By Katie Oostman, Contributing Writer
There are several reasons movies persuade us to part with our hard-earned money so studios can rake in millions within a single weekend. Movies offer a unique experience that can be described as transporting, encompassing and stirring. In a word, movies give us feels. They arguably provide a more saturated emotional experience than real life, due to compacted drama and circumstance. Imagine what would happen if such packages were implemented on a day devoted solely to feelings—a day that mixes Hollywood’s cocktail of romance, riches and reaction.
Valentine’s Day holds its own with Christmas and New Year’s as being one of the biggest days for box office debuts. This year is no different with around a dozen new titles crossing the marquee, including the controversial “50 Shades of Grey.” Considering the trend of activities on the holiday, it’s no wonder that studios are eager to open their films on Feb. 14. The typical script for a Valentine’s Day date includes roses, dinner and a movie with chocolate sprinkled in as needed.
Movie watching offers a centralized experience to spark feelings. The effect is similar to how a favorite song can uplift a melancholy mood. Junior Philip Lambert, a media communications major, observes, “We are social creatures whose minds are wired to empathize with the struggles and needs of others, and movies satisfy that emotional need. “As Valentine’s Day propagates romance, it only makes sense to inspire the ‘warm fuzzies’ with a corresponding film with the added benefit of snuggle time. Many people choose to revisit classics such as “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Crazy Stupid Love”, “Hitch” or any derivative of “Pride and Prejudice.” While the stories range in settings, characters and situations, the effect is the same: guy and girl fall in love. Cue the happy music.
The issue with engaging in this tradition is it limits the personal interaction of a day designed to propagate the appreciation of each individual. Sheridan Swathwood, sophomore, explains, “There’s no interaction between you and the other person. You’re both just observing something together . . . If you’re trying to communicate to the other person something bigger than just ‘having fun,’ I would go with something a little more involved.” Even if the movie is a favorite of the significant other, it is still a secondary engagement of intimacy and not a direct interaction, but a connection by association, disrupting affection and diverting it towards a third, unfeeling party—the screen. This model can be applied to anytime a movie is used in correlation with attempting to better a relationship.
This means that on a day dedicated to celebrating knowing another human well, tradition mandates a generalized activity with premade content in order to “celebrate.” Caiti Maumenee, senior, explains, “Valentine’s Day is more than just gushy love notes and overpriced long stem red roses. Valentine’s for me has been the unconventional celebration of a great, intentional relationship.” By watching a movie (in spite of the context of the stated purpose of Valentine’s Day) we are promoting a disengaged, impersonal and passive attempt to feel connected over a simulated shared experience.
While this certainly does not always apply where movies are involved or even for those screened this week, it is vital to examine the purpose behind such a choice. Movies are enjoyable. They can generate sappy tendencies. They’re relaxing and provide new material for conversation. However, movies are also common and will be there tomorrow; this holiday of appreciation will not. And while acts of gratitude and affection should extend beyond once a year, if you are looking to impress, bypassing the generic option might be in your favor.
So whether Valentine’s Day is worth celebrating or not, the challenge is to appreciate important persons actively instead of passively. Hike a trail, ask 20 questions, go paintballing—anything that moves the focal point from a third party (i.e. the screen) to each other. While movies are a lovely opportunity for snuggling or as a distraction from the lack thereof, there are more creative, personalized interactions to be explored. Some of which could produce deeper “feels” than those manufactured by movies. And if you’re clever, even deeper than those “Pride and Prejudice” can muster.