Monday, February 22, 2016

That Really Long-Delayed Post About Stories and the People Who Make Them

My first real movie crush was on Nicholas Hammond as Friedrich von Trapp in The Sound of Music. I was nine, he was fourteen (the character, at least), and he was fictional and I was real, so the relationship really had no future, but I thought he was super cute.  (Still do.  In a weird nostalgic I-am-way-too-old-for-him-now way.)

Round about the same time as I saw The Sound of Music for the first time, I experienced the magic that was the Kevin Sullivan adaptation of Anne of Green Gables (still one of my top five favorite movies).  I'd read the children's version of the book before, and then my mom read aloud the Real Thing, but the movie clinched the deal-- I was an Anne fan forever.  And eventually a diehard Gilbert fan too... but not right away.  He was, you know, sort of old.  (Like, nineteen or twenty in the second movie. ANCIENT.)

After a while, though, I began to come around and appreciate Gilbert Blythe for a little bit more than just saying mildly funny things now and then.  For one thing, I was beginning to develop a somewhat greater and more refined taste for romance (i.e. Mushy Stuff, because This Was a Kissing Book), so Anne and Gilbert's relationship warmed my little heart.  For another thing, I was beginning to develop a slightly greater appreciation for the Aesthetically Blessed among us-- in short, it hit me one day that Jonathan Crombie was also super cute.  (This opinion has not changed in the past ten years.)

Come on.  I'm human.

That, combined with Gilbert's personality, charm, sense of humor, kindred-spirit-ness-- oh, did I mention his adorably curly hair-- and down-to-earth common sense, made him one of my favorite literary and film heroes of all time.  (See this post for a little more on that.)

So even though Friedrich was my first real movie crush, Gilbert was the one who endured.  The older I got, the more I liked him.  (And it wasn't just the hair-- although of course that helped.)

All this ought to have been clear to me as the reason why I was so devastated when Jonathan Crombie passed away last April.  But at the time, it wasn't, and I couldn't figure out why I was so sad over the death of a person I'd never met.

I think I first found out through the Sullivan Entertainment Twitter... and then a news article on his death... and then an instant message from Melody.  I remember telling my mom that night while making my lunch for work the next day, and actually breaking down crying while sharing the news.  "I don't even know why I'm so upset," I wailed, trying not to drip tears into my refried beans (because face it, that would be gross-- even if I was the only one eating them).

My mom was, bless her, sympathetic, and didn't tell me to stop crying into my lunch bag over a person I'd never even seen in real life. "Well, that story was a huge part of your childhood," she said, "and so it's natural for you to feel attached to the characters, and since he played one of the characters, that's the closest thing in real life."

{{At this point in the post it is worth mentioning that I started writing this about three weeks ago and then got distracted and never finished it, and now it is February 17th and I am finally finishing it. #perseverance

The problem is that I am now having a little more difficulty remembering where I was going with all this.  Reason #293827 why I should write better blog post outlines than "why people who make stories are important & it is sad that Alan Rickman died."}}

Right. Alan Rickman.

So I've actually only ever seen him in one whole movie, and that's my beloved Sense and Sensibility, as the perfect and best version of Colonel Brandon.  Yes he was too old.  Yes he could have been Kate Winslet's dad.  Shut up.  He was still awesome.  And David Morrissey is fine and all, but come on.  He was in a movie up against Dan Stevens.  We all know who wins the 2008 version.

(And yes I still love the 2008 version-- see review here-- but that's not the topic of this post.  *gets distracted rereading the review*  Wowwwwww I was a lot younger then.  ....anyways.)

And then he passed away in mid-January and, well, it was really sad.  Again, I'd only seen one of his films, yet I still felt as if the world had lost someone very special.

After Rickman's passing, the Internet pretty much exploded with tributes and eulogies and musings on the impact he had on the theatrical world.  There's a theater in the city where I work that has a poster in their window display with the quote at the beginning of this post.  "A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."  (And yes, I just retyped that quote so that you wouldn't have to scroll all the way back up to the top to look at the picture again.  YOU'RE WELCOME.)

I've always loved that quote, and this one-- which I hadn't read before all the tributes came along-- is just as good.  
And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible.
- Alan Rickman

Stories.  That's what it comes down to.  That's what makes these people special-- they told stories that resonated with us.  They used their talents to bring fictional characters to life, and it was magical.  Most little girls have a crush on Gilbert Blythe at one time or another.  (Come on, admit it... you did too...) Naturally a lot of that is due to L.M. Montgomery's writing of a character whose all-around-great-guy-ness resonates with so many people, but a lot of it is also due to Jonathan Crombie's talent in making Gilbert seem real and alive.  We want to believe that people like Gilbert exist... which is why that kind of character becomes so beloved by so many.  Same goes for the Jane Austen heroes... well, except for Edmund Bertram but DON'T GET ME STARTED ON EDMUND BERTRAM.


That's what storytellers do, though.  They give happy endings, even if they aren't realistic.  (People argue at times that Marianne Dashwood and Colonel Brandon wouldn't have been truly happy together and that she was just settling for him... I will argue that one until I'm blue in the face, but this post is not the place for that.)  They restore order with imagination. They instill hope, again and again and again.

(That is NOT a Walt Disney quote.  It is a Kelly-Marcel-and-Sue-Smith quote-- from the writers of the screenplay for Saving Mr. Banks, one of the best movies of this decade.  But the somewhat-fictionalized character of Walt Disney said it in the film, so... yeah.)

Probably one of my favorite movie quotes of all time, that line sums up why stories are important--- why artists and novelists and playwrights and actors are such valuable contributors to society.  Because they give us something beyond day-to-day reality, something hopeful and happy and thought-provoking.  Is there always a happily ever after in real life?  Or, even, in a novel?  No.  But in a story, any story, there can be, because a story is limitless.  Because even if the people in it aren't real in one sense of the word, they are real to the reader. To the viewer. To the person sitting in the hushed theatre audience.  They are real because a long line of other people-- actual living people-- have made them so, from the first idea set down on paper to the costumed actor speaking lines to a camera.

And that, to me, is nothing short of incredible.

End of cheesy post.


Naomi Bennet said...

Ahhhh. This post. *kind of melts* I know - and I agree completely - stories, fiction... it's literal magic. :-)

Emma Jane said...

This, to me, is nothing short of incredible. :-) Awesome post, Miss Dashwood!!!

Molly said...

Lovely post, Amy! :) I was crying by the time I got near the end.

Melody said...

This post is nice and all but I want to see you making Marianne and Brandon's argument until you're blue in the face. Yes please.

Rosie McCann said...

I loved reading this! Oh, aren't mothers awesome? They aren't all "what the heck" when we get unreasonably worked up about something :)

That gif is too sweet :) Ah, all right, I won't get you started on Edmund.

P.S. I actually think David Morrissey won the 2008 version. Yes, I know I'm weird. Hush :P

Maribeth said...

Oh-oh-oh, now I'm getting all emotionally compromised :') :') :')

This was really beautiful, Amy--I didn't think it was cheesy at all and I even got a good giggle in certain delightful spots. "The Aesthetically Blessed Among Us," I LOVE IT ;) In all seriousness, though, characters like Gilbert Blythe and Colonel Brandon do give me hope too...especially when I'm in a Marianne-ish mood (which seems to happen a lot lately...*sigh*) and feeling like there will never be a man I can truly love. Or maybe I'm more entrenched in an Elizabeth-ish mood, convinced that "only the deepest love will persuade me into matrimony which is why I SHALL END UP AN OLD MAID."

Anyhooz, enough with the Austen quotes. I'll finish with a C.S. Lewis quote instead: "Since it is so likely that our children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage." Stories inspire and encourage. In my opinion, there's no need to be ashamed for loving the tales that make us brave.

Anonymous said...

Just like you said, that quote sums up why stories are important. For me, besides all the things you already expressed, stories are a place where I can find friendship and kindred spirits. Of course, book friends can never truly take the place of human companions, but I confess that it is hard for me to make friends in real life. I marvel at authors' abilities to create fictional characters who we can relate to so perfectly and care for so deeply. And when one of these characters is perfectly and flawlessly lifted off of the pages of a book and portrayed on the screen..... you can't help all but adoring them!

Of course we've all crushed on Gilbert for at least a small period of time. How can you NOT have a crush on Gilbert Blythe??? But for me (after Gil, that is), it was all Walter Blythe. I had a crush on the guy from the first time his existence was ever mentioned. But aside from crushes, he became my best friend. It seemed like every time he said or thought something I was like, "Yessss... he understands me!" or, "I know... I understand," or, "That's exactly what I was thinking." You can imagine what I felt like the first time his fate was foreshadowed. And you can imagine my emotional state when the aforementioned fate became reality. And reading his letter..... (I simply cried buckets while reading those chapters. I cried while reading and I cried when I stopped reading. It's a wonder the pages aren't crinkly and smudged or something.) As Judy Plum would say, I was never the same again! Lol.

But really it all comes down to the fact that stories aren't just stories. They are a part of us and they stick with us through our lives. This was a wonderful post, Amy, and you expressed things quite perfectly.

Sarah A.

jessica prescott said...

Beautiful post, Amy. I wish . . . I wish I could say something super-profound (like what you did!) but my brain's kind of fried after doing German homework all afternoon. Basically, YES TO EVERYTHING. Great job summing it all up.

Except . . . I cannot agree with you about S&S 08. You say Dan Stevens won that movie? Nope. *I* say David Morrissey won. Proof: I never fell in love with Dan Stevens' Edward. Whereas I fell head-over-heels in love with David Morrissey's Colonel Brandon, and I haven't gotten over it yet. I probably never will get over it. He's my favorite Austen hero EVER.

Ohhhhhh . . . wait a sec . . . you don't like Edmund Bertram either???? THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU SO MUCH. You are hereby forgiven for your opinions on David Morrissey. All is right with the world. (Just kidding . . . of course you can think whatever you want about DM.)


Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. You were awesome. :-)

Miss Evie said...

Totally not crying in my uni library what are you talking about?
*sniffs and wipes eye* RIP Alan Rickman and Jonathan Crombie.. I actually sobbed about Alan Rickman (he was a major part of my childhood and parents choice of films)

COLONEL BRANDON <3 He's my favourite Austen hero like ^^ mentioned!

As a new English Literature student (yes i know hush :P) I agree so much with this so all I can muster up before my lecture is AMEN SISTER!

I seriously loved this post so much dear!

Anonymous said...

This is a really lovely post. I was thinking about the death of Harper Lee and the response to it over the past few days, so this post really hit all the right notes for me. I think it's very true that there is a power in storytelling, one which clearly lingers on long after the story has been told, and we associate that experience with authors, actors, and filmmakers who find the ways to tell those stories.

Anonymous said...

Ah, loved this post, Amy. :D
There was never a time when I didn't have a crush on Gilbert. Just sayin'. ;) (HE'S JUST SO....GAHHH...Why are NO boys like him nowadays?!! :P)
I've only seen Alan Rickman in S&S too. He has some lovely quotes that I never realized existed before this! Thank you. :D
Oh, and I COMPLETELY read the lines "They restore order in imagination. They instill hope, again and again and again." in Tom Hank's voice. ;D
I love stories. And now I can link anyone to this post when people ask me why. ;)
~Miss Meg March

Elsabet said...

Ah yes...I've only seen Mr. Rickman in maybe two movies. And when I heard he'd passed away I thought, "No! The Colonel!" Same with Jonathan Crombie, "Oh no, Gil!" I didn't know anything about them, but it still hurt. I spent the next couple of days just feeling depressed, trying to figure out WHY someone who I knew only as a fictional character was making me sad. I guess your mom was right. Both Anne of Green Gables and Sense and Sensibility were personal favorites, and that's why it took a while to get used to.

Thank you for the cheesy post. I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Amy :) It's true that a story is what lives on - reminded me of a novel I once read where the heroine wrote a story to be acted and was seriously upset she wouldn't get the principal acting part until she realised that it wasn't her acting that would live on... but her words and I really liked that :D
I have never been a Colonel Brandon fan sorry but I have to say the (rather Hollywood upgraded) 2008 version did make me like the character a bit more! I'm not a big fan of the 1995 S&S and consequently hated Alan Rickman until I saw Harry Potter for the first time last night and I think I'm going to be a BIG fan!
What would life be without crushes on random actors who don't know we exist? (And who are often twice our age or long dead!)

- The Elf -

Anonymous said...

Just another quick note to say, talking about authors always giving a happy ending, that is unfortunately not the case! A famous Australian author whose books I sadly had to study at school always insisted on writing a SAD ending to his stories so that children could get used to real life. Why can't some people see that reading is a way to escape from real life for a bit!!!

- A very frustrated with silly authors Elf -

Liz W. said...

Honestly, I was devastated by the news of Jonathan Crombie's passing, too. I couldn't talk about it and then, for quite some time, I could only write about it.

Just two months ago, I found out that my grandma's doctor was his sister! (How did I not know this before?) She (the sister) ended up giving up her practice after he died. When I heard that, it hit home, all over again.

In my mind, Gilbert is Jonathan Crombie.

Isabel Azar said...

Beautiful, Amy, and so true.