SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The enormous popularity of films like “Titanic,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” and “Pretty Woman” reveals the universal appeal of a good love story.
Not always happy.
As in real life, though, the stories told in these three blockbusters don’t always end happily.
Sociologist Marcia Millman, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, believes that is part of their appeal.
In her new book “The Seven Stories of Love: And How to Choose Your Happy Ending,” Millman asserts these films resonate with audiences in part because they reflect plot lines that turn up over and over again in real life: stories of first love, sacrifice, rescue, postponement, and more.
Part of their appeal.
“Many people think Hollywood movies give audiences unrealistic views of love, but I think people love movies because they reflect our own experiences and can help us understand our choices,” said Millman.
In “The Seven Stories of Love,” Millman explores the major romantic scenarios that play out in films, novels, and real life.
She identifies seven distinct plots and explains the unconscious elements and origins of each.
Cycle of choices.
Based on more than two decades of scholarship on the sociology of love, the book presents plots drawn from art as well as real-life interviews to show how people tend to make choices about their romantic partners without being aware of the factors shaping their actions.
“The Seven Stories of Love” is a highly readable book that bridges the fields of psychology and sociology.
“I wanted to write a book that would illuminate romantic love and help readers have more gratifying relationships,” said Millman, whose previous books are about medical errors, money and love, and women’s obsession with weight.
“Although I write about seven love plots, readers invariably find that one story resonates more strongly for them.”
Create own happy endings.
That process of identifying one’s own personal story can help readers gain insight into their own patterns of behavior and can help them build their own “happy endings,” she added.
“Unfortunately, many of us keep ending up in the same place over and over because we don’t understand our original scenario,” said Millman.
Romantic scenarios in real life and in fiction, from “Pride and Prejudice” to “Dirty Dancing,” are driven by the wish to turn early losses or traumas into victories, said Millman.
“Without realizing it, we repeat and relive disguised versions of our childhood scenarios in order to give them a happier ending.”
While some people grow and resolve their problems through love, others become anxious and depressed and have difficulty achieving satisfying romantic connections because they keep repeating the same defeat instead of overcoming it.
By understanding their basic story and learning to exercise control over it, instead of helplessly following its course, readers can finally choose the right partner or make an existing love relationship more rewarding.