The Ideology of Blue Valentine

Upon watching Blue Valentine for the first time last week, the ideology of the film kept me wondering for the next four days. The movie presents Dean and Cindy’s relationship at the beginning and ending of it. Despite the simple breathtaking cinematography, the movie relied itself on the fact that love is not forever, and true love is based on the ability to find another person with the same interests as you. The movie narrates the story as Dean decides to take Cindy away from the city for a weekend to try and fix their already irreparable relationship. As the night comes and goes, situations make the characters remember past events that brought them together years ago.

Dean (Ryan Gosling) is an artist from the south who moved to Brooklyn and started working for a moving company. When he first saw Cindy, he just finished moving an old man to his new apartment on the asylum, arranging the whole room for the old man, down to every detail. Dean thinks Cindy thought he was stealing from the man so he went to talk to her. Followed that, he talks to his coworker, while smoking a well-earned cigarette at the end of the day, about how he believes in love at first sight, and Cindy was the one. Weeks later, he is on a bus with his guitar and sees her again. They start talking, and the relationship emerges. Back to present, Dean now works painting houses and the rest of his time is dedicated to make his wife and daughter happy. Cindy (Michelle Williams) met Dean in a difficult time of her life. Filled with dreams of becoming a doctor, Cindy helps her grandmother as a escape to his family house, where his parents had grown apart and fight every time possible. Like the curse of every attractive girl in college, she had a boyfriend who used her mostly to satisfy his sexual drives. She sees in Dean someone who she can confide in and will always be there for her. He supports her dreams, and supported her idea of aborting the baby once she found out she was pregnant. But Cindy wasn’t heartless, she couldn’t go on with the abortion, and Dean decided to get married to help her and raise the baby as his own, so she can keep in school, following her dreams.

Dean is the type of person categorized as a dreamer, a romantic by excellence. As a talented artist and musician, he can make anything he wanted, but he decided to please the people around him. His goal in life wasn’t to be a father and a husband, but all of this changed the day he met Cindy. He lives a simple life surrounded by what he loves the most, his daughter Frankie, his wife, a stack of cigarettes, and his music instruments. For Dean, that’s what life is all about, being happy, with a house in the countryside, waking up to the laugh of his four-year-old daughter, and having a part time job that allows him to earn money and spend time with his family. In Cindy’s point of view, life is about having a successful career. She lives to work. She’s the one always cleaning the house and working extra time, but when it comes to her family, she doesn’t have much patience.

The growing American ideal of women wanting to educate themselves and succeed in life is one of the main issues in the movie. While she dresses her daughter, she grew tired of the kind of life she has. Cindy sees both her daughter and husband as an obstacle to her own personal happiness.

Blue Valentine can be seen as a cultural example on how people from the different parts of the United States are used to different lifestyles. Dean was born and raised in Florida, and having lived in Miami, I can tell people down there aren’t as focused on work as people in New York and Boston. They tend to be more towards the ideal of working to live, instead of live to work. Cindy is totally the opposite. These two characters represent the two basic ideals of life, one focusing on the “live in the moment” and the other one “follow your dreams”, categorizing the movie as implicit, since both characters are each other’s obstacle on their way to true happiness, but neither of them expresses it.

In a subtle but surely way, Blue Valentine plays by the rules of feminism. Cindy is the one who wants to succeed, be better than what she is now, instead of staying in the same plane of existence. She wants more, and she won’t let anyone get in the way, until she gets pregnant, and decides to have the baby. “I feel like men are more romantic than women. When we get married we marry, like, one girl, ’cause we’re resistant the whole way until we meet one girl and we think I’d be an idiot if I didn’t marry this girl she’s so great. But it seems like girls get to a place where they just kinda pick the best option… ‘Oh he’s got a good job.’ I mean they spend their whole life looking for Prince Charming and then they marry the guy who’s got a good job and is gonna stick around,” Dean says to his coworker the day he met Cindy. Even in his words, the woman as a predominant over man is often seen in this movie. They are the ones in the end who decide who they’re going to marry. Even in the final scene, where the couple confronts each other without any taboo, we see the man begging for another chance, saying to her, “Tell me how I should be. Just tell me. I’ll do it.”

The idea of the man living to be happy in his house and the workingwoman opposes to the usual tradition. Dean is the one who dedicates his time to his daughter, while Cindy is getting ready to work. “I didn’t want to be somebody’s husband and I didn’t want to be somebody’s dad, that wasn’t my goal in life. But somehow it was. I work so I can do that,” Dean says while confronting Cindy. The man as a sensitive paternal figure is rarely seen in any familiar drama, or in the American culture. As the movie progresses, Dean becomes violent and even dangerous to Cindy, in an attempt to get her to notice something is wrong in the relationship. Despite the traditional ideal of men using violence as the their first attempt to get attention, Dean tried to talk to her first, but she didn’t listen. She tried to ignore the situation, hoping Dean forgot about it.

Director Derek Cianfrance sets the tone of the movie from the very beginning. The opening scene is Frankie calling out her dog. This is an emotional movie that will make you cry; you will feel their loss in the end, or probably before the end. We instantly feel the emotional attachment to the story in the beautiful cinematography, and the location. The handheld camerawork gives the movie the feeling of being actually there, living those moments with the characters. The performances of both Gosling and Williams are flawless throughout the entire movie. All these elements make Blue Valentine feel so real; it’s almost impossible not to get involved in the couple’s life.

I personally sympathized with Dean’s ideology of life more than Cindy’s. To my point of view, it’s how things should be. People should work to live, and be comfortable where they are, instead of living to work. People should get pleasure out of their lives, even when they think they’re living miserable. There will always be something good to celebrate about, and somehow Cindy didn’t realize despite all of Dean’s flaws, he was always there for her. Dean needed her, but she was emotionally unavailable. The ideal of love in the movie is the raw reality, as I’ve lived through my parents’ divorce after 30 years together because of the same reason. People change, situations change, but true love is the actual consequence of two people conquering all obstacles their relationship may impose.

Blue Valentine is the pure example of a different cultural ideology we Americans are used to. The man is seen as the sensible pillar of the family, and the woman is the working force, silent in her own world. Despite the efforts of both characters to maintain the relationship afloat, neither of them was happy alongside each other. Dean had become a family man, and Cindy had her dreams on stand-by. Even though they wanted to maintain the relationship, it was doomed from the beginning, as most of the things are when they’re forced to happen sooner than when it was supposed to.

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