Boys only want love if it’s torture

Courtly Love.  Fin’ amor.  What comes to mind?

Knights on white horses.  Damsels in towers.  Romance.  Intrigue.  Purity.  Chivalry.

One of the many literature classes I’m taking this semester is Gender, Lit, and Culture.  The professor, Julie, is one of my absolute favorites (and happens to be my academic advisor).  This year, she’s teaching the class from the angle of Courtly Love.

It’s only been one day and I’m already over the moon with excitement.  Since today was the day for introductory material, we spent most of the time defining courtly love.  Julie showed examples of different aspects of the concept from movies like The Princess Bride, Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare in Love, and A Knight’s Tale.  (Oh, Heath Ledger.  You beautiful, beautiful man.  May you rest in peace.)

The concept of courtly love is primarily literary, meaning it didn’t actually happen in real life.  It involves a man possessing deep, ennobling love with a woman who is usually unattainable.  (She could be married, far away, or even dead.)  The lover takes on the role of a servant, humbling himself before his beloved.  He gives her excessive praise and almost wastes away (symptoms: paleness of skin, sudden weight loss, sleeplessness) due to love.  The lady is placed on a pedestal, becoming an icon of unnatural beauty and a borderline spiritual inspiration to the lover.  Due to this position, the beloved is often seen as domineering, demanding proof of his loyalty and obedience before paying him attention.

In stories of courtly love, there is secrecy, adultery, and (of course) endless suffering on behalf of the lover.  Love transcends mere emotion–it is a game, an art with rules and guidelines.

I find it all fascinating.  It’s problematic, but also tugs at your romantic heartstrings.  The idea that there is such a thing as true love sets a standard that can never be met.  We know this, but still long for it anyway.

One of the things Julie talked about was that the traditions of courtly love continue to influence our culture today.  We talked about several examples, but my favorite was from a movie that came out not too long ago…  The song, of course, is satire.  But the agony of the courtly lover is shown PERFECTLY.  (Also, it’s the best scene in Into the Woods hands down.  Attractive men ripping their shirts, writhing around on rocks, moaning about love.  Absolute hilarity.)

Courtly love isn’t just in the movies.  Julie, defending herself with the claim that it’s all her eleven year old daughter listens to, pointed out that Taylor Swift songs are littered with courtly love themes.  After class ended, I visited some of her recent songs and discovered that is absolutely true.  I mean, the ENTIRE music video to “Blank Space” is a big, overblown courtly love fest. It’s not a perfect example, but comes pretty dang close.  Taylor takes the position of the beloved, holding complete and total control of the mansion and lover.  She’s on the pedestal.  She’s got the power.  And, goodness, does she use it.  The lyrics explain the thrill of the game and the agonies of love.  “Boys only want love if it’s torture.”

Courtly love aside, the music video is absolutely hilarious.  I’m kind of in love with it.

(Also, you can take a quiz on Buzzfeed to find out what part you are.  I got the screaming fight part.)

Bill Nye comes to Morris!

A couple of days ago, a certain scientist/t.v. show host dropped by my small town on the prairie!  He found himself face to face with a full gymnasium (1,700 people in all… that’s nearly 2/5 of the town!) of students screaming “BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!”.

Bill Nye gave a fantastic talk.  He was a charismatic, engaging speaker.  I was surprised at how genuine he was.  Most speakers I hear are used to the speaking circuit, and each talk is just another stop to get through.  I fully expected a fairly dry hour of science talk that would go over my head.  That was not the case.  He spoke for over two hours and seemed genuinely interested in us.  He cracked the stereotypical Minnesota jokes about cold winters, ice fishing, the Vikings, and promised us that there are such a thing as hills.  (Morris is known for being very flat.)

Photo taken from UMM’s photo archives

Instead of sticking to facts and figures, Nye’s talk followed a narrative.  In essence, he basically told us stories for two hours.  He took us through his family’s history, including his father’s obsession with sun dials, and lead us in stories about deep space exploration.  He was a passionate speaker and continually told us we could: “dare I say it, CHANGE THE WORLD!”

The one thing about his talk I didn’t like was that I felt he was unnecessarily harsh towards Ken Ham, Creationist opponent in a debate that took place last February.  I thought he could have shown more kindness and respect towards Ham.  I wasn’t offended by what Nye said because, although I do believe in Creation, I don’t side with Ham’s extreme views that the world is only 6,000 years old.  But I thought bringing Ham up was unnecessary.

One of the questions at the end of the talk had to do with being taken seriously by an adult audience after being on a children’s show for so long.  Bill said that, yes, the transition is sometimes difficult, but it’s a process.  He also said that he never regretted the t.v. show.  I realized that, twenty years later, he was still speaking to the same audience.  Most of the students in the crowd grew up with his quirky show.  Now, here we were twenty years later, and he was still speaking to us.  It’s come full-circle.

One of the cool things about the event was that it sheds VERY good light on my university.  Being a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, we often get sidelined, despite the fact that we are one of the most academically rigorous institutions in the state of Minnesota.  And having a nationally known cultural icon like Bill Ny did, and will continue to do, wonders for our public relations.  I mean… we got a hashtag trending on Twitter!

Taken from UMM’s Facebook page

It was a great night, though.  Although I’m not a science major, I loved his excitement as he encouraged our generation to engage in the world of discovery.  I grew up with Bill Nye–he’s the man who taught me all I know about magnets and nuclear power.  I used to run around the house singing his theme song at the top of my lungs.  Countless study-worn students, myself included, left the talk bright-eyed and refreshed to learn all they can and, dare I say it, change the world.