How are social institutions embedded in American culture?
Or… How is marriage embedded in American media?
See how I swapped “social institution” with “marriage” – and – “culture” with “media”? Pretty sneaky.
It’s Saturday night and my girlfriend and I compromised on what we would do tonight: watch “The Proposal” on Netflix. This was her decision, but I was happy with it. She didn’t want to watch the Detroit Tigers, starting at 7p, and I didn’t want to go to the theater to see Transformers 3 or anything else that was available tonight. I enjoy 3D movies, but nothing was really available tonight. And, here we are, her on the couch and me on the love seat.
Coincidentally, I’m beginning to teach SOC 315 during the summer semester that starts in 3 days. “The Proposal” fits right in to the beginning curriculum. Here are the class’s main topics:
The American Dream
Parenthood and family wealth
So, what I’m going to do here is blog about the movie and how (if at all) it relates to those 5 topics. I’ve missed about 10 minutes of the beginning of the movie, but here goes…
The beginning of the movies starts by Sandra Bullock getting deported due to faulty American citizenship. She’s a Canadian. She’s also a single woman (that’s implied). Go to Google Scholar and search for “marrying american to keep citizenship”. I find that “citizenship represents not only the bond between an individual and a state but also a bond between one individual and many others” (Cott, 1998). Recall, in this movie, Sandra Bullock is strengthening a bond with Ryan Reynolds through marriage to keep her bond with the United States. Furthermore, her networks (remember that vocabulary term) include her job and friends. I agree with Cott, marriage is not just a bond between man and wife, but a bond with many others. Do you agree? Remember that one of our course topics is “union formation.” What other unions form when two people form the union of marriage?
At one point, the boss says “just make it legal” and points to his own wedding ring. Go to Google Scholar and search for “legalities of marriage”. You might discover that “in an effort to establish more meaningful relationships in life and yet not commit to legalities of marriage, college students are exploring alternative lifestyles such as cohabitation” (Macklin, 1972; Don Martin & Martin, 1984). Of course, in the movie, cohabitation does not meet the objectives of Ryan and Sandra. But, what goals and outcomes do those who cohabitate envision? Are those goals equivalent or different from marriage? Obviously, according to the movie at least, marriage has one more benefit than cohabitation: citizenship. Can you think of others?
Why would Ryan Reynolds marry his boss, Sandra Bullock? She threatens him, saying that his dreams would fail to come true if he crossed her. But, what is the American Dream? According to Zach De La Roch of band Rage Against the Machine:
Initially, you may take deference with De La Rocha’s points because you may initially think that “elite” means country clubs and millionaires. Or, maybe you agree with him that such a level of financial wealth is the American Dream. But, don’t forget to put things into perspective. Elitism is not just for millionaires. Owning a refrigerator was once considered a status symbol of the elite (Hayden, 2002) as was owning a television. So, it is necessary to put all those terms in context. What is your definition of the American Dream? Does your definition vary from other groups?
“Margaret and I are just 2 people that shouldn’t have fallen in love… but did.” Union formation is something to consider throughout this semester. Are unions just formed between 2 people? If you said “no,” exclude polygamy and see if you can answer “no” again. What types of unions are formed when 2 people are married? What is a union, anyway? Is it legal? Is it based on love? Take a moment to think about the definition of “union” in the scope of marriage. Are all marriages based on love? What happens when a marriage is dissolved (resulting in divorce)? Is the only bond that breaks the bond of love? Can you equate “union” with “bond”? Check out what is happening currently with the LA Dodgers professional baseball team or consider the marriage between Anna Nichole Smith and her billionaire husband. Can you find academic articles discussing these topics?
“Do I have any scars? What am I allergic to?” These are questions that Ryan and Sandra toss around trying to prove their relationship is marriage quality. I know that Catholics must undergo a series of classes and questioning to prove the couple is ready for marriage. However, I don’t know much about this. Take some time to research the necessary steps that American Catholics must take to become married. Is that a path to the American Dream? Is it a hindrance to or a promotion of union formation?
At the airport, mother and grandmother are waiting for Ryan Reynolds and he asks, “Where is dad?” Although I was distracted during the movie and tied up with this blog post, I think that Ryan’s family was reasonably wealthy. Do some research in an attempt to discover whether parenthood is tied to family wealth. Are families with more children more or less wealthy? Later in the semester, I want you to watch The One Percent (2006).
“A sign from the universe that you were meant to be together” – Betty White. Type “marriage divine intervention” into Google Scholar and you might find something like this from Robinson (1994):
“Many studies underscored the importance of religiosity in enhancing emotional intimacy or interpersonal relationships (Brueggemann, 1977; D’Antonio, Newman, and Wright, 1982; Hatch, James, and Schumm, 1986; Roth, 1988; Stinnett, 1983; Thomas and Henry, 1985; Thornton, 1985). Commitment within the marital relationship may be strengthened by a religious orientation (D’Antonio et al., 1982; Larson and Goltz, 1989) which, for some couples, encompasses spirituality or divine intervention (Abbott, Berry, and Meredith, 1990; Thomas and Roghaar, 1990). Hansen (1987) posited that religiosity may compensate for the lack of rewards in marriage for women. Social support or fellowship was another benefit of religiosity for family members (Abbott, Berry, and Meredith, 1990). These consequences of religious orientation are embodied in the concept of pastoral care, which provides for fellowship, spiritual sustenance, and mental and physical well-being (Taylor and Chatters, 1988).”
Because the movie is ending, I’m not going to take the time to turn all the references in that paragraph into a bibliography. But, I’ll teach you later in the course (if you don’t already know) how to turn those into citations. I’ll post my actual bibliography below. I’m going to estimate that there are about 30 references in this blog post. Granted, this is NOT an academic paper, I have shown how easy it is to begin an academic research paper in LESS THAN the time it takes to watch “The Proposal.” So, are you ready and excited for this class or what?!?!
Cott, N. F. (1998). Marriage and Women’s Citizenship in the United States, 1830-1934. The American Historical Review, 103(5), 1440-1474. doi:10.2307/2649963
Hayden, D. (2002). Redesigning the American dream: the future of housing, work, and family life. W. W. Norton & Company.
Macklin, E. D. (1972). Heterosexual Cohabitation among Unmarried College Students. The Family Coordinator, 21(4), 463-472. doi:10.2307/582689
Don Martin, & Martin, M. (1984). Selected Attitudes toward Marriage and Family Life among College Students. Family Relations, 33(2), 293-300. doi:10.2307/583796
Robinson, L. C. (1994). Religious Orientation in Enduring Marriage: An Exploratory Study. Review of Religious Research, 35(3), 207-218. doi:10.2307/3511889