, we can get back into the books and discover that, yes, he has depth, yes, he's had a hard life, but yes, he is a very horrible man who doesn't need the love of a good woman more than he needs the service of a good psychiatrist.

Why do women love Snape? Why did Pip love Estella? Why do the stars shine above? Why do the fools fall in love? Why does a man become more attractive when you've seen him headbanging to Bohemian Rhapsody? Ahem.

We love the Snapes of this world because we're idiots. Granted, the Snapes and the Bunthornes may deserve our pity, our compassion, and our patience**, but they don't deserve our passionate adoration. Once you'd succeeded in getting Snape away from his potions and out on a date, he'd talk about himself or how much he hates Harry Potter, make cuttingly sarcastic remarks whenever you made a social faux pas, sulk when introduced to your parents and still forget to wash his hair. There's a theory that Harry's mother had a crush on old Sev back in school, and Snape fondly repaid her affections by insulting her (and by implication, her parents) (see Order of the Phoenix) .

Nice guy.

Perhaps we women have self-esteem problems. We reason that a man is inconsiderate, rude, aloof and generally disrespectful because of some kind of disturbing hierarchy that means we're lower down on the romantic food chain and therefore have to put up with this rubbish in order to get a good mate, and that our dogged persistence and loving affection will eventually melt his cold heart.

I really hope no one ever thinks that... but alas, I think there are far too many people who do think like that, both men and women.

J.K. Rowling herself offers this wise advice:

Girls, stop going for the bad guy. Go for a nice man in the first place. It took me 35 years to learn that, but I am giving you that nugget free, right now, at the beginning of your love lives.

It's all very fascinating to have Mr. Hidden Depths, or Prof. Dark Past, or whatever, as a fascinating addition to your interesting lifestyle, but living with this moron day to day? It makes singleness seem all the more wonderful. I thank W.S. Gilbert for providing this painful picture of love so that we can see just how foolish it is:

Love is a plaintive song,
Sung by a suff'ring maid,
Telling a tale of wrong,
Telling of hope betrayed;
Tuned to each changing note,
Sorry when he is sad,
Blind to his ev'ry mote,
Merry when he is glad!
Merry when he is glad!

Really, who wants a pretentious idiot who's in love with the sound of his own voice, even if he is so charmingly aesthetic and so utterly mysterious? Who wouldn't in the long run prefer a nice guy who's unashamedly ordinary, or at least doesn't carry around his Dark Past like a fashion accessory?

So here are my words of wisdom for the day: be kind to Bunthorne, but marry Grosvenor. Be courteous to Snape, but fall in love with Lupin. You know it makes sense. (I will be endeavouring to follow my own advice from now on)

* Sorry, I had to make that joke somewhere.
** No pun intended this time. Well, maybe a little.



  • At 2:33 am , Blogger Jo said...

    Firstly, apologies in advance for my ramblings...you can blame my hair not drying fast enough for me to go to bed, and the 'next blog' button for it all.

    And second...eesh, I'm one of them. Well, I used to be anyways. One of the girls that swoon over the tall dark silent b*****d's that rip our heart from our chests and then casually lean against the nearest wall in their best James Dean pose and smoke it like it never caused them a thought.

    Ok, that may have been just a tad melodramatic, but still...maybe at heart I still am that girl...

    ...it would explain my detention with snape dreams... *raises eyebrow*


  • At 3:25 pm , Blogger Helen Louise said...

    Hi Jo,

    As for "detention with Snape" dreams... the Chamber of Secrets DVD special features had a short game which included a bit where "Professor Snape has given you a detention".

    I squealed happily.

    It's OK, I think we both need help. :)

    I must admit, James Dean was gorgeous. I did have a poster of him but I dropped it in a lake. (It was windy!)

    Thanks for your comment :)

  • At 12:50 am , Blogger Jo said...

    ...umm...the question begs as to why you had a poster of him near a lake in the first place...?! lmao!

    *now wants the Chamber of Secrets DVD* Dangit! Why doesn't HMV open at ten to one in the morning?!


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