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Mirror has Two Faces

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The Mirror has Two Faces

This 1996 romance, starring Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Lauren Bacall and Mimi Rogers, explores the complex relationship between romantic love and sexuality in the lives of two couples. Refusing to offer facile answers, it suggests that relationships based primarily on physical attraction are prone to eventual failure, whereas those based on true respect and deep affection find greater fulfillment through the physical expression of higher emotions.

 

Articles on The Mirror has Two Faces

 

Plot Summary

The Mirror Has Two Faces is a 1996 American romantic drama produced and directed by Barbra Streisand, who also stars as Rose Morgan (Streisand). Rose is a shy, plain, middle-aged English literature professor at Columbia University, who shares a home with her vain, overbearing, widowed mother. When her attractive sister Claire marries Alex (Pierce Bronson), a man Rose has secretly been in love with for years, the emptiness in Rose’s life becomes difficult to bear. Soon afterwards, Rose becomes friends with Gregory Larkin (Jeff Bridges), a mathematics professor who is trying to break free from a long chain of sexual relationships which never lead to meaningful human intimacy.

Gregory is seeking a platonic relationship with a physically unattractive woman to eliminate the complications that sex raises. He is attracted by Rose’s wit, intelligence, natural humor and good values. Rose finds him pleasant company and a good companion. Eventually they marry on the understanding that sex will have little or no place in their relationship. Although Rose secretly longs for a total relationship, she decides to play by his rules. Over time they develop deep respect, appreciation and affection for one another. Gregory is delighted but Rose is increasingly frustrated. When Greg refuses to sleep with her for fear of spoiling their relationship, she feels rejected, leaves him and embarks on a crash course in beautification, fashion and fitness. Greg returns from a tour to find a sexually alluring woman waiting for him. He feels betrayed and wants the old homely Rose back, whom he can love for her mind and heart, rather than lust after for her body. Finally he confesses to Rose that he cannot live without her and agrees to accept sex as a natural part of their truly romantic relationship.

The relationship between Rose and Greg is in sharp contrast to that between Claire and Alex. Like her mother, Claire considers physical beauty was her greatest asset and uses it to snare handsome, gallant Alex into a marriage. Once having caught him, she starts pursuing younger men to reinforce her sense of being attractive. The more affection Alex expresses, the less satisfied Claire becomes. Finally she leaves Alex for someone else, who surely will not be the last in a series of failed relationships based on physical attraction. When Claire rejects him, Alex seeks out Rose and wants to make love with her. Only then does Rose realize that her physical attraction for Alex was not real love. The story is fanciful, but the issues it raises are real enough and the truth it expresses carries a message for all those who long for true and lasting romance .

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Directed by Barbra Streisand
Written by André Cayatte
Starring Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges                                                                                       
Copyright belongs to TriStar Pictures

 

External Links

  • Visit Life in Movies for original analysis of human nature and the character of life in other movies.
  • Wikipedia provides the plot summary, background, publication history and extensive links to sites on the movie, the cast and producers.
  • The Internet Movie Database, IMDB has information related to the movie and its actors.
  • Watch Trailer from YouTube.
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Love, Romance, Sex & Marriage

The true relationship between love, romance, marriage and sexual attraction is a source of endless confusion and controversy in modern society. Very often they are mistaken for one another both in theory and practice, becoming the source and occasion for bad decisions and failed or unfulfilling relationships.

Will, Emily, April and Summer (Definitely Maybe)

The confusion between sexual passion and romantic love is beautifully illustrated in this story of a handsome young man's love affairs with three beautiful, sexually attractive women. Will Hayes, a thirty-something married dad on the eve of divorce and striving to discover the true basis for romantic love, narrates the history of his relationship with these three women to his 10 year old daughter Maya. Will's first love is Emily, lovely co-ed at the University of Wisconsin who he regards as his future wife. He leaves Emily to spend the summer in New York working as a volunteer in Bill Clinton's election campaign, where he meets April, who is making photocopies in the same office. Summer is an old friend of Emily's aspiring to become a political columnist. Will spends the next decade trying to figure out which of the three he really loves.

Emily seemed to sense Will's dilemma, even before he left for New York. She knew he had career ambitions and wanted the adventure of rising in life, while her own inclination was to settle down to a comfortable and conventional married life in the Midwest. Lovely enough to find a hundred husbands, Will was her ideal choice, but even before he left for NY, she feared that the energy and excitement of the big city would lure him away from her. Will remained faithful and frequently asked Emily to follow him. When she finally agreed to come for a visit, Will proposed to her and Emily confessed that she had slept with Will's college roommate. She said she had done it out of fear that a commitment to Will would ultimately end indisappointment and her fear proved to be true. Will was disgusted and rejected her.

If Emily represents the attractions of a near-perfect wife, Summer was every man's dream of a perfect love affair. Beautiful, intelligent, sexually alluring and aggressive, she took Will's breath away. After a brief period of ecstatic sexual intimacy, he felt hopelessly in love and determined to propose. The very day he planned to give her an engagement ring, Summer published an article exposing the indiscretions of the politician Will was trying to get elected and trashing all hopes for the campaign, for Will's career and for his relationship with Summer. They both realized that Summer was not a woman who needed or could settle down in a permanent relationship. She enjoys freedom too much. Her first priority is her own career. Will walked away furious and deeply disappointed.

April was an intermittent spectator to Will's other love affairs, a friend he met frequently, corresponded with, and shared his inmost feelings with. He found April extremely attractive but he always felt that intimacy between them would be impossible, because they were so very different and opposite in many respects. They seemed to constantly challenge each other's beliefs and values. Their discussions often ended in agreeing to disagree. Just once on the eve of Emily's visit to New York, Will and April almost let their physical attraction for one another overtake them, but Will pulled back out of loyalty to Emily and a strange sense of hesitation. April went through numerous relationships of her own, none fulfilling, travelled overseas and returned to New York to discover Will preparing to propose to Summer. After Summer refused him, Will got drunk and found the courage to confess to April that he loved her. Clearly moved and deeply in love with Will, April refused to take him on the rebound and told him to get his life together.

Sometime later Will meets Emily again, marries and lives with her until Maya is 10 years old. Then they decide to divorce. We are never told why they divorce, but we sense that what Emily felt from the beginning had proven to be true. Although they are both good, pleasant people and like each other, the elusive magic of romantic love did not outlast the initial period of infatuation. They never had a serious problem, but something essential was missing. What they had might have been more than enough for a normally successful marriage, but not for someone seeking real romance.

Listening to Will's story, Maya perceived what Will had never understood. All the time his real love had been April, only he had been too frightened to admit he loved someone he believed would never accept him. Will had mistaken the surface differences that separated them for real incompatibility, when in fact at a deeper psychological level they were a perfect match. They both sought a life of meaningful ideals, not mere marital security or sexual adventure, but neither had ever found it with anyone else. At Maya's insistence, they call on April and the truth of their love for one another becomes evident. It is significant that the woman Will found most intensely attractive sexually was the least capable of a lasting love relationship and the woman he had never slept with during a decade of relationship was the woman most capable of fulfilling his quest for romance.

Three women with three dominant motives for seeking a relationship with Will. Emily's aspirations are social. She wants the security of a conventional marriage. Summer's are physical and sexual. She wants the thrill of a torrid affair. April's are essentially psychological, which is the true basis for romance. She is looking for a partner who seeks to grow and will help her grow. That does not exclude marriage or sexuality but it rises far above them in her value system, therefore she rejects both options when they are initially offered to her by Will. Only when he becomes conscious of his deeper love for her does she accept him.

Sexuality, Love and Romance

Controversy, confusion and conflict regarding the rightful place of sex in intimate relationships is extremely widespread, because of differing perceptions, attitudes and personal preferences. Many people mistake sexual attraction for affection, love and romance, when in fact the issues are unrelated. Sexual enjoyment by itself is never a sufficient basis for lasting, positive human relationships. Love and romance can very well exist and thrive without sex. More often than not they are spoiled by according inordinate importance to a physical passion at the expense of real love and affection. A clear understanding of sexual attraction can help remove the confusion and the controversy.

Human consciousness consists of physical, vital-nervous, emotional and mental dimensions. Sexuality is an instinctive physical urge which nature uses to foster procreation, but it is not the real basis for harmonious, affectionate or romantic relationship. In fact, it often becomes the source of problems because men and women differ with regard to sex, a difference clearly seen in other animals. The instinct of the female is to attract the male sexually in order to conceive. The pleasure derived from the act is secondary to the biological need and urge for conception and birth of offspring. The cyclic changes in hormones related to fertility also affect the sexual urge. In contrast, the male instinct in animals is neither limited to conception or to times of the month. Problems arise when a man interpret a woman's lack of sexual interest as psychological rejection or a woman interprets a man's persistent interest as if it were some kind of ulterior motive. Human beings in general have become more educated, sophisticated and capable of intimacy than other species, but many have not acquired the understanding, maturity and capacity for self-giving required to accord sex its proper place in a relationship.

Our human capacity for happiness, affection, love and romance arises because we have acquired higher emotions and mental capacities. Sexual attraction has little to do with romance, affection or lasting happiness and can distract attention from the true basis for it. To give sex the central place in intimate relations is to give inordinate importance to the physical aspect of man-woman relations. Making it an issue can actually deprive a relationship of the love and affection it would otherwise possess. On the other hand, those who are capable of more exalted emotions may find physical intimacy a powerful medium for expressing those emotions and sharing themselves with their partner. In that case, physical contact serves as a means of expression, not as an end in itself. Romance is an ennobling emotion, not a physical sensation.

From Sexual Attraction to Friendship to Affection (When Harry met Sally)

This movie shows how sexual attraction and relations can have a disruptive impact on couples in the process of falling in love. Harry has spent the past fifteen years in and out of unfulfilling sexual relationships and has finally come to realize that he prizes real love and affection far more that sexual gratification. When they violate their own mutual decision to remain platonic, their budding relationship goes into a tailspin. He begins to think of her as another physical relationship. She begins to feel cheap and used. It takes time for them to put sex in right perspective and decide that with or without it they really did have a relationship worth cherishing and preserving.

The Reluctant Lover (Possession)

Maud Bailey, English poetry professor in her 30s, meets Roland Michell, an American scholar who travels to London on a fellowship. Together they strive to unravel the secret romance between Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. Neither of the moderns seem made for love. Bailey is cold, almost frigid, concealing her beauty to avoid attracting attention to herself, suspicious of any man's sexual intentions and eager to avoid relationships. Michell too has had enough of unfulfilling and sometimes hurtful relationships centered around sex. As they uncover details of the passionate love affair between Ash and LaMotte, the poetry of that relationship infiltrates their cold hearts and awakens a flame of real emotional intensity. Maud's heart melts and she feels tempted by the lure of sexual relationship. Uncharacteristically, it is Michell who pulls back for fear of spoiling a relationship he has come to value far more than physical pleasure. His abstinence awakens a deeper relationship between them that melts the defensive barriers and leads them to a discovery about the poets they are studying and about themselves.  

An Unusual Arrangement (In the Mirror has Two Faces)

The role of sex in romance and marriage is humorous depicted in this story of a sexually- obsessed math professor and an English professor in quest of ideal romance. Greg is a handsome bachelor pursued by women, including his ex-wife, whom he finds physically irresistible, but he  never succeeds in developing lasting relationships with any of them. After years of meaningless sexual exploits, Greg decides to seek a platonic relationship with a physically unattractive woman, so that the temptation for sex will be removed. He meets Rose, who is homely, lonely and frustrated, and they become increasingly intimate with her. He is attracted by her intelligence, natural humor and good values. She finds him pleasant company and a good companion. Eventually Greg asks Rose to marry him, on the understanding that sex will have little or no place in their relationship. Rose agrees, but finds it increasingly difficult to live up to their agreement. She is attracted to Greg physically and also feels rejected and unfulfilled because he does not feel the same way and because her own conception of romantic love includes physical passion.

While Greg is away in Europe, she loses weight, starts using make-up and dressing to reveal her physical charms. When Greg returns, he finds her very attractive  and feels betrayed. He feels uncontrollable passions rising within him, which he has struggled to suppress because they had spoiled so many relationships in the past. Finally he confesses to Rose that he is so deeply in love that he cannot live without her and agrees to accept sexual relationship as a part of their relationship. They both come to realize that love, not sex, is the central issue. If their romantic attraction is true and deep, sex can be one means to express it.

The relationship of Rose and Greg is in sharp contrast to that between Rose's sister Claire and her husband Alex. Claire is the beautiful and vain younger daughter of a vain and aging mother who always considered physical beauty was her greatest asset and is now plagued by the scars of middle age. Like her mother, Claire values her beauty above all else and has used it to snare handsome, gallant Alex into a marriage. Once having caught him and won his admiration, Alex can provide no further gratification for her vanity from their marriage, so she immediately starts pursuing younger men to reinforce her sense of being attractive. Mistaking physical attraction for love, the more affection Alex expresses, the less satisfied Claire becomes. She needs the excitement of fresh conquests to prove her worth. Finally she leaves Alex for someone else, who surely will not be the last in a series of failed relationships based on physical attraction. 

Ironically, for years Rose believed that she was deeply attracted and in love with Alex. When Claire rejects him, he seeks out Rose and wants to make love with her. Only then does Rose realize that her physical attraction for Alex was not real love. The relationship between Rose and Greg appears fanciful, but the issues it raises are real enough. Many people believe that sex is either indispensable for or incompatible with true romantic love, though most often it is the woman who comes to regard sex as disturbing or degrading physical lust which demeans the purity of their emotions. This is especially likely in instances where her partner seeks her for exactly that reason, physical pleasure, rather than for real emotional intimacy. The solution lies in recognizing sex for what it is and not placing too much importance on it one way or the other.

 

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Level 6 - Admiration

Behind every successful man there is a woman, is a well known saying that reflects a deeper truth. Relationships founded upon mutual recognition, respect and admiration provide a firm and stable foundation for high and lasting achievement. Affection is of the heart. It is intense, but that intensity cannot be sustained without a strong element of admiration for the other person’s attributes, character and values. Admiration elevates and ennobles affection. When a woman knows that her partner is completely truthful, incapable of deceit, it generates a deep, endearing trust that adds sweetness to their affection and sustains the relationship through turbulent times. When a man knows his partner will never fault him for making mistakes or reject him for failure, the relationship becomes unshakably strong and affection matures into deeper love.

Cinderella Man

The movie Cinderella Man portrays the true story of boxer Jim Braddock. The movie depicts the years of poverty and suffering that he and his family underwent during the Great Depression when injuries forced him to give up a promising boxing career and work as a longshoreman to feed his family. Behind the scenes he was supported by his wife Mae, who remained unshakably committed to him and her children during years of great physical and emotional hardship. Her intense and unwavering affection for Jim are founded on a deep admiration for his good values—his sense of responsibility to his family, his honesty and his innate goodness. His character backed by her deep admiration gave Jim the strength, protection and courageous determination needed to stage a remarkable comeback, when against ten to one odds he defeated Max Baer to become heavyweight champion of the world in 1935.


The Gardiners (Pride and Prejudice)

 

 

 

Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are close relatives of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. They are both intelligent, sensible, good natured people. But more than the similarity in their natures, it is their love and admiration for one another that stands out. When Mrs. Gardiner invites her niece, Jane, to stay with her in London, or her other niece, Elizabeth, to join them on a monthly long vacation, she does not even need to consult her husband before, so deep is his trust in her judgment and discretion. And rightly so, for he admires his wife’s good motives and always approves of her decisions. When Mr. Gardiner’s work in London necessitates a change of their travel plans, he does not need to manage a wife’s disappointment or anger. Mrs. Gardiner accepts the change and eagerly looks forward to the altered plan, which takes Elizabeth to Pemberley where she meets and ultimately marries Darcy. When Mr. Gardiner promises to assist his sister’s family in finding their youngest daughter, Lydia, who has eloped, he knows his wife will support him, even if it requires a very substantial expenditure of money in order to ensure his niece’s marriage. The good values found in each of the partners and their mutual respect and admiration make their relationship harmonious and joyful. That relationship served as a strong foundation for Mr. Gardiner’s success in business and the prosperity that has come to the family through his enterprise. It also enabled them to rise socially. When Elizabeth marries Darcy, the Gardiners gain admission to the highest level of English society.

The Chauffeur’s Daughter (Sabrina)

Sabrina is the story of an exceptional young woman who is the daughter of the Larrabee family’s chauffeur. Her father, Thomas Fairchild, is a kind, affectionate widower who chose driving as his occupation so that he would have more time for reading. Sabrina Fairchild is a shy, awkward teenager madly infatuated with the Larrabee’s younger son David, a strikingly handsome and charming playboy who has the pick of New England society women longing for his attentions. His older brother, Linus, is a hard-nosed, serious businessman who has expanded a successful family business into the world's largest communications company, while David cavorts with one woman after another.

After a year studying in Paris, Sabrina returns to the Larrabee’s Long Island estate transformed into a mature, strikingly beautiful woman who captivates David at their first meeting. David suddenly wants to break off his engagement to Elizabeth Tyson, an attractive physician whose father is negotiating a mega-merger with Linus. Alarmed that David’s change of heart could jeopardize his deal with the Tysons, Linus intervenes to woo Sabrina away from David so that David’s marriage and the Tyson deal can be completed. Initially Sabrina is unable to believe that Linus could be interested in her or any woman, but when he explains that she has opened his eyes to all he has been missing in life, her heart begins to melt. The idea of saving Linus from a meaningless life in pursuit of more wealth through the joy, love and affection of intimacy deeply appeals to her heart’s goodness and mind’s idealism. Although he lacks the charming manners of David, she discovers a deeper value in Linus as a human being and begins to feels an ennobling love for him that is both intense and uplifting.

At the last moment, Linus confesses to her his real intentions and arranges for her to be reunited with David. Unable to switch her affections from one man to another on a moment’s notice, she decides to go back to Paris to nurse her broken heart and build a new life. Before her departure, her father reveals that he has earned $2 million on the stock market by listening to what was spoken by the Larrabees in their car and that money is intended for her. When David learns that Linus is capable of sacrificing the deal of a lifetime for the sake of the chauffeur’s daughter, he realizes that Linus must feel a love for Sabrina that he himself is incapable of feeling for any woman. So he commits himself to marry Elizabeth, takes over negotiations on the Tyson deal and dispatches Linus to Paris where he is reunited with Sabrina.

Linus is hardly a romantic figure, but he comes to feel a very deep admiration and affection for Sabrina that he did not believe he was capable of. She is an exceptional woman capable of an idealistic love combined with rich emotional intensity. It is significant that she inherits substantial wealth even before Linus decides to go after her. Her rich emotional goodness is golden. It brings prosperity to her father and to the whole Larabee family.

The Countess and the Earl (Lady Anna)

Admiration arises from awareness and respect for the other person’s good character and high values. Love based on admiration is not diminished by passage of time or physical separation. It can overcome the greatest of challenges as it did in Anthony Trollope’s novel Lady Anna. Josephine Murray is a beautiful young woman without money who marries an aging and disreputable earl for his title and money, only to be told later that the earl was already married to an Italian woman so that Josephine could never claim either property or aristocratic lineage. Refusing to live with the earl on any other terms, Josephine and her young daughter Anna take refuge in the home of a tailor who takes pity on her misfortune and expends his entire life savings in legal proceedings to help her reclaim her rightful position as Countess and heir to the deceased earl’s property. Anna forms a close friendship with the tailor’s son Daniel. Unknown to their parents, they gradually fall in love and Anna pledges to marry Daniel when she comes of age.

Meanwhile legal proceedings rage between Josephine and the earl’s other living descendent, Anna’s handsome cousin Frederick, who seeks the earl’s property as a fitting complement to the title which he has recently inherited. Both sides of the family conclude that the best possible solution is to marry Anna and Frederick so that property and title can remain in the family. The two cousins are both attracted to one another, but Anna remains true to her pledge of marrying the tailor’s son. Although she is captivated by Frederick’s graceful appearance and fine behavior, Anna greatly admires the idealism of Daniel and his father who have sacrificed so much for her.

When her mother discovers that the only remaining obstacle to victory in her two decade long quest for legitimacy is a silly marriage pledge between two children, she exerts intense pressure on Anna to go back on her promise. Anna feels intense loyalty and gratitude to Daniel and refuses to break her pledge. When she refuses to give in to the charms of Frederick or the pressure of family, Josephine shoots and wounds Daniel in a fit of desperation. Ultimately Anna’s claim to the property and the title are upheld and she marries the tailor’s son. Out of sheer generosity, she offers half of her enormous inheritance to Frederick, and thereby heal the breech that had divided the family. Anna chose emotional admiration and loyalty over vital attraction and social acceptance.

Rose & Gregory (The Mirror has two faces)

In a story that goes to extremes to illustrate a profound truth about romantic relationships, Gregory Larkin, a handsome but socially awkward math professor, seeks to escape from the lure of sexual attraction which has been the cause of so many failed relationships for him in the past. So he advertizes for a woman who seeks the purity of an intimate relationship free of sexuality. Homely looking English professor Rose Morgan is introduced to Gregory by her sister without knowing anything about his unusual quest and they strike up a close relationship. Rose is strongly attracted by Greg’s appearance, charmed by his crazy notions, flattered by the interest of a handsome man, and secretly hoping that Greg will fulfill her long frustrated dreams of romantic love. She decides to play by his rules. They marry and maintain a platonic relationship. Over time they develop deep respect, appreciation and affection for one another. Gregory is delighted. Rose is frustrated. Finally she asks him to sleep with her. He agrees then refuses at the last moment, because he feels the old, uncontrollable lust overwhelming his higher feelings of affection. Rose feels rejected and leaves him, then refuses to answer his calls while he is on a summer lecture tour in Europe. Rose goes on a diet, resorts to makeup and changes her style of dressing. When he returns he finds her transformed into a sexually alluring woman. Instead of being pleased, he is terrified and distressed. He wants the old homely Rose back whom he can love for her mind and heart, rather than lust after for her body. Finally they come to terms. She recognizes the depth of his love and acceptance of her. He accepts sexuality as a natural part of truly romantic love. The story is fanciful, but the truth it expresses carries a message for all those who long for true and lasting romance.

Learn unfailing strategies to rise up the scale of romance in your relationship

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Level 2 - Physical Attraction

Most people are attracted to people who other people find most attractive and desirable, like the young woman who decided to abandon her interest in a boy she really liked because she knew her friends would never approve of the way he dresses. This is what exactly Lydia did. She is a lively and energetic girl, bold, aggressive and always smiling, exactly what you might expect of a precocious teenager experiencing the first thrill of adult social life and popularity. She wears the most fashionable dresses, has many friends and frequent invitations to parties and dances. She thinks about nothing but flirting, has no goals or responsibilities, no manners other than her liveliness and no formed values or character. She is self-centered, selfish and foolish.


Lydia & Wickham (Pride & Prejudice)

 

 

 

When Elizabeth’s youngest sister Lydia fell in love – if we can call it love – she was attracted to George Wickham, a tall, slim and dashing young military officer with a winning smile and charming manners, without knowing anything of his background, family, character, intentions or personal reputation as a gambler, womanizer and scoundrel. Lydia valued him for his handsome appearance and popularity with his fellow officers and with other women. He was the heart throb of all the girls whereever he went. He deceived people with his good looks and excellent manners. He was deeply in debt and seeking a rich bride to solve his financial problems. As soon as Lydia’s eyes fell on him she singled him out as an object to be attained at any cost. At a time when a woman’s reputation and marriagability depended on her chastity, she agreed to run away with him based on a vague promise of marriage in the future. For Wickham the only motive was a weekend fling that he would forget as soon as a more interesting and eligible partner came his way. Yet he was ultimately pressurized into marrying her in order to escape from public disgrace and financial ruin.

It is not surprising that a relationship founded on superficial interests, physical appearance and sexual attraction should prove a poor basis for lasting harmony and affection. Yet how often this is the case. Vibrant youthful energy imparts an enchanting flush of charm and beauty to many young people which quickly gives place to dull and unappealing plainness a few years later. The excitement, enthusiasm and adventurousness of carefree youth unburdened by responsibilities is easily mistaken for more positive, lasting endowments of personality. But the novelty of infatuation, especially physical allurement, is rarely lasting. At this level people value other people almost as if they are precious objects to be obtained and possessed. Under the pressures of work and family responsibilities, youthful enthusiasm readily gives way to frustration, friction, quarrels, anger, distrust, jealousy, suspicion and sometimes violence. If at all the relationship survives, it survives only on intensity without a stable or organized foundation for lasting success.

Physical attraction can be very intense, especially during the early stages of relationship, so intense that it is often mistaken for real love that will last forever. But over time the novelty of the experience tends to wear off. Sexual attraction by itself is not a sufficient basis for long term positive relationships. Physical attraction may form a natural positive part of any relationship, but relationships based primarily on physical attraction will be fulfilling only to those in whom the satisfaction of their sensations is the primary source of interest and enjoyment in life. Those who value family, career accomplishment, emotional commitment, education and higher ideals or values usually discover physical sensations an inadequate basis for lasting relationship. Lydia got what she aspired for and was the envy of her friends. But at what gain and what cost? Wickham’s attraction for her lasted only weeks and hers for him a few months. After that they each spent their lives searching for satisfaction outside their relationship.

Scarlett & Rhett (Gone with the Wind)

The turbulent relationship between Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara depicts the problems inherent in a relationship based primarily on physical attraction. Scarlett is a narcissistic plantation belle, the daughter of a French aristocratic mother and an Irish peasant immigrant who managed to acquire a large cotton plantation and a lovely cultured wife. Scarlett inherited her mother’s beauty and manners and her father’s raw energy and ambition. Beneath her polished exterior, she is a dynamo of unruly impulses. Although her beauty and flirtatious behavior have enslaved almost every young man in the region, Scarlett longs to marry Ashley Wilkes, the educated son of a distinguished Southern family. Heartbroken when Ashley marries his cousin Melanie instead, Scarlett marries Melanie’s brother just to spite Ashley. When her husband is killed in the war, she marries a store owner for his money, but never abandons her hope of finally winning Ashley for herself.

Scarlett’s only real relationship is with Rhett Butler, the dashing young blockade runner who was disowned by his family and expelled from Charleston for dishonorable behavior. Rhett sees right through Scarlett’s façade of ladylike elegance and knows the ruthless, unscrupulous, wildcat which lies behind her pretty face. Attracted by her energy, strength, courage and beauty, he pursues her first to become his mistress and later his wife. Scarlett’s heart has always been after Ashley. She admires Rhett’s brute strength, his courage to defy society, his tall handsome appearance and his considerable wealth, but she never feels for him anything like true affection. Their turbulent and unfulfilling marriage is marred by constant quarrels. After the death of their young daughter, Rhett finally leaves her. Only then does she realize how much she needs and wants him. Their failed partnership founded on sexual energy, physical strength, the desire to control and dominate shows the inherent instability and potential destructiveness of negative relationship at this level.

Avery’s response to adversity (Jerry Maguire)

Relationships based on physical and sexual attraction often end in anger, violent upheaval and bitterness. Jerry Maguire is a high flying sports agent engaged to a very attractive, sexy hard driving business woman, Avery Bishop. When in a moment of idealism Jerry speaks out against the hypocritical policies of his firm and loses his job, he comes to Avery looking for understanding and support. Instead, she bluntly tells him his act was stupid and foolish and refuses to offer a drop of sympathy. Avery’s response was not just based on her own nasty personality. It exposed the fact that their relationship was based on only one thing – pleasure. Jerry was a good looking object to possess and enjoy. When the fun ended, she expressed her scorn. As soon as the pleasure ended, the relationship ended as well. When Jerry responded to her caustic abuse by telling her the relationship was over, she was hurt and angry, not because she would miss him, but because to be jilted was an insult to her ego. To her relationship is only a way to take. It has nothing to do with giving.

Woman Hunter

The guy who tried to hire a consultant to help him sleep with a woman he was attracted to in Hitch may have succeeded in his immediate conquest but did not fare any better in relationships than Wickham.

 

Rob & Laura (High Fidelity)

Progress upward from level 2 begins with the realization that in order to be fulfilling, human relationship must be based on something more than physical satisfaction. High Fidelity depicts a man who has explored all the possibilities of level 2 relationships and discovered them to be unstable, unsatisfactory and empty. His lifetime pursuit of the perfect physical relationship is an example of how the high ideal of romance is perverted into a shallow, selfish fantasy – a good example of everything that real romance is not.

Rob’s frank introspection leads him to recognize the emptiness of his sexual pursuits and to yearn for a more lasting, meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Laura.

Marianne & Willoughby (Sense & Sensibility)

Mr. Dashwood dies leaving his wife and three daughters with no home and little means to support themselves. His second daughter, Marianne, is excitable, passionate, romantic and driven by intense emotions. When she is caught in a storm with an injured leg, she is rescued by the dashing young Mr. Willoughby who happened to be passing by and carries her safely home. Marianne is charmed and swept off her feet by his physical appearance and gallant manners. Willoughby courts her and leads her to believe he is deeply in love.

She is overcome by intense passion for the man, which she expresses quite openly. After initial encouragement, Willoughby disappears from her life and refuses to answer her letters. She is heartbroken. She later learns that when his aunt threatened to disinherit him, he agreed to marry a wealthy heiress, Ms. Grey. She also discovers that he has ruined the reputation of a young woman by refusing to acknowledge their illegitimate child as his own.

Marianne experiences all the grief of a sensual attraction based on nothing more substantial than physical appearance and external behavior. She discovers that a lover's character, capacity for real affection and personal values are a far truer and more lasting basis for successful relationship than external appearances.

Alex & Claire (The Mirror has two faces)

Claire is the beautiful and vain younger daughter of a vain and aging mother who always considered physical beauty her greatest asset and is now plagued by the scars of middle age. Like her mother, Claire values her beauty above all else and has used it to snare handsome, gallant Alex into a marriage. Once having caught him and won his admiration, Claire can derive no further gratification for her vanity from the marriage, so she immediately starts pursuing younger men to reinforce her sense of being attractive. Mistaking physical attraction for love, the more affection Alex expresses, the less satisfied Claire becomes. She needs the excitement of fresh conquests to prove her worth. Finally she leaves Alex for someone else, who surely will not be the last in a series of failed relationships based on physical attraction.

David Larrabee(Sabrina)

The contrast between physical attraction and emotional love is beautifully portrayed in the love affair of two brothers with the chaffeur’s daughter. David is the handsome, playboy younger son of the fabulously wealthy Larrabee family of Long Island, owners of a multi-billion dollar business empire established by David’s father and expanded by his brother Linus and his mother. With great good looks, money to burn and all the leisure time in the world, David gallivants through New England’s high society courting, dating and sleeping with every attractive young debutante within his reach, with a long line waiting in the wings to become his next fling. After years of free-wheeling, David finally meets a beautiful physician, Elizabeth Tyson, who it the first woman he feels more than a passing physical attraction for. He has no idea that she is also an heiress, daughter of the man who is negotiating a multi-billion dollar merger with Linus. Finally on her urging, he proposes marriage and their engagement is announced. A few days later, the Larrabee chaffeur’s daughter, Sabrina, returns from Paris a full grown, gorgeous woman. A year abroad has not only helped Sabrina blossom, but also helped her outgrow the childhood crush she felt for David. But what she has outgrown, David suddenly acquires. Unable even to recognize her as the clumsy teenager who climbed trees on the Larrabee estate, David feels powerfully attracted to her and is ready to call off his engagement with Elizabeth so he can pursue Sabrina, even if it means scotching the Tyson deal for his family. At the last moment, David discovers that his workaholic, level-headed brother Linus is actually so much in love with Sabrina that he too is ready to scotch the deal in order to see Sabrina happy. After trying so hard to keep David and Sabrina apart, now Linus wants to send David to Paris to be with her. Although he finds her ravishingly attractive, David is able to see that Linus is more deeply and truly in love with Sabrina than he could ever be. In a rare moment of self-awareness and sincerity, he dispatches Linus to Paris, agrees to marry Elizabeth and takes over negotiations on the merger.

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