I love a good romance, and so I go hopefully when a new one comes out. Hopefully, but admittedly, skeptically as well—I’m skeptical because I often feel like what’s being touted as an “ideal” love is often a lie. Unfortunately, this was one of those times. I try to keep from “hating” on movies and instead look to find meaningful points of connection with faith, but once in a while the meaningful thing is to call a spade a spade. So, let me try to point out why I think love should be better than this—why we shouldn’t hold this up as an ideal to aspire to…because there’s better for us out there than this.
Dawson was a good boy with a drunk, abusive father. He ran away and was taken in by a wonderful man named Tuck. This was a great storyline, actually—sweet and powerful. Tuck became a wonderful father figure to Dawson and his girlfriend, Amanda. But, the drunk father continued to cause problems and through a mishap of events caused by the father, Dawson’s best friend ended up dead and Dawson landed in jail for several years.
Dawson, in a desire to be sacrificial and do what he thought was right for Amanda, cut her out of his life when he went to jail. Eventually, she gave up and moved on with her life, got married, had children, etc. She moved on, as did he, but both only did so externally. They had never reconciled their pasts, never healed, never moved on, so when Tuck died years later and they were reunited and forced to settle his estate together, it was a time to heal some old wounds.
That’s the idea the movie sells you—it was a healing thing. What really happened, however, in crasser but more honest terms, is they had an affair.
We are supposed to feel sympathetic about this, however, because Amanda was married to a jerk. I mean, everyone knows it’s ok to have an affair if it’s with someone you really love and the man you are married to is a jerk—right? Because marriage vows, your word, character, ethics, morals…(not to mention obedience to God)…none of this matters if it’s true love. They were just giving each other love, freedom, forgiveness and inspiration to live the lives they were meant to live (Amanda had been miserable and forgotten who she was…but that’s ok because Dawson inspired her again). We all need that, right? We all need to feel good, right?
I understand that her marriage was a disaster. I understand that sometimes you need a friend to help you get your bearings again—but I don’t understand how that justifies an affair. An affair is wrong. Period. No matter how pretty we make it, how wonderful the people involved are, how awful their spouses may be; it’s still an affair and a violation of the vows you made, before God.
Conveniently, Dawson was killed off. I say it was convenient because Amanda and Dawson didn’t have to really face the consequences of their affair. She could fantasize the rest of her life about this perfect weekend with him. They never had to live life together, pay the bills, find out who they really were, all these years later in life. It was this magical moment that was never really spoiled by any actual reality. How convenient. To make it even more romantic and ideal, Amanda’s son was in an accident and needed a heart transplant to survive—and wouldn’t you know it, Dawson’s heart just so happened to be his salvation. (That’s not plot manipulation, at all!) So Amanda, and all the hopeless romantics who watch this, can pine about how beautiful it was that her son was saved by her true love… sigh…
I have to tell you, it made me angry! I’m not very woman’s lib, but this time I just want to shout and say isn’t there anyone who, like me, thinks we are smarter than this? Don’t they know we can see it when we are being manipulated? The fact of their affair is not erased by the fact that he’s gone. The pain her son would feel, knowing his mom was sleeping around on his dad, is not eliminated by the fact that he his mom’s lover’s heart. That doesn’t make the sin go away.
Granted, after they’d been sleeping together for a couple days, Dawson realizes it has to stop. “We can’t do this, can we. I know you, Amanda. I know your heart. … You have a husband and a son…” I know that sometimes we make mistakes and at least he realized it and snapped back to reality. It was nice that he set her free to go on with her life as she needed to do. But the sin of the affair wasn’t dealt with. That’s what bugs me. It was glorified. “No matter what happens, Amanda, I want you to know how grateful I am, because I know what it’s like to love someone, to have truly loved someone.” Don’t you see the sheen they are putting on this? Even Tuck in his dying letters to them put some gloss over the idea: “I got you here because I don’t want you to live with regret. … You two were meant to love each other.” Come on—it was fate, so how could it be wrong?
That is such wrong thinking it makes me a little hostile; I have to admit. Right and wrong are about standards, not about feelings. An affair is wrong. I’m not saying her marriage was right, but that’s not the point. You know the saying: two wrongs don’t make a right.
I think the writers know that an affair gets our shackles up a little, which is why they softened things. This is why we have Dawson being “admirable” and “honorable”—if you can call it that after he’s been sleeping with her. He does understand her commitments and support that she’s going to go back to keeping them, but if he was truly admirable and honorable, wouldn’t he have helped her keep those commitments by not sleeping with her in the first place? Wouldn’t he have encouraged her in her marriage and in her life? Helped her honor her husband and her vows? Helped her think through how to make her marriage better? Or at least have waited until she was free to marry him (since they conveniently make it clear that the husband isn’t going to work things out with her)? Just because they give him some things to say that sound righteous, don’t be mistaken. Real righteousness would have done right in the first place, not just said the right things afterwards. And if he’d made a mistake, (sometimes righteous people do), then he wouldn’t have simply moved on, he would have confessed and repented first.
On top of the wrongness of the plotline as a whole, add to that the prolonged scenes which had absolutely no purpose other than to show buff men without shirts… and I just begin to feel insulted. Fine, the guy’s got abs. But come on, there is more to love than six-pack abs. If this is a love story, then can’t we focus on the things that make love last, like character and kindness? It’s not that real love can’t come with muscles, but that when true love’s marketing campaign is focused on hot bodies it cheapens what it’s really selling. It’s the equivalent of showcasing a twinkie on an advertisement for Emerile Lagasse. It’s not that twinkies are bad, necessarily, but that they cheapen the concept and quality of what his food is really all about. A hot bod may be the icing on the cake of love, but it’s not the substance of the cake.
I’m not trying to hate on the story, but I do want to challenge us to be careful not to consume the lies. Let’s not buy into the idea that affairs are fine. They aren’t. They’re destructive and, worse, they grieve the Lord. Let’s not romanticize or glorify sin. Let’s not call Dawson and Amanda our heroes. Let us not be inspired by their examples. Instead, let’s look for better stories, better examples, more substance and more character.
Questions for Discussion
- What about Dawson and Amanda’s story was inspirational and good?
- What about their story/romance was not good?
- What would have made their love a better love?
- Do you think Dawson did what was right for Amanda? Was he sacrificial in his love for her?
- As a married woman, how do you think Amanda should have handled herself with Dawson?
- Do you think this was a story about an ideal love? Why or why not? What other movies do you think portray an ideal kind of love?