Love and movies
  • | dtinews.vn | April 22, 2011 03:06 AM

In English there is a phrase, “Love is the universal language.” I’ve always thought it was true enough. There is no country in the world that I know of where people do not flirt, do not hold hands, do not kiss, do not marry and have children.

I taught a class recently where I asked the students about their ideas about love. They were all fairly young, around 20 or so. None of them were married yet.

It is a subject that interests everyone, and especially the young, so of course it would make for some interesting discussion. But what they actually said was a little surprising to me.

At that age I had certain ideas about love that now seem a little bit naive. They were ideas based on lack of experience. Nothing strange: trust, faithfulness, generosity, kindness, but, most of all, and the naive part, a strong emotion attached.

That emotion, I thought, was at the core of it all; something which, if lost, made everything else meaningless. What good is loyalty or kindness when the feeling of love has died?

That’s what I used to think. Now, frankly, I’m just not sure. I’ve already told you that I do not plan to marry, so maybe I’m not the normal case, here or in the west.

Anyway, the points of view of my students made me think that, even if love does exist everywhere - the universal language - we might not think of it in the same way.

During the drive to class I went over in my head the how the conversation would go. I’d ask them a series of questions. I even thought about what their responses would be. I didn’t anticipate many surprises.

I was 20 once, and thought there would be no surprises. But I was wrong!

An example: One question was, “How did you meet your girlfriend or boyfriend.” Almost everyone who had one said that they’d started off as friends.


“How did you change from being friends to being intimate? Was there one moment?”

Nobody said yes. The impression I got from every one of them was caution and prudence. They got to know the person very well before they decided to take any further steps.

Next question: “Does anyone here believe in ‘love at first sight’?”

Nobody said yes.

It remains a mystery whether or not they could see the surprise on my face - this prudence and maturity coming from the mouths of young people.


Maybe it’s not really clear why this was surprising. I will not speak for the entire Western Hemisphere. But I will speak about my experiences in the US.

Personally, I have the feeling that Americans have been tricked by movies. From a very young age, even in children’s movies, we hear the terms, “love at first sight”, “true love” and “soul mate”. We watch these movies, where the last scene is a beautiful couple going off into the sunset, on the beach, maybe on a horse.

Yes , it’s all quite nice for a 90 minute movie. But what happens when that prince and princess have to go home and decide how to pay the bills, who will cook and clean, who will get up when you hear a sound in your house in the middle of the night to make sure it’s not a thief (it definitely wouldn’t be me!), who will hold the baby when he cries?

All these domestic issues seem to be separated from the idea of “love” in America. I actually did not realize this until speaking with young Vietnamese people.

Maybe this can account for the high divorce rate in America - there are a number of varying statistics, but it’s very safe to say that, in the US, more than 50% of marriages end in divorce.

The situation has come to the point where the Prenuptial Agreement has become quite popular in my country. This is an agreement that you sign before your wedding, which says,” If we get divorced in the future, I will keep this and you will keep that.” Maybe the wife would keep the house, and the husband would keep the money. Whatever.

Having already told you that I do not plan to marry, you know that I’m no expert. But this seems crazy to me. Why would you marry if you’re already planning for the divorce?


I will still share my non-expert impressions with you, because.... well, because I want to, and I want to hear what you think.

It seems to me that in Vietnam, even young people have a firmer grasp on what love really is. Americans have such high expectations. We want to ride that white horse off into the sunset. But these expectations are completely unrealistic.

Vietnamese people, (sorry for such broad generalizations), would like a stable and happy family. It seems like you will accept the shortcomings of your partner as long as they contribute in their way.

And isn’t that forgiveness, generosity, kindness? Isn’t that the true love?

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