A Romantic Distinction

I propose a distinction between two varieties of romance in fiction: Girly romances and manly romances.

A girly romance is a romance where the man, or woman, is willing to give up everything in order to be with the one they love.

A manly romance is a romance where the man, or woman, is forced to give up, or risk, their happiness with the one they love in order to achieve a greater good.

Girly romances don’t necessarily have to be bad (See: “Wall-E”), and manly romances don’t necessarily have to be good (I can’t think of any bad examples off the top of my head, but I’m not a fan of the romance genre generally). But I think the distinction is at least an interesting one.

To see the quintessential examples of both, “Titanic” is THE girly romance, and “Casablanca” is THE manly romance. They’re both considered classics (though I can’t stand “Titanic”, but hey, it’s popular), and both of them fit the categories perfectly: Rick gives up Ilsa in order to aid the war effort, even though it hurts them both, and in “Titanic” Jack is willing to give up even his life in order to save Rose, and Rose apparently happy to give up her posh upper class status in order to be with Jack.

If “Casablanca” were a girly romance, Rick would have run off with Ilsa and Lazlo would have been sad but happy that Ilsa was happy, and they would flee Casablanca together.

If “Titanic” were a manly romance, Jack would be forced to leave Rose behind in order to – let’s say – find and release lifeboats to save the other passengers, and Rose would recognize that she had responsibilities to her family and society that made a relationship with Jack irresponsible and reckless anyway. Both would be sad but would part ways in the knowledge that they were doing the difficult but moral thing. Interestingly, in this version of “Titanic” it actually might make more sense for Jack to live.

Just food for thought.

  • Hmmm.

    This is a specific type of romance, in which one or the other gets to lose.

    Against this there is the type where the romance is the echo of the main plot and the character development in that. As in, the Star Wars trilogy. Han Solo neither sacrifices his love to the Rebellion, nor the Rebellion is his love. His love, and accepting that his beloved loves him, is the concrete manifestation (the objective correlative, T.S. Eliot would say) of his incorporation into the society of the Rebellion, from his loner status.

    • Bellomy

      I’d respond – off the top of my head here -that that’s a romantic subplot in a movie that’s not in itself a romance.

  • Robert Blume

    Your example of a manly romance doesn’t look like a romance at all to me. Edgar Rice Burroughs would be the manly romance writer if I was going to pick one. Or manly wade wellman. A man shows his love through actions, sometimes literally facing the hosts of hell for her. Rick didn’t face the nazis for her and their future together. As I understood it the movie is pretty clear she is married to some other dude as is going to stay that way. Reading the synopsis it’s closer to Burroughs then you lead people to believe. He doesn’t give her up for the greater good. He gives her up for her greater good. He like Tarzan believes his woman lives another more than him and would be better off with that other person. Both Laszlo and Rick are planning on helping the resistance. But Laszlo well be safe in new York while Rick will be in the thick of things.

    • Bellomy

      As I understood it the movie is pretty clear she is married to some other dude as is going to stay that way.

      Absolutely not. In fact, at one point it seems all but certain that Rick and Ilsa are going to run off together; Rick clearly desires it and Ilsa has come out and said she’ll do whatever Rick tells her to.

      Reading the synopsis it’s closer to Burroughs then you lead people to believe.

      Well, I wasn’t leading people to believe anything about Burroughs one way or the other.

      The crux of Rick’s moral arc is this:

      Rick can have Ilsa, but this means that he needs to get her away from Lazlo. The best way to do that is for Lazlo to simply get captured by the Nazis. All Rick has to do is escape Casablanca with Ilsa and leave Lazlo behind, and presto. Of course, Lazlo is a key player in the Resistance, but why does Rick care?

      OR – Rick can help Lazlo and Ilsa escape, thus essentially becoming a part of the Resistance himself. He will need to sacrifice his longed for relationship with Ilsa to do so, but there are more important things, right?

      It might leave Ilsa happier in the long run, but the movie is very clear that this is far from the sole or even main motivation; and even then, the protagonist sacrifices the happy ending for *himself*.

      And “Casablanca” is considered one of the great all-time movie romances.

      • Robert Blume

        Considering Rick just killed a Nazi commander in full veiw of a Vichy police officer with the police minutes away from arriving on scene, how do you justify him joining anything but a jail cell or death? It’s a twist when Louis lies for him. I have never once heard casablanca described as a romance. It’s always just been called a great or classic movie with no genre attached. Even sometimes the greatest movie of all time. As to the Burroughs comment I was implying you were misrepresenting the film in an attempt to justify your narrative. What you describe as a manly romance isn’t romance at all. Burroughs writes stories that have true manly romances. The story presented in the actual synopsis is closer to a Burroughs story and a true manly romance than the summary you present.

        • Bellomy

          He becomes a part of the resistance effectively because he kills for the resistance, and helps Lazlo escape.

          If you have never heard it called a romance…I can only call that bizarre. It is 150% a romance and always acknowledged as so. I’m on a phone or I’d link it but even a cursory google shows me that it’s 3rd on the Rotten Tomatoes best romances list. The Time Out list places it at number 2.

          • Robert Blume

            I am talking people. You want to describe it as your ultimate man’s romance movie. I have heard a lots of men talk about the movie but they don’t say it’s a romance. They just go on about how great it is and it’s a classic everybody should watch. On to the second point effectively joined the resistance doesn’t mean on purpose. You ascribe purpose to it. You say joining the resistance and saving Laszlo were more important than saving the girl. I am saying if that’s true it’s not a romance.

          • Robert Blume

            I also dont see how your ideas match the film either. He wasn’t getting drunk alone in a bar listening to sad songs because of the resistance.

          • Bellomy

            Your whole argument is so bizarrely ignorant of the film I don’t even know where to start.

            Ilsa and Lazlo’s arrival and what happened that day *changed Rick’s mind*, and galvanized him. Sending Ilsa off with Lazlo was *less* safe than him running off with her. Rick explicitly says that their desires don’t amount to a hill of beans.

            Seriously. Did you even watch the film? I’m honestly not sure. You mention looking up the synopsis only.

          • Bellomy

            That’s just bizarre. “Some guys I talk to said that it’s not a romance, so no matter what the rest of the world says that settles it”.

            Yeah, sure. If that’s how you want to play it…you win. You and those guys you spoke to don’t need to consider it a romance. Godspeed. I’ll go with the rest of the world.

          • Bellomy

            Also, you’re just ignoring the dialogue completely. He explicitly says there are more important things than him and Ilsa.

          • Robert Blume

            If they are more important why wasn’t he doing them before and why did he not help Laszlo from the beginning?