Taking Stock Diary: A little insight into a PopCultureDiva’s thinking: REALISM vs. ROMANCE

by Angela Guillaume

So after endorsement from various PCD superheroines, here’s the diary entry for this month…..:-)

Well, the last few weeks have been surreal, eerie even. Bear in mind I’m writing this under the effect of strong antibiotics battling a vicious flu bug, still, things have been out of the ordinary. In my area there have been several tragic deaths and accidents – all youngish people, most in their prime, all happening within days or just weeks of each other.

A 27 year old lawyer at the brink of a promising career choking to death on his food, his life ending just as it’s about to take off…

Tween twins becoming victims of a hit and run, one in danger of dying…

A middle-aged man with still many years left to forge his destiny deciding to give up on the pain of life, and bring it to an abrupt halt…

A 20 year old single mother succumbing to a bad motorcycle accident, currently teetering on the edge of existence in intensive care…

Don’t know when this cycle will end. Usually when such news comes to my attention, at so uncomfortably close an angle, it always comes in a bunch, like an ugly, foul bouquet of rotten flowers.

PONDERING A THOUGHT OR TWO: …about destiny and life and weighty, philosophical, metaphysical questions. And I wonder: how much control do we really have? Can we really, “take the bull by the horns and go all the way”? I suppose we can go for it – indeed we must or life is for naught – but we always have the curtain hanging over us and in times like these, when people check out before they make their time, I always ask myself, “When will it rain on my parade?”

Yet it’s not healthy to keep brooding about such matters. Certainly, loss and strife are in our DNA but that uncanny thing we call survival instinct, if functioning as it should, inevitably kicks in and imbues us with zest for what’s to come. At least, that's the plan. As for me, I just can never give up, which is perhaps why I’m so romantic. Lately, an acquaintance told me he’d rather be a realist than a romantic. Fair enough - can't argue with that, because there's no wrong or right here. I say, how about a bit of both? Life is tough enough, and sometimes, whether we admit it or not, we need an escape. And here's another thought: is realism necessarily reflecting an ugly reality? Is that all we expect from life these days?

It is dreaming that brings people to the top and makes them do extraordinary things. It is hoping that keeps them going and it is support that feeds those hungry for validation. In the bad times, we must not forgo all of these; rather, we must hang on to them more than ever.

Ok, enough of this gloom now...here's the point...

I got to thinking about movies and books where “realism” is chosen over “romance” – or in translation, good vs. bad endings…and wondered, what if they ended differently? Here are only a handful of examples:

Gone with the Wind
Doctor Zhivago
Nights in Rodanthe
Cold Mountain
Love Story
The Children of Men (the movie not the book)
The Visitor
American Beauty

For a list of more films with tragic endings, go here.

In every one of these films, the characters did not get to live lasting happiness – they either lost someone they loved, sacrificed their love for an ideal, chose to not take a risk, took a risk but fate interrupted the idyll, had their relationship torn apart, or died heroically. In these stories, the director/author chose realism over romance. What is true over what could be true. Tragedy over happiness. Anti-heroes vs. straight up heroes. Dystopia vs. utopia. Sometimes we are left with a ray of hope - a child, some sort of continuation or catharsis, redemption, etc.; at other times, it is impossible to pick up the pieces and find the faintest bit of sunshine in the bleakest of scenarios. Perhaps rightly so, because as one of my Facebook friends has titled her photo album, her uploads are “unsorted – as life doesn’t come in folders.” I personally know very talented authors who choose to be realist in their writing and recognize that life is what it is. Yeah, life is not a neat little affair that we can package with a pink bow and adorn with thorn-less roses. Shit happens, whether we like it or not.

I do concur, but that little voice in me nags…oh, can’t I just escape this once into such a world, and come out refreshed, reborn, ready to live another day? Happy endings do not teach us how to cope with adversity, but they do help us regroup and face the next hour with that bit more aplomb. To wallow in depression by “watching depression” may sometimes not be the best way to cut through the hard fat of sad circumstance.

And as I hinted in my last blog, a PopCultureDiva (PCD) does not wallow: she picks herself up, struts her feathers, and moves on. In order to do this, though, a PCD cannot tempt fate too much by welcoming constant images of tragedy and mayhem. I told this to my DH once who, although not a PCD, is not immune from bombardment by the negative images of the modern world. As a news junkie, his vision of things was becoming rather cynical. Who blames him when the news reporters rarely have something good to say about the human race? But it's out there - good is out there (here's the romantic in me :-)). So we changed news stations to find one that does not only report on bombs and killings and what's just not working in this broken world. They broadcast interesting vignettes into the lives of ordinary individuals who live out-of-the-ordinary lives or achieve amazing feats. We reckon this will make for a more positive worldview.

Today there seems to be a trend toward realism. There’s nothing wrong with this, but realism as tragedy is not the only way. Yet, things have gotten bad and perceptions are a bit skewed. I know people who have to justify reading romance or inspirational books or books with happy, uplifting endings because others mock them for it. Guess a story that makes you smile is not “cool”. I say, if that happens to you, tell them to stuff it. It’s your honest, PCD right to do so! Seriously.

Now, I do not say I do not ever entertain a good dose of realism. Indeed, some of my favorite movies are those that do not sugarcoat life, but expose it for what it is. 8MM, Lions for Lambs, The Constant Gardener, Irina Palm, The Visitor... these are movies that tackle various aspects of the human spirit, good or bad. Yet, what we must get from these stories is not the dire fatality of them, but the willingness to look deep into ourselves and admit to ourselves our weaknesses, our failings, our moments of shame, so that we may be all the stronger for it. That, in my view, ought to be the true and primary object of a realistic perspective.

THE LESSON OF THE HOUR: I say balance is key. Smile and live well, keep the doldrums at bay. Face the music with grace and don't let it get you off your game. Be real, but allow yourself to dream and escape. When shit happens, don't run away and leave a mess; clean it up, and find the best way to move on. Seek the happy endings for every installment of your own story, and if sometimes you fall short, don’t let the bastards get you down. Lastly, make the most of each day, for at some point or other, the bell will toll.

For R.S. and C.G. - may you rest in peace, and may those you left behind, find theirs.

~ Angela Guillaume ~
Where love is more than history
Website: http://www.angelaguillaume.com
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/angelaguillaume
Yahoo Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/breathtakingromance/
Blog: http://angelaguillaume.blogspot.com
"Mile High to Heaven"--Go the extra mile for love--Contemporary short. "Mr. & Mrs. Foster"--A toasty warm holiday tale
Both books can be purchased from: Whiskey Creek Press Torrid


  1. Wonderfully thoughtful and provocative post Angela! I think it's my favourite post of yours yet! And here you are sick with a terrible flu. :(

    I agree with you - although there are times when I feel absolutely drained by all the "negativity" around me - by all the terrible things that happen to friends/family/acquaintances as well as what is happening on a global scale I have that spark/spirit inside of me that says - c'mon keep going - keep hoping - keep searching - keep yearning - keep loving - keep laughing.

    Thank you so much for writing this.

    Get better!

  2. oh, and I think what makes certain movies special even though they end tragically is the motivation behind the tragic circumstances- yes Casablanca chose realism over a fairy tale ending - but Rick made his sacrifice for love. The Constant Gardner - again - Fiennes's (Justin) journey was motivated by love and self-discovery - his sacrifice in the end was for love. So even though they end sadly - we are uplifted by what propelled those characters forward. Cheers!

  3. I think there's a trend toward extremism - from politics to religion to fiction. As in all of life, I prefer the place in the middle and that's where I write - a bit of reality mixed in with my escape. And that's what I like to read. I'm hoping that makes a comeback. :)

  4. Realism can become daunting so it's nice to find an escape once in a while.

    My dh is a realist, and I'm the romantic. Smile.

    Very good post.

  5. Amen to all of that my friend... your words give some solace to us who are in pain and wondering why and how last's week's events happened. Wish I had your magical way with words. You are a deeply compassionate person who has the gift of writing. Keep em coming...

  6. *sigh* I'd left a nice long comment and Blogger ate it.
    In short, I agree: choose joy over despair, or it can eat you alive.
    Hope you are feeling better soon!

  7. Quote: THE LESSON OF THE HOUR: I say balance is key. Smile and live well, keep the doldrums at bay. Face the music with grace and don't let it get you off your game. Be real, but allow yourself to dream and escape. When shit happens, don't run away and leave a mess; clean it up, and find the best way to move on. Seek the happy endings for every installment of your own story, and if sometimes you fall short, don’t let the bastards get you down. Lastly, make the most of each day, for at some point or other, the bell will toll.

    I say Amen to that, Angela. Yes, life is brutal at times but it is also beautiful. There's balance everywhere, we just have to seek it even if the slope is sliding us toward one extreme more.

    Get better asap.


  8. Thank you girls - yes, the key is always balance. And yes, extremism is a problem too...but before that, we have realism. That compulsion to show it how it is, unflinchingly. Today's viewer and reader has become desensitized to crude and painful images. Is this good or bad? I suppose opinions differ on this one but I still mourn a time when we still strove to maintain some sort of innocence in ourselves and our children. x


Post a Comment

We would love to hear from you but hope you are a real person and not a spammer. :)

Popular Posts