Resolution, Not Conflict

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And the Oscars 2013 Grand Prize Winner Was ... Marriage!

How will marriage fare in the 2014 Oscars? Will it be portrayed positively?

marriage in the Oscars
For all too many years marriage has been a minor player in the movies.  Romance, yes.  Boy-meets-girl always has had and will be going to have big-time appeal.  Yet a surprisingly major or at least secondary theme in many of the 2013 Oscar nominees was the  importance of stable long-term marriage.  How refreshing, for American movies to portray love as being not just about romance or, if marriage is included, have it be about reasons for divorce, but rather to illustrate, inspirationally, the value of close marital bonds.

Argo, the 2013 grand prize winner for Best Film, was an exception in that marriage was not a relevant theme. The Argo story recalls the kidnapping of Americans in Tehran, the capital of Iran, in the days shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution there. Argo tells the story of how Americans at that time daringly saved fellow-Americans. 

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Looking at the other movies nominated for the 2013 Oscar Best Film prize though, marriage was remarkably prominent.  

Amour was explicitly about marriage.  Who would have thought that Europe, where marriage has been going out of fashion, would produce such a remarkably internationally acclaimed movie sympathetically focused on this topic!  

Django’s story dramatized, albeit quite violently, a man’s quest to rejoin his wife.  These images spoke volumes about a Black couple’s long-lasting love for each other, setting a marvelous model for Black, and all, couples to remain dedicated to their union.  

Silver Linings Playbook tracked a family with an older couple whose adult son was having problems.  

Beasts of the Southern Wild focused on a single parent family.  While it did not show marriage, it did show a dad who was the active parent.  This example may at least be a positive step in the direction away from single mom families and toward Black dads’ reintegration into family structures. Reintegration of dads into parenting and utlimately family life could be a positive step toward rebuilding an American culture of respect for marriage and families.

Life of Pi started with scenes of family life, with a loving couple who are Pi’s parents.  It concluded similarly with scenes of the intact family that Pi built for himself in Canada after his remarkable journey.  These images conveyed that marriage is what folks who have faced premature death aim to create for themselves when their lives have been redeemed.

Lincoln too focused on the President’s marriage and family.  These relationships were a vital component of the struggles Llincoln faced personallly in his final and heroic years.  And in fighting to abolish slavery, Lincoln was fighting for an end to  slave-masters' rights to sever their slaves' marriage bonds by selling one or the other marriage partner. 

Zero Dark Thirty dealt with marriage in abstentia.  That is, the heroine was unmarried.  By the end of the movie her aloneness, to me, was stark. For all her heroic pursuit of Bin Ladin, the protagonist at the end was alone with no life partner with whom she could share the glory and the agonies of what she had accomplished.

A wedding was however a featured event in Les Miserables -- a glorious celebration of marriage.

So what was the potential impact of the 2013 Oscars' focus on marriage? 

For many years marriage has been on the decline.  Relationships were in, marriage was out.  Now are we seeing the return of marriage as an institution that even our media highlights in a positive way?  

Cohabitation before marriage is still on the rise, as is age of first marriage.  Still, these trends may change if the media continue to portray marriage in an increasingly attractive light.  

In an early posting I talked about how violence in the media may normalize violence in real life.  How encouraging it would be for our society if the Oscars would continue to validate films that, instead of glorifying violence, portray marriage in an inspiring light.  

Research validation

In 2013, research from the University of Rochester found that simply watching a relationship-centered film and discussing it with your spouse can reduce your risk of divorce over the next three years by 50 percent.  How's that for a fun version of couples counseling!

Oscars' 2014

By including images that validate marriage, the media could have a decidedly positive social impact on America, and around the globe where American movies are shown.  As you watch this year's Oscar's, do look to assess which movives are portraying healthy marriages, illustrating how couples save a marriage that has hit bumps, and dramatizing the joys and benefits of life-long loving marriage relationships!

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Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D. is author of the book for couples on enjoying a successful marriage called Power of Two and of the marriage skill-building website, PowerOfTwoMarriage.com

 

 

 

 

Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is the author of many books, including From Conflict to Resolution and The Power of Two. She is a graduate of Harvard University and New York University.

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