Love, Inc

The intersections of emotion and capitalism.

Same Love, Mass Weddings, and the Cult of Romance

Macklemore sings "Same Love" while Queen Latifah marries 34 couples on live TV.

"Same Love" is THE gay anthem. When performed at Macklemore concerts couples are known to propose to each other on stage. And why not? The song is beautiful. And righteous.

'Gay' is synonymous with the lesser

It's the same hate that's caused wars from religion

Gender to skin color, the complexion of your pigment

The same fight that led people to walk outs and sit ins

It's human rights for everybody, there is no difference. 

Live on! And be yourself!

Last night Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with Madonna performed Same Love at the Grammys while Queen Latifah married 34 couples- of various sexualities, ages, and races. One of the couples getting married was Ryan Lewis's sister. According to Lewis

“A night that is already tremendous for me, for the music,” Mr. Lewis said, “but to have my sister get married and my family there watching it — that makes it a whole other level of amazing.”

Only a truly cynical and bitter person could find anything not to love about such a performance of One Love and a truly diverse mass wedding officiated by the Queen.

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So I must admit to feeling like the world's most cynical and bitter person because all I could think was MOONIES. The mass wedding reminded me of the communal commitment ceremonies of the Unification Church meant to remove couples from the original sin of Eve, Unification mass weddings supposedly set couples free to love without any self-interest. So it is that this mass wedding felt a bit cultish. Or if not the ceremony itself, the idea that marriage is a site of liberation. For the Marriage Movement sorts like Macklemore, same-sex marriage will liberate us from hate and prejudice.

But I'm not so sure. After all, the majority of Americans are not married and if the U.S. ends up similar to other industrialized countries, fewer and fewer people will be getting married in the future. So how will marriage liberate any of us, straight or gay, young or old, black or white? Of course Macklemore recognizes that even in the song.

And a certificate on paper isn't gonna solve it all

But it's a damn good place to start

Yet I can't help but think that like other cults, the marriage movement has a way of oversimplifying very complex realities. And like most cults, the marriage movement doesn't want us to ask too many questions. Questions like: If most Americans aren't married and won't get married, why would marriage be a good place to start? If what people want is equality of rights and privileges, shouldn't that be equality of rights and privileges for all? Married and unmarried alike? And if marriage itself is increasingly a site of distinction, a prestige item like owning a home or getting a college education, a good reserved for those with the most money in our culture, how could focusing on it ever get us universal health care, access to higher education for all or a more equitable distirbution of wealth?

In the spirit of Madonna, I must confess that I myself, the world's most cynical and bitter person, was moved to tears. Unlike the ceremonies of the Unification Church, this one combined our cultural deities with a good beat, beautiful costumes and the leitmotif of our time: romance. In our culture, romance is the ruling ideology, more important than capitalism or even Christianity. Romance tells us money doesn't matter and heaven can happen here on earth. If we submit ourselves to the cult or romance, the redistribution of wealth to the top 1 percent doesn't matter. Environmental collapse is unimportant. As Irving Berlin, the Rev. Moon of Romance, once told us, we can weather the storm if we have our love to keep us warm. Brainwashed by the Cult of Romance, gay and straight Americans are the same. 

Laurie Essig, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology and women and gender studies at Middlebury College.

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