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I was at Berkeley Bowl today, and they always have this whole area full of gorgeous yet inexpensive fresh-cut flowers, and since I have some extra money this week (and the flowers were only around $4 a bunch), I decided I would buy myself some. But then I kept dithering. Should I get the sunflowers? Or the African daisies? Or maybe the deep red dahlias? Or maybe those strange round purple flowers that look kind of like alien eye stalks (but pretty)? In the end, I couldn't decide, and so I bought no flowers at all. Hrmph. I should have just closed my eyes, asked a fellow shopper to spin me around a few times, and then bought whatever I ended up pointing at. Whatever it was, I'm sure I would have loved it.

And then I spent some time this evening shopping around online for romance novels that sound interesting (as I have once again recently been indulging in this old guilty pleasure of mine). In general, I have various plot lines that tend to interest me most. The unrequited love plot, for example, is my favorite, especially if it involves close friends. But one of the basic plot models I was looking for tonight was the "we once loved each other when we were young, but were separated by circumstances (usually involving some kind of dramatic misunderstanding), and only now are reunited and discovered that our feelings have not died" theme, but I kept running into this one particular difficulty: apparently every single person who has ever had a young love, then been separated, then been reunited years later has produced a secret love child as a result of that early liaison. Sheesh! Is this really so prevalent in the world? Is it really that easy to get pregnant? Is this really what all romance readers are looking for? Is pregnancy and childbirth really so romantic? Personally, I'm not so interested in secret babies, and so I found the pattern a bit annoying.

My third point of the day is that I am currently obsessed with this cheesy Taylor Swift song called "Love Story":

My only knowledge of Taylor Swift prior to yesterday was when Damon Salvatore (on "The Vampire Diaries") said, "Some girls just can't resist my good looks, my style, my charm ... and my unflinching ability to listen to Taylor Swift." But I now find that I rather like a couple of her songs, and I keep listening to this one particular tune over and over again. It's catchy! Okay, yeah, so it's pretty much the kind of music that belongs on a "Dawson's Creek" soundtrack ... but ... well ... Shannon and I actually own a couple "Dawson's Creek" soundtracks ... and "our song" was actually on a "Dawson's Creek" soundtrack ... so I guess this new development is no surprise.

I just love a song that tells a story, especially if there's a catchy chorus and maybe some references to Shakespeare. So sue me. Though I must admit I'm rather puzzled by the part in the song in which Swift sings:

'cause you were Romeo -- I was a scarlet letter,
And my daddy said, "Stay away from Juliet,"
But you were everything to me,
I was begging you, "Please don't go"

Um ... "scarlet letter"? WTF? How did adultery come into this? And how can a person be a scarlet letter? Was someone wearing her pinned to their shirt? Was she (the girl in the song) somehow a societal symbol of the boy's sexual misconduct? Was she forced upon him as a punishment for his behavior and a warning to others? Was Swift just looking for some random literary reference to throw into her lyrics? Or did she never read that particular novel and just tried to glean from popular culture what the "scarlet letter" meant, with nonsensical results? Or am I totally missing something? Do these lyrics actually make sense?

I hate feeling like I'm totally missing something.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 1st, 2011 11:02 am (UTC)
I like that Taylor Swift song but never paid much attention to the lyrics, LOL. There's a fair amount of online discussion about the meaning of that song in particular, I thought this little essay was interesting -
Sep. 1st, 2011 04:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks for pointing me to that essay. I think it's a bit pretentious (Aren't we taking Taylor Swift a bit too seriously here? She isn't T. S. Eliot, folks.), but still had some interesting things to say. I was surprised by the strong implication that "people" have criticized Taylor Swift for "corrupting" or "not understanding" the Romeo and Juliet story because of how lightly she uses the references in the song, which had absolutely never occurred to me and which seems (to me) ridiculous. Two kids in love, parent(s) insisting that they be apart ... this *obviously* merits some R&J comparisons! Not every relationship situation that has R&J overtones must must must end in tragedy or the writer is "missing the point." It's *okay* to riff off existing/accepted culture and do something different with it.

However ... I still don't buy the essayists explanation of the Scarlet Letter reference:
Likewise, when Swift refers to herself as a “scarlet letter,” she’s not literally branding herself an adulterer (the phrase is a reference to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel of the same name), but comparing herself to forbidden fruit; like Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, who wore a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest to signify her sin, the narrator in “Love Story” is “off limits,” desirable but forbidden by her social enclave (in this case, the narrator’s family, or, more specifically, her father).

This seems stupid to me. Didn't Taylor Swift (or whoever writes her songs, or even the person writing this essay!) take the S.A.T.s? Do they even understand how parallelism works? When you're making a comparison like this, there are certain major elements in the story:
Hester Prynne, forbidden woman
Hester's husband, guy who got betrayed
Arthur Dimmesdale, forbidden guy (and sexed up minister)
Pearl, Hester's bastard daughter (the fruits of sin!)
the "scarlet letter," a piece of cloth (the brand of a sinner!)
Now, saying, "I'm a scarlet letter," in the context of the song seems to be just grabbing some random bit of the story -- the even people who haven't read the book -- will recognize, and throwing it in there.

Just because a story is about forbidden love doesn't mean any old random reference to another such story makes sense. I mean, she could have compared herself to a balcony, right? That wouldn't make it a sensible R&J reference. Because the balcony is a recognizable piece of the R&J story, but it wasn't in love (or anything else Juliet was, except, I suppose, Italian).

Forgive the rant. It's not directed at you. I just ... I'm a big literature/rhetoric/language nerd, and crappy parallelism like this bugs me.
Sep. 1st, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
Wow ... I wrote that immediately after waking up this morning, so upon rereading it seems rather incoherent.

The points I was trying to make:
1. A scarlet letter is not forbidden.
2. This is horrible parallelism, which makes for less effective emotional resonance.

And, just as a point I thought of more recently (after waking up a bit more), the whole "scarlet letter" reference seems really inappropriate for the story and tenor of the song. Adultery? Bastard children? Fornicating ministers? There's a certain innocence to the love story in the song, and it's an innocence that is also found in the R&J story ... but the darkness of The Scarlet Letter just seems really inappropriate.
Sep. 1st, 2011 01:04 pm (UTC)
If it were THAT easy to get pregnant, then I would probably have a kid by now b/c I'm so bad at taking my birth control pills on time (or even every day). And no, I don't find childbirth particularly romantic; in fact that's the part that SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME and leads to some rather childish whining to Tyler of "we don't HAVE to have a baby, do we?". I do want to be a mother, and I do want to have a kid with Tyler's eyes, and I certainly don't want some other woman to have that kid...but can't we just skip all that and let the stork bring the baby instead? ;)

Love Story is one of my favorite songs too, but I still don't get the Scarlet Letter part; it makes no sense. Funny thing is the song came out when I met Tyler, and the lines "marry me Juliet you'll never have to be alone" always make me tear up b/c they're SO true for me.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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