Antivalentinism, Singles Awareness Day, “(500) Days of Summer”

Antivalentinism: According to a past Wikipedia listing that’s no longer available (Update to post, 4/10/12), this “…refers to a set of criticisms of Saint Valentine’s Day (February 14). These tend to fall into two categories, one anticonsumerist and the other an objection to the ‘forced’ observation of romantic love.”

Antivalentinish alternatives to celebrating tomorrow’s holiday are honoring it as Singles Awareness Day (SAD) or participating in Anti-Valentine’s activities, otherwise known as “anti-V.D.”—a deliberate play on words.

You could consider reading a brand new book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, by Eric Klinenberg.

A contemporary movie that may exemplify antivalentinism—it’s wound up on both anti-Valentine’s Day lists and pro-Valentine’s—is (500) Days of Summer (2009). Here’s why: Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a greeting card writer, thinks he’s found his soul mate in Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who digs him, but not the soul mate stuff. And we the audience know this is a fatal mismatch right from the start. Because our narrator tells us:

This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie ‘The Graduate’. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parent’s marriage she’d only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.

Paralleling Tom’s process of trying to figure the whole thing out, we see the unraveling of romance in non-linear time, jumping back and forth between better times and worse.

At one point, feeling particularly cynical and hopeless about love, Tom goes off about it at his job. With regards to a certain greeting card that could be considered representative of antivalentinism:

…How ’bout this one? With all the pretty hearts on the front, I think I know where this one’s going. Yup, ‘Happy Valentines Day sweetheart, I love you.’ Isn’t that sweet? Ain’t love grand? This is exactly what I’m talking about. What does that even mean, love? Do you know? Do you? Anybody? If somebody gave me this card, Mr. Vance, I’d eat it. It’s these cards, and the movies and the pop songs, they’re to blame for all the lies and the heartache, everything. We’re responsible. I’M responsible. I think we do a bad thing here. People should be able to say how they feel, how they really feel, not ya know, some words that some stranger put in their mouth. Words like love, that don’t mean anything. Sorry, I’m sorry, I um, I quit. There’s enough bullshit in the world without my help.

And here’s where you might want to stop reading this post. I mean it: Spoiler Alert Ahead!

Towards the end, we find out that the benefit to Summer of Tom’s deeply held beliefs in true love is…that she’s now been able to find true love after all—with someone else.

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